Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

Doug Pederson: Dak Prescott knew he didn't have to win by himself

For the most part, Carson Wentz had a pretty successful rookie season. 

Sure, the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record, but Wentz did enough to continue the franchise's belief that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. 

Another guy in Dallas did the same thing with the Cowboys. Actually, Dak Prescott had an even more impressive rookie season, leading the Cowboys to 13 wins, while winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. 

Prescott, a fourth-round pick, had a great year but didn't try to do too much. And that's what impressed Eagles head coach Doug Pederson the most. 

"[Prescott] understood this right away, that he didn't have to win the game for them," Pederson said on The Doomsday Podcast, hosted by Matt Mosley and Ed Werder. (Pederson also talked about running the Rocky steps). "He knew that he had a good defense, a tremendous offensive line, a great runner, he had some veteran players that he could rely on and he learned that early. As soon as he had the opportunity to play and that was early, from Day 1. 

"That's something that a young quarterback, sometimes it takes them a while to figure out the game that way. That's the impressive thing, that he learned how to handle that business that well, utilize the people around him and understand that he didn't have to go win the game."

While Prescott had plenty of help during his rookie season, it was pretty evident Wentz was lacking in that area. 

Prescott had a great offensive line, Dez Bryant, Ezekiel Elliott and others. Wentz had an offensive line that was missing Lane Johnson, an often-injured Ryan Mathews and receivers like Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham playing serious snaps. 

So it made sense when the team went out this offseason and signed Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, and recently LeGarrette Blount, as free agents, finally getting Wentz some real help. 

"We had opportunities to get those two guys and it was obvious last year, we were young at the wide receiver position," Pederson said. "We needed some leadership, some veteran presence there and we went out and got that with Torrey and Alshon. We still want to build through the draft, we still want to acquire young talent. 

"LeGarrette Blount now is a guy that gives us that big back, running back, that can come in and compete and hopefully he does everything he did at New England the last couple of seasons. He had 18 rushing touchdowns for over 1,000 yards and we just expect that same level of performance here."

Maybe having weapons will allow Wentz to do what made Prescott so impressive to Pederson in 2016: not too much. 

Eagles OTA storylines: Jeffery in uniform, rotations, awkwardness

Eagles OTA storylines: Jeffery in uniform, rotations, awkwardness

The Eagles will finally be playing football this week. Sort of. 

Tuesday morning marks the beginning of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), the first time most of the 2017 Eagles will be on the field together. 

While OTAs are technically voluntary, the Eagles — and every other team — will have near-perfect attendance. For the Birds, that will include Brandon Graham, who was reportedly set to holdout, but rejoined the team just a few days after leaving (see story)

The Eagles will have a few rounds of OTAs (May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 5-6, 8-9) leading up to the mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The mandatory minicamp runs from June 12-15. After that, the team is off until training camp. 

Thanks to the CBA, there are strict rules for what teams are allowed to do during OTAs. Players wear helmets but aren't allowed to wear pads, which means no contact. Also no 1-on-1 drills, but 11 on 11s are allowed. So there's at least some competition. 

Annual yearly warning: Be wary the stories of greatness from players in shorts in May. 

Last year, there were a ton of juicy storylines with a new coaching staff, a No. 2 pick quarterback and the Sam Bradford drama. By comparison, this year is boring, but the Eagles never lack drama. 

Here's what to watch this year: 

A new No. 17 
The Eagles' biggest free-agent acquisition will be on the team for his first full-team practice. Alshon Jeffery is the type of receiver the Eagles desperately needed. He'll immediately become Carson Wentz's No. 1 weapon this season. 

So Tuesday will offer a first look at Jeffery and the other new pickups, including Torrey Smith, Timmy Jernigan and LeGarrette Blount. 

During rookie minicamp a couple weeks ago, third-rounder Rasul Douglas said he was looking forward to lining up across from Jeffery this week. He'll finally get his chance. 

Carson in Year 2
This time last year, Wentz was the Eagles' third-string quarterback, preparing for a redshirt rookie season. 

Now, he's the not just the starter but the young leader of the team and the face of the franchise. While he was already seemingly in command of the huddle as a rookie, expect him to continue to grow into his leadership role. Sometimes these things just take time. But he is already one of the unquestioned leaders of the team. 

Also, we'll see if there's any notable difference in his mechanics after working out with QB guru Adam Dedeaux this offseason. The main thing they worked on was footwork. We'll see if it helps limit the number of throws Wentz sails — perhaps his biggest issue as a rookie. 

