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Doug Pederson talks Eagles’ young secondary, Wendell Smallwood, and Sean Payton’s play-calling

Highlights from Friday’s press conference.

There are just two days left before the Eagles get their rematch with the Saints down in New Orleans and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media one last time before they make their trip down south. Pederson talked about the development of the young secondary players, and how Wendell Smallwood has contributed consistently throughout the season.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:

Injury Updates

Sidney Jones and Mike Wallace were both limited at Thursday’s practice, but Pederson was going to wait to see what they do on Friday before determining whether they’re ready to go for Sunday. He wouldn’t say whether Jones would be like Isaac Seumalo last week, where if he were healthy he’d be injected right back into the starting lineup.

He also noted that both Golden Tate and Alshon Jeffery were listed on the injury report due to issues suffered in the Bears game.

On the young secondary

Pederson was asked what has impressed him most about the three young cornerbacks who have stepped up in the past few weeks. He said that they’re playing with more confidence, have learned to play together, and are hearing all the calls that the safeties and linebackers are making.

He emphasized that those are all things that come with just playing more. Pederson continued to say that they are playing fast and aren’t thinking too much and are just reacting to what they see.

Later, Pederson was asked what Cory Undlin’s — Eagles DB coach — role has been throughout the year getting the young guys prepared. Pederson said it’s their job to coach up young players, especially when they get new guys on the roster, and have to spend extra time bringing them up to speed.

That extra time has to come either early in the morning or after normal classroom time, but Cory has done that and put in the time needed to get the young guys ready. Pederson pointed out that it’s in those moments that really show the value of a coach, when they can teach a young player and then watch them out on the field grow and develop.

On Wendell Smallwood

He talked a bit about how Wendell Smallwood has been used in different capacities throughout the season, but that he’s done a nice job for them all season, calling his roles on special teams pivotal. Pederson went on to say that everyone knows that they are going to rotate their running backs to keep guys fresh and healthy and there’s been some games down the stretch that he’s had the hot hand. He’s a guy they count on and rely on.

Smallwood has talked about how important it was for him to stay healthy and out of the trainers room this season, and Pederson admitted that the rusher being nicked up his first few years was a challenge. The head coach talked about how that transition from college ball to the NFL gives them less bodies to work with by the time they get to the regular season sometimes.

Pederson said that Smallwood had to battle through some injuries but credited the player with getting healthy, and has proved to the staff that he deserved a spot on the roster coming out of training camp. He said that Smallwood continues to do his job and doesn’t complain or make excuses, and has put himself in a position to help the team down the stretch.

On facing the Saints

Pederson was asked about their familiarity with former Giants CB Eli Apple may help them in their preparation, and the head coach admitted it does help them a bit. He said that having gone against him and knowing how he plays can help the receivers, but Apple is playing well and is a part of a defense that is playing with a lot of confidence right now.

He later elaborated saying that they’re a relentless group, and while they may not have the pressure of team’s they’ve faced lately — like the Texans or Bears — they don’t have to because they are a loaded defense. Pederson noted that on the rare occasions the Saints offense hasn’t been clicking, their defense has kept them in it and allowed them to win some of these games.

The head coach was asked how much he’s hearing about this rematch in the locker room, and whether it’s being used a big motivator. Pederson acknowledged that it’s obviously on the guys’ minds and it’s all over the news, and he said if players are using that as motivation, great, but everyone is motivated differently.

To him, though, he said it’s a big game because it’s the next one and the only one they have left on their schedule unless they win.

Pederson also noted that they do have to guard against guys looking for revenge, because if that’s the focus it takes them away from who they are as a team and out of character a little bit. He said they just have to stay true to who they are, stay within the scheme and trust the guys around you.

On trying to gameplan against a coach like Sean Payton, Pederson said that he’s been doing it a long time, is creative, and is a guy who utilizes his personnel really well. The head coach went on to say that he moves guys around, and along with the type of talented players they have, you can see the creativity he posses. Pederson also said that Payton is a coach who exhausts the film, and will go back to the tape more than others to find something that he can exploit and is a great play-caller.

On Golden Tate

Pederson was asked when he became aware that Golden Tate didn’t hear the kill call from Nick Foles on his late-game touchdown catch, and the head coach noted it wasn’t until they got in the locker room.

Pederson explained that it wasn’t a kill call, that they actually went right to the kill from the huddle, but since they ran the same play previously and it was loud, Tate just didn’t hear the whole thing. He said that it just shows the team and everyone else what type of athlete and player Tate is, that he can stay in the moment, not panic, adjust and execute the play.

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