Philadelphia Eagles

Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

Doug Pederson explains 'tough decision' to change WR coaches

INDIANAPOLIS -- For the first time since the 2016 season ended with a win over the Cowboys at the Linc on Jan. 1, Doug Pederson spoke to reporters at the combine on Wednesday afternoon. 

There was a bit of unfinished business. 

His coaching staff will have just one change going into next season. The team fired wide receivers coach Greg Lewis and hired former Rams and Bears receivers coach Mike Groh to take his place. 

At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, last month, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman passed on the question, saying that all coaching decisions were Pederson's. 

So, Doug, why the switch? 

"You make tough decisions with players, you make tough decisions with staff, and for me, it was a tough one to make," Pederson said at the podium inside the Indiana Convention Center at his combine media availability. "But at the same time, I want to do everything that's right for the organization and I'm looking forward to working with Mike this spring." 

Pederson made sure to thank Lewis for his one season of work under him in Philly. Lewis bounced back quickly from getting fired, moving on to take the receivers coach job under Andy Reid in Kansas City. 

While Lewis didn't have a ton of talent to work with in 2016, his young players didn't discernably improve at all during the season. Pederson didn't get into the specifics of why the decision to fire Lewis was made, but it seems very possible this was the reason why. 

When Lewis was hired by the Eagles last offseason, he had never held a position coach job in the NFL. The Eagles went with more experience this offseason when they hired Groh, who has been a position coach for the Bears and Rams.

"I sat down and had a great conversation with him," Pederson said. "We really hit it off. Some of his expertise, some of the players he's coached, past experiences, and a lot of recommendations from around the league that made him a great candidate for us."

Groh, 45, has worked with two of the biggest free-agent receivers in this year's class: Alshon Jeffery and Kenny Britt. He spent just one season with the Rams, in 2016. The coaching staff underwent a big change after the season, when Jeff Fisher was fired. Before then, Rowe was with the Bears for three seasons. 

The last of those years in Chicago came under head coach John Fox, who allowed Groh to leave after the 2015 season to take a promotion (the label "passing game coordinator" was added to his title) with the Rams. 

"Typically, guys that are under contract, as an organization you can say no," Fox said on Wednesday. "Sometimes you do. I've always been under the belief that you have to let people professionally grow. I thought he did a good job. He had a great opportunity. It didn't work out. Sometimes it doesn't. He's definitely a good football coach, sharp mind, understands the game. He's a very good teacher."

The Bears allowed the Rams to interview and then hire Groh after the 2015 season. The Eagles weren't as giving when it came to quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo this offseason. 

With a vacancy at offensive coordinator, the Jets wanted to interview DeFilippo, but the Eagles blocked that request. While a report surfaced that Jeffrey Lurie was behind the decision, Roseman last month said all coaching decisions were left up to Pederson. 

There hadn't been an opportunity to ask Pederson about the decision until Wednesday. 

"The biggest thing for me was, I took a lesson from a coach many years ago," he said. "It's hard to let good coaches go. DeFilippo has a great relationship with Carson, myself. He is a great coach in the National Football League. And I felt strongly about keeping him, especially in Carson's second year. The development, the growth process and keeping him intact. That was the decision with that."

Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

Eagles-Giants 5 matchups to watch

The Eagles have a chance this week to improve to 2-1 and start their season with two division wins. That would be huge for them. 

They should have a pretty good chance. The Giants have been a dumpster fire through two games. They're 0-2 and have been outscored by 30 points. 

With that said, they're an absolutely desperate team. And desperate teams can be dangerous teams. 

Here are five matchups to watch on Sunday at the Linc: 

Ereck Flowers vs. Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett
For as bad as Isaac Seumalo has been through two games with the Eagles, Ereck Flowers has been even worse for the Giants. The former first-round pick has been a disaster. He gave up three sacks to Ziggy Ansah and was basically a turnstile. Things won't get much easier. With Brandon Graham on the other side, Curry and Barnett should have a chance to do some damage. And Graham should feast on Bobby Hart on the other side. This could be the week when Barnett picks up his first NFL sack. 

But just because the Giants' O-line has struggled, it doesn't mean the Eagles can abandon their technique. 

"You still have to be disciplined," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "You still have to read your keys, and you still have to be able to execute. Just because they haven't been very successful in the first two weeks running the ball doesn't mean they're not going to come out in this game and try to run the ball. So we have to play good technique there."

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Eagles corners
The Giants' top receiver is still hampered by that ankle injury he suffered in August. Beckham played just 34 snaps (61 percent) against the Lions and now has a short week to recover. Beckham sure doesn't appear to be 100 percent, but Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said they have to prepare as if he is. 

In six career games against the Eagles, Beckham has 41 catches for 524 yards and four touchdowns. Not bad. 

"He's another week away from that [injury], another week ahead of his rehab and things like that, so we'll have to be ready for (No.) 13, and we're going to have to be ready for him being the same guy we remember from last year," Schwartz said. "And he's a very difficult player to handle, and their offense has missed him the first couple weeks. It's our job to keep him from being a factor — well, he's going to be a factor, but keep him from being a game-changing factor. It's going to take good team defense to do it. It's not going to be one guy that'll do it."

