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Doug Pederson on officiating, Carson Wentz one year after the injury, and playing time vs. Cowboys | Early Birds

Keys for the Eagles on Sunday, links to all our coverage, and much more.

Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson has remained diplomatic when discussing the officiating following Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson has remained diplomatic when discussing the officiating following Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning. Doug Pederson gave the players a day off today. They return to practice tomorrow. Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh have news conferences today at noon.

This is Tuesday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Doug Pederson on the officiating

One day after the Eagles’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Doug Pederson remained diplomatic when discussing the officials. Eagles fans have been angry about the opening kickoff, when the Eagles recovered a fumble but the officials said there was not clear evidence. It was a bad call, and it could have altered the game. Pederson was unwilling to make a fuss – at least in public.

“I'm not going to sit here and criticize,” Pederson said. “That's not my place. We have an opportunity, we have a protocol that we can use to turn in plays on a Monday. Listen, I know it doesn't help us. It doesn't change the [outcome] of the football game. It is what it is there. But there are plays that we want to get a ruling on and just see if what we thought was correct or inaccurate. And so we've done that on several plays. We're still waiting on some input back on that. It was just unfortunate.”

I’ll try to find out later this week from Pederson if the league came back to them with any more clarity. But as Pederson said, the final score won’t change.

Also, I thought the Eagles shouldn’t have been charged a timeout because the challenge determined that the ball was fumbled – so it was a different ruling than the original call. But Pederson said the challenge was “the fumble and clear recovery of the ball.”

One year since Carson Wentz’s injury

Monday marked one year since Carson Wentz tore his ACL. Pederson said there’s a “mental journey” for a player returning from injury to regain comfort and confidence, similar to what Darren Sproles, Jason Peters, and Jordan Hicks encountered. Pederson said Wentz is back to where he needs to be mentally. However, there’s also overcoming the missed time during the offseason.

“In Carson's case, missing the first two games and then really kind of missed training camp,” Pederson said. “But now he's feeling good. He's feeling as healthy as he's ever been.”

There’s been much discussion about Wentz’s mobility. Pederson said Wentz has shown the “ability to do that” this season and has “escaped the pocket.” When discussing Sunday’s game, Pederson gave credit to the Dallas defense for limiting Wentz’s runs.

“Part of the sacks were just a collapse of the pocket and keeping him in the pocket,” Pederson said. “So there really were no running lanes yesterday to escape.”

Playing time vs. Cowboys

What stood out about the Eagles’ playing time distribution against the Cowboys?

Start with the amount of plays the defensive players logged. The Eagles took 99 defensive snaps. That’s almost two games worth of snaps. (They took only 45 snaps the previous week.) Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Graham, Rasul Douglas, and Nigel Bradham took every snap. Brandon Graham (84 percent), Fletcher Cox (80 percent), and Michael Bennett (75 percent) weren’t far behind.

With Tim Jernigan out and Josh Sweat exiting in the first half, the Eagles didn’t have the numbers they’d like on the defensive line. Chris Long played 59 percent of the snaps, Haloti Ngata played 46 percent, Treyvon Hester played 32 percent, and Bruce Hector played 20 percent.

Elsewhere in the secondary, the injury to Sidney Jones forced De’Vante Bausby to play 62 percent of the snaps. Cre’von LeBlanc played 71 percent of the snaps as the slot cornerback.

On offense, Alshon Jeffery barely came off the field, playing 51 of 52 snaps. Dallas Goedert was a big part of the offense, playing 61 percent of the snaps. Zach Ertz played 85 percent of the snaps, so the Eagles were in two-tight end sets often. It came at the expense of Golden Tate, who played 38 percent of the offensive snaps. That’s a bad sign, considering the Eagles traded a third-round pick for him.

Darren Sproles played the most at running back, logging 42 percent of the snaps. Josh Adams played 40 percent of the snaps – one fewer snap than Sproles.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Sidney Jones' recurring injury is another problem in the Eagles' messy cornerback situation. Do the Eagles know what they have in Jones?

  2. Carson Wentz and the offense won’t return to last year’s form, Les Bowen writes.

  3. Where’s Doug Pederson’s fearlessness? Mike Sielski wonders.

  4. Jerry Jones is proud of the Amari Cooper trade, Marcus Hayes writes.

  5. What did Jeff McLane learn in the Eagles loss?

  6. Paul Domowitch gives you five reasons the Eagles lost.

From the mailbag...

Every week Doug blames the poor play of the offense on lack of execution and “shooting ourselves in the foot.” Do you get a sense that he is shirking responsibility for poor play-calling? And further, if the execution is poor every week, at what point does it fall on the head coach for not having his team prepared? -- Brett, via email

Fair questions, Brett. Doug Pederson is a big part of this. He’s a good coach who proved to be a championship-level play-caller and game-planner, but if he earned praise last year, he’s part of the blame this year. The slow starts are an alarming trend, and Pederson uses scripted plays early in games.

“It goes back to how am I teaching plays, how am I teaching the openers?” Pederson said Monday. “I put a lot of that on myself because I’m the one calling the play and I have to start with that.”

Pederson accepts responsibility. But I do think he’s judging a play too much for the intent than the outcome. Take the option run on Sunday. Pederson said it was a “well-designed play,” but it was based on the defensive end to spike and come inside. That didn’t happen, so the play was chewed out. Pederson gave credit to the Cowboys, but the play design was only good if the Cowboys did what the Eagles expected. And there have been times this year when Pederson thought the Eagles were this close. There are always outliers, but there’s a large enough sample size here.

So Pederson has a hand in this. He’d tell you the same. Still, he’s a good coach and good play-caller. But he’s not having a good enough season.