Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pederson’s Progression
INDIANAPOLIS — Andy Reid’s first year in Kansas City was historic. Although the season was capped off by a heartbreaking playoff loss, the Chiefs won 11 games in 2013 after winning just two in 2012.
They are the only team in NFL history to win two or fewer games in a season, and then follow that up by winning their first four games the next year (the Chiefs started 9-0 in 2013). But according to Doug Pederson, Kansas City made a significant mistake that heavily impacted how he now coaches.
“Our first year in Kansas City with coach Reid, we tried to have some of that mentality where we’re going to make the people fit what we do. That was a big mistake,” Pederson told reporters at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. “We learned to adapt to the players around us.
“We learned to listen to guys like Alex Smith. We learned to listen to the Justin Houston’s and Tamba Hali’s and Eric Berry’s, and utilize their strengths and weaknesses to help our football team as a whole. You can’t put yourself in a box that way. By no means do I want to put our roster in a box. As coaches, I want us thinking outside of the box. Challenge yourself every week to, not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but utilize our talent and strengths to help us win games.”
Pederson’s remarks were prompted by a reporter asking if he differed from Chip Kelly by not having prototypical measurements he wants his players to fit into. However, Pederson’s philosophy applies not just to prospective Eagles, but current Eagles.
One of the biggest storylines in Philadelphia last season was the dramatic decrease in DeMarco Murray’s production. As a Cowboy in 2014, he set franchise records and led the NFL with 1,845 rushing yards. But as an Eagle in 2015, he ranked 42nd out of 47 qualified running backs in yards per carry.
Less than two months on the job, Pederson thinks he knows why Murray’s drop-off occurred.
“The first thing I noticed was there were three different [types] of running backs on the roster, and you can’t take three different running backs and try to make them one running back,” Pederson said. “I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m not saying it’s the right way. But I just know that the different style of running that I’ll bring utilizes all three.
“You got a downhill guy. You got a slasher. And you got a great quick guy in [Darren] Sproles who can create mismatches on defense, whether he’s coming out of the backfield or lining up as a receiver. Three different guys, three different styles. Instead of using the same plays with [all three] guys, you’re going to be under center. You’re going to be in two-back, one-back, empty [formations]. Utilize their strengths to help your offense.”
Pederson also discussed how “you have to be smart” in handling veterans like Jason Peters during the week so they are at full strength on Sunday. But, as it so often does in Philadelphia these days, the conversation turned back to Sam Bradford and the Eagles’ quarterback situation.
Pederson and Howie Roseman have been clear that they want Bradford back, which the head coach attributed to the quarterback’s increased leadership role toward the end of last season. (That “proves to me that he can handle going forward this role and the opportunity to start,” Pederson said.)
Of course, the other side has to be examined. Why does Pederson think Bradford wants to return?
“Just talking to him on the phone. Being cordial to him and him talking like he wants to be there. I think it’s important to him,” Pederson said. “And why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you want to come back to Philadelphia? The success he had at the end of the year. We’ve expressed (to him) that we want him back. But free agency can do funny things to a lot of people. So that’s where we’re at right now.”
Pederson offered one final thought on Bradford.
“All I know is if Sam wants to be in Philadelphia, he’ll be in Philadelphia,” Pederson said.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“He’s going to get great player money.” Howie Roseman on a potential deal for Fletcher Cox.
The Eagles are in negotiations to bring back Sam Bradford.
Philadelphia released DeMeco Ryans on Wednesday after his four years with the team.
The final edition of Combine Prep, on the biggest position in football: quarterback.
Previewing the upcoming week of combine action, live from Lucas Oil Stadium.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank writes an insightful piece on Doug Pederson’s approach to evaluating quarterbacks.
Doug Pederson will sit down with a bunch of college quarterbacks over the next few days in Indianapolis.
He’ll compare their arm strength, their mobility, their 40 times. He’ll consider what kind of offense they played in, their off-the-field activities and their durability.
And then after considering dozens of factors, he’ll rely on something else to determine whether any of the quarterbacks working out at the NFL Scouting Combine this week can help the Eagles.
“I spent a day with Russell Wilson [in 2012], and when I came back, I knew he was going to be something special,” Pederson said. “I just knew. I just felt it in my heart.”
Tommy Lawlor discusses the Eagles’ need to improve their offensive line, and how he expects them to go about it.
While Doug Pederson is a new coach, the Eagles return Jeff Stoutland as the OL coach. And Howie Roseman had a hand in acquiring many of the O-linemen. He drafted [Dennis] Kelly. He signed [Andrew] Gardner and Matt Tobin. That doesn’t mean Roseman loves those players, but he has a feel for them. I think that kind of continuity is important as the team tries to decide which players are worth keeping and which are long shots. All the O-linemen on the roster have at least some potential. The key is finding the few who aren’t just good enough to be fringe players and who might some day develop into good role players (or more).
There are good targets in free agency and the draft. I’m interested to see which way the Eagles go. I don’t think they will break the bank for a free agent, but they will have some affordable possibilities. Then again, with the way the team is handing out extensions, they may prefer to use draft picks to fix the OL. You can’t pay everyone.
I’ll empty my notebook from yesterday’s media availability, while continuing to update with any pertinent news and notes as the quarterbacks speak to reporters today.