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Reich: Huge Test For Offense Sunday

Posted Sep 22, 2016

No giveaways. A league-leading 37 minutes of possession time per game. A rookie quarterback who has taken control in a manner that nobody saw coming. Yep, offensive coordinator Frank Reich has had some good things happen to his offense through two regular season games ...

No giveaways. A league-leading 37 minutes of possession time per game. A rookie quarterback who has taken control in a manner that nobody saw coming. Yep, offensive coordinator Frank Reich has had some good things happen to his offense through two regular season games. What is he most pleased with after two weeks?

"Just that we're playing winning football, playing as a team," Reich said after practice on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex. "I like our chemistry. We're playing with a young quarterback and we had all of those things transpire right at the last minute before the season started and because of our veteran leadership on the team and the leadership of our head coach, we've become closer as a team. I like our culture. I like the leadership, and we're 2-0.

"We have leadership at the quarterback position that is very natural. It's not forced. It's not phony at all. And it's working for all of us."

Don't get the sense that the Eagles are all kinds of full of themselves ahead of Sunday's Battle of Pennsylvania against the 2-0 Pittsburgh Steelers. Certainly, there is confidence, but there is also the understanding that this team faces a huge challenge on Sunday. It's a long season. Everyone knows how there are going to be twists and turns in the road.

But 2-0 is 2-0 and you have to, as Reich says, "ride the wave for as long as you can." Reich is proud that the players have bought in to what the coaches are doing, because, he says, "it's not commonplace and it's certainly not a given" for that to happen. 

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"I think the early signs are good, but when we'll really find out how good it is is when we hit a few bumps in the road," Reich said. "You'd be crazy to not ride the wave we're on right now. You've got to guard against any kind of emotional letdown. You want to stay aggressive. You don't want to play scared. Let's keep rolling."

The Eagles are rolling behind rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who has handled everything thrown his way on the field - the blitzes, the different looks from different coordinators, the lack of reps prior to starting the season - and off the field - the sudden thrust into the starting lineup, a preseason rib injury, and now country-wide hype - as if he were a seasoned veteran.

Reich is reminded of the time he and the Eagles' quarterback brain trust spent researching the quarterback class prior to the NFL Draft in the spring. It is a period of time and experience that Reich, a long-time player and coach in the league, says is "one of the highlights of my career." Reich joined Howie Roseman, Pederson, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, senior football advisor Tom Donahoe and Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie on the quarterback tour that researched extensively, and then some, the vaunted Class of 2016.

"Inclusive and comprehensive are good words to describe it. Howie was masterful orchestrating the whole thing. We worked out the players hard, we talked to them, we talked about their emotional intelligence, we talked about their football intelligence," Reich said. "We grilled them in the classroom for hours on football stuff. Then we would all talk about it and offer our perspectives and everybody was involved. Everybody had input. Everyone there was respected. It was great dialogue.

"And it was an easy consensus to come to on Carson. We all felt the same thing, that this guy has something special. He is special. We see that now and we've seen it from Day 1."

Pittsburgh presents a handful for Wentz and the offense. The Steelers have a lot of talent, and they will show a lot of looks. Wentz is going to have to be patient and brilliant and precise. As good as the Eagles have been on offense in two wins, they'll have to be much better on Sunday. Cut down on the penalties. Minimize the dropped passes. Get the running game going. Once in the red zone, convert for touchdowns, because field goals don't work against a Steelers offense that is the most potent in the NFL.

More than anything, don't let all the smoke that everyone is blowing up the Eagles' shoulder pads matter even a little bit, Wentz especially. There is grave danger in believing the hype.

"It can happen to anybody, so you never let your guard down," Reich said. "Tony Dungy (former NFL coach) used to use a phrase, 'Death by inches.' It's hard to see it happening. It comes in small increments. One of our jobs as coaches is to keep the players humble. In Training Camp, when we had a really good day and completed an insanely high percentage of passes, I would find something to talk about how bad they were. I would say, 'Don't think for a second that you're any good, because you're really not.'

"Carson has the maturity to handle it better than most, the emotional and personal maturity, but I don't care who you are, it can happen to anybody. I'm not sure I've seen it ruin a career, but it can ruin a season. By the time you notice it, you can lose weeks and weeks. It's a trap you have to avoid, especially during weeks like this. This test right here is a big one in so many ways. Let's see how we hande it."

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