As OTAs get underway for the Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media about who is in attendance, what the team’s plans are for their injured players, and how they are using this time to develop young players.
Dougy P opened by saying that the numbers are great, and most of the roster is in attendance. He did name Darren Sproles and Michael Bennett as the two veterans who weren’t there on Day 1, but wasn’t worried about their absence, touting, “two guys I don’t have a lot of concern, as far as their ability to help us win games.”
Pederson later in his press conference said he did, however, expect Bennett to show up and participate at some point, and clarified that his absence was not related to his legal situation. Despite Bennett’s veteran status, Pederson was asked if him missing OTAs would be a problem as he tried to acclimate himself to the Eagles scheme locker room.
“I don’t really have any concern going forward with him,” Pederson replied. The head coach noted that once you’ve been around the NFL long enough, defensive players know the type of scheme that Jim Schwartz runs and what will be expected of his players.
There are quite a few big name players who have undergone surgery or rehab since the end of the 2017 season, and with OTAs just a few months removed from Super Bowl LII, the team hasn’t had the full recovery time.
“We’ll do our best to manage guys. We’ve got a list of injured players, and guys we want to be sure we rest during this time,” Pederson explained. The training staff is aware that they’ve had a month less of recovery time, and need to incorporate that lag time into their training regimens.
Pederson was asked about Brandon Graham’s ankle surgery and the expectations for his return. The head coach was hesitant to give an answer that wasn’t medically accurate but acknowledged, “he’s another one we have to manage. Obviously when you see him, he’s in a cast.”
Another injury on the minds of Eagles fans everywhere: How is Carson Wentz’s recovery going? Pederson was asked what he meant the last time he spoke to the media about the QB not being cleared, when there are videos of him throwing on Twitter. The head coach clarified that everything we’re seeing is part of his rehab, so while yes he is throwing, he still isn’t cleared to participate in practice.
While some injured players just sit on the sidelines, Wentz has continued to stay in the mix as the leader and quarterback of the team. He’s still popping in to Pederson’s office to talk scheme or player potential, “he’s still leading the team and doing everything he can at this time.”
It’s not just Wentz on the sideline. The team is also giving Nick Foles’ elbow some rest during OTAs. Pederson explained that they are trying to balance giving him some rest, but still getting him enough work that he’s ready to go in training camp. In the meantime, Pederson and the coaching staff are excited to watch Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan take some additional reps.
Injuries to veterans isn’t exactly a good thing, but it does allow some of the younger guys to take reps they might not normally see, like with Nelson Agholor finally lining up as a slot receiver when Jordan Matthews went down, only to finally have his breakout moment en route to his 2018 success.
Developing as a team
Sure, getting young players to understand scheme and fit is important, but OTAs is the time to get them back on the gridiron and back in the football mentality. Pederson wasn’t ready to divulge what his “big message” would be this offseason, but that this is the time to focus on evaluating young talent and developing those newer players.
Veterans don’t get quite as much attention during the spring, with Pederson noting, “The thing is with some of those veteran players, you know what you’ve got. You want to see just enough that when they come back for training camp they’re ready to go.”
Pederson talked a little about how he relies on his veteran players to help set the tone for the rest of the team, and that it’ll be those guys who continue the culture that has been established in Philly since the Chip Kelly experiment.
Those veteran players shouldn’t be lite on motivation heading into the 2018, despite having just won the team’s first Super Bowl. Pederson was quick to point out that a lot of the veteran talent haven’t gotten rid of the chip on their shoulders, because a lot of them didn’t actually play in the final game last season. Naming players like Wentz, Jason Peters, Chris Magaros, and a host of others who are still just as motivated as last year to lift the Lombardi Trophy.
“That’s going to fuel some of the emotion as we get closer to training camp and the season,” Pederson said. “Those guys will bring a level of energy to the team.”
- Pederson was asked about bringing back Corey Graham, “if it works out, great,” but took the standard head coach stance of not formally committing his interest in the matter one way or the other.
- The head coach spoke about his relationship with Mike Groh, and how Groh having worked closely with Frank Reich -- and seeing first-hand how he and Pederson interacted — has helped smooth the transition. Pederson said Groh is doing an “outstanding job right now” and that the key is keeping an open dialogue and communicating about things big and small. He said they’ve got to be able to “bounce a lot of stuff off each other, that’s what you have to have in order for this to work.”