Good morning. The Eagles return to work today to begin preparing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after having the weekend off. The players will be available to reporters this afternoon, although there are no scheduled news conferences. Doug Pederson speaks next on Wednesday.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. If your friends haven't subscribed to Early Birds, it's free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.

— Zach Berman

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (left) and head coach Doug Pederson during training camp last month.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (left) and head coach Doug Pederson during training camp last month.

Eagles-Buccaneers might be tougher than it seemed

When the Eagles begin preparing for Week 2, "48" will capture their attention. That's how many points the Tampa Bay Buccaneers scored in a 48-40 Week 1 win over New Orleans. It was an impressive victory by the Bucs, who are playing with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The veteran passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 36 yards and a score.

Each week is different, and the Eagles defense impressed in Week 1 against Atlanta's formidable weapons. But the Bucs have firepower of their own, especially at wide receiver. Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, and Chris Godwin form an impressive top three. (Jackson, the former Eagle, suffered a concussion on Sunday.) All three reached the end zone against the Saints. Add in Adam Humphries and tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will need a good game from his players this weekend.

The good news for the Eagles is they have their best secondary in years. This will be an important week for the Eagles' safeties — especially Rodney McLeod, who's in charge of deep coverage. Plus, the Eagles' pass rush will be a major factor. I still expect the Eagles to win this game and I don't think Fitzpatrick has the success against the Eagles that he had on Sunday. But the Bucs were one of the NFL's biggest stories in Week 1 — the Saints entered the season as a popular Super Bowl pick — and their success will capture the Eagles' attention.

Linebackers impress Doug Pederson

What stood out to Eagles coach Doug Pederson when he re-watched the film of the Eagles' 18-12 win over Atlanta? The first thing Pederson mentioned was the play of young linebackers Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill, who took on bigger roles last Thursday with Nigel Bradham suspended.

"Kamu on the fourth and goal did a nice job, and for a tackle for loss there. And Nate almost had the tip, almost the interception, and of course both those guys play special teams," Pederson said. "I thought [those were] two young players that really stepped up and played well, [that] was a bright spot."

Pederson also liked how his offensive and defensive lines played. The offensive line was a big part of the second-half success on the ground. (So was handing the ball to Jay Ajayi.)

DeAndre Carter’s playing time

When reviewing how the playing time was distributed in the season opener, you'll notice that DeAndre Carter took 53 offensive snaps (74 percent) and Dallas Goedert took only 17 offensive snaps (24 percent). Going into the game, it seemed Goedert might play a bigger role with the Eagles missing two of their top four wide receivers. But the Eagles wanted to play more three-receiver sets, and Carter had the nod over Markus Wheaton and Shelton Gibson because he plays the slot.

"We moved Nelson [Agholor] outside a little bit more in this game, which allowed for DeAndre to play," Pederson said. "And then we put DeAndre at the point where he was having to block safeties and — he does a nice job there. It was a little bit by scheme, but also the way the game kind of played out."

As for Goedert, look for his role to grow as the season progresses, especially in the red zone. The Eagles made three red-zone trips on Thursday.

DeAndre Carter saw plenty of snaps on Thursday vs. the Falcons.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
DeAndre Carter saw plenty of snaps on Thursday vs. the Falcons.

What you need to know about the Eagles

From the mailbag

I don't think it would be either/or, but if it was down to those two, my guess is the cornerback who will be 25 in 2019 would be more of a priority than the defensive end who will be 31 in 2019. I've said throughout the offseason that I thought Ronald Darby would have a big season. He has a lot of talent, and I don't think 2017 was an accurate representation of the type of player he is. But I also think he'll put himself in position to earn a big contract, and the Eagles are going to have some tough decisions to make. The first priority should be signing Carson Wentz to a contract extension, even though he's under contract through 2019 with a fifth-year option in 2020. Then there are other key players such as Jordan Hicks and Jay Ajayi who are also pending free agents. The Eagles have a lot of depth at cornerback, so they need to figure out what price they're willing to pay for Darby. But I'd try to keep him; he's a high-level cornerback who is so young. And I don't think they'll need to choose between Darby and Brandon Graham, but the Graham contract could come down to how much the Eagles value a defensive end that late in his career and what Graham would command on the open market. I think the Eagles can find a deal that works for both sides, but the price must factor in his age and experience.