Good morning. The Eagles return to work today to begin preparing for Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams. The Eagles have much to play for, too -- they’re still in the playoff race. Doug Pederson has a 10:45 a.m. news conference. Carson Wentz has 12:05 p.m. news conference. The Eagles practice at 1:20 p.m.
This is a Wednesday edition of the Early Birds newsletter. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Jim Schwartz: ‘My heart breaks’ from Rasul Douglas
Rasul Douglas deflected the pass on the Cowboys’ game-winning touchdown in overtime on Sunday, and the Eagles cornerback was so close from what defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz characterized as a “player of the week”-caliber performance. Douglas already had an interception and key tackles. He played 99 snaps. And the blemish came on the 99th snap.
“My heart breaks for him in that last play, because he took points off the board with a great interception,” defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. “He tackled really well; made some really good plays for us. If he makes that last play, I mean, that’s sort of an NFC player of the week type game. But, he wasn’t able to make it. Was in position, got his hand on it, and sort of a bad break. They were able to turn it into the game winner.”
Douglas has had what Schwartz termed “bounce-back” games in recent weeks, and Schwartz was especially pleased with how Douglas is tackling. Schwartz said Douglas “felt such a responsibility” to the Eagles on Sunday. Douglas will start for the remainder of the season and might be the Eagles’ top cornerback. It comes during a season that Schwartz admitted included “some tough spots” for Douglas, and Schwartz is impressed with how Douglas responded.
Douglas was visibly distraught after the play. Schwartz said his message to Douglas was that it was “just one play in the game.” There were so many other plays that contributed to the result.
“He took it tough,” Schwartz said. “I think if you have a camera on just about any player at that point, they all would’ve looked the same. It’s a gut punch. It’s life in the NFL. You need to bounce back from it. It was a tough way to finish a very important game.”
Season’s over for Corey Clement, Josh Sweat
The big news for the Eagles on Tuesday was that they placed running back Corey Clement and defensive end Josh Sweat on injured reserve, ending their seasons with three games remaining. There will hopefully be more information to come on the severity of the injuries – at this point of the year, an injury that lasts a few weeks will land a player on IR, but if these are injuries that will stretch into the offseason program, then it’s even worse news.
Clement didn’t make the leap in his second season that he might have thought, but he’ll be part of the Eagles offense again next season. He contributes on offense and special teams and whether he’s part of a rotation or is a reserve, Clement has proven to be a valuable player. He can learn from an inconsistent sophomore season.
There’s an incomplete evaluation of Sweat. He only played 68 snaps this season. The Eagles had practices in the spring, summer, and during the season to evaluate Sweat, but is that enough to know whether he can be in the defensive end rotation next season? The Eagles have some big decisions to at defensive end. You know Derek Barnett will be a key starter, but Brandon Graham is a free agent and Michael Bennett and Chris Long will both be a year older and more expensive. The Eagles like to have a four-man rotation at defensive end and Sweat, a fourth-round pick in April, could grow into that role in his second season.
Now that John DeFilippo’s available...
There’s also a lot of intrigue about former Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, who was fired as the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator. DeFilippo is a bright coach who was a key part of the offensive staff during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. He helped with Carson Wentz’s development and helped put the together the game plan for the red zone, where the Eagles excelled last season.
With that said, it’s important to note that Doug Pederson is in charge of the offense. He was in charge last season when the Eagles won the Super Bowl, he is in charge this year when the Eagles are 6-7 and struggling on offense. There’s been a lot of discussion about how much the Eagles miss Frank Reich and DeFilippo. Certainly, the offensive coaches collaborate to put the game plan together. And their roles should be valued, but not overstated. A reunion would be helpful, but not a panacea.
What you need to know about the Eagles
John DeFilippo’s ouster shows Mike Groh what happens with a struggling offensive coordinator, Les Bowen writes.
Marcus Hayes says the Eagles didn’t regret seeing DeFilippo leave.
Corey Clement and Josh Sweat are out for the year. Boston Scott and Deashon Hall will take their spots.
The Eagles are wasting a year of Carson Wentz on an affordable contract, Bob Ford writes.
Where do the Eagles stand in the playoff race?
From the mailbag...
Well to begin with, the Eagles didn’t trade a fourth-round pick for Deiondre’ Hall. They traded a conditional seventh-round pick. But you are right, he hasn’t played much this season. He’s taken only six defensive snaps. Most of his work has come on special teams. He arrived late – after the preseason – and needed to learn the scheme. And frankly, Tre Sullivan’s experience in the defense has Sullivan ahead of Hall on the depth chart. If there was an injury to Sullivan, perhaps Hall would play as the third safety while Avonte Maddox is out. But right now, they trust Sullivan more on defense, and my guess is familiarity with the scheme has something to do with it. It’s been different at cornerback because the Eagles have had fewer options.