Pederson’s touch deserves coach of year consideration
PHILADELPHIA — Remember that time earlier in the season when former NFL general manager Mike Lombardi called the Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson the least qualified coach he had ever seen? Yeah, that was funny. Pederson won’t come across as polished, or particularly funny, or, well, involved on defense during his news conferences.
Yet Pederson is proving that he’s the perfect coach for this Eagles team in so many ways, and that’s especially true with his play-calling on offense, which is approaching brilliance.
That was evident all throughout the Eagles’ 51-23 dismantling of the Denver Broncos last weekend.
A disclaimer: Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz runs the defense, but give Pederson credit for allowing him to do so.
On offense, it was like Pederson was in the Broncos defensive huddle and knew all of their signals. And that’s from Broncos cornerback Chris Harris.
“They knew everything we were going to do today,” Harris said.
On the Eagles’ first touchdown, Carson Wentz faked a handoff to Jay Ajayi, knowing that would freeze Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib for a moment. In that split second, Alshon Jeffery took off downfield.
Wentz rolled to his right and lofted a pass over Talib and into the arms of Jeffery, who sauntered into the end zone for a 32yard touchdown.
“It’s been in our playbook,” Pederson said. “Just kind of dusted it off and worked on it all week and executed it to perfection.”
Another such play happened in the third quarter, when Wentz lined up in the pistol formation, then started running to his right before pitching the ball to running back Corey Clement, who scored from the 2-yard line.
“Take advantage of their defensive ends and those outside LBs,” Pederson said. “Actually, we kind of got the idea from Kansas City on Monday night (in the Chiefs’ win against the Broncos). They did the same thing. Carson’s very athletic to do it. Corey did a great job.”
Another disclaimer: Yes, Wentz is having a magical season, with 23 touchdown passes against five interceptions. He has a passer rating of 104.1. He’s obviously a franchise quarterback and the midseason favorite to win the MVP award.
But a disclaimer to that disclaimer: Pederson, a 10-year backup quarterback in the NFL, along with offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a 14-year NFL backup quarterback, and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo were hired to develop a franchise quarterback.
Shouldn’t Pederson get credit for that?
Wentz was asked if Pederson’s play-calling keeps defenses off balance.
“You nailed it,” he said. “He keeps them off balance. With the nakeds (bootleg runs and passes) that we do — the sprintouts, the dropbacks, the quick game — we have a bunch of different running sets. ... We just mix it up so well.”
And here is another of Pederson’s strengths: his ability to relate to the players.
Consider that the Eagles are 8-1, yet they have not had a wide receiver get 100 yards or more in a game this season. They have had only one game in which a running back has rushed for 100 yards or more.
This is from a team that came into the game ranked sixth in total offense, at 372 yards per game.
Wentz called it “spreading the love.”
The Eagles racked up 419 yards of total offense against the NFL’s stingiest defense. They ran for 197 yards against the No. 2 rushing defense in the NFL. Yet Jeffery was the leading receiver with 84 yards and Ajayi was the leading rusher with 77 yards.
You won’t hear Jeffery, or anyone, complain about that. Jeffery can be a free agent at the end of the season, yet he’s not on pace for 1,000 receiving yards.
“Hey, we’ll take the Super Bowl today if that’s what it takes to get to the Super Bowl,” Jeffery said. “No matter who’s out there, we all believe in one another.”
Defensive end Chris Long, who played for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots last season, has watched this attitude develop all season.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Nobody is selfish. That’s the cool thing. We have so many mouths to feed, but nobody is worried about who eats. It’s all about the result at the end of the day. We have that on the defensive line as well. ... We’re all about each other.”
Four running backs carried the ball against the Broncos, and all had at least five carries. That included Ajayi, who had a 46-yard touchdown run on his fifth carry as an Eagle. He had 138 carries in seven games with the Miami Dolphins this season and didn’t score a touchdown.
Yet running back LeGarrette Blount, who’s likely to lose carries to Ajayi, couldn’t have been happier for his new teammate.
“I’m excited to have him, because I’ve been a fan of his all the way back to last year,” Blount said.
He continued: “Our offensive line played lights out. On Jay’s run, he didn’t even get touched. On Corey (Clement’s 15-yard) screen, I don’t think he got touched by one person. ...
“You can count a lot of plays where our offensive line did extremely well blocking those guys.”
That’s part of being a coach, too — making sure everyone is happy.
A final disclaimer: Forget about being unqualified, Pederson is well on his way to being the NFL’s coach of the year.
PHILLY’S 8-1: DOUG PEDERSON HAS THE EAGLES’ OFFENSE SOARING
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is an expert at calling offensive plays and has his team off to an 8-1 start.