The Eagles are just two days away from hosting the Houston Texans, and head coach Doug Pederson hopes that a lightened practice schedule this week will help keep the guys fresh for the contest. This time of year is a particularly tough grind, but the team stepped up last week, and are expected to do so again.
Pederson spoke to reporters on Friday, and gave a lot of injury updates and talked about what they expect to see from Houston.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On Carson Wentz’s injury
Pederson was also asked if Carson Wentz wanted to play through his injury, and without wanting to speak for the quarterback, Pederson said as an athlete you always want to be on the field competing. But it’s the coaching staff’s job to make sure they are 100% before sticking them back out there.
The head coach said that it now goes back to earlier in the season and trusting the team doctors to let them know when he’s ready, but that it’s not worth putting him out there if suffering a setback is likely.
He also said that it’s a priority to keep the lines of communication open with Wentz and being honest in those meeting with the medical staff and coaches, and sometimes it’s having those hard conversations, but they’ve got to be had.
Later he was asked how they keep Wentz’s confidence up about his future with the team, and Pederson did not mince words, and said it’s because he can stand up there and say Wentz is the quarterback of this team and will be for a long time, that’s why they drafted him. But, that’s also why they have Nick Foles here, a veteran who can step in when needed. They just need to communicate that to him and let him know they’re still committed.
He opened by talking about the eight players to miss practice on Thursday, and he noted that they’re all doing well. He said Jake Elliott and Alshon Jeffery were out due to illnesses, so they’ll be back today — and later said it’s just something that’s been going around the locker room and coaching staff, and that it’s that time of year.
With the other players questionable, they plan to increase their reps and see where they’re at after practice. Regarding Fletcher Cox, Pederson said they were just resting him and making sure he’s 100% for the game.
Jordan Hicks was back at practice earlier this week and if he’s dressed and ready to go on Sunday, they won’t try and hold him back or ease him in, and he’ll get his full compliment of plays. On whether Hicks would go back to the MIKE position — especially with Nigel Bradham playing well there — Pederson said they’d just have to get through the week and see where he fits best physically.
Tim Jernigan is another one who is back out on the practice field. They’ll increase his reps today and see where he’s at.
He emphasized that with two big travel weeks before this, he wanted to give the guys two walk-thrus earlier in the week instead of immediately getting back on the field. Pederson talked about how he wanted to keep the guys as fresh as they could be this time of year — something he mentioned on Wednesday as well.
The head coach went on to say that Thursday’s practice was really high spirited, and that players were really flying around the field. He felt their legs were coming back (for this time of year) and he also said the guys have been doing a good job of taking care of themselves individually and as a group.
Pederson talked about how he simplified last week for Foles, but the quarterback was able to get a full compliment of reps and now has a full game back, so he felt comfortable giving the guys a little extra rest this week.
He also talked about how the team still has a move they could make with regards to their IR list, and said they’re still evaluating things — naming Mike Wallace and Mack Hollins — but said they aren’t ready to make a move just yet.
On simplifying the offense
Pederson said that the coaches self-scout every week and try and find tendencies by formation or personnel and take a look at that, and then try to get creative in the days after that. But he said over time as you keep tweaking the game plan each week, you lose that consistency, which is on the coaching staff. It got to a point after the Dallas game, that they needed to eliminate some of those things and get back to running their core plays.
On the Texans
Pederson was asked how Houston’s front seven differs from the Rams, and the head coach noted that structurally they are very similar. He went on to explain that the Rams typically run a 5-man d-line front, and Houston will do the same thing. Pederson also compared the Rams have Suh and Donald to the Texans have J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
He talked about how againt the run they’ve got two strong tackles on the inside, and have good team speed at linebacker, so overall Houston is going to put pressure on the quarterback and the Eagles’ o-line, tight ends and running backs will have a challenge in front of them.
The head coach was also asked about DeAndre Carter, now with Houston, and what initially caught his eye with the receiver. Pederson said the return aspect was a big draw, and likened him to Darren Sproles, and said he’s shifty and quick. And then as a route runner, you’re seeing a quick twitch guy who can do a lot of things with the ball in his hands.