Happy Wentz Day everyone! The Eagles are at the NovaCare Complex for their first practice ahead of Sunday's critical showdown in Minnesota against the Vikings. Before we get into today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft, our live coverage begins with head coach Doug Pederson's press conference at 11:30 a.m. followed by quarterback Carson Wentz's press conference at 1 p.m., and then watch the team practice at 2 p.m. It's a jam-packed day that will conclude with Molly Sullivan on Eagles 360 presented by Xfinity. Now, get up to speed on everything involving the Eagles.
1. Eagles offense prepares for Minnesota's pressure packages
Offensive coordinator Mike Groh is well aware of Minnesota’s veteran defense and the pressure that group puts on offensive schemes. He called Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer the “Godfather” of the Double A-Gap blitz, during which pass rushers attack both sides of the center snapping the football.
But there’s more to the Vikings than that particular pass rush. This is a complete, disciplined, and offense-wrecking defense the Eagles are playing on Sunday. Groh knows the Eagles must be on the same page and at their best in a hostile environment against one of the NFL’s best defenses.
“He's got the full complement of pressures. His defense, those guys are veterans in that defense. They've been running his defense for a long time now,” Groh said. “With the guys that he has, the talented group that he has, they can get a lot of pressure on you just with their front four, so they don't need to bring the overload blitz as you call it too often, but they have your attention with the front four, and then they have the exotic blitz package that Coach Zimmer is known for.
“We have to be on our game like we talked about with the communication. Quarterback, center, the entire offensive line, and the running backs. The running backs did a greater job picking up the pressures last week. A lot of perimeter pressures, a lot of corner, safety pressures, and I thought (running back) Miles (Sanders) and (running back) Jordan (Howard) both did a great job stepping up and protecting the quarterback.”
2. Strength vs. strength against Vikings
The Eagles lead the NFL in defense against the run, limiting opponents to 63 yards per game. Minnesota is third in the league in rushing offense, averaging 166.4 yards. Something has to give on Sunday when the teams meet, and studying the Vikings' running game certainly has gotten the attention of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
“Well, first thing it looks like they've clicked the speed of the film up a little bit. They're making big plays everywhere,” Schwartz said. “It's not just (running back) Dalvin Cook. That rookie (running back Alexander) Mattison is a good running back, (running back Ameer) Abdullah. They have four running backs averaging 5.7, 5.8, and 5.9 and then 9.3 (yards) a carry. So that will get your attention real quick. We're a pretty strong run defense; they're a pretty strong run offense. It's going to be a great matchup on Sunday.
“Our guys, we put an emphasis on it. I saw something this week that there were like nine 300-yard passers in the NFL, and I think their teams were 4-5 this week; 50/50 proposition. I saw there were eight 100-yard rushers and their teams were 7-1. We have always put a big emphasis on stopping the run. When you can do that, that allows your pass rush to be able to go. So we put on emphasis on it. Our guys pretty well know what to do.”
3. 'And that was the end of my FBI career'
Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro proposed the "What if?" question to coaches, asking Doug Pederson's coordinators and assistants what professions would they have chosen if not for the NFL.
“I would have gone into the FBI. In fact, I interviewed and got the job going into the FBI and then they did the home interview. The guy said, ‘If you think coaching is exciting wait until you rack a shotgun on a drug bust.’ My wife (Teri) looked at me and said, ‘No way.’ That’s the truth. And that was the end of my FBI career," linebackers coach Ken Flajole said.
4. How well do you know TE Zach Ertz?
Ten questions all about the Pro Bowl playmaker. See how many you can get right. And, believe it or not, there are no questions about his wife, Julie.
5. Didinger: Harold Carmichael helped rejuvenate Roman Gabriel's career
Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger wrote about the Eagles' acquisition of quarterback Roman Gabriel in 1973. The Rams thought that the former NFL MVP was done, but Gabriel found a new training method and was aided by having three pass catchers who were all 6-4 or taller, including Eagles Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael. They were known as the Fire High Gang, the Eagles' receiving corps of 1973: wideouts Harold Carmichael and Don Zimmerman and tight end Charle Young.
Carmichael was 6-8, Young was 6-5, and Zimmerman was 6-4, so they were inviting targets for quarterback Roman Gabriel.
"All I have to do," Gabriel said, "is fire high."
The name stuck.
Gabriel was re-energized by the move to Philadelphia. He established career highs in pass completions (270), completion percentage (58.7), and yards passing (3,219) that year. His yardage and his 23 touchdown passes led the league and earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors.
6. Eagles make practice squad move
The Eagles re-signed cornerback Ajene Harris to the practice squad on Tuesday after the Falcons signed cornerback D.J. White off the Eagles' practice squad to their active roster. Atlanta needed a defensive back after placing former Eagle Johnathan Cyprien on Injured Reserve with an undisclosed injury. Late last month, the Eagles traded Cyprien and a 2020 seventh-round pick to the Falcons for linebacker Duke Riley and a 2020 sixth-round pick.
Get an exclusive look inside the Eagles locker room before they took on the Jets in Week 5.