After Doug Pederson’s snarky press conference heading into Sunday’s practice, offensive and defensive coordinators Mike Groh and Jim Schwartz stepped up to the podium on Monday to talk about heading into the final preseason game and looking forward to Week 1.
The big headline from the day was that Carson Wentz and Nick Foles are still splitting reps 50/50, and Jim Schwartz explaining how they are rotating different guys on the defensive line and in the secondary to maximize their impacts.
Here’s what the coordinators had to say:
The offensive coordinator opened by talking about the type of preparation and turnaround from the fourth preseason game to Week 1 against Atlanta.
“It definitely ramps it up,” Groh admitted, before explaining the rushed week they’ll have once they land back in Philadelphia early Friday morning.
On the QB situation
He was also asked whether Wentz and Foles were still splitting first-team reps, to which Groh pointed out that they did on Sunday. He was pushed a little further about whether that’s the best gameplan with just 10 days before the season opener, but the OC stated, “We’re just trying to get everybody prepared to play.”
The OC was also asked if the plan for next week’s practice would be to continue sharing reps, or if heading into Week 1, they’d designate one guy to take most. Groh said that was a head coach question — and based on yesterday, Pederson is not going to answer that this week.
Groh talked a little bit about Christian Hackenberg, and how “he’s done a good job jumping in and learning the system”. The QB gets limited reps with four other quarterbacks on the roster, but Groh said he’s making the most out of his opportunities under center.
On young guys getting a roster spot
He was asked about DeAndre Carter and whether he’s done enough during training camp to earn a roster spot. Groh talked about how he was a training camp addition they were happy to make.
“Hes done a really good job,” Groh noted. “He’s put himself in a position to be really competitive for a roster spot.”
He continued to point out that Carter made some plays during Week 3’s preseason game, but he’s got some things he still needs to improve on as well — although Groh did point out that they were easy things to get cleaned up and that Carter has been working to do that.
Donnell Pumphrey isn’t 100% back, but Groh did point out that the goal is to get him some reps on Thursday against the Jets, but that will be a gameday decision.
One guy who has been getting a lot of attention this offseason has been Shelton Gibson, and when Nick Foles isn’t lauding “Gibby” and his work this year, Groh is doing the gloating.
“He’s come a long way. We’re pleased with the progress and the work that he’s put in. Nobody puts more into it than Shelton. He really does invest not only the time while he’s here in the building, but his personal time when he’s out of the building when he’s not required to be here. I know how much he puts into it. I know how much it means to him. He’s really worked really diligently to make himself a better player.”
On getting injured players back
Groh was asked how he evaluates younger talent who may have also been sidelined with some injuries, specifically Josh Adams. The OC pointed out that Adams has done a nice job in games, despite missing some time with nagging things physically, and he’s running strong and has made guys missed.
“So, he’s a young guy we’re excited about,” Groh concluded.
He also talked about getting Marcus Wheaton back soon, and that he’s still working to get healthy but was out there on Sunday running around. Same with some other guys like Nelson Agholor.
Groh joked he saw some guys in uniform Sunday who had made a lot of plays for us last year, so he’s excited that a lot of rehabbing players are close to being a go.
On finalizing the LB spot
Schwartz mentioned that one of the challenges with finalizing the linebacker roster is having to account for Nigel Bradham’s one-game suspension to start the season. With the team having cut Cory Nelson earlier in the week, they need players who can not only fill one linebacker role, but several.
The defensive coordinator said that he could say the same thing about the nickel position as well. They have confidence in a number of players, are set up so that they can employ different matchups depending on how they think a game might play out.
He went into a little more detail about the secondary, saying “We have a lot of guys who are interchangeable.” He explained that all the guys know the defense so well, that they can handle responsibilities at different positions.
Flexibility and cross-coverage is key to making the Eagles roster. Schwartz noted that where guys are lined up in Week 1 doesn’t mean it’s set in stone either, and could see things change around throughout the 17 weeks of the season.
Schwartz wouldn’t comment on why Nelson was released, and instead said that was a question better suited for Howie Rosemann and Doug Pederson.
“He was a good, hard-working guy. He was a veteran guy, he was well-liked on the team, but it’s a very difficult time of year.”
On Week 1 prep against Atlanta
The team did a lot of Atlanta prep during training camp, that way they didn’t have a short week following the fourth preseason game to get game-ready. Schwartz said they made up for it other stuff, running some Atlanta-type schemes over the past couple days — that’s at least how they’ve done thing on defense, he didn’t want to speak for the offense.
Schwartz said they’ve even been preparing since the spring, as the Super Bowl Champions usually open their season on Thursday night, and they wanted to have as much prepared ahead of time as they could.
On Brandon Graham’s return and the state of the DL
Schwartz is excited to have Brandon Graham back out on the field, and said he was like a caged up lion when he returned to practice on Sunday. Graham didn’t miss time in the locker room or in film sessions with his teammates, but having him back on the field provided a bit of an energy boost to the group.
The defensive coordinator also went into some detail about the importance of the defensive line to the team’s overall operation, and noted that the expectations for those players are lofty.
On what young DL Bruce Hector has done this training camp and preseason to earn a roster spot, “He’s impressed us all along the way,” Schwartz said.
He continued that a lot of guys look good early on, but then either drop off or plateau, but that’s not been the case with Hector. The young player has steadily improved and is healthy enough to be on the field for quite a bit of reps.
The DC also noted that Hector saw some snaps against better players and competition in the Week 3 preseason game and responded well to the challenge. Schwartz said those are all the things you look for in a young player to make the roster, and said that Hector is on the right track.
On looming cuts
“I think that gets so much attention. I don’t know that it gets highlighted enough. I think there’s a dignity that’s involved in dealing with those guys. I said this last year when we were getting ready for the Super Bowl. We showed a picture of the Super Bowl trophy and you see all the fingerprints on it and you say, ‘Regardless of what your role was on this team, your fingerprints are going to be on that trophy. Whether you were on the practice squad and you were helping the offense. Whether you were an inactive or whether you were active, everybody had a role.’ And I’ll take that back and include training camp players. Even if you don’t make this team, you’ll have your fingerprint on the success of this team going forward.
People don’t make teams for a lot of different reasons. Whether it’s not a good scheme fit, maybe a numbers position or maybe an injury. It’s very rare that a guy just flat out isn’t talented enough. I mean, that certainly happens, but perseverance is a big thing. We’ve had a lot of players that have been undrafted and have been cut. I think [S] Chris Maragos was cut like three times before he made a roster coming out. He was, like, three straight training camps that he got called to the head coach’s office. That guy has been able to persevere and have a great career. So that happens all the time.
I think the only thing I’d say to people on the outside looking in, I saw something where somebody called somebody a ‘scrub’ that was in a preseason game. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. All these guys are here for a reason. All of them are here on their own merit. All of them have ability, that in the right circumstances and with enough perseverance and maybe being fortunate a little bit here and there, they can all get some traction.
It’s without a doubt the worst day of this job. To see guys that work as hard as everybody else, that literally don’t get on that bus. You certainly feel for those guys, but at the same time you’re also appreciative for what they’ve done and know that they’ve played some role in the team.”