Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles will have a full practice today at the NovaCare Complex ahead of Sunday's trip to New Orleans. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft leading off with the changes in personnel.
1. Roster Moves
The Eagles announced yesterday that tight end Richard Rodgers was designated to return from the Injured Reserve list and could begin a 21-day practice period. In the 21 days, he will not count against the active roster. He is the first of a maximum of two plays from Injured Reserve that can be activated this season. Rodgers suffered a knee injury on August 16 in a preseason game against the New England Patriots.
The Eagles then announced the release of tight end Billy Brown from the practice squad and the addition of former Giants tight end Will Tye to the practice squad. Tye had 90 receptions for 859 yards from 2015-16.
2. Can The Defense Match Up?
After a tough loss on Sunday, the Eagles defense got disappointing news that it would be without cornerback Ronald Darby for the rest of the season. This adds to the loss of safety Rodney McLeod as well as defensive end Derek Barnett. In addition, cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones are still recovering from injuries and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan has yet to play in 2018.
Now, that same banged-up defense will have to travel to New Orleans on Sunday and take on the NFL's best offense. The Saints are averaging and NFL-best 36.7 points per game behind the stellar play of veteran quarterback Drew Brees. Jim Schwartz spoke to reporters yesterday about the challenge ahead and Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro wrote about the team's plan:
"Our job as players and coaches is work to find a formula that works for the guys that we have," Schwartz said on Tuesday at his weekly press conference at the NovaCare Complex. "In my mind, that's the essence of coaching: Take what you have and try to figure it out. It might look different than when we were at 100 percent strength."
3. Can The Offense Keep Up?
While the defense will be tasked with stifling a prolific New Orleans offense, it will be the offense's job to keep pace with a team that always seems to put up points. That's not been easy this season. The Eagles average 22.0 points per game, good for 21st in the league. That doesn't match up well against the Saints' 36.7.
The offense needs solutions for its recent issues, not finger-pointing. The Eagles have only scored more than 30 points in one game – a week six win over the New York Giants. They will likely need another to pull off a win in the Big Easy. Dave Spadaro has more on what the offense can look to correct:
"Sitting here with the record that we have, we're not pleased with where we stand,
and we have aspirations to compete for the playoffs," Groh said. "I think that we're still in the playoff hunt, and we can do that. We've talked about some of the things that need to improve to give ourselves the best chance to do that."
What's going to change? The Eagles will certainly further wide receiver Golden Tate's integration into the offense and they'll explore tweaks to the scheme and the play calling. Running back Josh Adams, the impressive rookie, could get more touches.
But at the end of the day, it's going to come down to execution and precision. The Eagles can ill afford to waste opportunities against a Saints team that has played better defense than many know since the New Orleans offense overshadows everything there.
4. Douglas Determined
With the injuries on defense, usual backup cornerback Ronald Darby will most likely start again this Sunday as he did against Dallas. He spoke to the challenge of facing Brees and the New Orleans offense, saying that the defense needs to be locked in. And while the playing time presents a great opportunity for Douglas to establish himself as a starter, that is not his first priority:
"I just want to win," Douglas said. "I honestly don't care about anything else. If I played 10 snaps in a game but we win, I can go home happy knowing that I helped in practice on the scout team or did by my job when I got in for those 10 plays. I think that's the only thing that really matters for all the guys in this locker room."
5. Eagle Eye: Disappointments On D
For three quarters on Sunday, the Eagles' defense put together a decent performance. But, like other games this season, it was fourth quarter breakdowns that derailed a chance at a victory. Running back Ezekiel Elliott and the run game wore down the usually resilient Eagles front and broke off for killer gains in crunch time. Fran Duffy broke down the tape and explains what went wrong on the defensive side against Dallas:
The run defense was the most alarming takeaway from Sunday night.
This was the most yards allowed on the ground by an Eagles team in three years, and the best single-game performance by any running back during that time frame. There were misfits in the run, where players weren't in their gap. There were occasions where players couldn't get off blocks. There were also missed tackles. We saw examples of all of the above in this game. For most of the first three quarters, however, it was a typical performance by the run defense. It wasn't until late in the game when things unraveled.
6. Lawlor: Bright Big Picture
The Eagles had an opportunity on Sunday and couldn't take advantage. Instead of burying the Cowboys and stepping forward in the division, the Eagles are left without wiggle room for the season. Two steps forward, one step back.
Now, with the toughest part of the schedule ahead, backs are against the wall and the Eagles will have to show up. The situation may look bleak, but Tommy Lawlor writes that the Eagles aren't the first defending champions with an impressive core facing difficult in the following season. This season may not be going as planned, but a broader look is needed:
It is hard to think big picture after a crushing loss, and Sunday night certainly would fit that category, but I think it can help a lot.
Who would you rather have as your coach? I'm not trading Doug Pederson for anyone else.
Who would you rather have as the head of your front office? I'm not trading Howie Roseman for anyone else.
Who would you rather have as your quarterback? I'm absolutely not trading Carson Wentz for anyone else.