Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson held a press conference on Tuesday and touched on a number of different topics.
Pederson was specifically asked about the team’s quarterback situation.
Q. Just to be clear, Foles is your starting quarterback going forward for the first playoff game?
COACH PEDERSON: Yes.
Some will think it’s crazy that Pederson was even asked that question, but it really isn’t considering how much Foles has struggled in the past two games. He’s been horrendous.
Unlike Foles, Nate Sudfeld actually looked competent in Week 17. He showed actual traits you can hang your hat on: mobility, arm strength, decisiveness, able to catch a shotgun snap, etc.
Still, it’s not surprising that the Eagles are sticking with Foles due to his starting experience in the league. The coaching staff clearly trusts him more than the second-year Sudfeld right now.
But Pederson did not entirely rule out benching Foles.
Q. If Nick doesn’t play any better say for a half or three quarters, is that something you would consider?
COACH PEDERSON: It's hard to say right now until I'm in that situation. Listen, it's a one-game season. It's hard to be in desperation mode, but if you are in that mode, who knows. I do know this: it's not about one guy; it's about 11 on offense, defense, and special teams. A lot of contributing factors go into winning a game.
Pederson did originally confirm Foles as his starter, yes, but the “who knows” sentiment in this reply is a far cry from “Your question is ridiculous, Nick Foles is absolutely 100% the guy no matter what.” Others observers felt the same way.
#Eagles coach Doug Pederson, asked if he'd consider switching QBs if Nick Foles continues to struggle: "If you're in desperation mode, who knows?"Foles will start, but Nate Sudfeld should stay warm.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2018
Doug Pederson didn't totally rule out replacing an ineffective Nick Foles in the middle of a playoff game.— Joe Giglio (@JoeGiglioSports) January 2, 2018
It's going to be quite a couple weeks until kickoff!
You might say people are reading into things too much here, but the Eagles clearly went into damage control mode after Pederson’s press conference. Pederson wouldn’t just randomly text reporters like this. This is a calculated leak.
#Eagles coach Doug Pederson just texted me after his press conference: “My guy is Nick Foles, end of story.” … That is significant.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 2, 2018
I know the question came up during #eagles HC Doug Pederson news conference about his starting QB Nick Foles. After news conference Pederson cleared up any confusion, told me flat out “Nick Foles is my Quarterback. End of story.” @SportsRadioWIP— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) January 2, 2018
Showing confidence in Foles is important for the Eagles, especially since the veteran quarterback is a guy who reportedly struggles with that. Per the Inquirer:
A few years back, after Chip Kelly had traded Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, I had a few players and members of team personnel give some insight into why the Eagles had given up on Foles as a starter. His skill set, first and foremost, wasn’t starter-caliber, or at least good enough to consistently win games in the NFL. It had become abundantly clear to Kelly that Foles was more his 2014 version than 2013. But an additional concern, and one brought to my attention, was that Foles would sometimes let his performance or outside criticism outwardly affect his demeanor. He would get down on himself and the rest of the squad felt it.
If Foles continues to play as poorly as he has recently in the playoffs, there at least has to be some thought of benching him after a quarter or two. Right?
The Eagles will sure hope they don’t get to that point.
And now for some other takeaways from Pederson’s Tuesday presser ...
DOUG PEDERSON IS GOING BACK TO 2013 TAPE TO TRY TO GET NICK FOLES GOING
When QB Nick Foles had his best year in 2013, Chip Kelly had him do a lot of quick throw, up-tempo type stuff. Do you consider even more up-tempo to get him into a rhythm and get him settled in quicker?
COACH PEDERSON: I've gone back and watched a lot of his tape here, [from when he was in] St. Louis, and when he was here before when I was here. I just wanted to go back and just see the types of plays. As you mentioned, the quick throw was there, a little play-action pass, the shotgun stuff. Those are all things that are in our system. We might just have to dust a few more off and get that ready to go. But that's kind of what this week is for: to get some of those ideas and thoughts down on paper and execute them this week in practice.
Doesn’t hurt for Doug to exhaust all options in this case.
