Forget about rebuilding... Pederson facing a ‘must’ win
Two weeks ago, we couldn’t wait for Sam Bradford to set foot in the Linc.
The Eagles rolled into the bye with a 3-0 record that validated nationally scrutinized decisions to move up and draft Carson Wentz, and trade Bradford to the Vikings for a first round pick and change.
The Eagles sure looked like they had this figured out from the beginning. And Bradford was one of their chief critics. Play me or trade me? You just knew the TV types would flex the game. And you knew the Eagles were going to open a can of whoop-you-know-what on Bradford.
Two losses later, the game still is at 1 o’clock and you couldn’t have picked a worse weekend for it.
Bradford and the Vikings are 5-0. They’re coming off their
bye. (And, psssst, think Sam knows the Eagles’ plays better than a lot of the young players do. Wasn’t he Chase Daniel’s next-door neighbor?)
It’s a shame we can’t reschedule this game for late December, when Eagles right offensive tackle Lane Johnson returns from his suspension. Maybe even a Tuesday night after a snowstorm, like the last time the Eagles and Vikings played in Philly.
Amid all this noise, you don’t want to be Doug Pederson this week.
It’s hard not to empathize with Coach Doug while he diplomatically tries to explain what’s really happened to a crew of media who believe the stuff they tweet is true because, you know, it was on Twitter.
How on earth could the Eagles’ defense give up 230 rushing yards to the Redskins? Did you notice that Bennie Logan got hurt, that Fletcher Cox was playing hurt and that the safeties were playing deeper than normal because the Eagles’ best cornerback was scratched due to injury?
The Eagles won their first three games easily with the offense racking up points and first downs while not turning the ball over. Controlling the clock not only kept the opposition off the field, it kept the defense fresh, enabling coordinator Jim Schwartz to play downhill because of favorable field position. Only once in those first three games did the opposition start in Eagles territory. And that was at the 48-yard line.
The Eagles led the league in time of possession entering the bye. The Dallas Cowboys are the top dog in that category now.
In the loss to Washington the Philly defense couldn’t get off the field largely because those above issues winded them. The defense was on the field for 67 plays. The Redskins had to play defense on just 48 snaps.
Even when the Eagles got points in the first half the defense was right back out there as the touchdowns came on a kickoff return by Wendell Smallwood and a pick-6 by Malcolm Jenkins.
The Vikings are sixth in time of possession. Bradford was tearing it up before the bye, as he’d completed 70.4 percent of his passes with 6 touchdowns, no interceptions and a 109.8 passer rating.
The Vikings also have issues on their offensive line as they’re playing not one but two backup tackles.
Pederson took a lot of heat for his decision to start rookie Hal Vaitai, who was physically shredded in his NFL debut at right tackle against the Redskins. Vaitai was bullrushed into Wentz twice on the first series.
Pederson’s film review indicated it wasn’t as bad as first thought — not the early-game failures, but the game as a whole for Vaitai.
What was Pederson supposed to say? That Big V had stage fright? That he thought offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland had Vaitai ready to play, but that didn’t turn out to be the case?
Was Pederson supposed to say, “I just coach the guys that Howie Roseman and his team give me, OK? You need to talk to them.”
The Eagles knew Johnson was going to be suspended. The only real question is why it took him eight hours to defend himself in front of an arbitrator. Had Johnson checked with the Eagles trainer, he wouldn’t have put that banned substance in his body. But we digress.
Part of Pederson’s job is to take the bullets just as his role model, Andy Reid, did back in the day.
What Pederson has right now is a football team with a young, talented quarterback and not enough talent immediately around him to scare the opposition. As poorly as the Eagles executed the past two weeks, amassing 27 penalties, Wentz had the ball and a chance to win or tie both of those games. The Eagles didn’t suddenly become bad. They lost the last two games by a total of 8 points.
Add those penalties to the inability of the Eagles to win battles on both sides of the line, partly due to injury, partly because of talent deficiency, factor in the difficult schedule and the doubt that’s crept into the coaching staff, and that Bradford guy coming to town and you’ve got a must-win, playoff-type game for Pederson.
Stop with the argument that all along this was supposed to be a rebuilding season, and that’s what it’s become. This isn’t a rebuilding year for Jenkins, Cox or Wentz.
Two weeks ago, the Eagles were on their way to the roundup.
All they need to get back in the race is a signature win over Bradford.
To contact Bob Grotz, email email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @bobgrotz
After a surprising 3-0 start gave the Eagles’ fan base reason to believe in the new coach, Doug Pederson has been left to explain two consecutive losses. And now old friend Sam Bradford and the unbeaten Vikings are coming to town.