Reporters' Notebook

Doug Pederson perfect for Eagles; realities of London expansion

With Week 5 of the NFL season upon us,'s network of reporters gets you up to speed with the hottest news and notes from across the league, including:

But first, why Doug Pederson is proving to be exactly the coach Philadelphia needs right now ...

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In 1864, they began minting U.S. coins in Philadelphia with the phrase, "In God We Trust."

A little more than a century and a half later, some rowdy Eagles fans put their own spin on it as their team was headed onto the field for the battle of Pennsylvania two weeks ago.

"In Doug we trust," they chanted.

Doug Pederson heard them and shook his head.

"I was like, 'Oh my gosh, here we go,' " Pederson told earlier this week, as he prepared to get his 3-0 team ready for a post-bye week matchup with the Lions in Detroit. "It's one of those things. You know how it is in Philadelphia. When times are good, it's a great place. And when times are bad, they're going to be screaming for your ass."

Pederson has experienced both ends of the city's passion, beginning with his stint as a seat-warmer for No. 2 overall pick Donovan McNabb in 1999. The veteran quarterback heard the boos on his way to a 2-7 start before then-coach Andy Reid turned the team over to McNabb.

Now, for all of the talk and hype about this year's second overall selection, Carson Wentz, the lesser-told story is the much better start Pederson is having in Philly this time around.

A rookie head coach many tabbed as a Reid clone -- Pederson was on Reid's staff in Philadelphia from 2009 to 2012 and was Reid's offensive coordinator in Kansas City from 2013 to 2015 -- is proving to be so much more than that. His calm, confident demeanor, combined with his aggressive in-game decisions and his bold move to start Wentz right away despite Wentz's limited experience, have the fans chanting his praises. Folks across the league are also talking about how well Pederson has handled his locker room and put Wentz in a position to succeed.

Though maybe the most impressive part of Pederson's debut is the fact that he's accomplished these feats despite the passing of his father a little more than a week before the start of the regular season.

"We'd just finished preseason on Thursday, and then my dad passes away on Friday, and we're right in the middle of the Sam Bradford trade, and I'm dealing with all kinds of emotions -- 'Is it going to be Carson or backup] [Chase Daniel to play?' " Pederson said. "Obviously, that next week, it was a little bit of a distraction for me personally, just dealing with the loss of my dad, but it's settled down now."

Players and staff members said Pederson never let his grieving affect the team's preparation. Even though he was extremely close to his father, who was his first football coach and biggest supporter through high school and beyond, Pederson maintained a business-like approach at the team's facility. This past weekend, during the team's bye, Pederson and his family finally held a memorial service for Gordon Pederson.

"Getting some closure Saturday, it's behind us. He'll be missed," Pederson said. "And he'd love to be watching some of these games, that's for sure."

The first of the Eagles' games this season was a 29-10 win over the Browns. It was a solid victory, though not unexpected. The 29-14 win in Chicago the following week raised a few more eyebrows. But it was the 34-3 thrashing of the Steelers in Week 3 that took Pederson's debut season to a new level.

The Eagles are now contenders. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich was standing in the locker room after the win over Pittsburgh, talking about Wentz and saying it's harder to handle success than adversity in this league. The same goes for the team as a whole, and Pederson was quick to tell them during his postgame speech they have a long way to go. Of course, he also reminded them what he told them in the spring, which is they're a good team. They just needed to believe it.

Pederson also did something else in the spring. He introduced a new, more relaxed environment at the NovaCare Facility.

It's no secret the players didn't have warm, fuzzy feelings for Pederson's predecessor, Chip Kelly. So in came Pederson, who spent 10 seasons as a quarterback with the Dolphins, Packers, Eagles and Browns, and whose interactions with Daniel (whom he'd coached in Kansas City) were as cordial as if they were teammates. Players noticed that. They also noticed how Pederson allowed long snapper Jon Dorenbos to appear on the TV show "America's Got Talent" into the season after Kelly had bristled when players missed optional workouts. They saw how Pederson would sit with them at lunch and elsewhere, how he'd joke with them on the field and how relaxed he made them.

