Does Doug Pederson need to be fired?

doug-pederson-5

After a hot start to the season the Eagles have looked like a punching bag ever since. I know it’s only 11 games into his coaching career but head coach Doug Pederson, an understudy under former Eagles’ coach Andy Reid, perhaps needs to be let go. And here’s why.

01. Decision making during games

I get that Pederson is inexperienced and doesn’t know the whole spectrum of being an NFL head coach, but there’s certain decisions as a coach that are pretty obvious and cut and dry.

First off, during the Eagles’ 28-23 loss vs. the Giants at the Meadowlands on November 6th, Pederson’s in-game decisions were extremely poor, head scratching and questionable. Many fans didn’t understand, fundamentally speaking, why Pederson was making certain decisions.

The biggest factor, and mistake by Pederson, in that loss was Pederson’s decisions to go for it on fourth down. This occurred not once but twice. What’s significant about it, when Pederson made the decision to go for it on both downs the Eagles were in field goal range. Attempting and making both field goal attempts could’ve swung the game in their favor, but they, once again, left points on the table. Any point is better than none.

The risks were strongly criticized by the media as well as Eagles’ fans, myself included. On the first fourth-down attempt, which occurred with 3:55 left in the first half, the Eagles were on New York’s six-yard line. Six yard line. A 23 yard field-goal attempt; it would’ve been a chip shot for Caleb Sturgis. Sturgis had been having a solid season up to that point, too, and a 23 yard make was beyond perfectly capable for him to make. Up until that point, in seven games this season Sturgis was 17/18 (94.4%) on field-goal attempts.

Out of those 17, he made one from 55 against Dallas and one from 53 against Chicago.

On the first fourth-down try, the Eagles went with a half-back sweep, handing the ball off to backup running back Darren Sproles, who needed only one yard to convert and ended up gaining zero. The Giants and their defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (a former Eagles’ coach) of course realized what the Eagles were preparing to do and thus blitzed heavily towards the center and left side of Sproles. Giants’ defensive tackle Damon Harrison and middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard made the stop.

Instead of a field goal try, which would’ve cut the Eagles’ deficit down to eight points, they screwed up the fundamentals and left points on the board. After turning it over on downs, the Giants’ failed to take advantage of the Eagles’ mistake and instead went three and out. Making a point out of that, the Eagles, had they went with the field-goal try and the fact that New York went three and out on the next drive, that could’ve switched the momentum in their favor.

On the second and final fourth-down try, which could’ve resulted in a field goal to win the game (since they were on the Giants’ 17 yard line), Carson Wentz sailed a throw deep down the field to Jordan Matthews, which ended the game for the Eagles.

According to Pederson, who was asked afterwards why he decided to go for it twice on fourth, he responded by saying “he was trying to be aggressive.”

02. Clock Management

Dating back to last January when Pederson was the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator under Andy Reid,  Pederson was questioned after the Chiefs’ 27-20 divisional-round loss to New England about his clock management.

Take a look at how much time the Chiefs wasted from after the previous play occurred up until their next snap. On average (see below), they wasted over 29 seconds between each play, which is unheard of for a team during a playoff game. In the game, surprisingly Kansas City had more total yards than the Patriots (381-340), controlled the ball over 41% more than New England, even though New England averaged more yards per play (8.01-6.25).

chiefs

Starting from when Chiefs’ quarterback Alex Smith scrambled for six yards onto the Patriots’ 26-yard-line, they compiled four plays and yet they wasted over two minutes of the clock. A former Eagles’ coach who wasted too much time in a crucial game. Sound familiar?

Pederson defended the Chiefs’ poor clock management by rationalizing that by doing so, they didn’t want to hand the ball back over to Tom Brady. As well as that, he also clarified that he knew for sure that the Chiefs would score on that drive and still had their timeouts just in case. Mind you, they were down by two touchdowns, not one. So the best course of action there could’ve been; keep as much time on the clock, run no huddles, and conserve the timeouts and the clock. Had they had more than 2:30 minutes left, they wouldn’t of needed to call for an onside kick. They still had timeouts and the two-minute warning left.

Time was burned, and so were the Chiefs’ hopes of advancing to the AFC Championship Game. I doubt any of these type of scenarios will end as Pederson continues his coaching stint here.

03. Lack of coaching experience

In January 30th of 2009, 12 days after the Eagles lost to Arizona in the Championship Game, the team released a press release deciding to bump offensive assistant James Urban to quarterbacks coach, after Pat Shurmur left for the Rams, and Pederson took Urban’s spot as the team’s quality control coach. It was his first ever NFL coaching job.

