The Eagles are back to practice, and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media on Wednesday about preparations for the Vikings this coming weekend. He also clarified statements he made about the run game, explained Carson Wentz’s responsibility at the line of scrimmage, and gave some injury updates.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On facing tougher defenses
It was pointed out that the defenses they’ll be facing in the coming weeks will likely be more challenging than the ones they’ve already played this season. Pederson was asked what they have to do to put together a more complete offensive performance.
“We just focus one at a time, honestly. We’re focused on the Vikings this week, this is a really good opponent — good test, good defense, good offense. They’re well coached, they’re a disciplined group.
But this is the start of that run you were talking about for us, and if you want to get to where you want to get to at the end of the year, these are games that are sort of benchmark games for us.
You know, great game plan on both sides of the ball; well, really all three phases. Players have to execute the game plan. We gotta handle crowd noise this week — loud, loud stadium obviously — so it’s gotta be a great week of preparation. Guys gotta be dialed in.”
Later, Pederson was asked about facing a Mike Zimmer defense specifically, and some things they’ll have to do to be successful. He pointed out that they have an aggressive style of play, and the four guys up front really get after the quarterback, so being able to protect Carson Wentz will be important. The other priority will be making positive plays on first down, which is something they struggled with early but have improved on. Avoiding those second and long, third and long situations will be important, too.
On the running game
On Monday, Pederson made comments suggesting that Jordan Howard would be the lead back going forward. Today, Pederson said that he views the running back situation as more of a commitment to whoever has the hot hand with the style of running that they do, and based on the runs they game planned the past couple of games, Howard saw more touches.
The head coach noted that it doesn’t take away anything from rookie Miles Sanders, and he’s very capable of taking on that kind of load and the team is very confident with him. Pederson also pointed out that maybe Sanders is better in the passing game than Howard, but they’re comfortable with both backs moving forward.
Pederson also said that he wasn’t surprised with Howard’s production and ability, and that he was expecting this when they brought him in.
Later on, Pederson was asked about Darren Sproles being banged up and what that might mean for Corey Clement. He said as far as the game plan, Corey is up to speed with everything they’re doing, and he’ll be expected to fully understand the plan heading into this weekend’s game.
Regarding Clement’s fumble on special teams last week, Pederson said they chalked it up to it the ball bouncing a weird way and he thought it was touched, so he was trying to make a play. In terms of who will be doing return duties with Sproles out, Pederson said they’re going to work a few guys there, but admitted he knows who will take the returns — and he wasn’t going to name names.
On Carson Wentz at the line
Pederson talked a bit about the authority Carson Wentz has to change up the call at the line of scrimmage. He said that it’s not just in tempo, but in other areas as well. They typically have 5 or 6 opportunities for him to make changes, but they don’t do it too much because they don’t want him thinking too much at the line and being bogged down with that stuff.
The head coach also said that it’s more difficult for Wentz to do that on the road (compared to at home) , but they still are going to give him some checks and audibles. He said that they’ve been able to do well in loud crowd noise situations and have utilized non-verbal queues well.
Pederson said he didn’t have any updates for guys who are looking at a longer recovery period, like Ronald Darby or Avonte Maddox, but he was hoping to get DeSean Jackson to progress a little bit in practice this week and see what he can do.
He clarified that Jackson getting back on the field is in a rehab only situation, away from the rest of the team. The head coach said he isn’t familiar with the injury that Jackson has, particularly in terms of what benchmarks they’re looking for in his recovery, but he would think Jackson having comfort in his running and being able to start and stop.
Later on, Pederson was asked if Jackson’s injury history factored into the trade earlier this offseason. He said that it’s something they definitely look at, but it wasn’t a deal breaker or big factor, because they knew the type of player they were getting.
Sidney Jones has a history of hamstring injuries, and Pederson was asked what he and the staff can do to try and limit those. The head coach mentioned as a player, sometimes you have to break through that threshold mentally to feel some level of comfort as an athlete. As far as the staff, they monitor these guys everyday and sometimes it’s more or less conditioning to stay on top of these things.
They also have to make sure that players like Sidney aren’t focusing too much on the injury, or they won’t play as fast or aggressive when they get back on the field. They just need to make sure that Jones is 100% healthy before putting him back to work, so that he can be confident.