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Targeting Alshon Jeffery, punting on the opening drive, and playing time vs. Giants | Early Birds

Why are Alshon Jeffery's targets down? Plus, links to all of our coverage, and answers to your questions.

Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and quarterback Carson Wentz celebrate Jeffery's first quarter touchdown against the New York Giants on Thursday, October 11, 2018 in East Rutherford, NJ. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and quarterback Carson Wentz celebrate Jeffery's first quarter touchdown against the New York Giants on Thursday, October 11, 2018 in East Rutherford, NJ. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYONG KIM

Good morning. The players are off today, but the coaches will be at the team facility preparing for Monday's game against the Washington Redskins. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh both have news conferences at noon.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. I want to know what you think and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm.

— Zach Berman

Getting Alshon Jeffery more involved 

Alshon Jeffery is the Eagles' No. 1 wide receiver, although he hasn't had more than four catches in a game since Oct. 21 Jeffery got off to such a quick start to the season, with eight catches for 105 yards in his debut and four touchdowns in his first four games. But in his last four games, he only has 155 yards and he hasn't found the end zone.

Doug Pederson is trying to get Jeffery more involved.

"He's another one I try to get going early," Pederson said.

The first play of the game was a run-pass option that went to Zach Ertz, but Pederson said Jeffery could have been the intended target. On the second play of the game, the Eagles went no-huddle. Had they huddled, it would have been a deep pass to Jeffery.

"As the game wore on, we were able to get him some touches," Pederson said. "He made a big catch and run there in the fourth quarter to set up a nice scoring drive. So, yeah, each week try to keep him coming, keep him involved."

To Pederson's point, Jeffery made an outstanding play on the final drive of the game.

There's been so much attention on how the Eagles can integrate Golden Tate into the offense that it's easy to forget the players who are already there. Tate has been targeted 16 times during the last two games, which is more than Jeffery and Nelson Agholor combined.

"We're trying to get everybody the ball," Pederson said. "There is only one football. You think about the four, five receiver positions that we have and you have two tight ends. All part of the game plan. Sometimes you just don't know where the ball is going.You put a certain personnel group out there, but we have a certain progression, too. I've talked about game planning for Alshon, game planning for Ertz and things like that, and a lot of times it's just kind of the way the ball goes and it goes to that person."


The Eagles converted the biggest fourth down of the game when Pederson was aggressive on a fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter. But he elected to punt on a fourth-and-5 from the Giants' 47-yard line on the opening drive. It was an interesting decision considering Pederson regretted punting on a fourth down on the opening drive one week earlier. The Eagles punted on Sunday and the Giants were at midfield in five plays.

"I think it was early in the game," Pederson said. "Fourth-and-5, midfield. Just try to, again, flip the field, back them up. It's early. Just a decision there to punt."

Of course, the Eagles only punted after a 52-yard touchdown was nullified because of a holding penalty. So they could have had that elusive opening-drive score instead of another punt.

"If we don't have the hold," Pederson said. "we don't have to talk about this."

Playing time vs. Giants

What stood out on the Eagles' playing time distribution against the Giants?

Josh Adams is clearly the lead running back after playing 62 percent of the offensive snaps. Corey Clement played 37 percent of the snaps and Wendell Smallwood was only on the field for one offensive snap.

The Eagles showed more of a commitment to getting Dallas Goedert on the field; he played 55 percent of the offensive snaps. That was comparable to Golden Tate, who played 60 percent of the snaps.

On defense, Nigel Bradham took every defensive snap. Nate Gerry (53 percent) and Kamu Grugier-Hill (55 percent) were both on the field often, too. Tim Jernigan played 32 percent of the defensive snaps in his season debut. He trailed Haloti Ngata, who took 40 percent of the snaps.

Corey Graham also took a heavy workload, playing all but two defensive snaps at safety with Avonte Maddox out. De'Vante Bausby played the most at cornerback, missing only one snap.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Josh Adams will get more touches during the final month of the season.

  2. It was a step forward for the offense, but they still have big strides to goLes Bowen writes.

  3. Tim Jernigan returned to the field, and Bob Ford documented his debut.

  4. Marcus Hayes saw the Eagles offense make a big change in the second quarter against the Giants.

  5. What did Jeff McLane learn in the win?

  6. Paul Domowitch gives the reasons the Eagles won.

  7. Malcolm Jenkins called for reforms to the city's money-bail system. 

From the mailbag

Is there any explanation for these all around awful first quarters?

The Eagles have tried to get to the bottom of this. You can say it's scripted plays, but the Eagles reached the end zone in two plays on Sunday before a penalty pushed them back. And the penalty was an example of what's been hurting the Eagles early in games. They're too often playing behind the chains. Penalties have been a problem, or a sack/negative play that puts the Eagles in a second-and-long or third-and-long. Think of those third-down screens in the first quarter against Dallas and New Orleans. The Eagles were in third-and-long both times. Here's what Pederson said about the slow starts on Monday:

"If you just negate those plays, we move the ball, we score. So quite frankly, it's just we have to eliminate those negative plays. It puts us in third-and-15 when it's third-and-5, and then we get the pass interference and we get the holding call on the second play of the game. Those are things that just stop our drives."

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