Good morning, everyone, and welcome to another edition of the Early Birds newsletter.
Well, the subject-to-change NFL schedule came out last week. We already knew the Eagles had the eighth easiest schedule in the league based on last season’s won/loss records, which doesn’t really mean much. The 49ers went from 4-12 in 2018 to 13-3 and Super Bowl runner-ups last year. The Packers went from 6-9-1 to 13-3. Last year’s pussycats quickly can turn into this year’s man-eating tigers.
Some have suggested I was overly optimistic last week when I found 11 wins on the Eagles’ schedule. Could be. But I believe 11 wins is doable if they can avoid the mountain of injuries they suffered last season.
It’s going to require a fast start. Because of what’s waiting for them in late November and December (Monday night game at home v. Seattle, at Green Bay, home v. New Orleans, at Dallas), they need to get to Thanksgiving with no worse than a 7-3 record.
If social-distancing guidelines cap crowds at 25,000-30,000, it will reduce the degree of difficulty of beating teams like the Niners, Steelers, Packers and Cowboys on the road. It also might make playing at the Linc a little easier given the low tolerance and high decibel level of Eagles fans.
You can expect some changes from the Eagles this season. Not just a lot of new names on the roster, but also schematic changes. More on that below.
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Can Rich Scangarello bring a ‘breath of fresh air’ to Eagles’ offense?
A few weeks ago, in a conference call with reporters, quarterback Nate Sudfeld was asked about the team’s hiring of former San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello as a senior offensive assistant.
“I’m really excited about the addition of Rich," Sudfeld said. “Just studying him and knowing the (coaching) tree that he came from – working for (Niners coach) Kyle Shanahan and knowing (Rams coach) Sean McVay, who I got to work with in Washington my first year in the league, I just love those offenses and how they marry up the run game and the play-action and the boots and things like that.
“I’m really looking forward to getting to know Rich and talking schemes with him when things kick back up," Sudfeld said. “It should bring a breath of fresh air to the offense."
Pederson has made a number of staff changes this offseason. But none may have been more important than the hiring of the 48-year-old Scangarello.
After finishing third in the league in scoring in 2017, the Eagles slipped to 18th in 2018 and 12th last year. They dropped from seventh in total offense in ’17 to 14th the last two years.
Pederson has made it clear that he not only wants to get faster, he also wants to find new ways to maximize that speed. Enter former Shanahan aide Scangarello.
“I think what we’ve done as a staff in the offseason with our scheme evaluation, making things better, the staff hires that I’ve done to bring in new thoughts and new ideas and ways to enhance our offense, I think (the offense) is going to look a little bit different," Pederson said recently.
Scangarello was brought in to “Shanahan-ize" the Eagles offense; help Pederson incorporate some of the concepts from Kyle’s offense that helped the Niners finish second in scoring, fourth in total yards, second in rushing and fifth in third-down efficiency last season on the way to the Super Bowl.
“I’m a huge believer in what Kyle does," said former Eagles president Joe Banner, who hired Shanahan as the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 2014. “Bringing in Scangarello, who knows Kyle’s offense, can’t be anything but a positive.
“Doug will have to decide how much of it to integrate, how much weight to put on it, how to balance it all. But I don’t see how that can be anything but very smart. That’s how you sustain winning instead of being stuck doing what you started doing and what you were taught to do and sticking with that."
Scangarello is expected to spend a lot of time in the quarterback room, which should be a positive for Carson Wentz.
“I’m excited to work with Rich," Wentz said last week during a Zoom call with reporters. “Our conversations have been very brief so far. We just started our virtual offseason last week. I only made one meeting. I was in the hospital for three days (with his wife, who gave birth to their first child).
“I’m excited to get his insight and what he can bring to this offense and how we can become more explosive and more dynamic. I can tell in the brief conversations I’ve had with him that he’s a smart guy and that he knows what he’s talking about."
What you need to know about the Eagles
Marcus Hayes feels the NFL needs to keep its doors closed until the rest of America has the same availability to COVID-19 testing as sports teams.
EJ Smith takes a look at what speed-tracking tells us about many of the Eagles’ draft picks.
The Inquirer’s Eagles beat team looks at the Eagles’ schedule and calculates the wins and losses.
All-Pro Fletcher Cox likes how the Eagles invested in defense this offseason, writes Les Bowen.
Mike Sielski offers the neat connection between Dak Prescott and the Eagles drafting Jalen Hurts.
For first-round pick Jalen Reagor, playing for the Eagles is a family legacy. His father, Montae, played here more than a decade ago. Les Bowen has the back story.
From the mailbag
From Twitter: Looking at the remaining roster holes (defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, running back, offensive tackle) which do you see being filled from remaining free agents v. internally? — JB19 (@JTBoz19)
Cornerback probably is the least likely to be addressed. I think they’re content with the group they have right now. They could bring in another linebacker. I think it’s fairly certain that they’ll bring in a veteran running back. They supposedly have interest in a few free agents, including Carlos Hyde, who could serve a LeGarrette Blount-like role for them. They definitely could use another edge-rusher. The reports that they have some level of interest in Jadeveon Clowney are true. But they’re not going to break the bank for him. And I’m not ready to discount the possibility of them re-signing 38-year-old left tackle Jason Peters if they have any doubts about Andre Dillard’s readiness.
Figuring the Eagles
One area in which the Eagles definitely need to improve this season is turnover differential. They finished 22nd in turnover differential last season (-3) and 25th in 2018 (-6). They made the playoffs both years, but had the lowest turnover differential among playoff teams both times.