Good morning, Eagles fans. The players have the day off today and will be back in the NovaCare Complex tomorrow. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh will speak to the media at noon. Here's what you need to know in today's Morning Roundup presented by Microsoft, leading off with the learning experience for the Eagles's QB1.
1. Wentz's Ups and Downs
As Carson Wentz prepares to travel to Los Angeles and play in the stadium where he suffered his serious knee injury a year ago, he will also face off against the only player drafted higher than him in the 2016 NFL Draft: Rams quarterback Jared Goff. As it stands now, the two young stars are having similar seasons statistically but their teams have had clearly different results.
Through the ups and downs that Wentz has faced this season, head coach Doug Pederson is sure that Wentz is growing and learning from the experience. This Sunday will be another learning opportunity. Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro has more about the season struggles for Wentz and what he can learn from this season heading into a big matchup:
“Every great quarterback is going to have highs. They’re going to have a lot more highs than lows, but it’s those low moments that you can find strength in, that you can learn from,” Pederson said. “Right now, Carson is in that boat. He’s having success, but we’re not winning. He’s having individual numbers, but as Carson will tell you, it’s about winning and not stats. You learn from moments like that.
“Those are teachable moments to put in front of your quarterback now and say, ‘Let’s stick with it. Stick with the plan. Trust the process and great things are going to happen.'”
2. What Happened On Offense?
The Eagles' offense was confusing on Sunday as it struggled to get anything for nearly three quarters and then looked unstoppable in the final minutes. Slow starts have hurt the Eagles all year but this one lasted especially long and made a comeback difficult, especially as the Cowboys dominated time of possession. Fran Duffy broke down the offense drive-by-drive in his Eagle Eye column. He explained the Eagles tried to establish the run early, what made drives ineffective in the first half, and how they scored on important drives late:
This was great design from the Eagles' offense to get Goedert in the end zone. By motioning Wendell Smallwood outside the numbers, Wentz got a clue that it would be zone coverage before the snap. To the left, he has a "man beater," with Jeffery running a slant route underneath Agholor. The Eagles scored on a throw to Jordan Matthews last week against Washington on the very same combination. To the right, the Eagles have a Stick Nod concept, a pair of double moves from the tight ends. This should beat zone coverage, so that’s where Wentz is going to go with the football based off the motion from Smallwood. The defender he must worry about is safety Xavier Woods.
Wentz drops back, stares to his left to hold the safety, puts this ball on a rope down the seam, and hits Goedert right on the numbers for a touchdown. Goedert ran this Stick Nod route to perfection, selling the stick route outside (look at his eyes and shoulders going to the sideline), before breaking back to the post. I saw Goedert run this route a bunch of times back in the summer, and his pacing always seemed a bit too quick to get to the Nod portion of the route, and defenders rarely bit on it. Look at him now, selling the route perfectly before breaking upfield for a touchdown. Perfection.
Take a look at the best photos featuring the offense from the Eagles' game against the Cowboys.
3. More to Come
It's no secret that the Eagles' loss to the Cowboys on Sunday significantly damaged playoff hopes. But even if the Eagles don't make the playoffs this season, Tommy Lawlor writes that there is more good going on with this team than bad. While most teams facing a 6-7 record would look to how they can build into a contender in the offseason, the Eagles already have a team with players and coaches both capable and experienced enough to win a Super Bowl. Many key players were lost this season due to injury and consistency is therefore hard to find. Not to mention, the Eagles have a foundational piece in Carson Wentz on top of several other NFL stars. This season may be frustrating, but it looks like a minor speed bump in what could be a special era:
Wentz is a foundational piece. This is a guy you build a team around. He's not alone. Lane Johnson is the best right tackle in football. Zach Ertz is the best tight end in the NFC. Fletcher Cox is one of the best defensive players in the league, regardless of position.
Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Alshon Jeffery are also outstanding players. They've been to Pro Bowls. They've won big games. They've had special moments. These are the kind of players any team would love to have.
The Eagles have some talented young players who we don't quite have a grasp of yet. Dallas Goedert, Derek Barnett, Corey Clement, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Jake Elliott, and Cameron Johnston have all shown flashes of real potential. These guys could become solid starters. Maybe even a notch above that.
