The Eagles nabbed their first NFC East on Thursday over the Giants, and finally started to look like the team we were used to seeing last season. There are still some areas that need to be improved, but overall, a lot of the issues from weeks past seem to have been ironed out.
Head coach Doug Pederson spoke to reporters on Friday, as the team heads into a long (and much-needed) weekend off, before they start working toward their Week 7 matchup against the Panthers.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On Carson Wentz
Pederson said he was never concerned with whether Carson Wentz would be any lesser of a quarterback when he came back from his injury, and a lot of that was watching the QB in practice and during rehab.
He pointed to Wentz adding some muscle to his lower body and still being able to extend plays without losing his edge. Pederson also noted that you can tell he’s added lower body strength by evaluating his throwing, which has been strong.
Later on, he was asked to elaborate on Wentz’s arm seemingly being stronger this season. Pederson then talked about Wentz being able to make some narrower passers and being more efficient, which are also examples of more upper body control. He pointed to the touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffery and Wentz being able to make that throw across his body.
The head coach said those were things he started seeing from Wentz during his rehab, again reducing any concern for Pederson that the quarterback might not be back to where he was before his injury.
Reporters circled back to that touchdown pass by Wentz, and when asked what went through his mind when he saw the QB throw across his body, Pederson’s immediate reaction was “oh no”.
He went on to say that those are the kinds of situations you don’t want to get into, but that’s the quarterback Carson Wentz is, and he’s aggressive and that’s why they love him.
On the running back group
Pederson said both running back Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood are determined guys and determined and aggressive runners. He pointed out that they are versatile players, take their job serious and look to prove themselves each and every day.
The head coach noted they have confidence in Clement and Smallwood and are really encouraged by what they’ve produced so far.
He was later asked about Corey Clement telling reporters after the game that he went up to Howie Rosemann and told him that he didn’t need to go out and bring in another back. (The question put an immediate smile on Pederson’s face.) Pederson said he didn’t hear the conversation, but he has total confidence in the runners that they have on the roster.
But, that being said, the head coach noted they are always looking for ways to improve the roster, and if there are players available who would be a good fit, they are always going to try to get them.
On the defense
He was asked about what the team needs to do to stop running backs like Saquon Barkley, and Pederson admitted that he’s a special back that provides issues for defenses that not many other rushers do.
Barkley is elusive and powerful and is one of those guys where the defense has to be on their toes the whole time. Pederson pointed to a few plays later in the game, when even if they had Barkley wrapped up, he was able to push forward.
The head coach said that’s moreso a credit to him as an athlete versus a problem for the team’s defense.
Pederson was later asked about Jalen Mills skillset that allows him to be so effective in the redzone. The head coach pointed out that Mills and Ronald Darby both physical guys and can put hands up and redirect routes, makes things difficult for receivers.
He said both of those guys have proven time and time again that their effectiveness in the redzone is critical.
Pederson did meet with medical personnel this morning about Jason Peters, but they need to run some more tests but —despite not wanting to speculate— the head coach said early indications are positive, but they’ll just have to wait and see.
He was also asked if the team would consider resting Peters for a bit while he recovers not only from the most recent biceps injury, but also the lingering quad issue he’s been having. Pederson said that’s definitely something they’ll look at, but they have time to see where all their injured guys are in a week.
Lane Johnson’s high ankle sprain came out of the Week 5 matchup against the Vikings, and on a short week, just didn’t have the time to completely heal. Pederson called Johnson a tough kid, and gave him credit for wanting to be great, and great players find a way to play through injuries and those types of things.
On Sidney Jones, Pederson said he’s another one they are going to evaluate throughout the week, but that he’s a guy who is probably more week-to-week with a hamstring injury. The coaching staff is going to meet over the weekend to figure out what the secondary is going to look like potentially without Jones.
On Jordan Mailata
Pederson was asked about Mailata’s development, and the head coach noted, “He’s coming along really well”.
He noted that both Mailata and Matt Pryor are getting better every day, and they are taking pretty much every rep right now on the look teams, which is helping them come along.
Pederson said he’s doing a nice job and it’s really encouraging to see him develop.