Eagles’ playing time in win over Giants, safety situation, good day in NFC East | Early Birds
More on the playing time distribution, the defensive backs, and the NFC East
Good morning. The Eagles return to the NovaCare Complex today after the weekend off following last Thursday's win over the Giants. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a 3 p.m. news conference and offensive coordinator Mike Groh has a 3:45 p.m. news conference.
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Playing time vs. the Giants
What did the playing time distribution reveal on Thursday? There was much speculation about how the Eagles would split up their running back snaps after Jay Ajayi's injury, and Wendell Smallwood took the majority of the snaps (64 percent) with Corey Clement playing only 37 percent of the snaps. Josh Adams didn't take an offensive snap. Considering Clement missed the previous two games, the Eagles might have restricted Clement to a "pitch count" while he's working his way back to full playing time. My guess is Clement will take the majority of the snaps going forward, but the Eagles like the way Smallwood is playing.
Injuries to Jason Peters and Lane Johnson forced the Eagles to use their offensive line depth. That's why Halapoulivaati Vaitai played 48 percent of the snaps and Stefen Wisniewski was back on the field with 18 percent of the offensive snaps.
Dallas Goedert played 45 percent of the offensive snaps while the Eagles continue to use two-tight-end sets. Jordan Matthews took 37 percent of the snaps, and if you were hoping to see more Shelton Gibson, Thursday wasn't the night. He played 6 percent of the snaps. trailing even Kamar Aiken's 14 percent.
On defense, the injury to Sidney Jones meant Rasul Douglas took 42 percent of the snaps. Avonte Maddox, who played safety and slot cornerback, took every defensive snap. Michael Bennett and Chris Long led all defensive ends with 72 percent of the defensive snaps. Brandon Graham took 60 percent of the snaps and Derek Barnett was down to 48 percent of the defensive snaps in his first game back from a shoulder injury. With Haloti Ngata out, Destiny Vaeao took 43 percent of the defensive snaps and Treyvon Hester took 23 percent of the defensive snaps.
Where the Eagles stand in the secondary
Sidney Jones' hamstring injury is "week-to-week," which, in Doug Pederson's language, means Jones will miss time.
When Jones exited the game on Thursday, the Eagles moved Avonte Maddox to slot cornerback and played Rasul Douglas at safety. That was the adjustment on the fly. With more time to prepare, the Eagles might have a different look to compensate for Jones' absence. They could explore using Deiondre' Hall or Tre Sullivan at safety, although the Eagles view Douglas as a superior overall player — even if Douglas is more of an outside cornerback than a safety.
"Rasul is capable, obviously, we've seen that," Pederson said. "But we also have guys that now with Tre being active and Deiondre' Hall and guys that we can begin to really coach up with the amount of time we have before we go back on the practice field."
One option I'd suggest? They can keep Maddox at safety and move Jalen Mills to the slot in the nickel. Douglas can play as the outside cornerback. Mills is versatile enough to take on that responsibility, although the Eagles have been reluctant to move him.
Elsewhere in the NFC East …
After the NFC East was criticized throughout the week, the division had a strong Sunday against the Eagles' next two opponents.
Washington beat Carolina, 23-17, to move to first place at 3-2. They are the only team in the division with a winning record. The Eagles play the Panthers this week. Washington plays Dallas this week.
Speaking of the Cowboys, they had their best game of the season in a 40-7 win over Jacksonville. The Cowboys moved to 3-3 and are tied with the Eagles. The Eagles will see the Jaguars on Oct. 28 in London.
The Giants are well behind their rivals with a 1-5 record after the loss to the Eagles.
What you need to know about the Eagles
Carson Wentz had his best game yet when the Eagles most needed it.
Les Bowen looks into whether the Eagles should give Jason Peters and Lane Johnson time to get healthy.
The Eagles must get used to seeing Saquon Barkley for years to come, Jeff McLane writes.
Alshon Jeffery is the anti-Odell Beckham, Mike Sielski writes.
Bob Ford looks at Rasul Douglas' move to safety on Thursday.
Jordan Hicks and Kamu Grugier-Hill combined for a big interception, Bowen writes.
What did McLane learn in the win?
Paul Domowitch offers five reasons the Eagles won.
The Eagles aren't satisfied, Marcus Hayes writes.
From the mailbag
I should start off by saying Saquon Barkley is a special player and it's unlikely the Eagles can draft or trade for a player like him because they're aren't many people in the world like him. With that said, the Eagles can absolutely acquire a a Pro Bowl-caliber running back — I just don't think they get a big name this season even if fans are hoping for a Le'Veon Bell deal. If they add a running back, my guess is it's someone who can join a rotation with Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles.
Look for the Eagles to address running back during the offseason, especially after Jay Ajayi's injury. The last time the Eagles spent a pick in the first two rounds on a running back, it was LeSean McCoy in 2009. He turned into the franchise's all-time leading running back. They have three picks in the first two rounds in 2019. If the right running back is on the board in the second round, I wouldn't rule out the Eagles taking one. They can also look for a running back on the open market. The player that would intrigue me is Atlanta's Tevin Coleman, who I think can be a productive starting running back. But there's a lot of time before March. For now, the Eagles must find a way to have a productive running game this season. They've already showed promise in two games without Ajayi.