The rotations
We won't be able to learn a heckuva a lot from watching practices because football isn't meant to be played in shirts and no pads, but we will at least get to see who lines up with who. 

Because 11 on 11s are allowed, we'll get a glimpse of what the first, second and third teams look like. Will Allen Barbre start off as the first-team left guard? Who is the starting defensive end opposite Brandon Graham and on which side? Is LeGarrette Blount ready to run with the ones? 

Kelce and Kendricks
Jason Kelce and Mychal Kendricks are still on the roster after plenty of speculation this offseason that they'll be gone. And there's still a chance one or both could be traded. 

To their credit, both have been very professional throughout this process and both have been at the facility this spring. It's a part of the business, but it has to be a little weird to show up to work every day knowing you might be dealt. 

Hopefully, they'll make themselves available to answer a few questions. 

MIA
While Sidney Jones is still recovering from his Achilles tear, even if he wasn't, he wouldn't be allowed at the facility this week. Jones and his college teammate Elijah Qualls went to the University of Washington, which operates on a quarters system. 

It's a stupid rule, but the NFL doesn't allow players who went to schools on quarters systems to be in voluntary camps until they graduate. That might not seem like a huge deal, but for a guy like Qualls, who has a chance to fight for a roster spot, the time missed could be devastating. 

Last offseason, two undrafted tackles had a chance to make the team — Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu — but only one did. During this time last year, Vaeao was on the field showing his potential, while Shittu was back in Stanford. Vaeao made the team and was a contributor, while Shittu was stuck on the practice squad. 

Eagles Mailbag: Doug Pederson's calls, Corey Clement, Carson Wentz's attempts

Eagles Mailbag: Doug Pederson's calls, Corey Clement, Carson Wentz's attempts

I never know what to write at the top of these mailbags, so here it goes. 

I answered some of your questions yesterday (see story)

I'll answer more now:

I think Pederson will continue to be aggressive. I guess the real question is, how much? At times last season, Pederson pretty much admitted he was being so aggressive because the Eagles weren't really playing for much, so maybe he'll reel it in a little bit this season. But I think if Pederson really is aggressive by nature, he's going to continue that. 

It's funny you ask this now because I actually thought about some of those gutsy play calls when the team signed LeGarrette Blount last week. The Eagles weren't great in short-yardage situations in 2016, but Blount is very good in those same spots. Maybe Blount will be able to bail out his head coach this season. 

This is a tough question to answer because there are so many factors that go into it. For instance: If a team is down early in a game, the quarterback is gonna throw a ton of passes. And even though the Eagles signed Blount, will Pederson abandon his pass-run ratio? That seems unlikely. And how much of a difference-maker is Blount at this point in his career? Probably not enough to make the Eagles a run-first team. 

Let's start with the numbers. Last year, on his way to setting a rookie record for pass attempts, Wentz threw 40-plus passes in seven games. The same number of games as Matthew Stafford and Carson Palmer. Only Joe Flacco (11) and Drew Brews (10) had more. 

Guess what? I think that's just going to be Wentz's game under Pederson. Wentz is the Eagles' biggest weapon and they're going to live or die by his arm. He keeps airing it out in 2017. 

The Blount signing might have been good news for the Eagles, but it was terrible news for Corey Clement. The big back from Glassboro, New Jersey, might have actually had a chance to make the Eagles' 53-man roster, but that chance pretty much evaporated when Blount's pen hit paper. 

So, yeah, the practice squad would probably make sense. After all, Blount is on a one-year deal, so maybe Clement can be that big-bodied running back of the future. I'd say Clement has a pretty good shot of landing on the 10-man practice squad. 

As for the running backs on the roster, I'd expect four: Blount, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey. 

Well, I haven't even seen the team practice together in shorts yet, so this is a bit early. But I'll play along. 

I think there's a good shot the Eagles win anywhere from seven to 10 games. Is it possible they win fewer games than they did in 2016? Sure. But I think it's unlikely as Wentz and Pederson enter Year 2 with some actual weapons. 

For the most part, I think the Eagles have improved this offseason, but there are still notable question marks, starting with their corners. That's a huge worry. The offense should be better in 2016, but what about the defense? Even though Jim Schwartz's unit was actually the strength of the team during most of last season, that's where many of my question marks are.