Monday, October 17, 2016

Now we get to see what Doug Pederson is made of

For 7 weeks, Doug Pederson was better than anyone could have hoped.

In fact, he was perfect.

He ran the table on the Eagles preseason schedule, beating all four opponents on the Birds' summer tour, then ran off three straight wins to kick off the season, including an improbably - and very impressive - thrashing over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team many had listed as one of the favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

Pederson was riding high.

Then came the bye week, an unfortunate bit of timing for the red-hot Eagles.

The Birds came back from the bye and promptly said goodbye to their good fortune, sleepwalking through the first half of a game against a team they were expected to handle easily in Detroit.

A furious second-half comeback was derailed by a crucial Ryan Mathews' fumble and wunderkind rookie QB Carson Wentz's first interception.

But there were some other troubling signs as well, including a plethora of dumb penalties that seemed to stymie the Birds at ever corner.

Then the Eagles learned they will have to survive without starting right tackle Lane Johnson, who will miss the next 10 weeks after his second suspension for a PED violation.

Suddenly some of the cracks became fissures.

Then the roof caved in yesterday in Washington.

Let's start with the absence of Johnson. This did not exactly come as a surprise to Pederson and his staff. They knew for more than a month that Johnson likely was going to miss some key time. Yet they did nothing to address the situation.

Then Pederson made the kind of decision that sets off fire alarms all over Eagles nation. The coach said that he did not want to shuffle his offensive line, affecting two positions, which is what would have happened if he had shifted left guard Alan Barbre to right tackle. So instead he decided to stick untested rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai into the fire at right tackle.

In the process he self-immolated, setting his offense - and possibly the Eagles season - on fire.

It was a fire drill as Redskins defensive end Ryan Kerrigan used the overwhelmed Vaitai as a fire drill.

Pederson had a huge coaching decision to make when he first learned of the Johnson suspension. At this point you can only say that he botched it. Perhaps equally questionable is that despite all evidence to the contrary, Pederson never moved to address the situation during the game.

The Eagles offense never really got on track, failing to score a touchdown for the first time this season. The Birds' scores came on a kick return, interception return and two Caleb Sturgis field goals.

Jim Schwartz's defense did not help. They also got beaten physically at the point of attack by the Redskins, giving Kirk Cousins way too much time to throw, and allowing crater-like holes for the 'Skins backs to romp through.

Penalties also remain an issue. For the second straight week, the Birds were flagged 13 times. Sure, some of them were questionable. One of them - a crucial one - was not. That was when for the second week in a row Fletcher Cox extended an opponent's drive by a needless roughing the quarterback call.

Now we will get to see what Doug Pederson is made of.

For three weeks, his team looked like a very well-coached unit. They did not make silly mistakes. They did not waste timeouts. They all appeared on the same page.

That was two losses ago.

The Birds are now 3-2.

The debate is if they are even that good.

Sam Bradford and the undefeated Vikings will arrive at the Linc next Sunday.

Pederson and the Eagles can only hope the bye week has the same effect on the Vikes as it had on the Eagles.

Those 3-0 Birds? They're nowhere to be found.

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