Good morning, Eagles fans! The players are back in the building at the NovaCare Complex today for a walkthrough this afternoon ahead of Sunday's clash with Houston. Head coach Doug Pederson speaks to the media at 10:45 a.m. and Nick Foles will speak around 2:15 p.m. We will carry both live. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with last night's special announcement.
1. Back-To-Back (3x)
The Eagles had three players named to the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl last night.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox made his fourth straight Pro Bowl and now only trails Reggie White for number of Pro Bowl trips in Eagles history by a defensive lineman. Right guard Brandon Brooks got his second straight Pro Bowl nod and cemented his spot as one of the league's best interior linemen. Finally, Zach Ertz was rewarded for producing one of the best seasons for a tight end in NFL history with his second consecutive Pro Bowl selection.
Each of the Eagles' selections were Pro Bowl players last season and have been awarded multiple times in their young careers. Hopefully, they will be prepping for a much bigger game instead of the one in Orlando:
Ertz – six seasons, two Pro Bowls
Brooks – seven seasons, two Pro Bowls
Cox – seven seasons, four Pro Bowls
2. Power Up Front
The Eagles' defensive backfield has been shorthanded for much of this season as key players have fallen to major injuries. Keeping the defense together, however, has been the play of the defensive line. As the younger players in new positions have improved, the ferocious power and dedication of the Eagles front seven has kept offenses off balance and forced game-changing plays.
Many games have included impressive shows of determination and toughness from Eagles defense linemen. In last Sunday's win at Los Angeles, Fletcher Cox was carted into the locker room with an injured hip but returned quickly to begin dominating on the field once again. Defensive end Michael Bennett battled through a foot injury that limited him during the week. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro writes that the strength of the defensive line did not go unnoticed by defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
"It's what we need him to do," Schwartz said of Cox. "It's not ideal mainly because of where we've been the whole season with different injuries and things like that. He sort of did the same thing toward the end of the year last year into the playoffs and those kind of things, so he is ready for it. Getting him back – when he went down in that game, getting him back, at first we thought we were just going to be using him on third downs and we tried to spot him a little bit here and there and put some other guys out there for the first couple plays and sort of hold him in the reserve but really he didn't need that. Michael Bennett played a lot of snaps, also.
3. Backs Are Balling
While the defensive front has put up pressure to help the defense as a whole, the younger players holding down the fort in the secondary have exceeded expectations and played tremendously well.
Second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas and rookie Avonte Maddox started on the outside cornerback positions last week and dominated. Cre'Von LeBlanc, who came to the Eagles in the second half of the season, has played well as the nickel cornerback. Jim Schwartz has been impressed by the play of his young replacements and now must make sure they keep improving and he keeps them from playing too many snaps each week. Every day, the young defensive backs continue to get better:
"For me, just being on the practice field every day and learning more of the defense and becoming more comfortable, that's been the biggest thing," said LeBlanc, whom the Eagles claimed off waivers after he was cut by Detroit. "It makes a difference, knowing what the guys are doing and where I'm supposed to be on each play. My confidence is sky-high."
Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' win over the Rams featuring the offense.
4. Back To Basics
Quarterback Nick Foles was not perfect on Sunday. But he was efficient with the football. He was not sacked, got the ball out quickly, extended plays when he had to, and got the ball to his playmakers. Fran Duffy broke down the offense's performance on Sunday and what made it work so well against one of the league's best teams:
The postgame narrative is that there was a "change in philosophy" with Foles under center or a difference in the plays called by the coaching staff. Head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have both talked about relying more on their go-to concepts in this game plan, and that was true. That Dagger concept, for instance, had been a reliable one throughout last year and in Wentz's rookie season of 2016. The Mesh concept was run a handful of times early in the game, and that has long been a high-volume play call for the Eagles.
There weren't more or fewer Run Pass Options. Ertz wasn't featured less as he was targeted multiple times in the red zone and a handful of the plays early in the game were designed to get him the football. There was not much of a change in the amount of called shot plays. I think the offense executed well across the board, was efficient in moving the football, and was able to put up 30 points because of it.