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Eagles training camp: Doug Pederson praises three rookie players

The Eagles coach is impressed with some of the team's draft picks.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday, the Eagles wrapped up their first three days of training camp practice where only quarterbacks, rookies, and select veterans were participating. The pads haven't come on yet and practices have been somewhat limited due to lacking the full roster, but some players have still made an early good impression. Doug Pederson praised three of the Eagles' 2016 NFL Draft picks after practice on Wednesday.

First up, fifth round running back Wendell Smallwood.

I was excited when we drafted him. I was excited during rookie camp when we had him in here, the entire offseason program, and he came back ready to go in a great frame of mind. He’s going to put himself in a position, I'm hoping, to help us this season. I think he's that good.

Excellent route runner, good hands, patient runner, and I love the fact that he's kind of a one-cut, no-nonsense type guy. He's a downhill guy but fast enough to separate and create some long runs. So I'm excited, again, once we start getting into pads, protection, how well can he protect? A lot of backs in college that come to this level, that's something that they've got to learn extremely fast.

The Eagles reportedly believe Smallwood can eventually be a feature running back for them. They might need to rely on him sooner than later. Injury-prone veteran Ryan Mathews is already dealing with an ankle issue prior to the beginning of full team practices. Pederson said he believes Smallwood can help the Eagles this season, but he also mentioned Smallwood's weakness: pass protection. The rookie rusher will need to prove he can hold up as a blocker in order to earn more playing time.

Rookie cornerback Jalen Mills has earned a lot of praise from reporters pointing out how good he's been in practices so far. Pederson also likes what he's seen out of the Green Goblin.

Doing a great job. He's a physical guy, he moves well, he's sharp. He's learning Coach [Jim] Schwartz's system back there and he's putting himself in a position to help us tremendously. I love the work these guys do in shorts and helmets, but sometimes, once you get the pads on, it becomes a different animal.

Once we get into camp a week or so and the volume starts to increase just a little bit, we'll see exactly where these kids are. But right now I love where he's at. I love his attention to detail, his aggression, and he's making plays.

Including spring practices, Mills has made a lot of plays on the ball this offseason. The big test for him, as Pederson notes, will come when the pads go on.

Last, but not least, Pederson praised seventh round rookie linebacker Joe Walker. Pederson's praise of Walker was interesting because unlike Mills and Smallwood, he was not specifically asked about him. Rather, Pederson was asked about how he feels about the team's linebacker depth in the wake of the Nigel Bradham incident.

It's good. I love the fact that we've got the three starters coming in. Of course we mentioned Nigel [Bradham]; and Jordan Hicks is coming back healthy and ready to go; and Mychal Kendricks; and then I'll tell you, Joe Walker has done a great job for us this offseason and he's going to put himself in a position to be a solid backup. We’ve got some young guys there, but at the same time we're going to continue to monitor that position and just watch and see and keep upgrading if we can.

But right now, very pleased with the work that these guys have done in the offseason, what the rookies have shown these last three days, and just looking forward to putting the pads on.

Unprompted praise is typically a good sign for a player. Walker took a lot of second team middle linebacker reps in the spring. The athletic rookie from Oregon will have a chance to contribute this year as a special teams player and a backup linebacker.


Watch Pederson's entire Wendesday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page.

More quotes from Pederson's press conference can be found in the transcript below.

Q. Why did you feel the need to talk to Bradham right away, whereas with the Agholor allegations a few weeks ago, you chose not to speak with him immediately?

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, Nelson was at the end of OTAs and [the players] were kind of scattered at that point. Nigel was actually flying back into town, and I was here in the building last night, so it just worked out that we could get together.

Q. What's your philosophy on off-field issues? Do you handle it personally or do you wait for the league?

DOUG PEDERSON: Obviously, it's case-by-case. I think it just depends on the severity. Until I can get all the information and us here at the Eagles can get all the information, then we'll make a decision at that point. But up until that point, we'll continue to play football and move forward.

Q. You took some fliers on kids in the draft who had off-the-field issues and you’ve now had two of your players get involved in situations this offseason. What is your philosophy on signing players and bringing guys in here that may have some checkered pasts?

DOUG PEDERSON: Well, again, those are things you research before signing those guys, and then a lot of places are different. Different cultures, different cities, different organizations. I just know this, when they come to the Philadelphia Eagles, there's an expectation level that needs to be upheld, and it starts with me. I have to be very clear from where I stand with the players and the coaches for that matter, and make sure they understand. Again, once they leave the facility, you know, they're citizens, but at the same time they understand that the players represent their families, the Philadelphia Eagles and the entire organization.

