The Eagles head coach had a lot to say on Monday following the team’s afternoon loss to the Vikings. Players have started chiming in on their concerns and Doug Pederson is now having to answer for those, including why Isaac Seumalo got the start and how they plan to avoid self-inflicted wounds.
Pederson spoke to the media about whether there’s discord in the locker room, and whether the group is still getting over their Super Bowl hangover.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On Ajayi’s quote about running
Pederson’s first question of the day was regarding the comments made by running back Jay Ajayi following Sunday’s loss. Ajayi had said that they team has success when running the ball, and needed to do that more often — not just in opening drives, but throughout the contest.
The head coach agreed, but pointed out that when they are having success with the run game, they try and stick to it. He noted that they had seven carries in one drive in the second half and it ended up in a turnover near the endzone — a turnover by Ajayi, so I’m considering this a bit of shade from Pederson.
He continued to talk about how it’s challenging to commit to the run when they were playing from behind for so much of the game.
“I’d love to run the football, and I think our guys are good at it,” Pederson noted. “But at the same time we can’t get behind in football games because sometimes the running won’t allow you to get back fast enough.”
Pederson was then asked if the Eagles needed to establish the run earlier, in order to create more options later on, pointing out that the first four plays were passes on Sunday. The head coach was quick to note that the first play was an RPO, so there was a 50/50 chance that it ended up on the ground.
He also talked about only having six offensive plays in the first quarter, and it going back to what he was saying last week, about the offense needing to get started faster and stay on the field longer. Pederson said that the team has had the most success when they are able to get on the board during the first drive and take the lead, opening up those rushing options throughout the rest of the contest.
On offensive line changes
The head coach was asked why Isaac Seumalo started over Stephen Wisniewski, and Pederson said sometimes they evaluate players and if they need to make a change, they do. The team had faith in Seumalo getting the start, and Pederson also acknowledged that Seumalo had taken all the first team reps in practice in the week leading up to Sunday.
Pederson was asked a follow-up about Wisniewski saying him being benched wasn’t performance related, although was unwilling to elaborate. The head coach smirked and said he wasn’t aware of whatever theory he may have about it, but that everything they do and every move they make is based around performance.
He was then asked point blank if he felt pressure to play high draft picks, but the head coach was quick to shoot that down, “Not at all. I have no idea where that theory is coming from.”
Looking for additional answers, a reporter pointed out that Seumalo hadn’t lined up in the guard position during the offseason, but was strictly being used at center. It was this line of thinking that made Pederson audibly chuckle, tilt his head, and continue:
“OK, so, Isaac for us is very versatile offensive lineman, just like Big V.”
He went on to list most of the lineman and where they line up, and noted that Seumalo is a guy they feel comfortable with at all five spots. Pederson continued that Isaac is a year older, has been doing well in practice, and he’s earned an opportunity to play.
Overall, Pederson would say that Seumalo played well on Sunday, and noted that it’s hard to make some personnel shifts on a short week and therefore expects the same starting lineup on Thursday against the Giants.
It would be easy to put the issues on the offensive line, but there are things to point the finger out throughout the entire offense, Pederson acknowledged. He went on to say it’s not just one position, or one unit, and the issues have changed week-to-week, but there is definitely enough blame to go around for the issues they’ve had so far this season.
On comparisons to 2016
Pederson said that he can appreciate where some of the players are coming from in comparing the start to this season with the 7-9 season from 2016. He admitted that it certainly feels similar — particularly with regards to the mistakes they are making.
“We are a veteran team making rookie mistakes.”
He said those types of mistakes are something at least that everyone, from the coaches to players, is on the same page with and now committed to improving. Pederson noted he told the team yesterday post-game that championship teams cannot make these kinds of mistakes and expect to win.
“There is a sense of urgency, I think, to obviously get better, to fix it. We’re on a short week this week, but our guys are professionals and they’ll get it done.”
On coming off a Super Bowl season
Pederson was later asked if it was challenging to try and keep the same energy from a Super Bowl-winning season, in back-to-back years. He admitted that it is difficult. The head coach said those are things you have to guard against, as well as guard against what the new picture of success looks like and how that can distract players and coaches.
He also talked about losing a month-plus that other teams had, pushing back some of the injury recovery times and offseason preparation. Pederson said that’s where they’re at now, is seeing that timeline others had to get back to the field.
The head coach didn’t second guess letting some of the veteran players, and those coming back from an injury, take some additional rest during training camp. With a shortened offseason he thought — and still does — that they needed more time before getting back to 100%.
Pederson did say his team is hungry and has really embraced the challenge of coming back to compete after a Super Bowl win. He pointed out that he can see it in the way that they practice and how they handle themselves during the week, but it’s just not carrying over into the games they way it needs to be.
“The energy level is there. The effort is there,” Pederson noted. “We’re just self-inflicting ourselves with explosive plays on defense, penalties.”
Speaking of penalties...
Pederson was asked how the penalties seem to keep compounding. He agreed that part of the problem is guys trying too hard not to make a mistake that they end up putting a little extra pressure on themselves to perform, which he admitted isn’t the best way for them to play.
Also, when asked about the flag on Michael Bennett for roughing the passer, all Pederson would say is, “the rules are the rules”.
On discord among the team
Someone pointed out that with Ajayi’s comments about the run game, Wiz’s comments about a theory for his benching, and the obvious exchange of words between Fletcher Cox and Jalen Mills on Sunday, some may be concerned that there is some discord among a group that has at times seemed incredibly close.
On what he sees in the locker room, Pederson said he sees a group of guys working their tails off and competing to play, and guys who are upset with how things are going so far. He also noted, that he sees leaders on the team stepping up and leading — which is what they need right now.
He said he could see how in another situation, these things would lead to even more issues, but having guys stand up and hold their teammates accountable is a good thing.