READING THE tea leaves, by the end of the week, Eagles coach Doug Pederson seemed to be leaning toward activating five wide receivers Monday night against Green Bay, instead of the usual four.
Pederson gets an obvious opening to do that from Ryan Mathews being out with an MCL injury; Pederson doesn't have another running back on the roster to activate, so he'll have to go with Darren Sproles, rookie Wendell Smallwood, and Kenjon Barner, instead of the four-man group he usually employs.
If the running back situation does indeed lead to five active receivers, that would mean Nelson Agholor would have to be in uniform. It wouldn't mean he would have to play much, or at all. Agholor, who has two catches for 7 yards in 142 snaps over the last two games, wants to play but has said he'll be OK with whatever the coaches decide.
Early in the week, in the direct aftermath of Agholor saying he has to "get out of my own head" after a loss at Seattle - he nullified a 57-yard touchdown by lining up off the line, then dropped a 25-yard pass - Pederson seemed to be leaning toward giving Agholor a week off, to watch and reflect. But he also said he wanted to talk to Agholor and see how practice went before deciding.
Agholor said all the right things, as he usually does, and apparently, the practice week went pretty well.
"My mindset is to prepare for (playing). Obviously, that's my responsibility to this team," Agholor said. He called Pederson "a great man," and "a great leader," and his ordeal "a great chance to grow."
Agholor said when they sat down, he mostly listened to Pederson, who finished by telling him, "you've got to prepare to play football."
By Saturday, Pederson's take was that he still hadn't decided, but that Agholor has "been working extremely hard and doing everything right this week."
Pressed on what he needed to see from Agholor in Saturday's final real practice of the week, Pederson said: "It's probably not so much - I think I'm convinced on what he's done this week. I kind of know where he's at, in the conversations we've had. I think it's more or less that I want to get through these next couple of days of practice, because there's always things that come up. We've had (tight end) Trey Burton (suffer an injury) in the past on (the week's final real practice). "Anything is possible. So I just want to make sure that we're 100 percent healthy going into this game."
That seemed to indicate five wideouts, including Agholor, unless an injury at another position changes the equation before kickoff.
Why not just forget Agholor and go full speed ahead with practice squad call-up Paul Turner? Because Agholor is their first-round pick, and the Eagles have to turn over every rock in trying to get him straightened out.
As frustrating a player as Josh Huff was, the Eagles didn't get better when they let him go, and they won't be more talented without Agholor.
Flat screens mounted
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz talked this week about how Green Bay uses "flat screens" as running plays by proxy. He'd been asked about Aaron Rodgers' declining yards-per-pass numbers, and he said the Packers give Rodgers the responsibility to check out of runs and throw those screens.
"They throw a thing that we call a 'flat screen,' depending on certain zone coverages. Those passes are really an extension of the run game, and I know from being around offensive coaches, their goal was to average 5 yards with those plays, because that's what they want to average in their run game," Schwartz said.
"So I think that when you put that on the quarterback and you say, 'Hey, these are run looks, we are going to bail out of it,' it's all about getting first downs and it's all about scoring. Of course, his yards would be down. He's doing a lot more of that this year."
Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks was asked what he looks for when a QB is known to do that.
"You just gotta get a read, a presnap key on that," Hicks said.