From 2009-10, he was the team’s quality control coach, then was promoted to be their quarterback’s coach for the next two seasons. After Andy Reid was fired and was succeeded by Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, Kelly dismissed Pederson and Virginia’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Bill Lazor took his place.

Reid took Pederson with him to Kansas City, making him their newest offensive coordinator, which lasted for three seasons. Before his first NFL coaching gig in 2009, Pederson only had coached high school football, at Calvary Baptist School in Lansdale, PA. Before beginning his foray into coaching, he was an NFL quarterback,  and not a very good one, for a decade. As most Eagles’ fans will remember, he was second-overall pick Donovan McNabb’s mentor (and eventually backup) in 1999.

It seems that Pederson’s clock management struggles still haven’t changed and thus, unfortunately, have spilled over into this year.

The lack of coaching experience made his hiring last offseason a questionable one. Most fans and reporters believed that CEO Jeffrey Lurie made the call to hire him based off being a likable guy as an Eagle (during his playing and coaching career) and an Andy Reid guy, instead of hiring an experienced and successful coach like Tom Coughlin. Giants’ head coach Ben McAdoo was in the running for the vacancy as well, before landing in New York.

Perhaps the break from between the team’s 3-0 start and the start of their poor play since then can be attributed to the recent amount of losses. Most teams when they get hot and push together consecutive after consecutive win need not a bye to break their chemistry and success up until then. Had the Eagles had their bye week later on in the season, perhaps we’re looking at a totally-different team. But Pederson has been a huge factor in the team’s recent struggles.

03. Penalties 

Although the players are the ones called for the penalties, Pederson has been unsuccessful so far in controlling the team’s crucial mistakes, such as the string of penalties called against them this year. In early October against Detroit, they were flagged for 14 penalties, which is unacceptable. Three other games this year they accumulated 10 or more penalties, including 13 a week later at Washington. It was no coincidence that they ended up 0-2 in those games. This season, they rank tied for third worst in the league in penalties (90). Pederson needs to take control and emphasize to the team the importance of not shooting themselves in their own foot.

It’s more-than fair to allow Pederson more time to learn from his mistakes, correct them, and improve the team and it’s clock management, but so far, after the hire, he’s making the Eagles look bad for it.

So far, I’m more than unimpressed with his decision making, clock management, leadership skills, and the fact that the team almost every game kicks themselves in the foot. If he continues this streak, perhaps it’s time for the team to cut their losses and move on. Only time will tell.

Game Day- Packers vs. Eagles

0ap3000000431159_video_player_cp-nfl_medium_540_360

PHI GB
W-L record 5-5 4-6
Game Time/Channel 8:30 PM EST ESPN
Starting Quarterbacks Carson Wentz (N Dakota) Aaron Rodgers (Cal)
Point Spread/O/U Line Eagles by 4 1/2 48 1/2 (Over/Under)
Head Coaches Doug Pederson Mike McCarthy
Last Five Games (W-L) 2-3 1-4
Stadium Lincoln Financial Field
Last five match-ups 1-4 4-1
Home/Road Records 4-0 1-4

Weather Report- 45, chance of showers, 6 MPH winds

Injury report:

  • Eagles: RB Ryan Mathews (knee) and OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) are out.
  • Packers: LB Blake Martinez (knee), OG T.J. Lang (foot), CB Demetri Goodson (knee), LB Kyler Fackrell (hamstring) and C JC Tretter (knee) are out. OL Don Barclay (shoulder), CB Damarious Randall (groin) and LB CB Damarious Randall (groin) are questionable

At home tonight vs. the Packers, the Eagles will try to bounce back from a tough 26-15 loss last Sunday in Seattle. Over the past few games, the Eagles have allowed over 300 yards in each game and their opponents have averaged 348 total yards per game. They lost two out of those three games.

For Green Bay, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been red hot as of late, throwing for over 350 passing yards in the past two games and averaging 361 passing yards. Despite that, the Packers have lost their last-four games and are 1-4 this year on the road. He has a 96.7 quarterback rating in those five road games, with almost seven yards per pass.

 

On the flip side, Eagles’ rookie quarterback Carson Wentz is looking to rebound tonight after losing three out of his last four. In those games, he has four interceptions and in those three losses the Eagles were a combined 15 for 46 on third-down attempts (32.6%). They have to not only make offensive adjustments but take control of their mental mistakes. They are among one of the worst teams in terms of penalties.

Despite that, the Eagles are facing a poor Packers’ defensive unit, which ranks first this year in most yards allowed per pass attempt (8.6) and they’ve allowed their opponents to score on 46.2% of their drives. While the Eagles’ offense has had their fair share of turnovers recently, Green Bay’s defense is a huge hole that the Eagles’ offense could penetrate through easily.