"Sometimes I'll just walk by him and say, 'What's up, Doug?' and I'll stop and think, 'Did I just call my coach by his first name?' " wide receiver Jordan Matthews said. "I've never done that before."

None of this is to say Kelly's approach was the wrong one, or that coaches should be less like authority figures and more like friends. It's just that, for the Eagles right now, Pederson's personality was the one they needed. He's going for it on fourth-and-4 from the Browns' 40, knowing Cleveland's defense would be coming hard after his rookie quarterback. He's telling them he doesn't need to baby them off the field (though linebacker Nigel Bradham's arrest for carrying a loaded gun through an airport last weekend will test Pederson's disciplinary policy). He's letting them do their jobs.

"He doesn't try to step on anybody. He knows he's the man in charge and will get the credit and the blame, good or bad," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "But he lets people be who they are and doesn't try to do anything else."

Pederson, who spoke to before Bradham's arrest was reported, said he uses team meetings to remind the players he's the boss. That's when he'll be at his sternest. As for the calm demeanor he's displayed on the sideline, he said calling plays helps in that regard, just as he hoped it would.

In fact, a lot has gone as planned, even if the surrounding circumstances -- his father's passing, the trade of veteran QB Bradford to the Vikings and starting Wentz -- haven't.

"I felt really good sitting back, looking at the big picture and everything last week," he said. "I felt comfortable, and I'm gonna continue the same things moving forward."

And now, the rest of this week's notes from's reporters:

BUFFALO BILLS: Shady heating up.A week ago in Orchard Park, Bills running back LeSean McCoy told me he liked the I-formation because it helps his vision. He can make more split-second choices out of it. In the last two weeks, McCoy has rushed for 180 yards and two TDs on 36 carries; he's added 44 yards and a TD on nine catches.

Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who replaced the fired Greg Roman after the team fell to 0-2 in Week 2, is also calling more Wildcat/run-option plays, utilizing the speed of McCoy and quarterback Tyrod Taylor and getting the ball into McCoy's hands more quickly.

"I think [we have] the option with the quarterback runs, with me and Tyrod making the defense ... 'pick me or pick him,' and that helps out," McCoy said. "I think, more and more, I'm getting better and better. Next time I look up, we should be in that top-five running game."

When they travel to play the Ramsin Los Angeles on Sunday, the Bills will try to win a third consecutive game in the same season for the first time since 2011, when they jumped out to a 3-0 start.

How does Rex like Aaron Donald now? Two years ago, when he was coaching the Jets, Rex Ryan stood at the podium in the Jets' media room and expressed displeasure that his guy, Sheldon Richardson, did not make the Pro Bowl. Rams rookie Aaron Donald did.

"That guy can't hold his jock as a player," Ryan said then. He did not mention Donald by name, but Rex was left scrambling this week on a conference call with Rams media.

"I've made a lot of dumb comments in my days," Ryan said. "That's probably right up there at the top."

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INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Irsay on potential London expansion. I covered Colts-Jaguars in London this past week and witnessed first-hand the ongoing effort to make the NFL global. There are NFL fans there that are both passionate and knowledgeable about whichever team they have chosen to root for. That fan base obviously wants more games in London and, eventually, a franchise.

A day before the game, Colts owner Jim Irsay told a small group of us after an event in central London that he expects a franchise in London before 2025. He then laid out what needs to be done to make that happen. First, the right owner needs to be put in place -- and, as a fellow owner, it's up to him to ensure that happens. The owner must be someone who understands the NFL but also can capitalize on the untapped fan and endorsement market overseas. Irsay believes that owner will have to take a risk with a large amount of money -- several billion dollars -- but can almost double the value of that franchise within a decade.

Secondly, Irsay said he has talked to several engineers within the aviation industry about possible future advancements in air travel, stating that we could eventually see aircraft capable of going from New York to London as quickly as the supersonic Concorde once did, if not more quickly. Irsay said he's been told major advancements are on the way that could make the back-and-forth transportation much faster and more convenient.

