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September 09, 2020

What they're saying: An Eagles power struggle, season predictions and a breakout candidate

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Lurie-Pederson_090920_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports, File

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie (right) talks with head coach Doug Pederson.

The Philadelphia Eagles kick off their season on Sunday. And if the offseason was any indication, the regular season is going to be unlike anything we've ever seen before. The stands will, for the most part, be empty. Personnel on the sidelines will be wearing masks. And pretty much everything around the game will look and feel different.

But on the field? Football will be played. And that's the one constant we can count on heading into a unique season. 

As we'll do every week throughout the football season (and sometimes more than once a week), let's take a look around the web at what some other outlets are saying about the Eagles just days before they travel to Maryland to take on the Football Team from Washington. 

We've got a lot to cover, so we'll dive right in... 

Trouble at NovaCare?

Jeff McLane | The Philadelphia Inquirer

The big Eagles story of the day came from Inquirer Eagles writer Jeff McLane, who wrote about a coach in a precarious position as he tries to juggle a new-look offensive coaching staff, pressure from above, and expectations from all around. 

One of the interesting nuggets in McLane's story was about that infamous post-season press conference back in January in which Doug Pederson publicly endorsed offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch a day before the team announced they'd be firing both. According to McLane, the decision to ultimately part ways with those two assistants was made over Pederson's head — and he was not happy about it.

So why would he publicly give Groh and Walch, his receivers coach, votes of confidence, especially considering how much importance Pederson places on honest communications with his assistants?

Because he initially wanted to keep both and thought he had final say on his staff. Technically, he does. But at some point between the presser and the official team announcement, Pederson became aware that the Eagles front office wanted them gone.

And he became “irritated,” “frustrated,” “pissed off,” — descriptives used by sources to describe the coach — because he had already given Groh and Walch his word. But at some point over the next day, after meetings with owner Jeffrey Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman, “Doug suddenly became OK with firing both,” a source close to Pederson said.

The information obtained by The Inquirer on this subject and the Eagles’ offseason coaching moves came from team and NFL sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were either not permitted to speak publicly about team decisions or because they feared retribution.  [inquirer.com]

What was said in those conversations remains a mystery, but McLane painted a situation in which Lurie isn't afraid to speak out when it comes to football decisions, particularly those regarding the offense. He also says Lurie takes the success of the offense personally, and cites an example from the 2018 playoffs where Lurie was not excited after the Eagles infamous double-doink win over the Bears because he was upset they only scored 16 points. 

"And that can often place Pederson under additional owner scrutiny," writes McLane. "But Pederson’s affable manner mostly makes it work. And the same could be said of his partnership with the type-A Roseman. Many coaches wouldn’t hear of a GM’s advice on game-day rosters, but Pederson embraces the weekly back and forth."

So far, it's worked for the Eagles, who have won a Super Bowl and made the playoffs each of the last three seasons, but it's worth wondering how long it can last before the different sides clash over a tough decision. 

Earlier Wednesday morning, McLane went on the SportsRadio 94WIP Midday Show with Joe DeCamara and Jon Ritchie, and the latter, a former Eagles fullback, had an interesting takeaway from the story and ensuing interview.

"There are factions within that building and I think the ones we are talking about here are Carson Wentz and his crew, the Philadelphia Eagles, including Howie, and Doug. I keep picturing three groups. It feels like the Eagles and Carson's side are in cahoots and they are making it known that Doug is responsible for this season. They expect things might not go quite as planned."

"If we don't make the playoffs," continued Ritchie, "Doug's head is on the chopping block. I think that could be the title of that article."  [radio.94wip.com]

McLane also went on to talk about Pederson's peculiarly-constructed offensive coaching staff, and how the dynamic between Pederson, his two offensive coordinators (Press Taylor will handle passing game while Jeff Stoutland will handle the running game), and new hires like Rich Scangarello and Marty Mornhinweg will work.

Apparently, the Inquirer writer isn't the only one concerned over that structure and how important it will be to the team's success in 2020... 