Q. Did Bradham’s situation, did that impact at all the decision to release LB Travis Long?

DOUG PEDERSON: Not at all. Not at all. No.

Q. What went into the decision to release Long?

DOUG PEDERSON: Travis had a situation here where [we wanted to give] him an opportunity now to catch on with another football team. Obviously, sometimes it comes down to numbers and roster spots, and he's 100 percent healthy, ready to go, and [we] just felt like now was the time with this decision to allow him to catch on with another football team.

Q. There was a report that you had interest in WR Anquan Boldin. What was your level of interest there?

DOUG PEDERSON: There was a little interest there. With [Eagles executive vice president of football operations] Howie [Roseman] and [Eagles vice president of player personnel] Joe [Douglas] and the guys, we're continuing to always see about upgrading every position, and he was on the list, obviously. Basically that's where it's at. Nothing has gone forward with that. We're monitoring every roster, every free agent that's out there, and if we can help our team somehow, some way, we'll do it, but right now there's nothing, nothing in the works.

Q. In light of your knowledge now of the headset rule, will you change how you call plays and direct them to the quarterback?

DOUG PEDERSON: If that’s the direction I go, then yes, I will. I’ll have the third channel where I can communicate with the quarterbacks. That’s something I’m still kind of mulling over just a little bit. Besides my game day duties, still calling the plays, but whether I go through [offensive coordinator] Frank [Reich] to call it to the quarterback or if I go directly to the quarterback …

Q. So you're still not saying …

DOUG PEDERSON: On that part of it, because there's other -- with the game management situations and time management and just managing your roster and the trainers and substitutions and everything, there's a lot involved. But I'm still working through that. We'll see where that ends up.

Q. You had a defensive back wearing a helmet cam today. Talk about what went into that.

DOUG PEDERSON: Technology, you can't stay up fast enough with it. Those are great devices to have. In fact, we used them in the Kansas City with the quarterbacks. We've had them on their helmets before. It gives you an opportunity to kind of see from the players' vantage point where they're looking, where their eyes are. Are they in the right direction? Are they on the right reads? And defensively are [they] in the right spots? And then you can evaluate and help correct the player.

I know it's great with quarterbacks because you definitely get that perspective on where he's looking. Obviously you can't tell who he's looking at, but you can tell the direction of where they’re looking. You get great feedback with that kind of technology.

Q. Would you expand it to quarterbacks?

DOUG PEDERSON: I think so. We'll take a look at the tape here today and see how … I know this with my experience with helmet cams, sometimes they can get real jumpy because a player is moving at a high rate of speed so it can get kind of jumpy and a little nauseating at times. But if it looks like it's a tool that we can use and help develop young players, I'm all for that kind of technology, yeah.

Q. What have you done differently or what do you plan to do differently from Andy Reid in terms of how you run training camp?

DOUG PEDERSON: I'll tell you this: This schedule that we're about to partake for training camp, it took this team to many NFC Championship games, it took them to the Super Bowl, and it's won a ton of games. My feeling on it, I went through it as a player in Green Bay with Mike Holmgren, went through it as a player with Coach Reid in 1999 and then obviously back a couple years ago, so this schedule is proven. With the rules now, with practicing one time a day and all of that, it allows the players to get plenty of rest in the afternoon, so there won't be much change. The only thing I'll do probably a little different is about every third or fourth day, go ahead the take the pads off and give the players a little break at that time.

Q. Would you be fine with LB Najee Goode being the only veteran backup at that position?
DOUG PEDERSON: If you had to go into the season that way, yeah, I'm comfortable with him. Would you like to continue to have more depth at that position and at any position? Sure. But yeah, I'm very comfortable with him.

Q. Do you see that 90th spot that's now open going to a linebacker?

DOUG PEDERSON: There's a chance. There's a chance it could go to that spot, yes.

Q. When you were a player and you were watching tape, did you ever wish you could see a play from a certain perspective that guys now have?

DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, because we always had just the tower cameras and the sideline cameras. We just had two angles. But now you can get all the way down to eye level. With all the 3D and the high definition and the cameras for 7-on-7s you can put right over the football and you can see a panoramic view has really changed how you can study defenses and study tape. The thing is, too, with technology, if it helps you win football games, I'm all for it.

Q. What are the requirements for tomorrow morning’s conditioning run?

DOUG PEDERSON: There will be a conditioning test tomorrow, just pass/fail. … What we've done in the past is -- here now it’s different than what I've done in the past. It's two different sets of 10 sprints for time, and it's different lengths. It's like 40, 50, 60, big guys, middle weights, light weights-type-thing, and it's all time and it's just a pass/fail just to see where they're at and see what they've done for the last six weeks.

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