No panic in Philly despite 2-2 start
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A mediocre start won’t force the Philadelphia Eagles to make personnel changes.
Coach Doug Pederson reiterated his confidence in his staff and players as the defending Super Bowl champions get ready for an NFC championship game rematch against the Vikings.
“The sky is not falling. The sun came up today. We’re 2-2,” Pederson said Wednesday. “We’re still in good position, control our own destiny. A lot of football ahead of us and there is no panic.
“As coaches we prepare our players and we prepare them extremely well. We have confidence in all our guys moving forward, and so with that, we just continue to coach and get our guys ready for Sunday.”
The secondary has struggled in a pair of road losses, including a 26-23 defeat at Tennessee in overtime. The Eagles blew a 17-3 lead midway through the third quarter, allowing Marcus Mariota to rally the Titans.
Cornerback Jalen Mills had a tough time and fellow starter Ronald Darby also has had lapses. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is sticking with Mills, a third-year pro who started 18 games last season, as an outside cornerback, and leaving second-year pro Sidney Jones in the slot.
“One of the reasons we had a big parade on Broad Street was Jalen Mills,” Schwartz said Tuesday. “There have been inconsistencies all around, but it’s our job to help him through that. It’s his job to get out of that, and I’m firmly behind Jalen Mills. That guy’s played a lot of good football for us, and he epitomizes a lot of things we’re about defensively: toughness, competitiveness and ability to bounce back. And I’m confident he will.”
Veteran safety Corey Graham made an egregious mistake on fourth-and-15 on the final drive against Tennessee, looking away and allowing a receiver to get behind him for a catch to extend the drive. Graham played every snap in his first start filling in for Rodney McLeod, who had knee surgery. Rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox worked in at safety and Schwartz indicated he could see more time.
“Avonte gives us great range, he’s quick, he’s a smart player,” Schwartz said. “He’s just a little bit inexperienced and each rep he gets he will get better for us.”
Pederson defers defensive decisions to Schwartz.
“He’s the expert on the defensive side,” Pederson said. “He and I have conversations throughout the week. We talk about scheme. We’ll talk about personnel, how we’re using different defensive packages, how we attack a particular offense. We’re constantly talking about things like that even during the game. I listen, and quite frankly, I don’t say a whole lot unless I have to. He’s in charge there and he’s done a great job. His scheme is sound and we just continue to coach our players and get them prepared.”
Notes: DE Derek Barnett (shoulder), RB Corey Clement (quadricep), DT Fletcher Cox (ankle), WR Alshon Jeffery (chest) and RB Darren Sproles (hamstring) missed practice. LT Jason Peters (quadricep) was limited. ... Sproles has missed three straight games and Clement sat out one.