Which players are going to be part of the "Next Wave" for the Eagles as the roster transitions beyond this season?
Sunday offered at least a hopeful glimpse of who the team can hopefully count on in the years to come, because the Eagles needed contributions from every level of depth on the roster to beat Indianapolis.
The list does not include quarterback Carson Wentz, who is already a known commodity. It does not include running back Wendell Smallwood, a third-year man who re-emerged on Sunday with 56 rushing yards, a touchdown, and three receptions in the passing game. Smallwood, though, took a very positive step forward.
Included on the list are the likes of rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who caught seven passes for 73 yards and a touchdown and set some new standards for Eagles rookie tight ends in the process.
- He is the first Eagles rookie tight end with 70-plus receiving yards and at least a touchdown in a single game since Keith Jackson on December 18, 1988 at Dallas (92 yards, 1 TD). Jackson accomplished the feat twice during his rookie campaign with Philadelphia in 1988.
- Additionally, Goedert is the first Eagles rookie tight end to produce 70-plus receiving yards since L.J. Smith on November 2, 2003 at Atlanta (97 yards) as well as the first to catch a TD since Ertz on December 15, 2013 at Minnesota (3-yard touchdown from Nick Foles).
Just like that, Goedert put himself in the Eagles' rookie record books. After two games in which played only 17 snaps in each, Goedert became a valuable weapon on Sunday against Indianapolis. We tend to forget that it takes some time not only for a rookie to acclimate himself into an offense, it also takes the coaching staff time to integrate players into the scheme. So now Goedert is integrated. Teams now have film on him in the offense. There will be some adjustments made, but the switch has been flipped.
"I knew that I would get my chance," Goedert said, "and I had to be ready to produce when my time came. I'm happy with the way it worked out."
Also on the "Next Wave" list for the Eagles from Sunday: running backs Josh Adams and Corey Clement. Clement has been nothing but consistent since signing with the Eagles after the 2017 draft. He showed a peek at what he could do with a career-high 19 touches on Sunday. Remember, the Eagles have Jay Ajayi playing on the final year of his contract and Darren Sproles is playing in his final NFL season. So if Ajayi isn't back next year – and we don't know one way or the other on his future at this point – is Clement up to the task to handle more of the load? He's been outstanding completing every task the Eagles have given him so far.
Then there's Adams, pressed into duty much earlier than many expected. The Eagles like this young running back very much. He's got pop, and he showed on Sunday that he finishes his runs and he has explosiveness.
"Josh did a good job," head coach Doug Pederson said. "You saw some of his athleticism, the ability to make cuts, see the hole. He's a big, powerful guy and when he gets on the edge, he brings a load. He's a young guy we've been impressed with throughout Training Camp and if we have injuries moving forward, if Jay can't go or if Darren is down, Josh is someone who can step in and we don't lose in the running game."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Next Wave includes second-year end Derek Barnett and cornerback Sidney Jones, the first and second picks from the 2017 NFL Draft. Barnett had 1.5 sacks against the Colts, including the critical decking of quarterback Andrew Luck late in the fourth quarter, and Jones had a sound game playing the nickel cornerback position.
There are going to be more young players emerging. That's the goal as the roster transitions through the year and we look at the 2019 and 2020 seasons in a different light. The young guns are off to a good start.
NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT
- The Eagles have yet to be penalized for lowering the helmet to initiate contact and have had one roughing the quarterback penalty, two officiating issues that have captured the attention of the league and the fans. Defensive end Brandon Graham said he knows he has to adjust how he brings a quarterback down in today's game.
"Sometimes if you get a clear view of the quarterback and you know you can kill him and he doesn't see you, it might come across your mind sometimes, 'Hey, don't kill him.' Go around the strike zone, twist him around, whatever you want to do," Graham said. "I'm not worried because I think it's all in your mind. You've got to keep telling yourself, 'It's football and you have to stay aggressive.' I try not to worry about it. I know I can't put weight on people, so I try to make sure I change the way I tackle the quarterback."
- The Eagles took a 10-7 lead into halftime against the Colts. The Eagles have not allowed more than 10 points in the first half in 13 consecutive games at Lincoln Financial Field (dating back to Week 17 of 2016). In that span, Philadelphia has held opponents to just 73 first-half points at home, amounting to 5.6 points per half.
- Philadelphia's defense limited Indianapolis to just 2-of-12 (16.7 percent) on third down, marking the Eagles' best opponent third-down percentage since November 23, 2014 vs. Tennessee (also 2-of-12, 16.7 percent) (min. 10 third-down attempts).
- Quarterback Nate Sudfeld has gone from a summer starter to a third-string player, and the transition is a difficult one. Instead of playing each week, Sudfeld is likely to be inactive as long as Wentz and Nick Foles are healthy. So how does he become an improved player?
"I'm definitely placing an emphasis on physical development, getting stronger and faster," Sudfeld said. "We also have a great developmental program so I can do some individual work after practice on Wednesdays and Fridays and working with receivers. Being in the film room every day is beneficial for me. I have more of a voice in there now that I know the system more. Those sessions are critical and intellectual. It's more than what you see when you're watching film. It's a lot of the 'why' on every play and we're encouraged to offer any out-of-the-box ideas as we talk football.
"Other teams don't do the development stuff that we do, so I'm doing everything I can to take advantage of that. Gamedays are tough. I know that. You are there, as a competitor, saying, 'I can be out there. I can do that.' You want to play. It's hard. But I'm here to support Carson and Nick and help us win games. That's my job right now. You want to be patient in my situation, but you also want to attack every day. Maybe there are guys who would get complacent and say, 'I'll get ready when my time comes.' I'm looking at it like when my time comes, I'm going to be ready to take off. That's my mindset every day."