The Eagles head coach met with the media early on Wednesday as the team gets ready to hit the road for their first NFC East game of the season. The team will face the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football, and all eyes will be on whether they’ve been able to correct some of the glaring issues from the first five weeks.
Doug Pederson talked about getting the team ready to go, and being sure to focus on the small details in order to improve on what they’ve done so far this season.
(Doug’s a lot more fun at these early morning pressers — and smiles more.)
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On the running back situation
Pederson echoed what Mike Groh and Carson Wentz had said on Tuesday, that the running back room will stay as Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and Josh Adams. He noted that Darren Sproles is getting really close to being back, but they are just making just he’s 100% before putting him back to work.
Clement is 100% and full-go, and Pederson said the young back is excited for the opportunity to contribute again. It seems unlikely they don’t do anything to add some depth to the running back situation, but for now, them being happy with the guys they’ve got is the company line.
He was asked if longterm they’ll need to bring someone in to replace Jay Ajayi, and Pederson admitted that it’s a possibility. He noted that Howie Roseman will see what’s out there and who is available, but in the short term they are very happy with the guys they have.
The head coach went on to say if Roseman gets close to bringing someone in, he and the other coaches will do their homework on the guy — usually a veteran player with a fair amount of tape and things to read up on — and make sure he’s a fit both schematically and culturally with the group they have.
Pederson was also asked how Jay Ajayi was able to go back in with a knee brace and the medical staff didn’t know he had an ACL injury. He said Ajayi is a tough kid — citing to him coming back with a back injury earlier this season too —, and when they checked him out, it didn’t appear to be a major concern.
Ajayi didn’t have his MRI until Monday, and it wasn’t until those results came back that they knew it would be a longterm injury. Pederson couldn’t answer exactly when the injury occurred, but noted he’d have that answer soon.
On offensive scheme
He was asked if he’s using fewer RPOs this season, but Pederson said no, they still try and pepper them into the game plan. He pointed out defenses are getting better at protecting against and picking them up, so they’ve resulted in fewer passes this season, but they continue to run them.
Pederson was then asked how defenses have been preparing for the RPO, to which he quipped, “I can’t give that away”.
He went on to explain that every year team’s evaluate what worked around the league and what didn’t. With the Eagles’ success last season, it’s no surprise that team’s focused in on how best to defend against the RPO and stop some of the special things they were doing.
That also means they’ve had an entire offseason and training camp to prepare to face offenses like the Eagles. Pederson pointed to the Steelers preseason game being one of the first times they saw a team prepare for Philadelphia’s style of play.
He said defenses are just getting better at defending against it, but that means they have to evolve and keep trying to improve.
On play-calling lessons
Pederson went on to explain a statement made in his book about how he learned about having to be more balanced following the Kansas City game last season. He noted he was a little too aggressive in that ball game and things got away from him late in the game, but it was a learning experience and that balance is something he’s still trying to work on.
The head coach has continued to emphasize that getting the lead early in games is what allows for that balance offensively between the run game and passing. Which again, is something the Eagles haven’t been able to do this season.
He also pointed to playing more uptempo offense last season, creating a bigger sense of urgency to get that run game established, but circled back to getting a lead early will directly affect how balanced they can and will be throughout the course of the game.
On Giants prep
Pederson admitted that still having all the division games ahead of them makes being able to put the 2-3 start behind them, but they still have to produce and play better to even get there. He said it’s a great opportunity on Thursday to try and capture the first win on their way to win the division.
The weather is not supposed to be good tomorrow night in East Rutherford, and Pederson noted that it doesn’t really affect their game plan this far ahead of the matchup. He said that the team has some experience in wet conditions after the Colts game this season, and that unless there’s some incredible rain or if it’s really windy, it shouldn’t affect their plan.
Pederson has had success his first two seasons in short weeks, and the head coach said it starts with re-focusing the group quickly and getting the guys back out on the practice field and in meetings. Then, he said, it’s about the players preparing themselves physically for the quick turnaround: “re-hydration, nutrition, rest”.