What Doug Pederson learned from Andy Reid, a guy who's made a huge difference on defense, winning as underdogs and tons more in this weekend's wild-card edition of Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations!
1. One of the biggest things Doug Pederson learned from Andy Reid is the ability to sense when to go hard on his players and when to back off. How to really sense what the team needs from training camp through the postseason. Under Big Red, the Eagles had the 3rd-best December record in the NFL from 1999 through 2012 at 39-19, a .672 winning percentage. They were always fresh and mentally and physically sharp going into the playoffs. Under Doug, they’re 11-4 in December over the last three years, also 3rd-best in the league, and if you include January and February they’re 15-5. It’s remarkable how little the Eagles are actually on the practice field this time of year. A quick walkthrough Wednesday, under two hours Thursday and maybe 90 minutes Friday, and that’s it. It’s all about mental reps and keeping the players off their feet. It’s no coincidence the Eagles have played their best football at the end of the season for most of the last two decades.
2. Also interesting to note that the three-best December records since 2017 belong to Reid’s Chiefs (12-3), John Harbaugh’s Ravens (12-3) and Pederson’s Eagles (11-4). Not a coincidence.
3. Let’s talk Boston Scott for a second. Just to put into perspective how rare it is for someone 5-foot-6 to play at a high level in the NFL, obviously Darren Sproles has the most career scrimmage yards by a player 5-6 or shorter with 8,392. Nobody is close. Boston Scott has played 13 games in his career (and in five he had no offensive touches), and he’s already 11th on that list, according to Pro Football Reference. And four of the guys ahead of him played in the 1960s or earlier. A lot of teams wouldn’t even give a 5-6 guy a chance. Maybe it was having Sproles here for six years and seeing first-hand that it’s not how tall you are but how talented and how determined you are, but the Eagles deserve a tremendous amount of credit for giving an opportunity to a 5-6 guy who doesn’t have a conventional running back build. If they hadn’t, I don’t think they’d still be playing.
4. Remember when the Dolphins scored touchdowns on five consecutive drives? Since then, the Eagles have allowed seven TDs on 49 drives.
5. The last four games of the season, the Seahawks have allowed 172 rushing yards per game, nine rushing TDs and 5.4 yards per carry. They are getting gashed. If Miles Sanders is close to 100 percent — heck, even if he’s not — I’m looking for at least 30 running plays Sunday. Run the clock. Move the chains. Wear the Seahawks down. Keep Russell Wilson off the field. Control the game. Hammer it.
6. One of the craziest things about the Eagles’ playoff wins the last two years is that they were underdogs in all four of them. How many coaches have won four playoff games in their entire career as underdogs? Doug Pederson has won four the last two years. The last five years, the Eagles are 4-1 as underdogs and the rest of the league is 14-36.
7. The Eagles allowed an NFL-low 52 second-half points at home this year. That’s 6 1/2 per game. They only allowed seven 2H TDs at home all year, just two in the last four games.
8. I worry more about Big V than Matt Pryor. I like what I’ve seen from Pryor in the two games he’s played. He’s tough, physical and confident. Big V certainly has the ability, it’s just the inconsistency that’s a concern. When he has a bad play, it’s a really bad play.
9. Only two teams in NFL history have been 5-7 and gone on to win a playoff game. The 1996 Jaguars (with Clyde Simmons) actually won two — a wild-card game in Buffalo and a conference semifinal in Denver — before losing to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. And the 2013 Chargers beat the Bengals in a wild-card game in Cincinnati before losing in Denver.
10. It’s no coincidence the Eagles’ defensive resurgence started right about when Tim Jernigan returned to the field after missing most of the first half of the season with a foot injury. Jernigan is finally back at his 2017 form, and he’s making a huge difference. The Eagles were 9th in points allowed and 7th in yards allowed the last eight games with Jernigan back on the field. Jernigan played about 29 snaps per game during that stretch, and that’s really made that defensive front more stout, forced offenses to account for two formidable tackles and really free up Fletcher Cox to make plays. The Eagles have a huge advantage Sunday with their d-line vs. the Seahawks’ o-line, and Jernigan is a big reason why.
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