The Eagles have one game remaining of the 2016 NFL season and it’s against none other than the Dallas Cowboys. After falling to an overtime defeat earlier in the season, all thoughts turn to avenging such a heartbreaking loss. But if you take the bitter rivalry emotion away from the game, you’re left with an Eagles team that is far different than what we saw in week one. If anything, this game will show just how far the Eagles have or haven’t progressed in a year in which development was the focus.
We’ve seen Doug Pederson mature massively as a playcaller this season. In his first season as a Head Coach, it’s fair to say that the former Chiefs Offensive Coordinator has come under plenty of scrutiny for some questionable decisions.
Whether it was calling timeouts in debatable situations, or refusing to kick a field goal that would then prove pivotal, Pederson has discovered first hand just how ruthless the NFL really can be. Enduring Punishing decisions to be overly aggressive while witnessing just how badly things can get out of hand when an Offense lacks balance, there is a lot that Pederson has learned in his first season leading a team.
As the year has progressed, the costly errors have decreased and instead have been replaced by seemingly experimental ideas..and moves to inspire hope and confidence in his Offense. An encouraging sign..and one that will be truly tested against Dallas.
The decision to avoid attempting a 52-yard field goal will be one very heavily in the mind of many this week and against a team that since that OT win has gone on to shock the NFL, losing just one game in that time span, Pederson can’t afford to make a similar mistake.
There is an outside factor in Pederson’s corner however..the return of some key pieces. With a banged up Offensive line in their last meeting, the Eagles struggled to run the ball against an emerging rush Defense. But with Lane Johnson back and a versatile backfield consisting of Darren Sproles, Byron Marshall and potentially NFL debutant Terrell Watson, the Eagles finally have enough steam to power the train once again..as well as protecting Carson Wentz.
With Lane Johnson back in the lineup, the Offensive front is finally at strength again..and it showed in the team’s dismantling of the Giants. Carson Wentz was hit just three times in the Thursday night matchup and avoided a sack all night, while a wounded backfield was still able to put up 118 yards on the ground.
After fifteen games of calling plays, rescuing a fractured locker room and enduring the trials and tribulations of an NFL season, Doug Pederson, like his quarterback Carson Wentz now faces a challenge that summarizes his season. As Pederson looks to go 2-2 in divisional games, all of his strengths and flaws, successes and mistakes, happiness and heartbreak all come down to this.
The Defense is beginning to gain momentum and even though the Eagles are light at running back, the addition of Lane Johnson adds a vital organ to the Eagles Offense, as highlighted last week. The Cowboys may well be looking to rest before a deep playoff run, giving the birds even more of a chance to spring an upset and get one over on their biggest rivals.
This is the last time we get to see Doug Pederson coach this team before it undergoes a potentially transformative offseason once again..and unlike the week 5 loss, he’s now in a much better position to pull out the win, at home in front of the Philadelphia faithful. The level playing field in a sense means that there will be a greater emphasis on Pederson’s playcalling..because it will be even more vital if the team are to win.
Pederson’s maturation and education learning curve this season has been just as steep as his rookie quarterback..but now we get to see just how far he’s progressed. Can Pederson show a composed coaching style against the Cowboys and limit the risky 4th down conversion attempts? Or will he instead build on a solid base and encourage his players to attack the moment and leave no stone unturned..going for glory in what is an ultimately meaningless game, in order to gain even more offseason material to assess.
The Eagles Head Coach has come under scrutiny this season..but this final game will show if it was warranted or premature. The cornerstones are set, the future is bright and the talent is beginning to flourish..but is Doug Pederson able to develop at the same rate as his very young roster? If he is, it’s going to show on New Years Day.