Pederson deflecting heat from receivers
Pederson doing his best to deflect heat off lackluster receiving crew
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.”
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.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jordan Matthews runs for a first down during an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.