Marcus Hayes: Pederson seems fixated more on preserving his $128 million quarterback than using all of his gifts and tools and exposing him to a fifth injury in as many years. What will that look like?
It will mean fewer passes that you’d think, and fewer than you’d like, to deep threat DeSean Jackson, to fearsomely talented tight end Dallas Goedert, and to No. 1 receiver Alshon Jeffery. It will mean more pass-blocking assignments for Goedert, especially early in the season, as the offensive line undertakes a cohesion process it could not undergo in the preseason because of injuries to key players.
It will mean ever more targets for tight end Zach Ertz, Wentz’s favorite receiver and buddy. It will mean lots of targets and touches for second-round rookie running back Miles Sanders, ageless third-down back Darren Sproles, and third-year success story Corey Clement. It will mean slow starts, it will mean protecting meager leads, and it will mean a couple of early losses. It will mean angry faces on Jackson and Jeffery. At least until the line solidifies itself. That should take about six weeks.
Then it will be a play-action, run-pass option, big-play eruption. They’ll score 40 at Dallas on Sunday Night Football, possession runner Jordan Howard will gain 800 rushing yards in the last 10 weeks of the regular season, and everyone will be happy again.
Jeff McLane: I’m most intrigued by how Pederson plans on distributing time between Nelson Agholor and Dallas Goedert. They, of course, can be on the field at the same time. But more often than not, when the Eagles are in “11” personnel (three receivers), Zach Ertz will be the lone tight end, and when they are in “12” (two tight ends), Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson will be the two receivers. Matchups will play a role in Pederson’s usage of each package, but it could also come down to which player deserves more playing time.
Agholor’s speed and agility make him a tough cover for slot corners. He’s also a solid blocker, which is why Pederson likes to run out of “11.″ Goedert is a budding talent. His early development as a blocker last season allowed Ertz to line up more in the slot and even sometimes outside. But he’s also a skillful receiver with after-the-catch capabilities. He’s quick enough to give linebackers problems in man coverage, and he’s bigger and stronger than safeties.
But I don’t think Pederson is quite ready to center his offense on “12” personnel. The Eagles used two tight ends more than most teams last season, and an argument could be made that they should use it more this season. But there is no substitute for speed in today’s NFL. Agholor could also be in his last season in Philly. There were reports that he was on the trade market this offseason, but the Eagles didn’t pull the trigger for a reason. They need him.
Les Bowen: This is a really difficult question, because Doug Pederson was careful to give us no clues in the preseason. We didn’t see Carson Wentz on the field, and we saw almost nothing of all those interesting Eagles weapons, let alone get an idea of what Pederson plans to do with them.
I would be lying if I said I had any real idea what he’s thinking. But these answers are supposed to be at least a couple hundred words long, so here goes:
I think he ought to be able to run more on first down this year if he wants. I think DeSean Jackson might not catch as many passes as fans are hoping, but he ought to open up the middle of the field for the tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, which might dominate, setting records for a tight-end tandem. I think J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is going to stir memories of Buddy Ryan and Cris Carter by catching only touchdowns. I think Nelson Agholor will be money on third down, and Alshon Jeffery will benefit from Jackson’s presence as much as Ertz and Goedert.
I think against some opponents, Pederson can just close his eyes and point to pretty much anything on his play sheet, and it’ll all work out.