This is my theory, so bear with me for just a moment.
Without the usual offseason and minus any preseason games, the NFL's "preseason" extended into the regular season and now, and only now, are teams finding out just who they are. In the case of the Philadelphia Eagles, because of the ridiculous spate of injuries, Head Coach Doug Pederson and the coaching staff really don't know what they have, and who they are. They're just going week to week, plugging in players and trying to win football games.
Maybe now, with two NFC East games – Thursday night against the Giants and 10 days later against Dallas, both at Lincoln Financial Field – the Eagles can find out who they are. The injuries are still piling up – the laundry list of players who went down on Sunday in the 30-28 loss to Baltimore is long, for sure – but the Eagles think they have a chance of welcoming the likes of DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Pryor, and maybe even Lane Johnson back to the lineup. We will see.
Anyway, I pitched my theory to Coach Pederson on Monday afternoon and he was, well, not entirely sold on the idea, but he didn't dismiss it entirely.
"I agree with it to some extent. The only problem with it is that the first six games count from a win/loss standpoint and that's probably the only real difference," Pederson said. "I'm encouraged by what we have currently, the guys who are playing, the young players who are playing for us. I'm encouraged by that. We've just got to learn how to finish a little bit better and sometimes with young players, that's easier said than done."
We move on. The Eagles have a lot of work to do in a short period of time and they aren't going to do much of anything on the field this week. They'll have walkthrough practices. They'll spend a lot of time in the classroom. They will do everything possible to give players a chance to recover – massages, hot tubs, cold tubs, all of that.
The mental game is huge this week. Beyond huge.
"This week, it's about mental preparation," Pederson said. "You can't necessarily do all the physical because we just played a game, so it's all about the mental preparation."
Despite everything that has gone wrong through six weeks, the Eagles have a chance to get right back to the top of the NFC East with wins over the Giants and the Cowboys. Then it's the bye week. Then it's at the Giants and at Cleveland. This is the opportunity for the Eagles to get back into the thick of the playoff picture, 1-4-1 record or not.
This is the window the Eagles must dominate.
News, notes, and a little bit of this and that
• Telling quote from center Jason Kelce when asked after Sunday's game about the incredible number of injuries the Eagles have suffered this season: "We have had some injuries here before, but obviously this is on another level. The whole offseason and everything that has transpired this season, COVID and everything, you are seeing injuries up across the league. Everybody seems that they are dealing with this issue right now.
"I haven't really been a part of something like this drastic like this in my career, but you are always trying to overcome this stuff. You are always gameplanning and coaching, and trying to get guys ready for whoever is going to be there on gameday. At the end of the day, in this league, that is all that matters. You can't make excuses. You can't say we have this, this, and this. At the end of the day, do you win the game or do you lose the game? Is the guy that is in there getting the job done? Are we getting the job done as a unit? It could have been better today for sure. Really good defense. It's just part of the way this game is going and the way this season is going. You roll with the circumstances and try and do the best you can and find a way to get it done."
• Quarterback Jalen Hurts has made an impact on spicing up the offense – he has seven carries for 49 yards and an 18-yard completion – so what's the plan with him moving forward? Pederson plans to keep No. 2 in the mix, if it makes sense.
"In the case of Jalen, obviously you saw yesterday some of what we call X plays or plays that are sort of unscouted with him have been productive for us in the last three or four weeks. I think it's something that we've got to continue to explore," Pederson said. "It does give us the ability to run the football with him. He's a quarterback that can run the zone-read plays from the quarterback position. It's something that we're definitely going to continue to explore each week, if it's conducive; it has been successful for us, and I could see things continuing each week that way."
• I think we would all agree that Travis Fulgham has the makings of being "for real." He has 18 receptions for 264 yards and three touchdowns on 26 targets in three weeks, and catching six passes for 75 yards and a score against standout cornerbacks Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Jimmy Smith on Sunday represents a significant step forward. The kid is the go-to receiver in the offense. That's the way it is.
• Third-round draft pick Davion Taylor played 11 defensive snaps on Sunday, the first of his NFL career. Shaun Bradley, a sixth-round selection, played a season-high 32 defensive snaps (he has 46 on the season) against Baltimore. We will see on Thursday how much trust they've earned from Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz when the Giants come to town.
• Darius Slay (Eagles cornerback) vs. Darius Slayton (Giants wide receiver) on Thursday night, Slay-on-Slay crime. Slay played Slayton last season when Slay played for Detroit and Slayton had two catches for 50 yards, both touchdowns, on two targets. I don't know if Slay was in coverage. He very well may be on Thursday night.