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Offense Needs Work, But No Time To Panic
August 18, 2017 06:25 PM | Dave Spadaro
Nobody is pretending that the Eagles' offense is humming like a high-octane automobile. The players and coaches are experiencing some frustrating moments in preseason games and they have wrinkles to iron out and they know that a lot of work needs to be done before the regular season opens on September 10 against Washington.

But there is no panic.

"It's the preseason and things aren't always going to go your way right now," tackle Lane Johnson said. "We're working on a lot of things just to get certain looks. When we have to line up and play and the games count in the standings, we're going to be ready."

To get to that point, the Eagles know they have to start with a running game that has been punchless in the preseason to date. To be fair, the Eagles aren't running anything with a game plan in mind, and they haven't suited up Wendell Smallwood or Darren Sproles, and the projected starting offensive line has yet to play together.

But still ...

"Obviously we have a lot to improve on," running back LeGarrette Blount said. "We have a lot of corrections to make. It's not going as smoothly as any of us want it to go. But like I said, it's the preseason. We are still in camp. This is the time to make the corrections and not take it over into the regular season so we are going to work on it."

The Eagles think they're going to be a good running team. They have a talented and experienced offensive line and they have versatility in the backfield with the burst of Smallwood, the power of Blount, and the all-around elusiveness of Sproles leading the way.

Head coach Doug Pederson wants to get everything rolling with the running game and then use play-action passing to gash defenses. The strategy worked at times last season, but the lack of weapons hurt the Eagles in the four-minute offense where they lost at least a couple of games late (in Detroit, in Dallas) when they had leads and couldn't convert on third downs.

Against Buffalo on Thursday night, the Eagles failed on their first nine third-down attempts before converting with quarterback Dane Evans at the helm.

"I know these guys are working hard, and I've seen what they've done in practice," Pederson said after Thursday's win. "Again, you know, it's a mindset. The run game is a mindset, it's a mentality, and it takes 11 guys to do it. We do so much run-throw combinations that we even did tonight, that if the run's not there, we're going to throw it to the perimeter. So we had those combinations tonight, and sometimes it gets kind of mistaken for a lot of throws when actually it's a run called and it ends up being - what we call - an advantage throw to the perimeter. So, you know, it's our Training Camp stuff. But I'm not concerned with where we're at right now.

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"It (preseason struggles) could be a lot of reasons. One, we don't game plan these games. We try to just rep our Training Camp plays. We're trying to see and evaluate our players still. (We're) trying to put them in the best possible situations. You know, sometimes, too, guys know there are a limited number of reps, so they expect a certain, maybe a certain style, and if it's not there, it's hard to get into the flow of the game."

The Eagles open at Washington on September 10. Between now and then, the preseason priorities remain in place:

> Stay healthy. The Eagles host Miami for a couple of days of practices this week before playing the Dolphins on Thursday night. Preseason Game No. 3 is historically when the starters play the longest, with everyone holding their breath hoping the players don't go down with injuries.

> Continue to evaluate the players individually to find the best 53-man roster.

> Get better on the field in game situations.

There is no sense of "it's back to the drawing board time" for the Eagles, but there is an understanding that the offense, which figured to be ahead of the defense when camp opened, has yet to click. The next couple of weeks of practice will be critical.

The Eagles need to start fast offensively with games at Washington and at Kansas City opening the season.

"Was the performance great? By no means," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "It was definitely not where we want to be, but I definitely don't have doubts. We have the right guys. We have the right team. We just have to put it together."

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