It’s back to work for the Eagles team on Wednesday, and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to reporters ahead of practice to talk about injury updates, noting Nick Foles is the starter this week — but wouldn’t commit to him for longer than that — and how the team is staying focused ahead of their rematch against the Saints.
Here’s what Pederson had to say:
D.J. Alexander and Sidney Jones are still both day-to-day, but they do hope to try and increase their load this week and see where they’re at.
Pederson noted that Wednesday’s practice would be a bit faster than a walk-through, and called it a jog-through.
The head coach also said he hasn’t decided if Carson Wentz would be out for Sunday’s game, and it’s a decision he won’t be ready to make until later in the week. Pederson said that it’s a game of “what ifs” at the moment, but he’d agree that there would be benefits to having Wentz as the backup over Nate Sudfeld if he were healthy enough to do that. He noted that Wentz is getting better but for now he’s still resting and won’t be practicing until they get the okay from the doctors.
Wideout Mike Wallace is doing well and he’s another one who should be doing more this week, but he’s fought his way back and is excited about possibly being ready for Sunday.
On the New Orleans rematch
Pederson echoed the same sentiments as Monday, when talking about their last game against the Saints. He said in this business you’ve got to have a short memory, and they will look back at the film from an Xs and Os standpoint and look at some personnel things, but they aren’t dwelling too much on that loss.
When looking at the Xs and Os from that game, however, he said there are definitely things they can learn, at least from the first half, and there were a couple of nice things schematically that they did to review. He said they just weren’t consistent enough on either side of the ball.
He went on to say that they don’t just focus on that game either, because as he noted on Monday, the Eagles are a different team and the Saints are different too after seven weeks.
Pederson said that being in the divisional round of the playoffs is fuel enough for the guys, and being one of only four NFC teams left serves as enough motivation. He later said that he doesn’t think that they ran up the score, and he wasn’t upset by it, other than the fact that they got that far behind.
He was asked about Malcolm Jenkins comments following that loss about the team’s demeanor, and Pederson said once it started snowballing, they just wanted to try and minimize what was happening and get out of there. But that’s not limited to that one game, and it served as a turning point for the team.
Pederson went on to explain that he’s never questioned his team’s effort this season, and the guys have consistently played hard, and they played hard in that game, they just didn’t execute enough.
From an execution standpoint in Sunday’s playoff game, Pederson said they have to execute on first downs on offense and go three-and-out defensively as best they can, in order to prevent things from snowballing again. He pointed out though that those are things they’ve improved on down the stretch, and those have been the focal point every week regardless of opponent.
He talked about how the execution over the last month or so has gotten better, but not because of any changes they’ve made gameplan-wise. Pederson also said it isn’t so much what Nick Foles is doing better or different than Wentz, but that there were a lot of moving pieces on the offensive line and with the running backs, and they’re just finding a groove and executing better at this point of the season.
On the defense’s improvement
Pederson talked about how the defense has been coming out to a much faster start than earlier in the season and gave all the credit to Jim Schwartz and the defensive staff. He also noted that the guys are starting to play much better together. He said that young guys are stepping up and playing a little bit faster and confidence, as is to be expected once they better understand what their roles are.
On the current state of the Saints
Pederson noted that they are still a very aggressive defensive team, and they’re seeing that on film with guys flying around. Offensively, they still have the same structure, where everything runs through Drew Brees.
He talked about how they are a talented group, and head coach Sean Payton does a good job of mixing things up and presenting different looks each week for different teams. Pederson also pointed out that they’re coming off quite a bit of rest with the Wild Card bye, and so they’ll be ready and probably have something completely different for the Eagles on Sunday.
On their 3rd and 4th down success
Pederson said that the team is doing much better on first and second downs which helps them be more effective in third and fourth down situations. For what Nick Foles specifically brings to those situations, the head coach repeated the oft-used example of Foles being a point guard and liking to spread the ball around to his offensive weapons. He also noted that Foles manages those situations well.
On getting back to the playoffs
Pederson said that he told his team way back at the beginning of 2018 that they should expect to play into January, and it doesn’t matter how they get into the playoffs, but the expectation is to be playing in the postseason. The head coach said they aren’t just satisfied with getting in, and now they’re inching closer to the big game.
He credits the players and coaches for sticking through some of the tough moments and losses from the season to be where they are, but they’ve just tried to focus and do their best each and every day.