August 15, 2017
A funny thing happened on the way to the Eagles' second preseason game of 2017.
On Friday, the Eagles traded Jordan Matthews, arguably the most productive wideout through his first three NFL seasons in Eagles history, and a third round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for cornerback Ronald Darby. On Thursday night, the Birds host the Bills at Lincoln Financial Field, less than a week after the deal was completed.
But what about his offense? What is the second-year head coach hoping to see from a team that struggled mightily in the preseason opener once Carson Wentz was taken out of the game?
"I want to see us execute better," Pederson said Tuesday. "I want to see us take care of the football better. I felt like we were a little sloppy and loose in the second half with some of the turnovers. I thought our first units, to start the game the way they did, came out ready to go. We played a lot of people in that game and sometimes the game can be a little fast for guys that aren't used to that. But just overall execution. We've got to clean up stuff.
"We're still in training camp mode, so we're still evaluating our players, putting them in situations to try to be successful. But just clean up a few things and try to win the game."
One way the Eagles can do that, especially without Wentz on the field, is by establishing a running game that was all but non-existent against the Packers last week. They ran the ball just 19 times (for 47 yards) and threw the ball 54 times (42 of them belonging to third-string QB Matt McGloin).
After a poor showing in Green Bay, Pederson is hoping to lean more on the ground game against the Bills.
"Yeah, you try to go into every game trying to establish [your running game]," Pederson said. "You know, it was unfortunate the way the game kind of took off. But, yeah, the plan would be to try to get that established a little bit this week and see where it goes. I really feel like we've got a good offensive line that can handle that with the backs that we have. It's something that we'll try to focus on hopefully Thursday."
It shouldn't be hard for Pederson to find the time, as he only expects Wentz to play "a drive, maybe two at the most." On his lone drive in Lambeau, Wentz went 4-for-4 for 56 yards and a touchdown.
This week, he won't have Matthews, who caught three of those four passes, but he's likely to have free agent acquisition Alshon Jeffery, who didn't play in the opener. Still, Pederson doesn't believe he needs to keep his starter out there much longer than he did a week ago.
"We've got four of these games, obviously. If you can get all of our starters and the quarterbacks to kind of get them into game shape, game mode – the bullets really don't fly for real for another couple of weeks," Pederson said. "You know, the other thing you guard against just a hit, something in the game that might take him out. So, I guard against that a little bit. But at the same time, I want to make sure that he's mentally in the right frame of mind to go in and start, and put another drive together and see if we can get some points."
Considering he suffered a preseason injury as a rookie, it makes sense not to put the future of the franchise in harm's way any longer than is absolutely necessary.
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