Philadelphia Eagles

Doug Pederson notes: Jordan Matthews' role; will Alshon Jeffery play?

Doug Pederson notes: Jordan Matthews' role; will Alshon Jeffery play?

A day after offensive coordinator Frank Reich made it seem possible that Jordan Matthews could lose some playing time to Nelson Agholor this season, head coach Doug Pederson said he doesn't "foresee" Matthews' having a reduced role. 

So if Matthews doesn't have a reduced role, how does Agholor get on the field? 

"The one thing about Nelson that I like and that I've seen, he can play inside and outside," Pederson said. "So you can get him some touches on the outside, you can get him some touches on the inside. It goes back to what I said many times with our offense. We move these guys around by position, that they have to know inside and outside. Nelson is going to get his touches. I'm excited to watch him perform again and get his confidence level back to where it needs to be."

All this talk of the Eagles' slot receiver position arose when NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said with confidence that the job was Agholor's and he didn't know what that meant for Jordan Matthews, who enters the final year of his rookie contract. 

Matthews, who has been Agholor's biggest proponent over the last couple years, then spoke openly about the yearly competition in the NFL (see story)

Almost game time
The Eagles will kick off their preseason on Thursday night in Green Bay, but as of early Tuesday afternoon, Pederson said he didn't have the rotation figured out yet. 

All he would say was that Carson Wentz will start the game. 

Pederson said that Alshon Jeffery, who has been limited in practice, is healthy enough to play on Thursday. But that doesn't mean Jeffery will play; Pederson had yet to make that decision. 

"It's just my discretion," Pederson said. "I'm not concerned. We don't play Washington for a few weeks and that's really the bottom line." 

On Tuesday, Wentz and Jeffery spent about five minutes working together near the end zone. The two missed a week of practice together when Jeffery was out with a shoulder injury. Pederson doesn't seem concerned about their chemistry, though. 

"That chemistry is going to be there," Pederson said. "It continues to develop and I've got to get both of those guys to Washington and opening day."

Chance in for Brooks? 
Eagles starting right guard Brandon Brooks suffered an ankle strain on Monday during practice and missed Tuesday's work. In his place, newcomer Chance Warmack has taken over at right guard. 

On Tuesday, Pederson made it seem like Warmack will start if Brooks can't play against Green Bay. 

"He's done a great job with [Stefen Wisniewski] and Isaac (Seumalo) and the guys have been rotating at the guard spot," Pederson said. "It would be a great opportunity. Gotta see where Brandon's at obviously, but he's worked himself in the mix. And that's where he's at right now."

Odds and ends 
• QB Nick Foles (elbow), WR Paul Turner (shoulder), RB Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), TE Anthony Denham (calf) and G Josh Andrews (hand) missed practice again on Tuesday. WR Marcus Johnson (hamstring) and TE Adam Zaruba (concussion) returned. 

• Zaruba returned to practice but looked completely lost during a portion of it. The former rugby player missed a few days at the beginning of camp while waiting for a visa, then suffered a concussion. Now, he's back, trying to learn a sport he hasn't played since high school. It can't be easy. 

• Jaylen Watkins took some reps at cornerback on Tuesday. That's interesting because Watkins is a safety converted from corner and the Eagles could use all the help at CB they can get. 

• Zach Ertz made a phenomenal one-handed catch during the light 10/10/10 practice. Most observations from these practices would be silly, but an incredible grab is an incredible grab. 

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

The Eagles blitzed early and often during their second exhibition game against the Bills last week, and unlike much of what we see in preseason, it actually could be a sign of what’s to come.

No NFL defense used a standard four-man pass rush with greater frequency than the Eagles in 2016 at 79.3 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders Almanac. (Conversely, the team that rushed four the fewest was the Jets at 49.2 percent.) This has long been the philosophy of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who prefers to generate pressure from the front four without drawing on help from linebackers and defensive backs.

