By Mike Greger
Doug Pederson remained non-committal about whether his starters would play in Sunday’s meaningless finale against the hated Cowboys. The Eagles head coach stuck to coach speak, telling the assembled media: “Listen, you are only limited to 46 [players] and you can only put seven guys down, so if you do the math, some of your starters are going to have to play.”
Some, sure. Which ones?
After watching last week’s dismal performance – and after re-watching all those missed throws on the All-22 film — it’s tough to predict what Pederson will do. On one hand, he may choose to rest the bulk of his starters, including backup-turned-starter Nick Foles.
On the other hand, Foles and his teammates could use the extra work. The offense was putrid against the Raiders. Foles, doing his very best Kevin Kolb impression, mustered just 163 yards against the NFL’s 21st-ranked pass defense. His accuracy was akin to John Bolaris trying to predict a major snow storm.
It wasn’t alarming that Foles didn’t seem to have chemistry with his receivers. He never got the necessary reps while holding Carson Wentz’s clipboard for the first 13 weeks. This was an opportunity to reprise his 2013 role after an up-and-down outing in New York. Last week, he seemed to regress.
Foles had Zach Ertz open down the seam in the end zone, but sailed the ball over his head. Twice he missed the reliable tight end down there. He also overshot Nelson Agholor down the sideline, where the speedy receiver could have waltzed in for six. Instead, Nicky Check Down often settled for “naked” pass plays for minimal gains.
Let’s not pin this entire debacle on Foles. It didn’t help that Pederson dropped the human Rocky statue back 38 times and abandoned a run game that had been clicking early, despite a string of holding penalties. (The Eagles had almost 50 yards rushing in the first quarter alone).
So much went wrong in this one … the once-impregnable run defense was shredded for 137 yards; Pro Bowl snub Jason Kelce botched multiple snaps; Kenjon Barner forgot how to field kicks; Jake Elliott whiffed on a 33-yard field goal; and Jalen Mills is still waiting for Derek Carr to throw that ball.
Put that all in the rearview. The Eagles have one more game on the schedule, one last Plinko chip to toss. Normally, this is the time of year when teams vying for championships sit their starters. Avoiding injury is more important than padding stats. Resting is better than rusting.
Unless you don’t have stats to pad, or haven’t accumulated any rust.
Foles has none of the stats and all the rust, with only two starts under his belt in 2017. Compare that to fellow backup-turned-starter Case Keenum’s 14 starts in Minnesota. Since 2006, only one NFL team has advanced in the playoffs with a backup after losing their starter to injury after Week 1. Long odds. And that’s not even to mention the fading odds that the oddsmakers have generated for the Eagles’ chances of winning the Super Bowl.
Heck, the Vikings are concerned enough about stability at the quarterback position to at least entertain the idea of activating the ghost of Sam Bradford. That’s a nice insurance policy to have in the playoffs.
Doug, do the math. It adds up to your starters running out of the tunnel this week.