THE PADS ARE GOING BACK ON AT PRACTICE AND THE PLAYERS WANTED IT TO HAPPEN
Q. Some players after the game talked about how they are actually looking forward to getting back in the pads this week. What's your plan there? Do you want to maximize that, once this week, once next week?
COACH PEDERSON: Again, it's a fine line. At the same time, this is something that the players want. It's not a punishment thing; it's not coming directly from me. It's what the players want. I listen to my guys. I think they understand that there is a sense of physicality that we have to get back to. I'm not saying we're not there because obviously football is a physical game, but I think there is a sense over the course of a few weeks when you've been in shells, pad level begins to rise, and intensity sometimes can be minimized. So you get back into pads and it sort of refocuses the guys a little bit. It's not like we're going to tackle. It's not a training-camp-type-of practice. The fact of just having them on, banging around on one another, but still protecting each other, I think can be a nice asset for us going into our first game.
Q. How many days of pad work will you do between now and the playoff game?
COACH PEDERSON: One this week and considering one more next week.
Q. And that came to you through the players' council?
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah.
Q. What did they say to you?
COACH PEDERSON: We want to go in pads.
Q. Just like that?
COACH PEDERSON: Just like that.
Q. Did they explain why?
COACH PEDERSON: No. They just came to me and kind of asked if we could get back into pads. I didn't ask questions, and I said, ‘Sure.’
The Eagles have been taking it easy in practice lately since it’s late in the season. Pederson has to balance keeping guys sharp while also keeping them healthy. In this case, the players were advocating for more pad work, so that’s what happening. We’re ultimately talking about practice here, so who knows how much it really matters, but it’s cool to see the players want to maintain an edge instead of just resting.
Jay Ajayi could be poised for more playing time
Q. Do you plan on leaning on Ajayi more as your workhorse in the playoffs?
COACH PEDERSON: I think that's a possibility with what he's shown us down the stretch here and giving him rest last week, and we'll see where he is this week health-wise. I think he's one of the guys that we can rely on. Again, I don't want to get away from the things that got us to this point, too. That's the other thing is you don't want to just abandon ship on everybody else. I do think there could be a little more role for him down the stretch.
It’d be great if the Eagles can get their run game going. The thing is ... it’s hard to run when the pass isn’t much of a threat.
It’s unclear if Sidney Jones will have a role in the playoffs
Q. Will CB Sidney Jones have a role in the playoffs?
COACH PEDERSON: I don't know yet. Obviously he gives us depth now that he's activated and up. We have to see how he gets through this week and see the defensive game plan and the opponent we're playing and all that. Again, probably most of those will be game-time decisions of the seven who are going to be deactivated.
The Eagles will likely decide between keeping either Jones or Rasul Douglas on the activate game day roster. It makes more sense to keep Douglas active since he’ll likely just be playing on special teams.
Doug Pederson isn’t worried about head coaching interviews being a distraction
Q. There are reports that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo could interview for jobs this week. How do you balance getting them focused on the playoff game and still letting them focus on trying to go through the interview process?
COACH PEDERSON: Having gone through it a couple years ago myself, the one thing going for these two gentlemen is the fact that this is a bye week for us. We're not game planning specifically for a game this weekend, so it's a little bit easier from the standpoint of that. The challenge is having themselves prepared for a potential interview. That's the challenging part. At the same time, they have to balance the job they have here and making sure that we're ready for practice tomorrow and the next day. That's first and foremost. Listen, they put the Eagles first anyway and will continue to do that while they're here. It's a little bit of a fine line, but having an off week helps.
Jim Schwartz and John DeFilippo each reportedly have at least two interviews this week. They’ll be conducted in Philadelphia.
Per Pederson, the following players won’t practice this Wednesday: starting defensive end Brandon Graham, starting left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and running back Jay Ajayi.
Graham suffered an ankle injury in Week 16. He’s expected to be ready for the first palyoff game.
Big V played 100% of the snaps in the Eagles-Cowboys game. He could be getting a breather.
Pederson cited Ajayi’s knee injury history as to why they’re resting him.