I don’t really do “hot takes,” not because I don’t have strong opinions, but because if you just say shit to say shit, you eventually become the next Skip Bayless and people stop taking you seriously. It’s just noise for the sake of noise and the act becomes tiring, unless you’re 100% right about everything, which no one is.
That said, Doug Pederson’s Monday press conference got me somewhat riled up, because he provided two iffy quotes on the topic of running the football and the decision to bench Stefen Wisniewski for Isaac Seumalo.
Today Pederson was asked if he agreed with Jay Ajayi’s assertion that the Eagles are a good running team and should try to establish the ground game early:
“Yeah, I mean, yeah, I do. If we’re having success running the football, sometimes we continue to run the football. I look at the beginning of the second half, I think there were seven runs in that drive and we ended up turning it over. Look, it’s definitely a fine line, you’d love to have balance, we just got in a situation where we fell behind. Even in the third quarter it was 20-3 and we were working ourselves back. So I love to run the football and I think our guys are good at it. We’ve been successful at it. But at the same time, we can’t get behind in football games because sometimes the running game won’t allow you to get back fast enough.”
“First play of the game was an RPO. It was a run. It was a called RPO, it was a run/pass option and we elected to throw it. So that’s 50/50 run pass. Then second down was a shot play and we were at 3rd and 7. So we only had six plays in the first quarter. It just goes back to what I said this past week, we have to figure out how to start plays faster, stay on the field longer, and generate points early. If you go back to our history, times we’ve had success, we’ve been able to score on opening drives, get the lead early, which allows for your running game to really take over, play-action pass, all of that. That’s one of the ingredients that’s missing right now.”
Look, Doug is right when he points out that third quarter drive featured a heavy chunk of running. They went run/run/pass/run/run/pass/pass/run/fumble, with the 7th running play he mentions actually getting wiped out due to an illegal formation penalty, one of two on the afternoon.
After that fumble, they threw passes on 15 of their next 17 plays, so they essentially had to abandon the ground game after the Ajayi mistake.
I get that, and I don’t dispute that, but as I pointed out this morning in the takeaways column, Doug just didn’t try to establish the run game early. And yes, they did fall behind, but this was a 3-0 and 10-3 game during 29 of the first 30 minutes, almost the entirety of the first half. Adam Thielen didn’t score to make it 17-3 until something like 25 seconds before halftime and Doug only ran the ball four times during that span.
Looking over my notes again, that’s what I’ve got – four runs on 18 snaps, five if you want to count the opening play RPO, which Wentz pulled out and threw instead of handing the ball off:
Sorry for the crappy hand writing.
That’s my beef with Doug here. I understand that it wasn’t feasible to run the ball after the Ajayi fumble because time was running out and they were down by two scores, but they just didn’t even look to establish the run game early. One of those runs was a pitch to Josh Adams, of all people. On the second drive, they went under-center with play action on first down, then went under-center with a run on second down, which feels like it should be reversed. I also don’t remember writing down “RPO” in my second-half notes unless I got lazy and/or distracted on Twitter.
As for Wisniewski, he tweeted this out a few hours ago:
Even though I wasnt playing bad I got benched last week.Its frustrating,but no matter what I will praise Jesus and will trust that He is in control and is good.I will believe that“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all”
— Stefen Wisniewski (@stefenwiz61) October 8, 2018
And he said this on Sunday night after the game:
Wisniewski: “I’m going to be honest. I’ve been playing pretty well. I really don’t think that was it. I have some theories, but I’m not going to share those publicly.
…It’s frustrating. If I wasn’t a Christian, I’d probably be losing my mind."
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) October 8, 2018
Here’s what Pederson had to say about benching Wis:
“As a staff sometimes you evaluate all of your players, and if you need to make a change, you make a change. We felt comfortable with Isaac making the start this week.
I have no idea what the other theory would be, because everything in this business is performance-based.”
Doug went on to say that he doesn’t feel any pressure to play high draft picks, which is one of the narratives going around here, the idea that Seumalo is on the field to justify his third round selection. Pederson also said the offensive staff felt comfortable with Seumalo in all five line positions, in response to a question about his new left guard playing center almost exclusively in training camp.
My theory is this:
The Eagles have never been that high on Wisniewski.
Is that bullshit?
I don’t know, but it just feels that way. He was a free agent signing in 2016 and not some highly-valued draft pick. They put him through the ringer with that ridiculous left guard rotation last year, when it was clear to EVERYONE that Wis was better than Chance Warmack. It’s almost as if they’ve been pulling for him to lose the job, when the fact is that Wis has been more than steady at left guard over the past 10 or 11 months. He is not the reason the offensive line is playing poorly. If anything, the tackles have been worse than the interior linemen, but you understand the optics of benching Lane Johnson or Jason Peters, right? You’re not benching Jason Kelce or Pro Bowler Brandon Brooks, are you?
Smells like they needed to make a scapegoat out of somebody, and Stef Wisniewski was the easiest choice.
That’s my hot take. That’s my conspiracy theory.