It starts at the top

Sheil Kapadia | The Athletic

Over at the Athletic, NFL writer (and former Eagles beat writer) Sheil Kapadia put together an eight-step plan for the Eagles to get to the Super Bowl this season. Some, like keeping Carson Wentz upright, were obvious. But others, like his take on the coaching staff (and all the potential voices in Wentz's ear), were a bit more surprising — although perhaps slightly less so after reading McLane's story. 

2. Find coaching synergy on offense

It was interesting to see how Wentz interacted with coaches during training camp practices. After one series, he’d chat with Pederson. After the next, it’d be senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello. Then passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Press Taylor. Then senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg. A pessimist might wonder if the Eagles have too many cooks in the kitchen. An optimist would look back at 2017 and point to how well the offensive coaches worked together.

The latter is clearly what the Eagles are trying to replicate. It seems like about 25 years ago that Pederson announced Mike Groh would be back as offensive coordinator only to change his mind, probably after some nudging from owner Jeffrey Lurie and Roseman. Offensively, the Eagles also replaced wide receivers coach Carson Walch with Aaron Moorehead. Jeff Stoutland and Duce Staley will continue to handle the run game.

There are obvious ways in which the revamped coaching staff can offer upgrades. One is with Wentz’s throwing mechanics as he continues to strive for improved accuracy. Another is in game-planning as Pederson divvies up red zone, third down and other situations. And a third is to be a sounding board for Pederson — encouraging him to be aggressive and trust his quarterback.

Ultimately, this is Pederson’s offense. He needs to decide which ideas to embrace and which to toss aside. He’ll have different voices with different backgrounds in his meetings this year and has to have an effective plan for tying everything together.  [theathletic.com]


MORE: Eagles power ranking roundup heading into 2020 season


Over OR under?

Tim McManus | ESPN

With the NFL season ready to start on Thursday — and the Eagles kicking off a few days later — it's prediction time around the league. And while we'll have much more on who is (and isn't) picking the Birds to win in Washington later this week, as well as our own season-long predictions, we figured it was a good time to take a look at what some other outlets are saying about the Birds. After all, that's kind of the whole point of these posts. 

On Tuesday, ESPN published a simulation of every game for the 2020 season. And let's just say it was a mixed bag for the Eagles, who they had getting off to a fast start with some surprising results, winning the division for the second straight season, and being bounced early in the playoffs (again). 

Today, let's take a look at what Tim McManus of ESPN.com has to say about the Eagles schedule, their win total, and a bold prediction regarding the Eagles' second-year running back. 

Inside the Eagles' schedule

FPI's strength of schedule rank: 17

Toughest stretch: The Eagles travel to San Francisco and Pittsburgh on consecutive weeks in October before returning home to face the Baltimore Ravens. That's rough, as is their closing schedule, which includes games against the Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys.

Over or under 9.1 wins? Over. The schedule has some teeth and the roster has a few question marks, but the Eagles have plenty of things going for them as well, including a top-end quarterback in Wentz, an improved group of skill position players, one of the best interior defensive lines in the game, and a promising secondary led by Darius Slay. They should be neck and neck with the Cowboys for the NFC East crown. -- McManus

Bold prediction for 2020: Miles Sanders will lead the NFL in all-purpose yards

Sanders wants to be a dual-threat running back in the mold of Carolina's Christian McCaffrey. He showed he has the tools his rookie season, racking up 50 catches for 509 yards to go with 818 yards rushing while playing a touch over 50% of the snaps. Sanders' playing time should skyrocket now that he has established himself as the feature back, and the numbers to go along with it. -- McManus  [espn.com]

As we wrote last week, Sanders is getting a lot of hype heading into the 2020 season, and for good reason. He's currently got a betting total of 1,375.5 yards from scrimmage this year, according to TheLines.com, and we're taking the over