Per NFL reporter Ian Rapoport, tonight the Eagles plan to limit struggling wide-receiver Nelson Agholor’s snaps, or possibly deactivate him for the game. Paul Turner, in the slot position, will replace Agholor in the lineup, while Jordan Matthews will be utilized much more during outside routes. In limiting Agholor’s snaps or deactivating him, Doug Pederson has a huge burden lifted off of his shoulders. Agholor has been far and beyond the Eagles’ worst offensive player this season and has been a huge bust after being drafted number 20 last season.

With Agholor gone or not, rookie Carson Wentz needs to improve his timing, as many of his passes recently have been either behind receivers or way overthrown. Although he got off to an excellent start, his recent mistakes have shown his lack of experience.

In early October, as week five was approaching, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 NFL teams’ offensive lines. Green Bay’s unit ranked as the second best, with right guard T.J. Lang standing out. Unfortunately for Green Bay, their offensive lineman have been decimated by injuries. Lang is out indefinitely with a left ankle and foot injury, while his backup Don Barclay is questionable with a shoulder injury.

Since the Eagles switched from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, defensive end Brandon Graham has had an excellent, Pro-Bowl-caliber season so far. He’s gotten bigger, which has increased his stamina and improved his health, and has been a very good pass rusher. Under the Eagles’ 3-4 scheme over the past few years, he was a strong, yet still inefficient, linebacker, and now he’s showing his talents after the switch to a defensive end. After the switch occurred, Graham praised it and commented that he felt right at home.

He should be a huge part of the Eagles’ defense tonight, getting pressure on Rodgers and forcing throws.

Tonight both teams’ playoff chances are on the line. Most likely, from here on out Green Bay would have to win out to potentially slide in as a wild-card team. After tonight, unfortunately the Eagles’ five remaining opponents, three of which are against divisional opponents, have a win-loss record this year of 33-20-2 (a 62.2 winning percentage). If they can have success tonight vs. Green Bay and win at least four out of their remaining five games they have a shot at cracking the playoffs.

Be aware, Jordy Nelson has a touchdown reception in four-straight games.

usa-aaron-rodgers-carson-wentz-eagles-packers

Player of The Game Prediction

Fletcher Cox

With Green Bay’s offensive line decimated, the opportunities will be huge for the Eagles. They rank in the top 10 in sacks (26), although Green Bay’s rushing attack has been strong, ranking fifth best in yards per attempt (4.6). The Packers’ balanced offensive attack will be a tough task for the Eagles’ defensive tackles and defensive backs.

With that being said, I believe Cox will stand out and plow through the Packers’ o-line with relative ease. Despite Cox’s prowess, the Eagles need to focus and improve their rushing defense, as they rank sixth best in most rushing yards per attempt (4.5).

Game Prediction

Eagles 37-31

Eagles-Seahawks preview

dm_141204_nfl_seaphi1

On 4:25 PM this Sunday, the Eagles will face-off against the 6-2-1 Seahawks, in what should be a very competitive game. The Eagles are looking to go on their second winning streak of the season, while Seattle’s looking to continue their hot start at home.

This year, Seattle’s undefeated at home (4-0), while the Eagles are looking to improve upon their poor record this year away from home (1-4). This will be the 15th match-up all-time between these two teams, and the third since 2010. The all-time series record is tied 7-7. Philadelphia’s last road win at Seattle occurred almost exactly eight-years ago, on November 2nd, 2008 (they won 26-7).

Leading back to last season, Seattle’s 8-1 in their last nine home games. From last season to this season so far, the Eagles are 5-8 on the road. During last season’s playoffs, Seattle beat Minnesota 10-9 in the wild-card round, then lost to number-one seed Carolina 31-24 in the divisional round. Not only did Philadelphia miss the playoffs last season, but they haven’t won a playoff game since January 11th of 2009.

For Philadelphia, Sunday’s match-up will be a tough test for sure.

Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson grew up in Washington; in Ferndale, which is two hours away from Seattle. He mentioned that he was a Seahawks’ fan growing up.

In a conference call on Wednesday, he recalled his fond Seahawks’ memories when he was a child, going to games at the old Kingdome and watching ’70s Seahawks’ quarterback Jim Zorn play. In this game, Pederson’s a huge underdog, having only coached since this year, while Seattle’s head coach Pete Carroll started coaching in 1994.

