Philadelphia Eagles News

Coordinators know Jets present 'a big-time challenge' after joint practices

The team's coordinators met the media on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles dig in for Sunday's return trip to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Jets. For Michael Clay, Shane Steichen, and Jonathan Gannon, it was time to answer questions on the game against the Giants and take a peek ahead at the Jets. Here is what the coordinators had to say.

Michael Clay: Weather could make return situation more of an X-factor down the stretch

It's the time of the football season when weather becomes a factor – cold air reduces the distance a kicked football travels, the winds pick up, and it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that precipitation could intrude.

"It puts a lot of pressure more on your coverage teams," Michael Clay said. "The ball doesn't travel as well as it does in the earlier months, so you've got to get ready for that. You want to put your guys in the best possible situations – you may move some alignments on your kickoff coverage, you may do some different things on your return phase knowing that the ball isn't going to travel as well knowing that guys are going to try to get more hang time to allow their guys to get down there. As the weather changes, you aren't making wholesale changes. You're just kind of trying to tweak some things to cater to the guys."

Clay said he was pleased with Jalen Reagor in the return game. Against the Giants on Sunday, Clay utilized rookie Kenny Gainwell in an expanded role to help deter short pop kicks that they had seen on film.

"I thought Kenny did a very good job in terms of accepting his role on special teams," said Clay, who noted that Gainwell stepped up to take reps in place of Boston Scott, who by that time was very involved in the offense. "He's always in-tuned to the game plan and he's always looking out for his teammates."

Shane Steichen: Eagles must be prepared for several injury scenarios

Nate Herbig potentially takes on a more significant role with right guard Jack Driscoll going to Injured Reserve and missing the remainder of the season. Herbig stepped in for center Jason Kelce in the first half of Sunday's game against the Giants and then replaced Driscoll later in the game. He and Sua Opeta are among those being considered to replace Driscoll.

"Nate Herbig, he's been here for a while and he's stepped in, he's played the center position, he's played the guard position, and he prepares every week," Steichen said. "You see him in the meetings asking really good questions and he's tough. He played a good game. Obviously, he had those holding calls but he came in and he stepped in well at the center position when Kelce went out."

The Eagles are closely monitoring the health situation with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who said after Sunday's game that he had a sore ankle late in that contest against the Giants. The Eagles will be prepared for every scenario, including one that has Hurts on the sidelines replaced by Gardner Minshew. If that happens, Steichen said, the offense would remain largely the same.

"We're going to run what we run," Steichen said. "I think we've got to continue to do that. We've been pretty efficient running the football and obviously we've got to get our pass game to where we want it to be, and that's the bottom line."

But ...

"We're getting ready for Jalen, and we'll go from there," Steichen said.

New York has a stout front and an aggressive defense, Steichen said. The Eagles are facing a good defense on Sunday.

"They play their coverage scheme and their front really well," he said. "Up front, they've got (linebacker C.J.) Mosley in there and Quinnen Williams, those two players are really good players. Mosley is a veteran who gets them all lined up and gets them wired, and then Williams is a load. He can rush the passer and he's really good in the run game."

Steichen said the scheme hasn't changed much since the teams held joint practices and a preseason game in the summer, but he has seen consistent improvement from New York throughout the season.

Get an exclusive look at the cleats the players will be wearing for this year's My Cause My Cleats.

Jonathan Gannon: Zach Wilson, Jets present a 'big-time challenge'

A couple of days of joint practices and a preseason game gave Jonathan Gannon a solid sense of what the Jets like to do offensively, so the Eagles have a good sense of what to expect with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson at the helm for New York on Sunday.

"He's got a live arm and he can move around in the pocket pretty well," Gannon said of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. "He did a good job this last game (in Sunday's 21-14 win over Houston) in knowing where to go with the football a little bit quicker. Just like any high drafted rookie, there's going to be some learning that you see. Some games he doesn't look as good as other games, but this guy is a very talented guy. He can make all the throws. He's mobile. This is going to be a big-time challenge."

Gannon said "you tweak a little bit" the approach the defense takes against a rookie quarterback as opposed to an established veteran, but at the end of the day it's about the Eagles executing Gannon's defense, something the players did very well on Sunday limiting the Giants to 3 of 12 conversions on third down and just 264 total net yards.

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