Chance Warmack vs. Damon Harrison
We already talked about the Giants' offensive line. Well, the Eagles haven't been that much better. Seumalo was a big enough problem in the first two weeks that he's now been benched. That means former first-round pick Warmack is the new starting left guard. And he'll have a tough task against "Snacks" Harrison. At 6-4, 350 pounds, Harrison is a load in the middle of that line and one of the biggest players in the NFL. Harrison is great against the run, but Warmack has a reputation for being a good run-blocker. Should be a good battle. 

Nelson Agholor vs. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Remember when Agholor was heading for the Pro Bowl after a big Week 1 performance? Well, he didn't have a great game in Week 2. Although, he did pull in his second touchdown of the season. It's the first time in his career he's had touchdowns in back-to-back games. He'll get to face off against old friend DRC on Sunday. 

It sounds like Janoris Jenkins will be back for the Giants in Week 3; that'll be a big boost for them. But either way, DC Steve Spagnuolo likes having Rodgers-Cromartie as their nickel corner. That will leave this matchup for most of the game. 

DRC fact from the 2012 Eagles media guide: his nickname is "Sexy Bologna." 

Evan Engram vs. Malcolm Jenkins
The Giants' first-round pick is off to a pretty good start. He has eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown in his first two NFL games. He's going to face a tough test on Sunday, though. The Eagles are pretty good against tight ends. I know, I know, 'They weren't very good against Travis Kelce.' But Engram isn't Kelce ... not yet anyway. 

Schwartz said Engram is looking like a Kelce or Jordan Reed-type player so far and mentioned that the Giants are finding ways to get him involved. 

The Eagles will likely be without Rodney McLeod in this game, but Jenkins will need to have a big game against Engram. 

NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

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NFL Notes: Aaron Hernandez had severe CTE; daughter sues NFL, Patriots

BOSTON -- Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy, his lawyer said on Thursday in announcing a lawsuit against the NFL and the team for hiding the true dangers of the sport.

Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said Hernandez had Stage 3 (out of 4) of the disease, which can cause violent mood swings, depression and other cognitive disorders.

"We're told it was the most severe case they had ever seen for someone of Aaron's age," attorney Jose Baez said.

Hernandez killed himself in April in the prison cell where he was serving a life-without-parole sentence for murder. Baez said Hernandez had shown signs of memory loss, impulsivity and aggression that could be attributed to CTE (see full story).

Jets: Williams limited with bone bruise in wrist
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams was limited at practice with a wrist injury that he says is a bone bruise.

Williams was originally injured during the preseason, and says Thursday that his wrist is bothering him at times. It doesn't appear that the injury will keep him out of the Jets' home opener Sunday against Miami, but Williams might have to play through it.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson sat out practice for the second straight day with a sore shoulder. He said Wednesday that it wasn't a big deal, and coach Todd Bowles says the Jets will see how it feels as the week goes along.

Starting right guard Brian Winters (abdomen) and tight ends Jordan Leggett (knee) and Eric Tomlinson (elbow) also didn't practice. Fourth-year backup Dakota Dozier would start if Winters is unable to play (see full story).

Packers: Perry latest key player to go down with injury
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The banged-up Green Bay Packers have lost another key player to injury with outside linebacker Nick Perry scheduled to have hand surgery.

Coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't know how much time Perry will miss. He was off to a good start as the bookend to fellow edge rusher Clay Matthews with 1 sacks.

The Packers' first-round draft pick in 2012, Perry had a breakout 2016 last season with 11 sacks in 14 games.

The loss of Perry places added importance on the return of Ahmad Brooks, who was a full participant in practice on Wednesday after missing the Week 2 loss at Atlanta because of a concussion (see full story).

Broncos: Miller baffled by low hit from Cowboys receiver
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Von Miller says he's baffled by Cowboys wide receiver Noah Brown's low hit on him Sunday.

The Broncos linebacker pushed through Brown's block on the game's second snap and Brown got up and dived at Miller's knees as Denver's star chased down Ezekiel Elliott on a hand-off from Dak Prescott.

Miller shook off the hit to have a monster game in Denver's 42-17 win , but he has dealt with soreness in his left knee this week.

"My stance is as a player I've always tried to take care of my players on my football team and opponents as well, whether it's the quarterbacks, receivers, the running backs. So, when it's the other way around, it's just baffling," Miller said Thursday after returning to practice full-time following a limited practice Wednesday.

"But you can't really spend too much time on it," Miller added. "Everybody's situation in the National Football League is different. Everybody doesn't have the same outlook that I have and some of my comrades in the National Football League (have). Everybody doesn't see it that way. Everybody doesn't play the game like I play the game. You've got to respect that."

Earlier in the week, Broncos coach Vance Joseph declined to criticize the Cowboys wide receiver for his low hit, saying, "I saw it. It wasn't called. I'm OK with it."

Miller shook off the low hit and finished the afternoon with two sacks, five quarterback hits, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup.