PHILADELPHIA - With all hope gone, "next man up" became "look at who we lost" for Doug Pederson on Monday.
And the exclamation point for a 4-10-1 lost season started up front on the offensive line where the attrition started back in June with a second Brandon Brooks' Achilles' injury.
From there it was Andre Dillard's biceps and finally Lane Johnson's troublesome ankle spawning an NFL-record 13 different starting units over 15 games, a number that could turn to 14 in the season finale against the Washington Football Team with Jordan Mailata in the concussion protocol, stemming from an ugly headbutt from Jaylon Smith in a 37-17 setback at Dallas.
"You got to look at the injuries, No. 1, and the amount that's piled up on us and the amount of guys on injured reserve," said Pederson on Monday afternoon. "That, to me, has been one of the biggest things that has affected our football team.
"... You look at the offensive line. Let's just start there. You lose Brandon Brooks in the offseason; Andre Dillard goes down; then Lane and J.P. (Jason Peters), and your entire O-line. Isaac (Seumalo) is out for eight weeks.
"Where are you going to find continuity? How are you going to get continuity there?"
Harping on injuries tends to be viewed as an excuse by many but with his job potentially on the line, and only 60 minutes of meaningless football left (for the Eagles at least) Pederson seemed to want to get the context on the record in case Jeffrey Lurie believes moving down a different path is the way to go.
Realistically, with the NFC East champion likely to finish with seven wins, it is easy to imagine the Eagles getting to .500 with the original plan of Dillard, Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brooks, and Johnson from left to right.
The silver lining to the disaster was valuable reps for young players with upside like Mailata, Nate Herbig, and rookie Jack Driscoll.
The harsh reality, however, is that for the first time in the Pederson-Carson Wentz era the Eagles went from having a top-10 O-Line to a bottom-ten unit and perhaps, that better than anything else, explains the strange regression in Wentz's game before the five-year pro was benched for rookie Jalen Hurts, who will now finish the season as the starting quarterback.
Pederson noted how quickly things change in the NFL and if a player like Kelce pushes off retirement for another season and All-Pro level stalwarts like Brooks and Johnson are backing humming at 100 percent next season, the 2021 Eagles quickly morph into a worst-to-first candidate.
"It's really hard to sit here and say that this team right now currently, factoring in all the injured players, we're going to be the same team," said the coach. "That's just not the case. I think, again, just use the offensive line, for an example, right? You are going to have Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata (at left tackle). You are going to have Isaac, see where Kelce is at.
"You got Brandon Brooks possibly in there as well. Lane Johnson back in there with Jack Driscoll at right tackle. I mean, you look at that and on paper you kind of go, ‘Wow, you got some talented guys, and you got young guys that have had valuable experience playing this year that are going to give you great depth moving forward.'"
And that's why Pederson believes he's part of the solution moving forward.
"I just know that we've got to get back to fundamentals, back to basics," Pederson explained. "Having a missed offseason, we got to get back to that. We got to get back to the teaching of the basics and the fundamentals and having OTAs and having practice and getting back to the things that we've had success here in the past.
"Being smart that way and really leaning on our past just a little bit and those things that have helped us win games and win a championship. That all comes with the offseason moving forward."
Other organizations dealt with COVID-19 and some of the draconian restrictions in a much better way, at least on the field, however, and maybe that's the most disappointing part of the 2020 campaign considering the three NFC East teams who still have something to play for all came into the lost offseason with new coaches.
"We know there will be a lot of decisions to be made moving forward, and that's obviously at a different time," Pederson said. "But I know that we can get back to that, get back to the fundamentals, basics, get back to who we are, start our identity in the offseason, and that's where you build the foundation."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes, and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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