Eagles Are Ready to Unveil Their ‘Well-Oiled Machines’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — Some may call them toys but Doug Pederson preferred "well-oiled machines" on Wednesday when discussing his impressive skill-position group, which is considered his best since he took over as head coach of the Eagles in 2016.
The group includes receivers Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, two threats at tight end in Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, and two-time 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Howard. The embarrassment of riches extends to a pair of rookie second-round picks in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Miles Sanders.
"I don’t really categorize them as toys. They’re well-oiled machines," Pederson smiled.
Having multiple options is always a nice problem to have for a play-caller but it also can be a real issue. There is only one football to go around and a lot of mouths to feed, a sentiment Jay Gruden tapped into when talking about Jackson, who he once coached in D.C.
"No he doesn't [have to be targeted to have an impact] but he has to be targeted if you want him to like you or not," Gruden joked. "I mean hell, he can get pretty frustrated at times with me but I love DeSean."
In a vacuum, Pederson understands the advantage he has but no one has ever won in the NFL on paper, something the coach is well aware of. Big names create big expectations that can go unrecognized unless the dirty work is getting done.
"It will be exciting to be able to look at the play sheet," Pederson admitted before pivoting. "Listen, it has to be going your way, though. We have to be executing for any of it to work. If not, it can be a long day."
Last season the offense ran through 86 (Ertz) and 17 (Jeffery), according to Pederson. That is expected to continue even if there are a few more branches sprouting off the main limbs, the most tantalizing of which is Jackson and his deep speed, along with the rookies.
"I think he is a guy that if he has 40 catches for eight touchdowns and 800- 900 yards for the Eagles, I think it's a huge success," Gruden said when discussing Jackson, a nod to the fact the veteran receiver's presence should open up things underneath for the intermediate receivers and backs.
The man who will be throwing Jackson the football, Carson Wentz, also sees the potential impact.
"Adding an element like DeSean, who can really stretch the field, I think it opens up so much more in the run game and the underneath passing game," the QB1 said.
As for the freshman, Pederson plans on pushing the pedal to the floor, not working them in judiciously as most expected.
"Yeah, that's the reason why we had training camp, and really mixed these guys in with the ones, and got them comfortable with [QB] Carson [Wentz], for this reason. This is why you draft these guys. I don't think you hold back," he said. "You plug them in, and you go. They have to learn. There's no better teacher than on game day. ... I mean, they're talented enough to be drafted where they were drafted, so we're going to use them."
And it's Wentz job to play point guard and keep everyone smiling.
"We’re always going to try to put our playmakers in the best position to succeed," the signal caller said.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen