There’s just two days left before the Eagles compete for the NFC East crown, and with a win over the Giants on Sunday, they’ll be headed to the postseason. Head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media on Friday ahead of practice and talked injury updates, play-calling and the screen game, and keeping the guys motivated.
And, despite the implications of the Washington-Dallas game this weekend, Pederson said they’re playing at the same time and whatever is happening in that game won’t affect what the Eagles are doing.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
Jordan Howard is cleared
The running back was cleared on Thursday evening, and he’s good to go. Pederson said that the challenge is that they’ve been game-planning for Miles Sanders and Boston Scott, but Howard gives them a situational guy.
“Again, we mentioned yesterday as far as the conditioning and the game shape and being ready, you just can’t give him a full complement of plays. We don’t want to necessarily disrupt what we have going, but he is a big piece obviously to our offense.”
Pederson did say that Howard’s strength level right now is good, but that it’s probably not necessarily where the running back wants it to be. They want to be smart about it moving forward, but for now they are full steam ahead with Sanders and Scott.
Zach Ertz also dealing with a back injury
It was initially called a rib injury, but a back injury was added to the team’s injury report. Pederson said they want to be as transparent as possible with the report, and the hit Ertz took was big, and he’s dealing with both a rib injury and back issue.
“The biggest thing is just making sure he feels good. I think, having gone through this myself personally with this type of injury, it’s discomforting, but want to make sure he’s 100% before we put him back out there again.”
The head coach said Ertz would be with the team at practice on Friday, but they want to make sure he is 100% and gets all the treatment he can, too. Pederson knows that the tight end is a tough guy and wants to be out there, but he isn’t going to risk anything further for the player.
Bottom line: they don’t know his status for Sunday yet.
Lane Johnson still progressing
Pederson said that there is progress with Johnson and is doing well. They’ll see how he does “on land” during Friday’s practice before they make a determination for this game.
On limiting injured players
Pederson agreed that they have to be smart and sometimes hold back guys willing to play through injury.
“Listen, from the human side of me, I don’t want to put anybody out there and risk anything further for their own health.
From the coach side of it it’s like, man, we need everybody, right? We need as many people as we can in these types of games.
But, yeah, I’m not going to risk a player further injury just for a game.”
On Jason Peters this season
“Where he is in his career and what he’s done, I think he’s had a very productive season. And here lately coming back from the procedure he had, he feels good. He’s another one probably not 100% at this time of the year, but he feels good. We give him the rest during the week and give him some reps later in the week. Today will be a big day for him to get back out on the field.
But he’s done a nice job for us and still very productive.”
Pederson was asked about the Greg Ward wildcat last week against the Cowboys. He said that they want to maximize what the WR does best — as a former college quarterback for Houston — and it wasn’t something they had shown Dallas earlier in the season.
The head coach was also asked to explain how the number of screens in the playbook has evolved over the course of his time in Philly, and what has influenced his diversity of the screen game.
“Screens are an extension of your run game, and really, I think screens sort of evolve during the course of the year. You go into each off-season and each training camp with seven, eight, ten screens you work on, right, from a conceptual standpoint.
But as your season progresses you try to find unique and creative ways. You study your opponents, other teams, the colleges and how teams are using receiver screens, tight-end screens, halfback, running back type screens, and you just try to incorporate all that into your offense and how is that presented to the opponent.
Is it something that looks like a formation we’ve used in the past or currently use? So, I think they continue to evolve each week.”
Pederson noted that their screen game can and has impacted the opposing team’s pass rush.
“I think along with tight ends and backs chipping, defensive ends or calling a few more quick passes where the ball is out of the quarterback’s hand.
I think all three of those can really help control your pass rush. There is some timing involved. You just don’t go out there and call a screen if you don’t work it and spend time in practice. Our guys have done a really good job executing the screens.”
On preparing for the Giants
Pederson said that they have to guard against letdown following such a draining game last week against the Cowboys, but that preventing that comes from communication and bringing it to the forefront of his messaging to the team.
“This to me is a bigger game obviously than last week. I know our guys are going to be ready. They’ve prepared this week that way. But for me as the coach, just keep reminding them the importance of this week and the importance of this game and staying focused and all that.”
He noted though that Giants QB Daniel Jones and RB Saquon Barkley coming off such explosive games does help keep the guys motivated. When he puts on the Giants’ tape from the past couple weeks, they have been executing and playing well. They have to prepare for everything, because this opponent can play spoiler.
“I challenged the coaching staff to make sure our players are on point with everything and dialed in on the game plan, because for us this is a playoff game and we have to treat it that way.”