Doug Pederson touches on several topics from Week 1 loss
While the Eagles' demoralizing Week 1 loss incited more questions than answers, head coach Doug Pederson provided further clarification and insight in a Monday Zoom call with reporters.
Pederson touched on the aggressiveness of Carson Wentz, the usage of DeSean Jackson, injury updates, insight on the offensive line decision, and more.
Here are four takeaways from Pederson's press conference.
1. Carson's aggressiveness
Perhaps the most alarming takeaway from Sunday's loss, other than inadequate depth along the offensive line, was the inconsistent play from quarterback Carson Wentz.
Entering his fifth season, Wentz spearheaded a new-look Eagles' offense to an early 17-point lead, completing 4-of-18 pass attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns with roughly three minutes to go until the half.
His first-half highlights included a 55-yard deep strike to rookie Jalen Reagor and a 34-yard rainbow, delivered to tight end Dallas Goedert with pinpoint accuracy.
However, the second half told a vastly different story.
Rather than implementing slants, crossing routes, and screens to combat the penetration from Washington's defensive line, the Eagles became fascinated with the deep passing game. Wentz's inability to eliminate what wasn't there and isolate what was available was as detrimental to the offense as his inability to take what the defense was giving him -- and failing to throw the ball away while under duress.
That kind of second-half regression from a fifth-year starter is concerning and will need correcting before the Los Angeles Rams come to town.
"We still have to continue to address him and to address those issues," Pederson said. "It's part of the football game. We just have to keep talking that it's okay to throw the ball away. It's okay to dirt the ball on a screen pass or something of that nature and look, it's something that we've just got to continue working through.
"There is a fine line, obviously, as we know, between the aggressiveness, but at the same time, we want to be smart."
2. DeSean's usage
Sunday was supposed to represent DeSean Jackson's resurgence.
Instead, we were left with an abundance of questions amid the aftermath.
The 33-year-old yielded seven targets, reeling in two for 46 yards. While his receiving total was less than ideal, among the most pertinent head-scratchers to emerge from the opener was Jackson's usage.
The veteran receiver played just 37 offensive snaps, accounting for 54 percent of the total.
For perspective, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and rookie John Hightower played 28 and 27 offensive snaps, respectively.
Sure, it's been quite some time since the 33-year-old played in a meaningful game, but the matchup against cornerback Ronald Darby was one the Eagles could have exploited with their most explosive pass-catcher.
Jackson's postgame tweet only added to the speculation and confusion:
So, if Jackson wasn't injured, what gives?
"Obviously he's a big part of the offense, but at the same time, we want to make sure that he's a guy that's healthy and fresh for us down the long haul here," Pederson said. "I think each week, I would anticipate his rep count to increase as we go, and we're going to be smart with him but we also know that he's an explosive receiver for us and we want to get him on the field as much as possible moving forward."
3. Injuries continue to mount
The Eagles entered Sunday's game depleted on both sides of the ball. Miles Sanders, Lane Johnson, Javon Hargrave, Derek Barnett were just some of the prominent players that didn't suit up due to injury.
On Monday, Pederson provided updates on some of the walking wounded and revealed that defensive end Brandon Graham is in concussion protocol and fellow edge rusher Vinny Curry sustained a significant injury. The same goes for reserve cornerback and special teams ace, Craig James.
With Graham and Barnett's Week Two status undetermined and Curry on the mend for the foreseeable future, the Eagles are left with only Josh Sweat, Genard Avery, and rookie Casey Toohill at defensive end. Malik Jackson offers the flexibility to move outside, but the team will likely need to add another body before Sunday.
The defensive end conundrum potentially leaves the door open for Joe Ostman to earn a promotion to the active roster.
James' special teams contributions will not be easy to replace, either. James, one of the gunners, has become one of the team's top third phase performers, and his cornerback play in training camp forced two veterans off the roster.
Barring a free-agent addition, elevating cornerback Trevor Williams from the practice squad seems like a logical move. The 26-year-old has appeared in 39 games (27 starts) over his first four seasons.
"Yeah, I'll update you," Pederson said. "Vinny and [CB] Craig James both significant injuries, are going to miss some time here in the next couple of weeks. Don't anticipate either one of those back. On Miles and Lane and some of the other guys, [DE] Derek Barnett, we are going to increase their practice time this week. We are going to see as the week goes on where they are and hopefully they will be available for the game on Sunday.
"But again, it's kind of day-by-day with those guys."
4. Clarification on offensive line decisions
In the days leading up to the opener, it was widely expected that Matt Pryor would play right guard and that Lane Johnson had a decent shot at suiting up despite being a limited participant in practice throughout the week.
When the inactive list included Johnson's name, the presumption was that Pryor would serve as the right tackle, and Jack Driscoll would fill-in at guard.
However, shortly following the inactive release, ESPN's Tim McManus reported that rookie Jack Driscoll was slated to start at right tackle. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane revealed that second-year center/guard Nate Herbig would play right guard.
Driscoll, a fourth-round pick, impressed the team throughout the summer with his versatility and football intellect. He is best-suited to play right tackle, but can effectively play guard and potentially center. Driscoll has a wealth of experience playing at college football's highest level, so giving him the nod at one of the positions wasn't exactly unexpected.
The decision to start Herbig, who played just three NFL snaps as a rookie caught many by surprise.
The 22-year-old defied long odds by making the Eagles as an undrafted free agent a season ago, so the upside is evident. However, giving Herbig the nod over Pryor, a former draft pick who started a playoff game -- and spent much of the summer preparing to fill-in for Brandon Brooks at right guard -- was mildly surprising.
Furthermore, when Driscoll exited the game late in the second half, it was former rugby player and intriguing project Jordan Mailata that come on in relief rather than Pryor. At this stage, it appears Pryor has been bumped down to third-team.
"These guys, they were getting reps at different positions. So just to kind of clarify, Driscoll was getting right tackle reps. He was also getting guard reps. Mailata was getting both tackle left and right. Pryor was getting his work in there, and as we go, we begin to see who kind of is kind of having the hot hand, so to speak, and playing well.
"And then as we got into this past game week, obviously we settled on Nate Herbig and of course with Lane Johnson on game day being down with Jack Driscoll and felt comfortable there because they were getting the reps during the week."