Pederson: Playoff spot is still within reach
Pederson feels playoff spot still within reach
“You just find out who is going to put forth the effort, who’s going to sort of man-up as they say, and take pride in their profession. And that’s coaches and players.” – Eagles’ coach Doug Pederson
PHILADELPHIA >> It didn’t take Doug Pederson long to deliver the good news Tuesday.
Eagles leading receiver Jordan Matthews sustained a right ankle sprain, not a fracture in the 27-13 loss to the Green Bay Packers Monday. Matthews might not practice much, but could be ready to play Sunday at Cincinnati.
“X-rays and everything were negative,” Pederson said. “He’s going to be fine. He’ll be good for the game.”
That was as painless as the day-after news conference went. In the middle of it Pederson spoke of averting a tanking situation in the last five games of the season.
The Eagles certainly fit the profile of a team in distress, having been shelled in back-to-back games. With a 5-6 record, they’re fading fast.
“You just find out who is going to put forth the effort, who’s going to sort of man-up as they say, and take pride in their profession,” Pederson said. “And that’s
coaches and players. Listen, that’s not a threat. Teams in our situation right now, even though you’re still maybe on the edge of getting to where you want to be at the end of the season, you could kind of go the other way.
“And not to put any added pressure on anybody but at the same time I don’t want people to just start tanking the last half of the season.”
To his credit, Pederson took on every topic Tuesday. Even the injuries, typically the easiest part of his day, had a different tone, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, which sets new standards for ineffectiveness weekly.
Running back Ryan Mathews (MCL sprain) is day-to-day although, in all seriousness, the Eagles haven’t utilized his best skill, which is running with the football. The Birds have lost their early season commitment to the run game for a variety of reasons.
The injury-riddled offensive line is a part of it. The Eagles miss rookie right tackle Hal Vaitai, week-to-week with a sprained MCL. Left guard Allen Barbre moved from left guard to fill his position Monday.
The Eagles also were without right guard Brandon Brooks Monday night, who was hospitalized earlier in the day after severe vomiting. He was replaced by rookie Isaac Seumalo.
“Everything checked out fine with him so we’ll get him back, get him working this week,” Pederson said.
Add those issues to the expanded use of undrafted rookie wide receivers Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner, who aren’t built to block; throw in such bonehead mistakes as receiver Dorial GreenBeckham’s penalty wiping out a 41-yard play and you get an offense that couldn’t keep pace with Aaron Rodgers. Instead the Birds were forced to throw the ball entirely too much and managed just three points in the second half. Posting a single field goal against a Packers defense giving away points like trick-or-treat candy is a dubious achievement for Doug Pederson greets Mike McCarthy ollowing Monday’s game against the Green Bay Packers on Monday. the Eagles’ offense.
The Eagles simply aren’t good enough to play catchup ball. Fewer possessions mean fewer opportunities to run. Fewer opportunities to run mean the defense spends more snaps on the field. Added snaps wear on the defense. Try rushing Rodgers when he has the lead.
“You can always look back on a Monday or Tuesday and say we should have done this or we should have done that,” Pederson said. “If you can (run) against good offenses you can control the clock. The thing that gets you is you’ve got to make sure your execution is pretty much flawless at the time so you can stay on the field. You can’t have penalties, offensively. You can’t have negative running plays. You can’t have sacks.”
The Eagles aren’t there. It’s frightening in a sense, although the injuries Pederson won’t use as an excuse clearly are a factor.
Pederson played defense much of his presser, starting with his decision on wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who was benched Monday. He’ll be monitored again this week before the determination to activate him.
Pederson became edgy when asked about defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who had just one tackle on the night, as well as a roughing-the-passer penalty that extended the pivotal Packers touchdown drive when it appeared the Birds’ defense was going to get off the field and force the Packers to punt. Cox is getting lots of scrutiny after signing his record $103 million contract extension before the season.
“What is the problem with Fletcher Cox?” Pederson said rhetorically. “Well, I think he draws a lot of attention. He draws a lot of double-teams. He gets a lot of hands on him. He still is very, at times, is very disruptive and can be a force inside. Mentally he’s good. Physically he’s good. It’s just a matter of the sheer determination and the wanting to get the job done.
“He’s still a very capable defensive lineman for us. We do expect, and I do expect, a lot from guys like Fletcher. And he does as well.”
The penalty, on the other hand, is a big concern. It’s the third time this season Cox has hit the quarterback late or in the roughing-the-passer zone to keep a scoring drive alive. Cox got Rodgers around the helmet.
“This game happens so fast that it’s hard sometimes when you’re in the heat of the moment,” Pederson said. “All I can do is grab him and say, ‘look, you’ve got to be careful. We’ve got to make sure we’re lowering our target.’ Fletcher’s a big man. He’s a tall man. He’s got an arm reach. He’s aggressive. Yeah, we’ve got to be careful and we’ve got to be smart about how we hit quarterbacks. But at the same time I want our defensive line to hit quarterbacks.”
The bottom line is the Eagles are the ninth seed in the NFC playoff standings. The good news is eight teams make the playoffs. The bad news is the Eagles have lost five of their last seven games.
“Well, I think the most important thing is we’re very prideful in our jobs and what we do,” Pederson said. “It’s my job to make sure that doesn’t happen and we continue to communicate and talk with the players. You find out of a lot about your football team in the next month. You continue to go to work every day. You don’t back off. You just keep working. You stay the course. We have a process, we started it back in OTAs. We’re going to stick with that process.”
Talking about staying the course, and actually staying the course, are two different things.
Pederson faces the challenge of communicating that to his players.
Jordan Matthews, left, pulls in a pass against Green Bay Packers’ Damarious Randall on Monday.