The Eagles head coach knows that a lot needs to improve after the team’s 2-2 start to the 2018 season, and with the Minnesota Vikings making their way to Philly this weekend, they are in for big test.
Doug Pederson spoke to the media on Friday and gave a few injury updates, as well as talked about the need for urgency from his team, and whether they’ve deciding to make any personnel moves yet.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On the state of the offense
Pederson was asked if he’s seen a greater sense of urgency from the players this week, and he admitted he has, but that they need to play with that same type of intensity.
He specifically pointed out the way the team has started games this season, and talked about offensively they know they need to get things into a higher gear quickly. The head coach cited their production on first drives in the past two seasons, and missing that type of momentum boost early on.
Carson Wentz had said that he needs to do a better job protecting himself, and Pederson acknowledged that the big picture — both in terms of a full season and career — is something that needs to be a point of emphasis. The head coach talked about how the health of the quarterback is essential, and you’ve seen throughout NFL history when the injury to a quarterback can derail a team’s season.
Pederson was later asked about missing Corey Clement and Darren Sproles and whether that’s one of the reasons they’ve been less productive on third downs. The head coach noted that those two backs aren’t just missed on offense or in third-down situations, but their absence is also felt on special teams.
He did say that the offense as a whole knows that they need to get better on third downs, and that’s something they know as a team — it’s not just one guy. They are addressing that as a staff, and making sure things are correct schematically and that the game plan is sound. Ultimately, Clement and Sproles could help in that situation, but it doesn’t come down to just them.
Pederson did laud the effort by Wendell Smallwood, and noted that he felt really comfortable with the running back coming out of training camp. The head coach said Smallwood’s running style was a little more aggressive and that he’s a physical guy and “quite honestly probably had something to prove, maybe felt there was a little heat on him.”
But, Pederson said Smallwood rose to the challenge and has done a good job for the team, so they’ll keep him coming.
He went on to talk about some of the protection issues with the offensive line, but agreed that some of that has to do with re-adjusting the timing from Nick Foles to Carson Wentz. Sure, these guys have played with Wentz before, but he may hold onto the ball a little longer so the protection needs to go a “tick” longer, and also pointed out the cadence is different as well.
On Jalen Mills
He was asked about the coaching staff’s loyalty and commitment to Jalen Mills — particularly this week — and whether it was because he’s the best player available for them right now or whether the loyalty is for what he’s done for them in the past. Pederson admitted it’s a little of both.
“No. 1, he is the best player for the positions, and No. 2, his body of work, and what he’s done over the course of 2-plus years, and so we have a ton of confidence in him.”
Pederson went on to compare it to when a quarterback gets into a slump; the coaches put their arm around him and build him up and keep coaching him. He continued to say he doesn’t kick guys to curb and tell them they’re done, but rather work to build them up.
The head coach said they haven’t looked to make any personnel moves at this point. He talked a little about with so many injuries and moving pieces, they are just trying to get the group of guys they have ready for Sunday.
Pederson also noted that guys like Jason Kelce are getting some extra rest during the week, not necessarily related to any injury concerns, just as a veteran player they’re trying to be smart with how much they give them during the week.
He wouldn’t answer directly about whether they were looking to bring in someone at left guard, but repeated that they are constantly evaluating everyone and will do whatever is needed to put the best players available on the field, but they haven’t made any changes as of yet.
Pederson did point out that this week in practice they’ve been rotating players more than usual, with guys like Isaac Seumalo taking reps at left guard and center.
It was the second week of rookie Avonte Maddox lining up in the safety position, and Pederson said he looks more comfortable and confident back there, and it’s great to have guys like Corey Graham and Malcolm Jenkins who can talk him through game reps in practice.
Pederson said they are going to see how Derek Barnett does on Friday in practice and make a determination as the day go. The injury happened during last week’s game — not falling off the team bus or anything.
Both Corey Clement and Darren Sproles are going to practice a little bit on Friday and try and give the coaches a sense of whether they can go on Sunday against the Vikings. If those two can’t play this weekend, it’ll mean more carries for Wendell Smallwood, Jay Ajayi and Josh Adams.