McMullen: Eagles Have to Change Formula Without Wentz
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson bent over backward Monday afternoon to say nothing changes with the Eagles' offense as the baton is handed from MVP candidate Carson Wentz to capable backup Nick Foles.
"It's more or less just what is [Foles] comfortable with? What is Nick familiar with? I've known him for a lot of years and we're going to continue to have the same communication that Carson and I had during the weeks," Pederson explained. "Carson's going to be a big part of helping Nick get ready too. So not much going forward is going to have to change."
Pederson is smart enough to understand there is some coach speak littered in that answer designed to calm the frayed nerves of a city which believes it's not entitled to nice things while also sending a clear message to his locker room that the next-man-up mentality applies to everyone, even "the man."
From a mental perspective, Pederson's claim is probably fair because the coach does have the utmost confidence in Foles' football IQ and has been around the former starter during their first go-round in Philadelphia together as well as Kansas City.
Foles, as Pederson might say, understands where all the bones are buried in this offense.
"I really think it's huge kind of knowing how he ticks, how he thinks," Pederson said when discussing his history with Foles. "Same way, kind of knowing that he's seen me now call these games this year. So I think that relationship is going to be probably even better now that he gets the starting job and all the roles and all the reps and everything during the week. It's something I look forward to."
Foles has indeed won 20 games as a starter in this league, has been to the postseason and had his awe-inspiring 27-and-2 season under Chip Kelly with the Eagles in 2013 where everything was built in tempo and the RPOs Pederson has sprinkled into his offense.
In fact, Foles was a gaudy 14-4 during his opportunities as Philadelphia's starter in 2013-14 even if Kelly never saw the former third-round pick as a fit for his offense.
So Foles while probably isn't capable to get this Eagles team to 11-2, he is more than capable of finishing what Wentz began during the by wrapping up the No. 1 seed in the NFL, something that will be accomplished if Philadelphia wins two of its final three games against what shapes up as mediocre competition.
"I think everybody in this room knows and everybody out there knows, if you don't have a backup quarterback that's played and had snaps in this league, it's tough," Pederson said. "It's tough to continue the things that you've done and the things you've built this season. So I think it's valuable and I think it's a credit to [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Howie [Roseman] and [Vice President of Player Personnel] Joe [Douglas] and the guys, and my relationship with Nick, to bring a guy like that in here who is very capable of getting the job done."
Things will have to change for the Eagles, however, and the formula for success has to be tweaked whether Pederson wants to admit that publicly or not.
Gone will be the unscripted offense Wentz was able to provide with his athleticism on a weekly basis, something which means game-planning becomes even more important.
"[Foles] is a veteran player who has played and won a lot of games, not only here, but other places that he's been," Pederson said. "Nick's a highly intelligent football player. ... I want to make sure there are plays in his plan that he's comfortable with and that he likes. I want him to speak his mind just like Carson would, and we keep going. This is a veteran player we're talking about."
A veteran player that will play from the pocket almost exclusively though and will not be nearly as adept at extending plays as Wentz.
The skinny on Foles is that he remains a more than capable passer when he's got a clean pocket but his entrance into the lineup comes just as the Eagles are struggling mightily on the left side of the offensive line.
Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich will likely have to use more 12 personnel (two tight ends) to help in protection, call quicker developing routes for the receivers and place even more of an emphasis on the running game while continuing to count on Jim Schwartz's defense to do some of the heavy lifting come playoff time.
It takes the village to replace a superstar in the NFL.
"I think even the guys felt it after the game yesterday that we just rally," Pederson said. "We support the next guy. From my standpoint, you don't waver, man. You don't let people see you sweat. You just put your head down and you just go to work. You get everybody ready to play. It was evident yesterday when Carson was out of the game, you saw Nick come in and come back and lead us to victory in that game. So that right there is a great step in the right direction."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen