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More Josh Adams, the ‘picket fence’ defense, and preparing for Drew Brees | Early Birds

Get ready for more Josh Adams. Plus, links to all of our coverage, and answers to your questions.

Eagles running back Josh Adams runs with the football against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, October 28, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles running back Josh Adams runs with the football against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium in London on Sunday, October 28, 2018. YONG KIM / Staff PhotographerRead moreYONG KIM

Good morning. The Eagles practice at 1:20 p.m. today for their first session leading up to Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints. Doug Pederson has a 10:30 a.m. news conference and Carson Wentz speaks at 12:05 p.m.

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

Josh Adams’ emergence

Get ready for more Josh Adams.

The rookie running back leads the Eagles running backs with 5.7 yards per carry. It's only come on 27 carries, although he's had 16 carries during the past two games. Adams has impressed both games, totaling 108 rushing yards. Last week, Doug Pederson noted Adams' "emergence." After Adams led the Eagles in carries on Sunday, Pederson indicated Adams will be used more going forward.

"I thought overall for the limited amount of touches, I thought Josh played well," Pederson said. "He's improved each week. Do I think he can have a few more touches? I do. So that will answer everybody's questions right there. I do feel like he could touch the ball a few more times. …I think Josh has been the spark these last couple of weeks, and we'll continue to give him a few more opportunities."

Offensive coordinator Mike Groh followed on Tuesday by saying that Adams is starting to catch up after missing time this offseason recovering from an injury. (Of course, the Eagles didn't keep him on their initial 53-man roster, so they were willing to expose him to other teams.) After Jay Ajayi's injury, the Eagles needed a lead runner. Adams has been more productive than Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood.

The “picket fence” defense

On third-and-longs, the Eagles sometimes play a "sticks" or "picket fence" defense in which the defensive backs line up at the marker and try to keep the ball in front of them. That formation has drawn the ire of some fans on social media, but defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Tuesday the Eagles "haven't given up one first down in three years playing that defense."

"Our picket-fence-type defense has not given up first down," Schwartz said. "The closest it came was they had a 4th down and short, and ended up false starting. But I remember saying on the sideline, "Hey is that the time that it finally," — because I would include, if you gave up enough yards on third down that they went for it on fourth and converted, I would consider that as the defense being defeated. The biggest thing is we're certainly willing to give up ten yards — we ran that same defense later in the game, gave up two yards. All calls look good if they work. All calls look bad if they don't work."

There are times when it might appear they're playing with that formation, but it's actually a different call. There are enough reasons to be disappointed in the defense, especially with the way they played in the second half on Sunday (and in the fourth quarter of the some other games this season, too). The picket fence formation does not appear to be one of them.

Preparing for Drew Brees

The Eagles are getting ready for Saints quarterback Drew Brees this week. No one has been able to stop Brees this season. The frontrunner for MVP is completing 77.3 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and one interception.

How are the Eagles preparing for him?

"I looked at his interception reel," Schwartz joked. "That was one. Didn't take us long to get through the sack and interception reel. His incompletions, didn't take us long to get through those."

Schwartz said Brees is "playing at an insane level right now." It's become common to see players with impressive statistics, but Brees is taking to a new level.

"How about 21:1 touchdown:interception?" Schwartz said. "He's made those things the new standards. Extremely accurate quarterback, smart, knows where to go with the ball. Still has good mobility, can buy time. We certainly have our work cut out for [us]. He's got good players around him."

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. Jim Schwartz must get ready for Drew Brees with a depleted secondary, Les Bowen writes.

  2. Mike Groh says there's no simple fix for the slow starts on offense.

  3. The problem isn't what the Eagles are sayingBob Ford writes. It's what they're doing.

  4. What was on the minds of Eagles fans on Tuesday? Find out in the weekly chat.

From the mailbag

Interesting question. Howie Roseman deserves credit for transactions that go well, as was evident when he won executive of the year last season; and he gets blame when moves don't work, as was heard when the Eagles released Donnel Pumphrey. I don't think the Jay Ajayi trade was a mistake – Ajayi helped them win a Super Bowl last season and was their starting running back this year before his injury. The jury is still out on Tate trade; if the Eagles fail to make the playoffs, the trade doesn't look so good, even if the reasons behind the trade were sound. (I was surprised they gave up so much for an expiring contract, although they're playing the compensatory pick game.) I don't think Roseman is the problem right now, but his 2018 offseason was not as good as his 2017 offseason. He hit on signings like Patrick Robinson and Chris Long last year, but his comparable signings didn't pan out this year. When the season is finished, Roseman's moves will scrutinized and analyzed even more. Injuries have hurt them last season and depth in some spots has been exposed, but I look at some coaching decisions as more of a reason for the team's shortcomings this year than Roseman's transactions. However, everyone has a part in it.

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