McLane: Eagles leaders take issue with Pederson's comments

Doug Pederson meets with the Eagles' leadership council every Tuesday, but this week was more contentious than others after the coach questioned the effort of his team, according to several players who were in the meeting.

A day earlier, Pederson said that "not everybody" on the team had played hard in a 32-14 loss to the Bengals. If he had intended to send a message, it wasn't consistent with how he handled two earlier questions concerning effort when Pederson said that he had not seen any quit in his players despite a 29-0 deficit.

But a third attempt elicited the above response. Whether Pederson decided to finally take the opportunity to call out his team - he didn't name individuals - or whether it was a slip of the tongue remains unclear. Either way, he took a narrative and gave it life.

"I think it puts us in a little bit of a tough position as players," Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said Wednesday, "because now everybody wants to know who you're talking about."

Poll

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The leadership council consists of at least one player from each position as voted on by their peers. The 13 players are quarterback Carson Wentz, running back Darren Sproles, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, tight end Brent Celek, offensive linemen Jason Kelce and Jason Peters, defensive linemen Connor Barwin, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham, linebacker Jordan Hicks, special teams representatives Chris Maragos and Jon Dorenbos and Jenkins.

Various topics were discussed during Tuesday's gathering, but Pederson's questioning of the effort was the primary focus. "Testy" was how one player described parts of the conversation. The issue for some players, specifically on the defensive side, was that Pederson implicated the entire team when it was believed he was referring to examples, particularly tight end Zach Ertz's non-block, on offense.

The head coach has little involvement with the defense and cedes autonomy to Jim Schwartz. The defensive coordinator stood up for his players Tuesday, chiefly safety Rodney McLeod, who appeared to back off on a goal-line run. Schwartz opined that energy and not effort was more the problem in Cincinnati.

Pederson addressed the entire team Wednesday and said that player response to his comments was "great" and "positive."

"They're players and they understand," Pederson said. "I've been in that chair before, and so I get it. I think that's the great thing about having played the game, is you can relate to those guys and you know exactly what they're going through."

Two Eagles players said they felt that if there was any lingering resentment over Pederson's remarks it was resolved after Wednesday's practice, which many described as spirited.

Still, the true test of whether his comments produce the desired results won't come until Sunday when the Eagles host the Redskins. And then there are three more games to follow. The question then may not be whether players are giving 100 percent, but whether they're playing for their coach.

"I know that I've completely bought into Coach Pederson," Ertz said. "I know that whatever he said I'm going to do it without question because I respect the coach and person that he is. . . . I know a lot of guys love playing for Coach Pederson. We know he has our back."

Some coaches, like Hall of Famer Bill Parcells, were sometimes able to motivate players through the media. Pederson's flip-flop, though, looks ambiguous. Some players took it as a team-wide challenge. Jenkins said that most players, if not all, felt as though they gave full effort.

"Me personally, although I love Doug, he's not the reason I get up and play and go to work every day," Jenkins said. "It's about the guys in the room. I don't think our effort or how we perform is a direct reflection of Doug."

Pederson has mostly avoided being publicly critical of his players. If he has been hard on anyone, it has been Wentz. He has more than once said that poor mechanics have been why the quarterback continues to sail passes high. Wentz disagreed with the notion after Sunday's game.

Pederson has an agreeable manner. His accommodation in answering questions can sometimes result in contradiction or answers that may place his players in awkward positions.

In regards to effort, he multiplied a one-day story. His offense needs that kind of production.

Green-Beckham still green

Dorial Green-Beckham has become more involved in the Eagles offense over the last three games, but he is still limited in terms of the routes he runs and the catches he makes.

Of the wide receiver's 33 catches this season, a third have come on slant routes. Here's his route breakdown: slants (11 catches), curls (5), digs (5), outs (5), hitches (4), screens (2) and he caught one short crosser for 26 yards, which was his longest catch.

Green-Beckham doesn't have a reception that has covered more than 24 yards in the air. He doesn't run many go or fade routes, but of his 31 targeted passes that weren't caught, seven came on vertical patterns, although most have been thrown on shorter routes in the end zone.

The second-year receiver was eased into the offense after the Eagles acquired him from the Titans in August. Carson Wentz threw to Green-Beckham only 38 times in the first nine games. He caught 15 of the passes for 194 yards and a touchdown.

But he has been targeted 28 times over the last three games and has 15 catches for 165 yards and a score. He could have had more, but left Sunday's game with an abdominal bruise and is uncertain for the Redskins game after missing the last two days of practice.

Jordan Matthews was sidelined last week with an ankle injury, but he is expected to return on Sunday. Green-Beckham and Matthews' absence against the Bengals forced the Eagles to use slot receiver Paul Turner on the outside opposite Nelson Agholor.

Turner caught three passes for 21 yards after Green-Beckham left in the fourth quarter. Earlier, he had three grabs for 59 yards from the slot, including a 41-yard catch and run. It was the Eagles' longest reception since Bryce Treggs caught a 58-yard pass four games earlier against the New York Giants.

