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September 22, 2016

'Riverboat' Doug Pederson continuing to take logical gambles

Eagles NFL
092216DougPederson Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Riverboat Doug.

One of the initial takeaways of the Doug Pederson era is that 'Riverboat Doug' intends to be aggressive. There were hints of Pederson's aggressiveness shortly after the Eagles selected Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL Draft back in April. When asked who Wentz reminded him of, Pederson named the gunslingeriest of all gunslingers.

"A little bit of Brett Favre, honestly," Pederson said. "He's got that mentality. He's got that aggressiveness that Brett had. Those are some of the skill sets that I see in Carson -- that aggression, that ability to throw the ball down the field. I love quarterbacks that are willing to take a chance, take a calculated risk down the field. Favre was that way. I see a lot of the same characteristics in Carson."

Through the first two games, Pederson has let Wentz 'let it rip,' as he promised he would leading up to Week 1.

"I don't want to harness that aggression," said Pederson before the Browns game. "I don't want to harness that ability to throw the ball down the field. I think we're capable of doing that. I think he's good at doing that. You obviously want to get into the flow of the game and see defensive they're going to scheme him and scheme us, and then you let your game plan sort of unfold from there."

In his first two games as a pro, Wentz has attempted 35.5 passes per game, despite the Eagles holding comfortable leads in the second halves of both games. That would put Wentz on pace for 568 pass attempts this season, which would place him fifth in that category for rookies, all time, behind Andrew Luck (627), Derek Carr (599), Sam Bradford (590), and Peyton Manning (575).

But where Pederson has been at his aggressive best has been on fourth down. In the Philadelphia Eagles' Week 2 win over the Chicago Bears, Pederson opted to go for it three times on fourth down. His players rewarded him with three first downs. That was a week after the Eagles picked up a key first down on fourth down against the Cleveland Browns, leading to a touchdown on the next play.

A look at the Eagles' four fourth-down conversions under Pederson:

4th and 4 from the Browns' 40-yard line

Pederson had three decisions here:

  1. Attempt a 57- or 58-yard field goal.
  2. Punt.
  3. Go for it.

According to the New York Times, NFL coaches do not go for it in this situation more often than not, when the clear decision should be to roll the dice. In this case, Wentz found Zach Ertz for a completion and a first down.

4th and 2 from the Browns' 28

Here, Pederson had two choices:

  1. Attempt a 45- or 46- yard field goal.
  2. Go for it.

Again, Pederson went for it, when most coaches would kick a field goal, according to the New York Times. In this case, Wentz found Dorial Green-Beckham for a nine yard gain and a first down.

This drive would eventually stall at the Bears 7-yard line, leading to a chip-shot field goal, but not before keeping the Bears D on the field for an additional six plays and four minutes.

4th and Goal at the Bears 2

This call was very interesting. With 10:36 left in the fourth quarter, a field goal would have put the Eagles up by three scores. If they did not score at all, they would have only been up by 15, and thus only two scores away. Pederson opted to run a fake jet sweep, followed by a pitch to Ryan Mathews, which worked.

If the Eagles didn't score in that situation, Pederson noted that the Bears would have had to have driven the entire length of the field to score.

"My thought there, 4th and goal at the 1, if we don't get it they're at the 1-yard line, and they've got to go 99 yards," he said. And if we score, we even separate ourselves even more. So that was the decision there."

4th and 6 from the Bears' 26

With two minutes left in the game, if the Eagles converted this one last fourth down, they could kneel on the football for three snaps and head to the locker room. They maaaayyyyy have gotten a kind spot here, but once again, they picked up the first down.

Ballgame. Four for four. Riverboat Doug.

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