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Doug Pederson’s message to fans, playing time vs. Saints, and elsewhere in the NFC East | Early Birds

What was Doug Pederson's message? Plus, links to all of our coverage, and answers to your questions.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson acknowledges fans before the start of open practice at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia on Saturday, August 11, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson acknowledges fans before the start of open practice at Lincoln Financial Field in South Philadelphia on Saturday, August 11, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYONG KIM

Good morning. The Eagles return to the NovaCare Complex today to begin preparing for the New York Giants. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh 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

Doug Pederson’s message to fans

If the Eagles' honeymoon period lingered even after disappointing losses earlier this season, then Sunday's 48-7 shellacking by New Orleans might have finally ended it. The Eagles are 4-6, and after their worst loss in more than a decade, their approval rating is sinking like their record. But coach Doug Pederson said they must believe.

"I think the message to the fans, just like I told the team after the game, first of all, you can't hang your head," Pederson said. "If anybody does, and if anybody begins to sort of doubt, you don't need them. Because we believe, and I believe in those players, I believe in those coaches. It's a group that is hurting. It's a group that will pick themselves up this week. They're not going to feel sorry for themselves and we'll get ready for the Giants."

When Pederson said a "group that is hurting," he meant both physically and emotionally. After all, the injury list grew on Sunday.

Some of the players that spoke in the locker room had a similar message about maintaining belief and not feeling sorry for themselves. They know their season is on the line. Even with the urgency last week, it was not a "must-win game." The division games are, though. The Eagles will begin setting the tone on Tuesday.

Playing time vs. Saints

What stood out about the Eagles' playing time distribution against the Saints?

Let's start on offense, where Golden Tate's role clearly grew this week. Tate played 71 percent of the offensive snaps, a major jump from last week. His playing time came at the expense of tight end Dallas Goedert (31 percent) and Jordan Matthews (27 percent), which was expected when the Eagles made the trade for Tate. Josh Adams has established himself as the lead running back, taking 55 percent of the offensive snaps. Corey Clement played 27 percent of the offensive snaps and Wendell Smallwood only took four total snaps on offense.

On the other side of the ball, here's a snapshot of just how problematic the Eagles' injury situation is: cornerback Cre'von LeBlanc and defensive tackle T.Y. McGill both joined the team two weeks ago, yet both played significant snaps. LeBlanc took 63 percent of the defensive snaps, and McGill played 43 percent of the defensive snaps while the Eagles continue to try to get by at defensive tackle without Tim Jernigan. LeBlanc needed to play slot cornerback because Avonte Maddox went down early in the game, which was also why Corey Graham played 87 percent of the snaps.

At defensive end, Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham were both down to 60 percent of the snaps, with Chris Long not far behind at 56 percent of the defensive snaps. Josh Sweat saw an uptick in work, playing 29 percent of the snaps.

Elsewhere in the NFC East…

The NFC East remains wide open. Washington's 23-21 loss to Houston dropped them to 6-4, and they lost starting quarterback Alex Smith to a season-ending injury. They now turn to Colt McCoy, who must try to keep Washington afloat. (The Eagles have two games remaining against Washington.)

The Cowboys separated themselves from the Eagles with a 22-19 win over the Falcons to move to 5-5 on a game-winning field goal after Dak Prescott led the Cowboys to field goal range in the final minute. Ezekiel Elliott was the star, rushing for 122 yards and adding 79 receiving yards. Two weeks ago, the Cowboys were reeling. The win against the Eagles helped change their fortunes, and they face off against Washington on Thanksgiving for a chance to tie for the division lead.

The Eagles play the Giants this weekend, and the Giants are no longer pushovers after their second consecutive win. This one was a 38-35 win over Tampa Bay in which Eli Manning completed 17 of 18 pass attempts for 231 yards and two touchdowns. Saquon Barkley rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a touchdown. You can say they're hurting their draft position, but they're only a game behind the Eagles entering this weekend's game. It's not an easy one for the Eagles.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. What decision from Sunday would Doug Pederson like to have back?

  2. Losing is one thing, but the Eagles cannot stunt Carson Wentz's developmentLes Bowen writes.

  3. Are big passing days from Carson Wentz bad days for the Eagles? Bob Ford explores.

  4. The Eagles have notable injuries to Jordan Hicks and Sidney Jones, but no season-ending injuries.

  5. What did Jeff McLane learn in the loss?

  6. Paul Domowitch gives the reasons the Eagles lost. 

  7. Merrill Reese didn't like how the Saints ended the gameRob Tornoe writes.

From the mailbag

Yes, it absolutely is. If the Eagles can win the NFC East – it's certainly conceivable considering they have four NFC East games remaining – then they host a home playoff game and their record doesn't matter. They would have a shot. With Carson Wentz at quarterback, the Eagles can get hot. You can argue that the Eagles aren't in the same class as teams such as New Orleans and the Los Angeles Rams, and I don't disagree. But funny things can happen in January. An injury, an upset, a hot quarterback, and anything can happen in a single-elimination tournament. There should absolutely be hope that the Eagles make the playoffs. It doesn't make sense for them to try to tank or anything of that nature. And they have many needs — especially along the lines — but that will be a worry for January.

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