Ped­er­son de­flect­ing heat from re­ceivers

Ped­er­son do­ing his best to de­flect heat off lack­lus­ter re­ceiv­ing crew

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

PHILADEL­PHIA >> Doug Ped­er­son once was a West Coast Of­fense quar­ter­back, trained to look in var­i­ous di­rec­tions be­fore mak­ing a de­ci­sion.

So when it was brought to his at­ten­tion Mon­day that his start­ing wide re­ceivers had just eight to­tal catches Sun­day, in­clud­ing two from Nel­son Agholor, the Birds’ coach quickly found an open ex­pla­na­tion for the dy­nam­ics of a 24-15 vic­tory over the At­lanta Fal­cons.

“Gosh, the run­ning game was so big yes­ter­day that we didn’t have to throw the ball as much as we have in the past,” Ped­er­son in­sisted, dur­ing his day-after press con­fer­ence in the No­vaCare Com­plex. Well, there was that. Yet of the Birds’ 25 pass re­cep­tions, 17 were by backs or tight ends, six were by Jor­dan Matthews and two by Agholor. Bryce Treggs, who had shown some stretch-the-field abil­ity in a loss a week ear­lier to the Gi­ants, was not tar­geted at all. Nei­ther was Do­rial Green-Beck­ham. Bring back Josh Huff? “There is only one foot­ball

there are like five skill guys,” Ped­er­son said. “There is the de­sign of the play. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily de­signed for Nel­son on ‘this’ play or DGB on ‘this’ play. We do have plays in­tended for those guys, but this is a pro­gres­sion of­fense, and if ‘one’ is not there, then ‘two’ should be there and ‘three’ should be there.

“So, that’s how we teach the sys­tem. And that’s how we teach our quar­ter­backs. A lot of it is by pro­gres­sion based on what they see.”

Car­son Wentz tar­geted Matthews 10 times and Agholor five against At­lanta. So that’s what he was see­ing: Fif­teen good rea­sons to throw to a wide re­ceiver. It worked be­cause the run­ning game and the de­fense were hum­ming. But is that the long-term so­lu­tion to NFL point-pro­duc­tion?

“Just by the na­ture of their de­fense, they gave us Dar­ren Spro­les, gave us Zach Ertz and gave us Jor­dan on those spe­cific plays,” Ped­er­son said. “And we were able to make those plays. Again, it kind of stems back to the run game a lit­tle bit, be­ing able to run the foot­ball and al­le­vi­ate some of that pres­sure on your quar­ter­backs and your re­ceivers.”

All through their 5-4 sea­son, the Birds have seemed re­luc­tant to throw long. There are mul­ti­ple the­o­ries, rang­ing from the in­sta­bil­ity of the of­fen­sive line, to Wentz’s arm, to the lack of re­ceivers able to make that hap­pen. The most con­sis­tent hum, though, has been that the Birds are more than cau­tious with Wentz. As such, shorter passes to backs are less likely to leave him ex­posed to sacks and, it would fol­low, to phys­i­cal trauma.

“I’ve said all along that if we can keep Car­son to 25 at­tempts or 30 at­tempts, it’s a good day, usu­ally,” Ped­er­son said. “And there was the de­sign of some of the matchups we had with Spro­les on their lineback­ers, Ertz over the ball, and some op­por­tu­ni­ties ver­sus man cov­er­age with Jor­dan over the mid­dle.

“It was just some de­sign things we had dur­ing the game plan that were not nec­es­sar­ily a re­flec­tion on Nel­son or any other guys.”

With the run­ning at­tack work­ing, that opened the like­li­hood of play-ac­tion passes. Wentz, be­com­ing more com­fort­able with Ertz, was able to tar­get his tight ends eight times, good for seven com­ple­tions.

“Any time we can get the run game go­ing it makes my job eas­ier,” the quar­ter­back said. “It’s some­thing that we’re go­ing to keep build­ing on. The play­ac­tion game can be some­thing that re­ally is big now that we’re get­ting the run game go­ing again.”

So that’s where the Ea­gles have landed, one week into the sec­ond half of their sea­son: As a run­ning and play-ac­tion team de­ter­mined to shield their rookie quar­ter­back from pres­sure. For that, they rely on shorter passes.

“You’ve got to be multi-di­men­sional in this league,” Ertz said. “If you’re pass­ing ev­ery play or you’re run­ning the ball ev­ery play and can’t do the other, it’s tough to win be­cause de­fenses are so good. You have to keep them off bal­ance in this league. When we get Ryan Mathews go­ing, our team is ex­tremely tal­ented on of­fense. We were mul­ti­di­men­sional. We had 200 yards in both phases of the game.

“It’s go­ing to be tough to stop if you do that.”

RON JENK­INS — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Ea­gles head coach Doug Ped­er­son didn’t pub­licly crit­i­cize his wide re­ceiver group after an­other lack­lus­ter per­for­mance by the unit in Sun­day’s 24-15 win over the At­lanta Fal­cons.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Philadel­phia Ea­gles wide re­ceiver Jor­dan Matthews runs for a first down dur­ing an NFL foot­ball game against the At­lanta Fal­cons on Sun­day.

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