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October 21, 2019

How many leaks does it take to sink the Eagles? We're about to find out.

On Monday, Doug Pederson was asked about Howard Eskin's report that Alshon Jeffery was Josina Anderson's 'anonymous source' — and it didn't go well.

The Eagles, after losing to the Cowboys by nearly four touchdowns on national TV Sunday night, are currently in a fight to save their season. And it looks like the first battle they'll face will be an internal one. 

Obviously, the 3-4 Eagles have deficiencies on the field — the secondary, the lack of production from their wideouts, etc. — but as the season unfolds, it seems like the bigger issue for the Birds might be in their own locker room, or perhaps even higher up the organizational power structure. And this has nothing to do with Lane Johnson's comments on Sunday night about Eagles players showing up late for meetings and practices

Last week, ESPN's Josina Anderson reported that an anonymous Eagles source voiced some complaints about Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense.

“One of the things that they said is: ‘We need to make bleep simpler. Sometimes you just need to handle what is manageable.’ They said: ‘Even Peyton Manning knew when to check it down.’”

Earlier that same day, Anderson also reported on an Eagles source that was upset the front office didn't do enough in their pursuit of All-Pro corner back Jalen Ramsey.

This comes nearly 10 months after PhillyVoice published a report citing several team sources that had a problem with Wentz and his leadership abilities inside the locker room.

The Eagles don't just have a leak. At this point, they appear to be hemorrhaging confidential information at a rate that will sink this team if it isn't stopped. And on Monday, a day after that embarrassing loss to Dallas, the situation seemed to reach a breaking point.

Howard Eskin — a pseudo team employee who works on the Eagles radio broadcasts, travels with the team, and even has a Super Bowl Ring — appeared on SportsRadio 94 WIP with Angelo Cataldi and the morning team and reported that Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery was the source for Anderson's reports last week, a claim Anderson vehemently denied on Twitter (and Jeffery denied last week to reporters in the locker room).

Let's not kid ourselves here. Eskin, who used his WIP platform to grandstand and trash the aforementioned PhillyVoice story from January without, you know, doing any reporting of his own, is a media puppet for the Eagles organization. He doesn't try very hard to hide it, wearing the glistening proof right there on his finger for all the world to see. 

Unlike how he treated our story, by dismissing it as false and smearing the author on the radio so badly that death threats, harassment and acts of vandalism followed — Eskin claimed the story and sources were made up, referred to it as "fake news" and "voodoo journalism" on Twitter and even challenged writer Joe Santoliquito to a lie detector test — we'll give him the benefit of the doubt he almost certainly doesn't deserve. 

[NOTE: Eskin wasn't the only one critical of the story, but he was certainly the most vocal.]

Let's assume his reporting is accurate and Anderson's denial is simply her protecting her source. If that's the case, given his penchant for towing the Eagles' company line and almost never speaking out against them, it's worth asking where he got his information, isn't it?

It may seem a little on the tinfoil hat side, but that's exactly what happened on Monday at Doug Pederson's weekly day-after press conference. The Eagles coach was asked, point blank, whether Eskin's information about Jeffery being the leak could be from someone on the staff or in the front office. And the exchange couldn't have been any more awkward.

Here's the text version of the back-and-forth, via the team's official transcript of the press conference [h/t to Jeff McLane, who was reportedly confronted by Eskin at the NovaCare Complex following the press conference, for asking the question and not backing down.]

Q. There was a report that WR Alshon Jeffery was behind the anonymous quotes to ESPN. No. 1, is that true? (Jeff McLane) 

DOUG PEDERSON: I think that was last week's news, so I'm not going to comment on that. I don't -- I don't know.

Q. No. 2, that person who reported it, doesn't technically work for the Eagles but he's on the sideline with the Eagles, he flies with the Eagles and he wears a Super Bowl ring given to him by the Eagles. Are we to assume that because he reported that that's something the Eagles wanted out there and that you guys know? (Jeff McLane) 

DOUG PEDERSON: I don't know. That we know? 

Q. That you know who's behind it? (Jeff McLane) 

DOUG PEDERSON: No. That has nothing to do with the Buffalo Bills this week or the Dallas Cowboys, so I'm not going to answer those comments. I'm not going there.

Q. Do you view that as a potential for leaking information, do you talk to them about that? (Ed Kracz) 

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, and those are obviously in-house conversations

That's ... not a strong denial, if it's even a denial at all. 

The fact that the question even had to be asked — and yes, it did have to be asked — is a terrible look for everyone involved. And Pederson's answer, or lack thereof, didn't really inspire any confidence. Perhaps he wasn't prepared for the question, at least in that form, but a simple and emphatic "no" would've gone a long way here. Instead, Pederson danced around the question and seemed unable to shut the door on the speculation. 

The bigger problem for the Eagles, however, is how distracting all this is going to be as they gear up for a big game against the 5-1 Bills on Sunday. There's no way this storyline dies down by the time the locker room opens to reporters on Tuesday, meaning they'll have to answer questions about this rather than how they can fix the mistakes from the Dallas game before traveling to Buffalo.

Unsurprisingly, players are already being asked to comment on the situation.

Perhaps the greatest irony here is that Eskin, with how far he went out of his way to defend Wentz last time — for the record, Wentz later came out and admitted that there was a lot of truth to what was written in our story — is solely responsible for this becoming a story again. 

Had he not felt the need to snitch on Jeffery in his never-ending quest to be the center of attention, the "anonymous source" would've been exactly what Pederson said it was: "last week's news."

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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