Schwartz also may have been more hesitant to blitz than usual last season out of fear a weak secondary would not be able to hold up in coverage. Now that the Eagles acquired cornerback Ronald Darby in a trade, the defense may have the freedom to send additional pressure.

“A lot of times, your blitz really depends on how well your corners are going,” Schwartz said Monday after practice (see 10 observations). “The more help you're getting in the corners, obviously, the less guys that you can use to blitz, so they certainly both go hand in hand.”

The Bills game almost certainly does not represent a fundamental shift in Schwartz’s strategy. The Eagles are not expected to go from blitzing the least in the league to sending extra rushers on every other play.

It’s only preseason — a time when coaches are evaluating everything.

“We didn't scheme up, we used more of our scheme,” Schwartz said. “Everything that we ran in that game, we had run 50 times in training camp. It was all sort of base stuff, but there were some different things we were looking at.”

So nothing to see here, right? Maybe, but if nothing else, this goes to show Schwartz is working from a larger playbook than it might have seemed in '16, when the Eagles rigidly sent four rushers down after down.

Having a potential shutdown cornerback in Darby, or at least a competent tandem along with Jalen Mills, could provide the Eagles' defense with the flexibility it sorely lacked last season. It may merely be a matter of getting Darby up to speed in the system, considering his arrival was less than two weeks ago.

“He's pretty close,” Schwartz said. “There are some situations that don't come up very often where he's still maybe a step slow when a safety makes a call, but everything is installed.

“He has it. It's just a matter of repping it enough times that he feels comfortable with it, and we're still a work in progress there.”

Darby impressed in his Eagles debut last Thursday, recording one interception and letting another go through his fingertips (see story). However, the third-year defensive back is coming off of a down season in Buffalo, so it’s not necessarily a given he’ll continue producing at a high level.

In order for Schwartz to feel comfortable with getting creative, Darby must continue to demonstrate not only his individual ability, but that he’s also able to work in concert with the rest of the secondary.

“There is something with a corner and safety communication,” Schwartz said. “The safety is making calls, there’s a lot of moving parts — motion can change a technique the corner makes, and anticipating that motion, and sort of being one step ahead — so it certainly would help a corner to have that.”

Since his arrival, Darby has already changed the complexion of the defense, putting another playmaker in the secondary. The Eagles are making some tweaks to his technique — he’s working with legendary safety Brian Dawkins, and catching balls from the JUGS machine in the hopes of converting more pass breakups into picks.

And if Darby turns out to be everything the Eagles hope, he may even allow the Eagles' defense to get after the quarterback a bit more.

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

The Eagles have traded another backup offensive lineman.

This time, Howie Roseman sent veteran guard/tackle Matt Tobin and a 2018 seventh-round pick to Seattle in exchange for the Seahawks' 2018 fifth-round pick.

The move saves the Eagles $850,000 in cap room. The Eagles had $12.2 million coming into Monday, according to NFLPA records.

Tobin, 27, joined the Eagles in 2013 and played in 42 games, with 21 starts, over the last four seasons. In 2015, he started 13 games at right guard.

The move to trade Tobin comes just a little less than a month after the Eagles dealt Allen Barbre to Denver for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019. (They were planning on releasing Barbre before the Broncos called.) Both Tobin and Barbre were versatile backups who could play guard and tackle for the Eagles.

Last summer, the Eagles traded another backup offensive lineman, Dennis Kelly, to Tennessee for Dorial Green-Beckham, who didn't even make it to training camp with the Eagles this year.

Because Jason Peters missed the second preseason game last Thursday for personal reasons, Lane Johnson started at left tackle. And because Halapoulivaati Vaitai missed the game with a knee injury, Tobin actually started at right tackle. Perhaps Seattle saw enough in that game to think he can help them this season.

Meanwhile, the two trades in the last month probably speak to the Eagles' confidence in their depth along the offensive line. They still have Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack and Dallas Thomas as their top backups inside and Vaitai and Dillon Gordon as their top backups at tackle.