4. What's The Injury Outlook Moving Forward?
Running back Corey Clement, cornerback Sidney Jones, guard Isaac Seumalo, and defensive end Josh Sweat exited Sunday's game due to injury.
Head coach Doug Pederson said on Monday that the Eagles are waiting for MRI test results on Clement (knee) and Sweat (ankle). Seumalo is day-to-day with a pec injury.
With Jones, who has battled a hamstring injury since the October 11 Giants game, Pederson said that the team will continue to evaluate to make sure "that he's right not only physically, but mentally. That's a big part of it too."
After missing three games, Jones returned for the New Orleans contest and played 22 snaps before re-aggravating the injury. He missed the following week's win over the Giants before playing all 45 snaps last Monday night against Washington. Jones was on the field for 37 snaps – out of a potential 99 – on Sunday.
"He's a tremendous corner. He's a good cover corner," Pederson said. "I think for any player that's dealing with injury, you focus on that just a little bit and it can pull you away from playing at a high level at times.
"I think that's where I can appreciate guys, and Sidney is one of them, guys that each week – everybody is a little banged up, a little sore, going through stuff. For them to battle through it, be out there at practice every day, and put themselves out there for the team I think is a credit to each player. Sidney is one of those guys."
The Eagles have had to rely on Jones because of the injuries and depth at the position. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are on Injured Reserve. Avonte Maddox was moved to safety before he was sidelined for the past three games with knee and ankle injuries. When Jones left the game, Rasul Douglas and De'Vante Bausby were on the outside and Cre'Von LeBlanc was in the nickel.
"From the standpoint of the corners, there is not a lot of depth there right now," Pederson said. "We just have to continue to evaluate that and see. But the other one we're hoping for is Avonte Maddox maybe this week. We'll see where he is at too."
5. Pederson Defends Late-Game Decision
With 1:39 remaining in regulation, running back Darren Sproles scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Carson Wentz. The Eagles trailed the Cowboys 23-22. Head coach Doug Pederson took the extra point to send the game to overtime. We all know that the Cowboys won the coin toss and marched down the field as Amari Cooper's third touchdown of the game sent the Eagles home in defeat.
Pederson said immediately after the game that there was a brief discussion on the sideline about going for the two-point conversion following Sproles’ touchdown. He explained the decision in more detail on Monday as to why he chose to tie the game in that situation.
"I got a report on this," Pederson said. "I can't off the top of my head think of exactly the numbers, but everything was in favor of going for one. We had the discussion on the field during the penalty timeout, so to speak, to make that decision."
Pederson laid out the scenarios. If the Eagles made the two-point conversion, the Cowboys had two timeouts and would have been more aggressive to go for the field goal and the win. If the Eagles didn't make the two-point conversion, the game would have been over – pending an onside kick attempt – since they only had one timeout remaining.
By tying the game, the Cowboys would have been more likely to settle for overtime if they were faced with a fourth-down play.
"We played the percentages at the end of the game, right? And quite frankly, gave us the best chance of winning that game," Pederson said.
Pederson was also asked about whether he thought about using the final timeout after Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked with around 10 seconds left in regulation. The head coach said no because a punt would have pinned them deep in their own territory with maybe one play at most for a very low-percentage opportunity.
6. In The Holiday Giving Spirit
Even on their off day and after a late flight, eight Eagles players went out into the community to make a difference on Monday. Dallas Goedert, Josh Adams, Chandon Sullivan, Jordan Mailata, Joe Ostman, Asantay Brown, Dorren Miller, and Bruce Hector went to The Shops at Liberty Place to assist Variety: The Children's Charity in their holiday gift wrapping efforts.
Variety will wrap presents at their shop in the Center City mall all season for a small donation to their foundation that assists children with disabilities. Eagles players kick-started their efforts by wrapping fans' gifts at the mall for free yesterday. While the players wrapped, SWOOP and the Eagles Cheerleaders welcomed fans into the mall and the Eagles' Pep Band played holiday tunes.
"It's awesome coming out here trying to put a smile on people's face," Goedert said. "That's what it's all about. It's huge any time you can give back. We're on such a huge platform to be able to do things like this so you know it's a really big honor."
Goedert also added his keys to wrapping a good present.
"Use a lot of tape," he said with a laugh. "And go slow, you don't have to rush it or anything."