November 23, 2020
The only thing as bad as watching the Eagles on the field on Sundays this season has been listening to Doug Pederson's Zoom press conferences on Monday mornings.
In years past, we've gotten a much more jovial and pleasant Pederson, a guy who appreciated the questions from the media and offered up thoughtful responses that not only helped us write better stories but also provided an insight into his thought process about why certain moves were made or plays were called.
This year, there's been a noticeable change in the head coach's demeanor, and it's probably not hard to figure out why. The Eagles flat out stink — and the questions being asked of the head coach are much more direct and sometimes uncomfortable, but they're questions that need to be asked in order for us to do our jobs. That's why exchanges like this are especially frustrating.
Q. Yesterday RB Miles Sanders said that the Browns made some adjustments after halftime. I think he said their linebackers started coming a little bit more downhill. When you looked at the film, what did you see from the Cleveland defense in the second half? (Daniel Gallen)
DOUG PEDERSON: Their linebackers coming downhill.
That was the second question of the day. And that's Pederson's entire answer. There have certainly been some snippier exchanges with the media this year, but this one really stuck out as Doug simply being rude. It was a well thought out Xs-and-Os question, the kind you'd think he would welcome after his team just fell to 3-6-1 on the season. Instead, he offers a four-word answer with no further analysis. And, again, this wasn't after some heated exchange. This was just a reporter asking a basic question.
Some will say the media isn't entitled to any answers, but those same people forget that we're often not asking these questions for personal interests, we're asking them because they'll help better inform the our readers, the fanbase, about the why behind the who, what, where and when.
From there, the Eagles coach got considerably more chatty, but some of the answers were no less frustrating and confusing. So, for a change, let's go through some of Pederson's answers from his day-after press conference on Monday, because there were more than a few head-scratchers. We've broken these down by topic, and give you a look at Pederson's answers, our response and then another response from a different member of the Eagles media. Let's dive in...
Q. Even before T Jason Peters left the game yesterday, it seemed like he wasn't playing at a very high level. What did you make of his performance, and is he your left tackle moving forward? (Dave Zangaro)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "Yeah, he's our left tackle moving forward. Look, there were a lot of things, several things that sort of stood out after watching the film from a number of positions, not just one specific spot or aspect of the game, offensively.
"Something that, as you've heard me say this before, there is enough to go around. O-line, running backs, tight ends, the quarterbacks, the receivers, a lot of work still needs to be done, but we can get it done."
WHAT MATT SAYS: This makes absolutely no sense. Aside from the fact that once again Jason Peters couldn't finish a game, pulling himself out in the fourth quarter, he was plain awful when he was in the game. According to Pro Football Focus, Peters gave up 3 sacks, 3 QB hits and 7 pressures to earn a grade of 41.0, the lowest of his career. Listen, JP is a Hall of Famer, and perhaps that's what makes watching him this season all the more difficult. But the Eagles need to stop being so blindly loyal to guys who have been successful for them in the past.
People rightfully criticized Joe Banner back in the day when he let Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins walk in free agency over what amounted to a million dollars. Dawkins still had another good year or two left in him at that point and wanted to finish his career in Philly, but the team decided to move on from him all the same. This is the flip side of that coin, what happens when you're too loyal to a player that you should've moved on from when you had the chance. In fact, the Eagles might have if Brandon Brooks never goes down, and if Andre Dillard stays healthy, perhaps Peters stays at right guard and isn't as glaring of an issue.
But now the Eagles not only brought Peters back, but gave him a raise to move to left tackle, and this is coming at the expense of a young player who could be using this lost season to improve and perhaps become a mainstay on the offensive line. These are the kinds of decisions that ultimately set the franchise back — and could lead to a coach getting fired if he's not careful.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Meanwhile, the Eagles have 23-year-old Jordan Mailata as a backup. Lane Johnson left the Browns game with a shoulder injury so perhaps the Eagles will have a built-in excuse to put Mailata at right tackle against the Seahawks. But after watching Peters get roasted by Olivier Vernon on Sunday, I don’t know how the Eagles can continue to play him at left tackle. If the original thought process was that you’d need to play Peters because he’s slightly better than Mailata and you have to do everything you can to protect a struggling quarterback who has already been hit too many times, sure, I kinda get it. But after watching Sunday, you can’t convince me Wentz is any safer with Peters protecting his blindside than Mailata. And the Eagles are 3-6-1, so let’s see the guy with some promise. —Dave Zangaro, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Since these questions are all intertwined, we'll address them all at once...
Q. Why is WR Alshon Jeffery even being active? Why is he on the team? (Jeff McLane)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "Why is he on the team?"
Q. You have younger players, WR John Hightower’s only got one snap. What's the point of playing Alshon Jeffery at this point when he's not even going to be here next year, or unlikely to be? I think a lot of fans are wondering what are you doing with Alshon Jeffery? (Jeff McLane)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "Well, right now he is a part of the offense. He's a part of what we've done and the success we've had here. He is coming off injury, and we do have to get him in the game a little bit more. You know, that's, again, on me to get him in the football game, and also Hightower at the same time.
