Eagles stuck between being division leaders and a youth movement

Dave Zangaro
·4 min read

Eagles stuck between being division leaders and a youth movement originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Jason Peters is 38. He has no future here.

Alshon Jeffery is 30. He has no future here.

But if you thought that maybe the Eagles would prioritize a youth movement over playing their aging veterans, then Doug Pederson crushed your dreams within the span of 15 minutes during his Monday afternoon press conference.

Because Peters is staying at left tackle. And Jeffery’s snaps are going to increase.

The Eagles, at 3-5-1, are in a position no team this bad has ever been in: In first place after 10 games. And that’s creating some natural strain. Because on one hand, the Eagles are a bad football team and they should prioritize getting their younger players more experience. On the other, Pederson is trying to win the division and he’s playing the guys he thinks give them the best shot.

Let’s start with Jeffery. The Eagles were stuck with the veteran receiver in 2020 after Howie Roseman foolishly decided to guarantee his contract. They wanted to trade him but — shocker! — there were no takers. Jeffery was a waste of a roster spot for the first eight weeks of the season but finally made his debut on Sunday.

Jeffery played 18 snaps against the Giants. At least on Sunday, the Eagles were able to play Jeffery without taking away too much playing time from Travis Fulgham, Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward Jr., but then Pederson said this:

“I think moving forward, we know that Alshon is healthy and he’s going and I know his playtime will increase probably each week,” Pederson said.

What!? Why?

On Sunday, Jeffery’s snaps cut into John Hightower’s playing time, which is somewhat understandable. Hightower hasn’t played particularly well. But still … he’s a rookie and, even though he was a fifth-rounder, the Eagles really liked him. So they’d really rather have Jeffery out there. That’s where this whole theme of internal strain comes in. Because, sure, Jeffery is a better player right now. But who cares?

And if Jeffery really starts to cut into the snaps of the other three, then that’s absolutely coaching malpractice.

Then there’s Peters, to whom the Eagles organization has shown undying loyalty.

Without Isaac Seumalo and Nate Herbig on Sunday, the Eagles were forced to start Sua Opeta and Matt Pryor at the guard positions and it didn’t go well. Both were liabilities. But on Monday, when Pederson was asked if he thought about playing Peters at guard and putting Jordan Mailata back at left tackle, Pederson answered with a flat, “No.”

Why not?

“Because we felt like Jason Peters has settled in there at left tackle, he’s done a nice job for us,” Pederson said. “He actually played really well for us yesterday. He was explosive coming off the ball. Even in previous weeks. I kind of addressed this last week or whenever it was with Mailata, but we just felt this was the best five going into this game.”

OK, fine. I actually agree that Peters played a pretty solid game against the Giants. He played every snap and gave up just two total pressures. He is simply better than Mailata right now. But I really question if the gap between Peters and Mailata is worth keeping a young and intriguing player off the field.

And are we really sure Sunday’s lineup (Peters, Opeta, Kelce, Pryor, Johnson) was better than the alternative (Mailata, Opeta, Kelce, Peters, Johnson)? Because I’m not.

Even if the Eagles technically had their best lineup out there on Sunday, it didn’t matter. The line was still bad and the Eagles managed to score just 17 points.

The problem is despite that awful performance, the Eagles remained in first place in the NFC East. And no matter what happens in Cleveland this coming week, they’re going to stay in first place heading into Week 12.

See, there’s some delusion that comes with playing in the NFC East this year if you’re the Eagles. And it’s the same delusion that has been fueled by sneaking into the playoffs in the two previous years.

Are the Eagles slightly better with Jeffery and Peters having big roles in the final seven games of the season? Maybe.

Is it worth it? No way.

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