Seattle’s defense is, and has been, one of the best in the league. This season, their unit ranks as one of the best vs. the pass, ranking seventh best in worst quarterback passer rating against (82.5), fourth in sacks (29), and second best in fewest rushing yards per attempt (3.5). They not only bring speed and size, but experience, too. Last season, five out of their seven Pro Bowlers were defenders. The five of them were: right defensive end Michael Bennett, strong safety Kam Chancellor, corner Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. In February of 2014, almost their entire defensive unit propelled them to a 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII win over Denver; the first win in franchise history.

For this game, what’s exciting for the Eagles is their recent defensive play. Seattle half-back Christine Michael will have a tough time vs. the Eagles’ rushing attack. Last week vs. Matt Ryan and the Falcons, weak-side linebacker Mychal Kendricks fared great. Kendricks had one run stop, a hurry, and only allowed one catch for five yards receiving.

X Factors

Seattle

Russell Wilson

Wilson will have to go up against a tough Eagles’ front four. After they switched to a 4-3 scheme this past off-season, they’ve been blitzing a lot more. This season, Wilson has a 99.4 QBR, eighth best in the league, with eight yards per attempt (fifth best in the league), and a 66.8 completion percentage. He’s been very smart in not forcing throws, whether under pressure or in double coverage. In his first and only game vs. the Eagles so far, (on December 7th, 2014) he won 24-14 at the Linc.

wp-seahawkswilson-620x400

Philadelphia

It may sound cliche to pick both quarterbacks as the x-factors, since they’re the most important players on the field, but with both defenses playing solid this year, there’s even more emphasis put upon the quarterback’s in-game decisions.

In his first three games, Carson Wentz not only went undefeated but had a 103.8 passer rating and zero turnovers. Since then, he’s gone 2-4 with more interceptions than touchdown passes (5-4) and a 79.7 passer rating; almost a 25% decrease in passer rating. He’s overthrown/sailed throws, thrown behind receivers, and has forced throws into double coverage; all expected rookie mistakes. Considering he has zero experience, he’s playing better than expected; with a respectable 87.6 passer rating and five wins.

Key Match-ups

Doug Baldwin vs. Nolan Carroll (Baldwin has five touchdowns; Carroll was solid vs. NY)

Fletcher Cox vs. Germain Ifedi (Ifedi’s a rookie tackle, while Cox had 9.5 sacks last year)


Line

Seattle’s currently 6.5 point favorites. The over/under’s listed as 43.

Player of the Game Prediction

Bobby Wagner, MLB, Seattle

Wagner will have a tough task in trying to contain Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles. Despite a couple poor outings earlier in the season, last week Mathews ran through the Falcons’ front four, scoring two touchdowns and rushing for 103 yards. Meanwhile, backup half-back Darren Sproles surprisingly almost played 40% of the snaps last Sunday and had 76 all-purpose yards.

Three-weeks ago, in a week-eight match-up at New Orleans (on October 30th), Wagner was a huge factor and contributed significantly, despite Seattle’s 25-20 loss. Wagner chipped in with 12 solo tackles, 14 total tackles and seven run stops.

So far this year, Wagner has had 15 quarterback hurries and 36 stops at either the line of scrimmage or behind it. If Wagner continues his consistent play and aggressive run stopping, it’ll be a long day for Mathews.

Prediction

Seattle, 27-10

After going 3-0 and putting together several excellent outings to start his career, Eagles’ quarterback Carson Wentz has struggled the past-few weeks. Last week vs. Atlanta, he played good, with a 86.5 quarterback rating and a 92.3 completion percentage throwing outside the numbers, despite having some clock management problems before the half. When under pressure, he went 5-9, with 4.9 yards per attempt and a 68.7 passer rating. He’s still learning and growing from his rookie mistakes, so — for a rookie — learning to adjust vs. pressure is a tough task.

3242875b7858400eabb9e4b589f3a9d6-1020x1081
(AP Photo)

Surely, Jim Schwartz and the Eagles’ front four will bring as much pressure as possible, but Russell Wilson will be prepared for it. Not only is he intelligent and fast outside the pocket, but last week at New England, he was very solid under pressure. In 18 drop-backs, he went 10/14 with 143 passing yards, 10.2 yards per attempt, two touchdowns and a 143.7 passer rating.

Entering this season, Pro Football Focus ranked all NFL offensive lines from best to worst. Seattle’s was ranked dead last, while Philadelphia’s defensive line was ranked 21st. While Seattle’s offensive line has struggled and forced Wilson to carry it more, Philadelphia’s defensive line started out shaky then has gotten better and better each week. Philadelphia’s best shot at winning will be their d-line knocking down offensive lineman, putting continuous pressure on Wilson, and making him force throws.