Back in the summer, Eagles Hall of Fame head coach Dick Vermeil told Doug Pederson to "expect everything" in his new role. The rookie head coach has successfully navigated all of the potential pitfalls thus far that could derail a rookie head coach - installing new schemes, getting players to buy in and preparing a rookie quarterback for a Week 1 start on eight days notice among others.
When the Eagles return for practice on Monday following the bye week, Pederson embarks on a new challenge. The Eagles are 3-0 behind the brilliant performance of that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz along with the league's top-ranked scoring defense. Very few analysts gave the Eagles any chance of knocking off the Steelers last Sunday. Now, the Eagles are one of the best stories of the young season. Pro Bowl safety Malcolm Jenkins said that the defense has played with a chip on its shoulder. Can Pederson keep the Eagles focused when fans and analysts will say the team has arrived?
"The biggest thing is complacency. ... You think you are all that. When that creeps in, that's when you get beat. It's my job not to let that creep in. I've got to keep the guys focused and grounded," Pederson said. "I told them this week they're going to travel and go home and people are going to pat them on the back and say how great they are. But next Monday, I'm going to tell them, 'Hey, we're back to work. We're zero and zero. This is Game 1 and let's go.' That's just the way it has to be. You are building for one ultimate goal and that's a few weeks down the road. That's what you are trying to get to. But you can't get there unless you take care of the next opponent. It's my job to keep them focused that way."
At the same time, Pederson wants the players to "get away from football." Following a team meeting on Monday, the team was sent home for the rest of the week. Pederson put the Eagles through a rigorous Training Camp. Even though the Eagles are one of the first teams to have a bye week, the timing could prove to be just right.
Relive the amazing moments from the Eagles' win in the Battle of PA during Week 3 of the regular season.
"It's early, but really in the big picture it's kind of halfway through the year if you count Training Camp. So, it could be a great time for a bye week," defensive end Connor Barwin said.
It could be great if the players heal their bodies and come back with the right mindset.
"We just have to approach it the same, one day at a time. That's the way this business goes," Pederson said. "You are on top of the world one minute, and you can be at the bottom of the heap the next. Just got to keep things even-keeled and can't get too high, can't get too low. Approach it the same. ... You can't substitute for hard work. That pays off on Sundays. We just have to stay the course. Again, a lot of football left."
Pederson has managed to push all of the right buttons to this point, and as defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz likes to say, "the proof is in the pudding." The leaders in the locker room will be instrumental in carrying out the head coach's message.
"We kind of enjoy flying under the radar, but I think obviously a win like this against a team like the Steelers will open some eyes around the league. For us, nothing is different," Jenkins said. "We'll keep our preparation the same, stick our heads down and focus on the work day to day, and understand what has gotten us to 3-0."