"So you also knew that [WR] J.J [Arcega-Whiteside] was not available in this football game and [WR] Quez [Watkins] was down, so Alshon was up and active for this game."
Q. Just talking about Alshon again, since he's come back, WR Travis Fulgham's production has really been basically nil. Do you worry about that dynamic and how reintroducing a wide receiver can impact the rest of the group? You were getting a lot of great production from Travis before that. (Nick Fierro)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "No. I'm not worried about Alshon's presence right now. I'm concerned about Travis' production and getting him better and helping him get better. He needs to get better.
"As I've mentioned, we all have enough to do, enough work to do, and obviously he is part of that group."
WHAT MATT SAYS: First of all, let's just take a big LOL at Doug acting incredulous when he was asked about why Alshon was still on this team. For starters, it's pretty common knowledge that the team has been trying to trade him for over a year and the real reason he's still on this team is his god awful contract that no one wants to take on. The biggest question is why he's playing over some of the younger guys, and whether or not his return is costing them targets or throwing off their rhythm. It's hard to believe that there's no correlation between Jeffery's return and Travis Fulgham's drop off in production. After being the top wideout in the league since making his Eagles debut, he's all but vanished off the face of the earth the last two weeks.
Is it really that difficult to envision a scenario where it's training camp 2021 and Doug is being asked about which young receivers are going to be on the roster, only to say it's hard to know because he hasn't seen them in game action all that much? No, that's almost certainly going to happen. And it's going to be the team's own fault for not knowing what they have. There's a draft, free agency and more between now and the start of training camp next year. The Eagles would be wise to figure out what they have now before making roster decisions for next season.
Finally, can we just take a second to acknowledge Pederson saying that, of all people, Travis Fulgham "needs to get better" and that he's "concerned" about his production. Meanwhile, he didn't say one negative word about Alshon, despite the fact that, you know, one of those players has actually contributed to his team this season while the other has been a total waste of a roster spot so far. Good grief.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: The Eagles just had to burn a roster spot on Alshon Jeffery all season so he could come back and play 23 snaps in his first two games back (18 last week, five this week). Totally worth it. Three targets, zero catches, one drop, one interception while targeted. —Brandon Lee Gowton, BGN
This is probably the topic that's getting the most discussion in Philadelphia on this football Monday, and for good reason.
Q. On the discussion from yesterday about people asking you about benching Carson, you said you didn't want to send the wrong message to the team, that you had given up. I guess the counter to that would be by not doing something, do you send a message that any sort of mistake or poor play is excusable or that people aren't accountable for what they do? (Les Bowen)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "No. I kind of addressed it this morning on the radio. We still have a lot to play for. We have a lot to fix. It's not -- in this city, the quarterback and the head coach, it's all about the QB and the head coach. Everybody else can almost go by the wayside, I guess. So it's almost like a two-man band. But there is enough work to be done, as I've mentioned, by all positions. Receivers can play better. O-line can play better. We had how many different offensive linemen? We played all nine offensive linemen yesterday in this game. Opeta [G Sua Opeta] who was a left guard is now playing right guard. Had to bump Pryor [G/T Matt Pryor] out to right tackle, and Driscoll [T Jack Driscoll] was in there. Mailata [T Jordan Mailata] is playing the left side.
"It was just another one of those days. Running backs, we need to hang on to the football. Quarterback needs to play better. Defensively, we have got to get off the field on third down. Got to be able to tackle better. Same way on special teams. Got to be able to tackle in space. There is enough to go around that none of it is excusable. We all hold each other accountable, coaches and players. That's why I keep saying that we have a lot to play for. There is a lot of pride here. That's what we're going to do."
WHAT MATT'S SAYING: Are we sure this is the case? I mean, I know it's easy to hit a losing team with the "they aren't trying" criticism, but it really feels like that is the case for some of these guys. Not all of them — I see you, Jason Kelce — but it's hard to believe this is the best these guys can do. Just look at Peters, who left Sunday's game early with what Pederson claimed postgame was an injury. However, he was also the only player to leave the game with an "injury" and not get an official injury update from the team. Even Derek Barnett, who only missed a few plays, got one of those.
Then there's the question of whether or not there's even any validity to the idea that switching quarterbacks would be a sign a giving up. Does Doug know, for sure, that this team would be any worse with Hurts out there — or that playing him for a half or giving him a spot start wouldn't light a fire under Wentz? Isn't it more a sign of giving if you trot out the same roster week after week and hope for something to magically change? To me, that's the bigger issue here.
