August 21, 2018
The product Eagles fans, and the Eagles coaching staff,. have seen on the field through two preseason games isn't the team that will represent the city when the season kicks off on September 6.
The list of injured starters is a lengthy one, as Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Graham, and a few others will not see a single snap this preseason. That group will skip Thursday night's third preseason game in Cleveland. Other starters, like Jay Ajayi and Nelson Agholor are extremely limited as to maintain their health for then the season kicks off and will also miss action.
Add that to a vanilla offense, a few new coaches and players and you have a recipe for some pretty meaningless games that don't exactly offer much by way of gathering indicators for how the team will perform this fall.
"Maybe I'm superstitious but I really don't want to be 4-and-0 in the preseason," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday.
Last year, the Browns went 4-0 in the preseason but 0-16 during the regular season. In 2008, the Lions did the same thing. It seems like a reasonable thing to be superstitious about. And given the unavailability of some key players, it wasn't hard to avoid.
"Now's the time you're sort of experimenting with plays," Pederson continued, "you're trying maybe some different personnel groups and combinations, you are evaluating talent. It is different, but at the same time you're still trying to get ready for Week 1, our home opener and it is tough when all your guys aren't out there but they also know they are preparing themselves for that season opener and getting themselves prepared that way. I don't concern myself with that too much right now."
With a team, on paper, good enough to repeat as Super Bowl champs if healthy, there really is no need to try and force anything this preseason. Which is why the bulk of the playing time this summer has gone to young players trying to put some good performances on tape and make a roster spot.
Pederson did say that Nick Foles, who struggled last week in New England and left the game early with a shoulder injury, will get extended time against the Browns — potentially the entire first half. With Wentz' status for Week 1 still murky, seeing Foles look comfortable and competent against a live defense will be the last reassuring thing Birds fans can hope for.
"Would love to see a touchdown drive or two or points out of the first unit," the coach said. "And with them playing another week together you'll see better execution Thursday night."
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