The league is monitoring other tests as games continue to be played in London. For instance, the NFL is keeping an eye on how the Colts react this week with their matchup against the Bears on Sunday. Indianapolis is the first team to play a game in London and not have a bye the following week since games were first played there in 2007 (the Jaguars have their bye this week). The league will also look at how the Rams handle their trip in two weeks. L.A. will leave directly for London from its Week 6 road game in Detroit and practice in London for the week leading into the matchup with the Giants at Twickenham Stadium.

Adding a second London venue -- until this point, London games have all been played at Wembely Stadium -- will also be subject to ongoing evaluation, as the NFL agreed with the Rugby Football Union to a minimum of three regular-season games to be played at Twickenham over the next three years.

Even the smallest issues are discussed. How do you deal with trying to sign a midseason free agent who doesn't have a passport? Do you make passport registration mandatory at the NFL Scouting Combine moving forward? Do free agents want to play in a market with such a different tax structure? How do you work out street free agents on a daily basis? Everyone I talked to universally agreed a U.S. base would have to be created, with the team employing a stateside general manager and personnel-director in addition to having someone serve in those roles abroad.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: Gronk is only worried about 'real' football. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has spent the first four weeks held back by an injured hamstring and a Tom Brady-less Patriots passing offense that ranks 28th in the league. A month into the season, he's caught one pass.

And his fantasy owners have let him know about it.

"I can't even go to the grocery store without getting yelled at," Gronk said Wednesday. "But I'm like, 'Why did you draft me then, baby?' "

Gronk's pass-catching prospects figure to improve with the return of Brady on Sunday in Cleveland, and with what he describes as continual improvement in his hamstring.

As for those fantasy folks ...

"What do I have to say?" he said. "Oh man. I mean, it's real football. ... If we get the W and I have no catches, I'm satisfied, man, no matter what."

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NEW YORK GIANTS: Trouble with turnovers. For the last couple of seasons, the Giants have believed their offense should regularly be scoring in the 28-points-per-game range. Last year, they ranked sixth overall at 26.2 points per game.

Through four games this season, the Giants aren't even close. They rank 27th in scoring with 18.2 points per game, and have eclipsed 20 points just once. This from an offense that has plenty of weapons and has moved the ball well. The Giants average 382.2 yards per game, ranking sixth.

What gives? Turnovers, nine in four games.

"We've got to hold on to the ball," quarterback Eli Manning said, "and we just have to finish the drives."

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NEW YORK JETS: Fitzpatrick feeling confident despite rough start. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown 10 interceptions, including nine in the past two games. He's not been spared in the red zone, where his three interceptions lead the NFL. In his magical 2015 season, when he set a Jets franchise record with 31 TD passes, he was picked off in the red zone just once.

Fitzpatrick bet on himself in July, signing a one-year, $12 million contract. This week, he voiced confidence that he can lead the Jets back from their 1-3 start: "Through all of my experiences and all the things I've been through in my career, I know I'm the right guy to get this headed in the right direction."

His self-assessment was shorter. "I know I've got to play better."

At some point, if Fitzpatrick does continue to falter, coach Todd Bowles will be asked directly about playing (or not playing) backup Geno Smith. Bowles said Fitzpatrick will not be on a short leash this Sunday at Pittsburgh. "Ryan's fine," he said.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS: Plugging holes on the line. With the Steelers opening the week down four offensive linemen, two of whom are tackles, All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey moved himself outside to take practice reps at right tackle.

How did he look?

"He looked like a center," left guard Ramon Foster said, shaking his head.

On the good-news front, Foster -- who was pulled two weeks ago with a chest injury and missed last week -- has practiced fully and reports no pain. He said he expected to play. (Pouncey, not knowing what Foster said of him, said his linemate would "definitely, 100 percent" play: "He's built tough. Plus, he's one of my best friends and I need him out there.")

Cody Wallace, who is the top reserve at guard, is definitely out. Neither starting right tackle Marcus Gilbert nor his backup Ryan Harris has practiced this week, making both -- in head coach Mike Tomlin's phrasing -- "highly" questionable.

And so, Pouncey again practiced at right tackle some Thursday. He doesn't truly expect to play there; Chris Hubbardwill man that spot, and these practice reps are just in case of emergency. And if that emergency comes, offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Foster's initial assessment doesn't matter.

"I'd put my money," Haley said, "on anything Pouncey does."

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