Finally, "it was just one of those days?" Really, Doug? It's weird how "those days" keep falling on Sundays.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: There’s something terribly wrong here that’s not being fixed and what Wentz needs now is a chance to step away, catch his breath and try to recapture the magic that made him the NFL’s 6th-ranked QB over the last three years. Because continuing to send him out there right now is giving up on the season. Even though Pederson says the opposite. ... Wentz is broken right now. And it's not just a few weeks. We’re heading into Week 12. So let him sit and watch. I don’t know what the Eagles have in Jalen Hurts, but they drafted him in the second round for a reason and they elevated him to No. 2 in Week 2 for a reason and they’ve been getting him snaps every week for a reason. —Reuben Frank, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Q. Since Carson kind of hit what could be called his peak in 2017, he had the torn ligament in his knee, a back injury, and he had a concussion, three pretty serious injuries. What's been the effect on him of those from what you've seen, and what’s been the effect on maybe how you might call a game because of the aftereffects of those injuries? (Mike Sielski)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "Well, I hesitate to comment on how he feels or what he is going through, because that's more probably a question for Carson. But from a play caller's standpoint, those injuries don't play a part obviously into how I approach the game or how I call the game. But I think to answer the first part of that, I would say that that's probably a Carson question to see how he feels and how he's overcome those injuries."
WHAT MATT SAYS: Did .. did Doug just admit that he and his quarterback aren't on the same page? How do you not know if your quarterback has any physical limitations? This is something that should be an easy answer for Pederson, yet his still managed to pass the buck to his quarterback.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Shouldn't the head coach know how the starting quarterback feels and what he's going through? Pederson was also asked if he’s calling games any differently following Wentz’s three season-ending injuries — a torn ACL in 2017, the back fracture in 2018 and a concussion early in the Seattle playoff game last season. It might explain why Pederson continually refuses to call rollouts for his quarterback, who seems more effective when he's outside the pocket but could be more at risk. —Reuben Frank, NBC Sports Philadelphia
Q. QB Jalen Hurts played one offensive snap. Regardless of the way Carson is playing, why isn't Hurts on the field more? Is this the type of workload and usage we should expect going forward? (Zach Berman)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "No, I think I could get him in the game a little bit more."
WHAT MATT SAYS: No complaints here, except at this point it should be more than "a little more." The problem is, none of this was necessary and is only happening because the Eagles inexplicably drafted a quarterback in the second round. If they drafted him because they were worried about Wentz, then what are they waiting for? If they were confident in Wentz, why draft a quarterback so high in the draft to begin with? The move never made sense, and makes even less sense now that Wentz is struggling and Hurts remains on the sideline. Yes, he's a rookie. Yes, he didn't have a preseason to prepare. Yes, he should be playing anyway.
The question of whether or not he should be seeing more of the field as a gadget option with Wentz still out there is debatable, especially if the Eagles are going to run the same boring read-options every time he takes a snap. If they're not willing to mix it up for whatever reason, then there's really no point in putting him out there.
But the bigger issue here is that this season is going to wind up being a lost one, and now the Eagles will head into next season with a full-blown quarterback controversy no matter how Wentz plays down the stretch. If they think keeping Hurts on the sideline is going to stop that from happening, they're clearly living on another planet. It's happening right now.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: There is no clear path to a positive outcome, which goes back to the decision to use a second-round pick on Hurts in the first place. What is the best-case scenario for Hurts' time in Philadelphia? That Wentz gets injured and he keeps the offense afloat? That he flashes in limited play and the Eagles flip him for something greater than the second-round pick they invested in him? ... The Hurts pick always ran the risk of muddying the waters and working against Wentz's best interests. The fact that we're 11 games into the season and Pederson is already getting peppered with questions about making a switch at QB supports that theory. What's worse is Pederson's hands are pretty much tied. He couldn't make a move from Wentz to Hurts without creating an even stickier situation than the one he's in now. Which begs the question: What was the point? —Tim McManus, ESPN
Q. One of the things you said yesterday was this is going to be like a great sign to see who is in and who is out. Wondering, have you noticed anybody not being all in at this point? How concerning would it be if you were to discover that was the case? (Martin Frank)
WHAT DOUG SAID: "I have not discovered that so far. I think that's more of a maybe a word of caution to everybody. Listen, we still have -- messaging is not going to change. We still have our goals right in front of us. I just want to make sure that everybody understands that we still have a great opportunity. As poorly as things have been, we still have a great opportunity in front of us.
"I want to make sure everybody understands that. We still have to go out and practice, we still have to meet, we still have to do the things to prepare ourselves for each game. I just want to make sure that everybody understands that we're all in on this. It's like we're pushing our chips to the middle of the table, so to speak, and everybody is in. I haven't noticed anybody not being in and wouldn't expect that."
WHAT MATT SAYS: I kind of touched on this earlier, but it's certainly starting to feel like guys have checked out, but this is one of the ramifications of COVID-19. If there was still locker room access and we were able to chat with every player on the roster and see how they carried themselves from Monday-Saturday, maybe we'd know a bit more about what's really going on at NovaCare — and the stories coming out of losing locker rooms typically aren't great. If the Eagles want to take a silver lining away from this pandemic, it should be that (and the fact that there aren't 60,000 booing fans at the Linc every Sunday).
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: It certainly seems like some players have checked out. And if that's the case, Pederson's future as head coach could ultimately be in question. On Monday, Pederson said he has not noticed anyone giving up, and his comment after the game was "more of maybe a word of caution to everybody. —Martin Frank, Delaware Online
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