Good morning, Eagles fans. The most important practice day of the week is in the books, and the Eagles are on to the Chicago Bears. Some key Eagles returned to the field yesterday, including DeSean Jackson. Time will tell if he’ll be available for Sunday, but his return to practice is promising nonetheless. It’s the team’s first home game in three weeks, and it’s the third time this season they’ll be playing a team they’ve recently beaten in the playoffs. Making the stakes even higher, old pals Doug Pederson and Bears coach Matt Nagy are facing off once again, but more on that later.
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Remembering the Eaglets
When Brandon Graham entered the NFL in 2010, Matt Nagy was a coach’s assistant with the Eagles. By the time Fletcher Cox came aboard two years later, Nagy had worked his way up to offensive quality control.
If he compiled any trade secrets about the two defensive linemen during his time as Andy Reid’s understudy, Nagy — now the Bears’ head coach — will likely be digging them up this week as his team prepares for the Eagles.
“It’s been neat watching them grow into who they are,” Nagy said Wednesday during a teleconference. “I was there when they were rookies. They’re both dominant players that you have to know where they’re at at all times.”
The connection between Nagy and Eagles coach Doug Pederson is well-documented. They’re both Reid’s pupils, and they’ve no doubt shared musty video rooms in Philadelphia and Kansas City.
This week is an exception, but Pederson said he keeps in touch with Nagy and other coaches hailing from Reid’s coaching tree, especially during the offseason, when they can reflect on what went well for their respective teams.
“The offseason is big to pick each other’s brain … not so much from X’s and O’s but just from a culture standpoint,” Pederson said. “From that standpoint, it’s good to just kind of have those relationships and guys that you know, you’ve spent time with, you understand them, they understand me. It’s really beneficial.”
Nagy might have a lot to share with Pederson this offseason based on the Bears’ first eight weeks.
Chicago has lost three straight games, most recently on a missed field goal at the end by Bears kicker Eddy Pineiro against the Los Angeles Chargers. If you’re a big enough Eagles fan to be reading this newsletter, then you know the Bears have struggled mightily to find a dependable kicker during Nagy’s two-year tenure.
The Bears finished last season at 12-4 before losing in the wild-card round of the playoffs to the Eagles. Almost as if he wanted to reinforce the comparisons between him and Pederson, he also brought up “culture” when talking about how the team is dealing with the middling start to the season.
“What I have to do now is make sure of two things, that everyone understands the parity in this league,” Nagy said. “It’s not easy to do that and repeat that, but it’s definitely doable again. You can’t get complacent, you have to work hard, and when adversity strikes, how are you going to react? Well, we’re in that adversity right now, and so building a culture of good people in the building makes me feel confident that when you lose three games in a row like we did, we pull tighter instead of becoming fractured.”
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has regressed in his third season, going from a 95.4 quarterback rating last year to 81.4 through the first eight games. He threw one interception and had a costly fumble in the fourth quarter last Sunday.
“He knows that we all want to play better and coach better and he understands that,” Nagy said. “He wants to play better. The only way we can do that is by rallying around each other, supporting each other and staying positive.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
Avonte Maddox returned to practice on Wednesday, and was happy to be back on the field after his scary head injury earlier this season, Les Bowen writes.
Speaking of players returning to practice, DeSean Jackson was back out there on Wednesday. Bowen writes about the wideout and provides an update on Miles Sanders’ shoulder.
The Eagles’ lone trade ahead of Tuesday’s deadline was for Genard Avery. What can they expect from him? Jeff McLane checks the tape to find out.
Dallas Goedert had to write a check to Carson Wentz’s alma mater after North Dakota State beat Goedert’s South Dakota State this Saturday, be sure to check out Bowen’s picture of the giant check.
Speaking of charitable giving, Zach Ertz helped donate $30,000 to a local youth sports association, as yours truly details.
Donovan McNabb weighed in on Kevin Durant’s decision to team up with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, and Durant responded with a tweet that resonated with a lot of Eagles fans. Rob Tornoe has the story.
From the mailbag
Eagles elected not to make any moves today to protect the future - what are/should be their long term plans to surround Carson with the talent he needs to return to MVP form? — @Ryzer71 via Twitter.
Great question, Ryan. I think the Eagles could do Carson Wentz a lot of favors by continuing to invest in the wide receiver position. They lack elite speed at the position when DeSean Jackson is injured, and Jackson hasn’t played a full season since 2013. Having diversity at the receiver position is a great idea, and successful teams have followed that model, but they need more than one deep threat in the building by the start of next season.
On the now-infamous missed pass to Nelson Agholor against the Cowboys, Wentz uncorked a pass that traveled roughly 60 yards in the air. He’s definitely capable of explosive plays, and I think the team would do well offensively to provide him with more targets able to take the top off a defense. Alshon Jeffery is a solid receiver who can beat man coverage with size, and Agholor is a quality route-runner who can beat coverage that way, but there is still room for this team to get much faster on the outside.
Beyond that, they should and almost definitely will continue to invest in their offensive front. This team puts a premium on the offensive and defensive lines, and I’d expect them to continue doing so. That’s the most important thing you can give a quarterback, too. Look at Sam Darnold, who has definitely shown that he can develop into a special signal-caller, but he’s been doomed by bad pass protection. Deshaun Watson endured mediocre offensive lines early in his career, and now he’s enjoying solid protection and he’s having the best year of his career. It’s important to remember Wentz already has a solid group around him, but there’s always room to improve.