It might have been reassuring to hear Doug Pederson and several Eagles players speak Sunday night about accountability and learning from mistakes and looking in the mirror – except it was pretty much word-for-word what they’d said a week earlier, after getting embarrassed at Minnesota.
How could they have spent the week marinating in the reaction from that 38-20 loss, preparing to visit their biggest rivals – only to go to Dallas and lose, 37-10, after falling behind 14-0 in the first six minutes?
That puzzle took on another dimension Sunday night when right tackle Lane Johnson, doing an interview outside the locker room with NBC 10’s John Clark, was asked about the next team meeting for the 3-4 Eagles, who visit 5-1 Buffalo this week.
“Really it’s gonna probably be a call-out session. Everybody will be held accountable. Little stuff that slides during the week, late to practice, late to meetings. Stuff will be held accountable for,” said Johnson, who played one of the poorer games of his seven-year career Sunday night. “I think that will maybe creep into the games.”
Players are late to practice or meetings, on a team that has been battling to find consistency, at least since those back-to-back September losses to Atlanta and Detroit?
Safety Malcolm Jenkins, in a WIP-94FM appearance Monday, said he wasn’t aware of anything like that, in any of the meetings or practices.
Pederson, asked about tardiness at his Monday news conference, said that players talking about such issues “shows that it means something to them, and it's important to them, and those are the little things that -- you carry it over into the workplace.
“I mean, if an employee shows up late or is not on time for certain things, there are consequences for that, and guys are – I’m not saying that’s happening, but I am just using that as an example from the standpoint of, that’s a little thing, but it can magnify itself in a game. Meaning, you’re not going to pay as much attention to your assignment or to alignments and different things, and that’s kind of what’s creeping in just a little bit. But it starts with me, and that’s where I get to control that message, and drive that point home.”
Why on earth would such laxity be “creeping in” on a team with Super Bowl aspirations that is 3-4, having fallen behind by double digits in six of its seven games? Why would players struggling to save their season be late for anything?
“I didn't say they were. I'm just using that as an example,” Pederson said. “It can be missing an assignment in practice … we might be able to repeat it in practice and get the assignment right, but you don't get that second chance in a game.
“It's not a panic move. It's we just have to make sure that our sense of urgency, and that accountability, is there.”
Later Monday, Pederson seemed to pull the same lever he’d pulled a week earlier, when he released linebacker Zach Brown, at least partly to send a message, shake things up. Sacrificed on the altar of the Dallas loss were 32-year-old corner Orlando Scandrick, who, like a lot of Eagles, had a heckuva game against the Jets and hasn’t played well since, and veteran defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who was really dreadful Sunday night. The Eagles signed defensive tackle Anthony Rush from the Oakland practice squad, and another DT, Albert Huggins, from the Texans’ practice squad.
Pederson gave his players T-shirts that said “Everything Matters” this past summer. He seems to still be fighting that fight.
Pederson channeled his mentor, Andy Reid, on Monday, telling reporters: “It starts with me, and I hold myself accountable. I have to do a better job, quite frankly, and I have to communicate that better to the team and make sure that we're doing the right things every single day, not just some of the time.”
Asked if he thought team leaders were doing enough, Pederson said: “I think everybody is a leader on this football team. I do rely a lot on my player committee. I address certain things with them during the week, early in the week. And can everybody do more? Sure. Including myself, we can all do more. That's what we have to do. We just have to roll up our sleeves, come to work [Tuesday] and get ready for Buffalo.”
Pederson said the problems that have caused the Eagles to be outscored 75-30 the past two weeks “are fixable, and so from that standpoint, the sky is not falling for us. We have the men in the locker room to get the job done.”
That building Sidney Jones’s confidence back, helping him to become the player the Eagles drafted, would entail dressing him at Dallas and leaving him on the bench the entire evening?
The last time the Eagles played at Buffalo, where they are headed this week, was Oct. 9, 2011. Michael Vick threw four interceptions in a 31-24 Eagles loss. The only Eagle expected to play Sunday who was part of that team is center Jason Kelce, then a rookie. DeSean Jackson played that day, Jason Peters did not.
Andre Dillard wasn’t exactly good, but he wasn’t the reason the Eagles lost Sunday, the first-round rookie left tackle making his first NFL start with Jason Peters sidelined by a knee injury.
Dillard gave up a sack to Robert Quinn, but he had his moments. He played all 61 offensive snaps, vs. 46 in Minnesota after Peters went down, and Pro Football Focus had him improving from seven hurries to three and from nine pressures to five, despite playing more snaps.
“For me personally, I think I did some good things in there, and also some not-great things,” Dillard said afterward. “I’m a rookie, it’s my first start. It ain’t gonna be pretty. But I have full confidence in myself that I’m going to clean up the things that need to be cleaned up and just get better.”
Doug Pederson indicated Monday that none of the players who sat out the Dallas game will practice Wednesday. Last week he described Peters, 37, as “week to week,” so there is a good chance Dillard will take the field as a starter again this week at Buffalo.