Before coordinators Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh even took the podium on Monday ahead of practice, head coach Doug Pederson stepped up with a change of heart, and officially announced Nick Foles would be the starting quarterback against Atlanta.
It was something widely reported, but the head coach was testy even yesterday about making an official announcement. But, now we know.
Here’s what the defensive and offensive coordinators had to say about the final roster and prepping for the season opener.
On the linebacker rotation
Acknowledging that Nigel Bradham is going to be missing, Schwartz noted you can’t just have one guy fill in for him, but that they will compartmentalize a few specific areas and have other guys pick up extra responsibilities against Atlanta.
He pointed out not just the linebackers, but also players like Malcolm Jenkins and other defenders who have a bigger understanding of the defense as a whole are able to step into other roles.
He wouldn’t say who exactly would be stepping in for Bradham on the depth chart, or whether or not Sidney Jones would be in the slot, and said game planning is important especially heading into Week 1.
On Atlanta prep
They are one of the few teams that play an h-back, so you have to prepare for several different packages, so the Eagles defense will play about six different packages
He’s aware of the personnel changes the Falcons have made this offseason, but ultimately the core group from last season is largely in tact. But, just as Atlanta has made changes to their gameplan since the last time they faced each other, the Eagles have changed things up too.
Schwartz also talked about how it would have been more helpful to face them later on in the year when you get more game tape from the season, but facing them in Week 1 means the Eagles know they have some tricks up their sleeves that weren’t highlighted in the preseason. (Just as the Eagles do.) He noted that it’ll take a little adjustment throughout the game.
On Steven Means being released
“We’re fortunate that we’re so deep at that position that we had a hard time finding a spot for him,” Schwartz pointed out. “Everyone thinks the world of Steven.”
On what he’s looking for this season
Schwartz was asked specifically about Sidney Jones, but the DC talked more about the defense as a whole, and how their job is keep points off the board and to win games. He said a big theme from last season was the defense being able to contribute regularly to scoring touchdowns or putting the offense in really good situations to score.
The coordinator said he really likes that his group has stay hungry and focused, particularly after how short the offseason feels after winning a Super Bowl. Last year they used the underdog mindset, and this year they are embracing the target that is now on their back.
On Nick Foles starting
Groh said the team loves having Foles in the building and they have a lot of confidence and faith in the quarterback, and how the guys are going to play with him.
“I’ve got really positive feelings about Nick and how he’s played,” the OC said.
He continued that how Foles prepares and studies, and how he handled the stress from the playoff run and Super Bowl win, all are reasons Groh and the coaching staff have confidence in the QB.
Groh said that both Foles and Carson Wentz have similar skill sets, but that the Eagles offense is a greater game plan than any one particular quarterback. They aren’t worried about Foles splitting reps with Wentz throughout training camp, but Groh said Foles will be ready to go on Thursday.
He was also asked about Atlanta running mostly a cover-3 defense, and Groh agreed, but mentioned that it wouldn’t really change based on who the Eagles’ QB is.
On the other skill players
The OC said the team has a lot of offensive weapons, so regardless of whether Atlanta knows who the quarterback is, they still have a lot of talent they have to prepare for. He also acknowledged that Nelson Agholor is someone they will need to account for, and they’ll have to wait and see how they’ll need to adjust.
Groh said rookie tight end Dallas Goedert would need to be a big contributor for the Eagles this season, but they have to get him some looks early on in the season and get him comfortable. He’s young but has a ton of potential.
He was asked about Mike Wallace not having a ton of production during the preseason, but Groh noted that isn’t really a good indicator of how the guy will be incorporated and how he’ll perform during the season. He pointed out that Wallace is a guy that can go vertical every time and should be a big contributor.
On whether Mack Hollins is ready to take on a full workload, but Groh said he didn’t want to comment on his status right now. He said that Hollins was working hard to be healthy enough to play on Thursday, and is a great practice players and does a lot of little things for the offense.
He said it’ll be a challenge for guys like Shelton Gibson and DeAndre Carter to carry their production from the preseason over into the regular season, but that it’ll be interesting to see how the two do that.