Treggs was on the field for only two plays in Cincinnati. He has just two catches for 22 yards since his deep reception.

"I think we definitely need some energy out there, some big plays," Treggs said. "Hopefully, it's something I can provide."

Hurts so good

If you're looking for excuses other than talent, execution and coaching for the Eagles' ills this season, injury isn't one of them. The Eagles have been relatively healthy through the first 12 games, although Lane Johnson's 10-game suspension has, in part, crippled the offense.

Eight starters have lost only a combined 16 games to injury. They are defensive tackle Bennie Logan (3), cornerback Leodis McKelvin (3), running back Ryan Mathews (2), tight end Zach Ertz (2), guard Allen Barbre (2), tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (2), guard Brandon Brooks (1) and receiver Jordan Matthews (1).

The Eagles have had to place only one player after the opener on injured reserve - slot cornerback Ron Brooks. Last season, the Eagles had 10 starters sit out a combined 30 games and lost six to injured reserve in the first 12 games.

Tackle Jason Peters and linebackers Jordan Hicks and Mychal Kendricks, who each missed multiple games in 2015, have been sidelined by various injuries over the last several years. There were obvious concerns about their durability heading into this season, but each has played every game.

"We've still got four weeks to go," Hicks said before knocking on some nearby wood. "But I feel great."

Hicks suffered season-ending groin and Achilles tendon injuries while in college. Kendricks' hamstring injury pushed Hicks into the lineup as a rookie last year and he exploded out of the gate. But he tore his pectoral tendon in the eighth game and was done for the season.

He said he knew he had to make some changes this offseason.

"I switched things up in my routine, added a few things," Hicks said. "Doing acupuncture two times a week. Doing massages. Hitting the tub all the time. Eating healthy."

The 24-year-old Hicks hasn't missed a snap to injury. The 34-year-old Peters has missed only 31 out of 836 snaps this season. The eight-time Pro Bowl tackle has said that he hasn't made a decision on whether he's retiring after this year, but there have been locker room rumblings that he plans on returning.

Five questions: Carson Wentz

1. What's the first position you played? Running back and linebacker in fifth grade tackle football. Third grade was the first year I ever played and it was flag football. I was the guy with the ball.

2. What's your favorite football memory? I think it would have to be my junior year wining the national championship game. Just the way it happened. We had a minute, 38 [seconds] left, needed a touchdown, and we went right down and scored. That whole game, the season, was pretty special.

3. Who is the toughest opponent you ever faced? When we faced the Seahawks, they have a plethora of guys over there. Earl Thomas is one of the best safeties I've ever seen. Kam Chancellor is a physical freak. Richard Sherman is a tremendous corner.

4. Who is the best teammate you ever had? [North Dakota State quarterback] Easton Stick last year. Not only was he a good backup, but we we're best of friends. . . . When I got hurt and he took over and I came back, he was just so selfless.

5. What's your least favorite piece of football equipment? I think the mouth guard just because it's annoying, especially when you have to yell plays.

Inside the game

Numbers don't always tell the full story, but in Zach Ertz's case they paint a pretty clear picture. He is on par with other comparable tight ends in terms of catch percentage, but where he has lacked this season is in yards after the catch.

Ertz has pulled in 47 of 67 targeted passes (70.1 percent), while the three other tight ends from the 2013 draft that he's often stacked up against have similar rates - Jordan Reed (59 of 81 for 72.8 pct.), Travis Kelce (65 of 90, 72.2) and Tyler Eifert (23 of 37, 62.2).

But Ertz trails considerably in yards after the catch (2.3 average) - Kelce (6.6), Eifert (6.5) and Reed (4.2). It should be noted that while the other three tight ends have veteran quarterbacks throwing to them, Ertz has had to work with a rookie and within a struggling offense.

Inside the locker room

There was a popping sound during the start of Wednesday's practice that hasn't been heard for very long. Eagles in pads were hitting. It didn't last long, but during a special-teams drill several players went at it until Steven Means trucked Bryan Braman.

"After that they let us know that was too much," Means said. "It was a little over the top."

Special-teams coordinator Dave Fipp added a little extra to a drill that pits the left side of the coverage team against the right, but it wasn't in response to the Eagles' flat performance against the Bengals, Means and Braman said. But the intensity of the hitting may have been.

"Everybody from the outside is looking at us like, 'Oh, they gave up. They're done playing,' " Braman said. "But that's not the way it is."

By the numbers

11

Number of "homegrown" Eagles starters (out of 22). In the rest of the NFC East, the 11-1 Cowboys have 20, the 8-4 New York Giants have 14, and the 6-5-1 Redskins have 12.

Number of "homegrown" Eagles who have played in a Pro Bowl (Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce). The Cowboys have 6, the Giants have 3, and the Redskins have 2.

440

Number of total starts from the Eagles' 11 "homegrown" starters. The Cowboys have 1,007 from their 20, the Giants have 464 from their 14, and the Redskins have 401 from their 12.