Over AND under

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

Over at Bleeding Green Nation, Brandon Gowton took a look at both sides of the Eagles win total for the season, and has their total at 9.5 wins, which is the same as TheLines.com's consensus odds for the Birds. Here's why he thinks they could hit the over this year ... and why he thinks they could come in under:

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: 9.5 wins

Explanations from Bleeding Green Nation (AKA me):

Why over: Carson Wentz managed to lead the Eagles to nine wins last year despite working with the NFL’s worst wide receivers. There’s reason to believe his supporting skill players will be better in 2020. DeSean Jackson is healthy and looking spry as ever, Jalen Reagor looks ready to contribute when he gets healthy, and pretty much all of the Eagles’ receivers looked good in training camp. Philly’s offense has the potential to be much more explosive. The defense is also expected to improve with the additions of Darius Slay and Javon Hargrave. Jim Schwartz is one of the better defensive coordinators in the NFL and he’s gotten more out of less in recent years.

Why under: The Eagles’ offensive line has the potential to be a disaster. Starting left tackle Andre Dillard and starting right guard Brandon Brooks are already out for the season. The Eagles moved Jason Peters back to left tackle but the 38-year-old likely isn’t going to be able to play 100% of the offensive snaps. It’s not perfectly clear who will play at left tackle if Peters isn’t lining up there. Signing Cordy Glenn would help. Otherwise, it could Matt Pryor, who was getting wrecked while lining up there in practice. Or it could be Jordan Mailata, who has never played an NFL snap and was also getting wrecked while lining up there in practice. The Eagles may have finally gotten the wide receiver position right but it might not matter if Wentz doesn’t have time to throw the ball. He might get crushed back there.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

As for us, you'll have to check out our five Eagles over/unders to see what we think... 


MORE: NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 0


The Long view

Chris Long | The Athletic.com

In an interview with Ben Standig of The Athletic, former Eagles defensive lineman Chris Long offered up his thoughts on the upcoming Eagles season.

The Eagles have a ton of upside, too, and I think they’re going to be very motivated. … We all know the biggest narrative is that (quarterback) Carson (Wentz) can’t stay healthy. And I don’t agree with that necessarily. I think that sometimes you’re not injury-prone, but you have some injuries that are bad luck. … I think Carson, though, has to prove this year that he can start another 16 games. … Last year, by the way, with everybody shitting on him, he threw for 4,000 yards to a bunch of guys that you’ve never heard of. He’s got to stay upright. And I think one of the biggest things is you can’t have the pocket collapse if you’re Philly. If you’re going to get beat (by the pass rush), get beat with speed. I don’t want people feet-chopping back into Carson, landing on his ankles, with somebody table-topping him. If they can keep Carson upright, and (first-round receiver) Jalen Reagor comes back healthy, I think I think they can make a run at this thing.  [theathletic.com]

JJAW poised for a breakout?

Anthony Treash | Pro Football Focus

And finally, Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash published a list of each NFL team's most likely breakout candidate in 2020. And the name he came up with was quite surprising, even if beat writers were raving* about his play at training camp. 

However, they were also raving about it last summer too. Even I was guilty of it. Unfortunately, it didn't translate to the regular season. Maybe that changes in Year 2... 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: WR JJ ARCEGA-WHITESIDE

Arcega-Whiteside’s first season in the NFL could not have gone much worse. He battled injuries and produced a lowly 52.6 receiving grade on his 19 targets while struggling against tight coverage — an area in which he excelled at Stanford. In 2018 with the Cardinal, Arcega-Whiteside produced the third-best receiving grade in the FBS against tight coverage and tied for the most contested catches ( 22). He was as strong as one can be at the catch point in college.

Assuming the injury played as big of a deal in his poor 2019 as it was reported to have, Arcega-Whiteside should get back to bodying defenders in contested situations in 2020.  [pff.com]

This content and the links provided are sponsored by thelines.com and playpennsylvania.com, PhillyVoice.com’s Official 2020/2021 Betting Odds Partner, independently created by PhillyVoice.


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