Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media following the team’s Tuesday training camp practice, heading into their second preseason game on Thursday. He still wouldn’t say how much, if any, playing time Carson Wentz and the starters would get against Jacksonville, but did talk about Nick Foles and what he meant to him as a coach.
On Wentz and Thursday’s preseason game
Pederson — as usual — wouldn’t talk about who would start or whether his starters would get playing time. He made note that he tries to structure training camp practices like games so that whether players get in or not, won’t affect their preparedness for the season.
He made note that for Carson Wentz specifically:
“He’s progressing and getting better every single day. The timing and rhythm with his receivers is getting better and it’s still kind of up to me to play anybody the rest of the way, but getting a lot of great work in in these practices.”
The head coach also said that Lane Johnson not being available wasn’t affecting his decision whether to play Wentz on Thursday. He pointed out that Jordan Mailata did some nice things in the first preseason game, and they have some flexibility with Halapoulivaati Vaitai playing at tackle or guard.
He said that the downside to playing Wentz would be if he tweaked anything and wasn’t available for Week 1 of the regular season, but at the same time, you can’t put bubble wrap around him and they just have to be smart.
Pederson was asked about the perceived dip in Wentz’s production in some of the recent practices, but the head coach attributed that to the defense being ready and familiar.
“When you get to this point, the defense knows the offense and the offense knows the defense, and it is hard. It’s hard. You get frustrated. I know I’ve been there. You’re like, ‘Oh, man, I want that throw’ and you don’t get it, and things just don’t come off. But what happens is, we get those throws during games. Because we’re not game planning our defense obviously. We’re trying to run our offense. Defense is trying to run the defense. We’re still evaluating a lot of players. So there’s going to be days like that. That’s just the way camp is.”
With Wentz sitting out during Week 1’s preseason game, and Nate Sudfeld being injury, Cody Kessler got some additional snaps. Pederson said that Kessler has handled to additional responsibilities well, and is excited for him to get another opportunity for some live reps on Thursday.
On the Andre Dillard scuffle
The big news out of Monday’s training camp practice was one of the first pretty big dust ups with rookie OT Andre Dillard and a couple different members of the defense. Pederson was asked what happened between Dillard and Derek Barnett specifically.
“Oh, I just think it was a combination of guys working extremely hard and making each other better. That’s one of the things that happens during camp as you guys know. You get these warm days and guys are wanting to get better. It was just aggressive and it’s really good to see. I mean, it’s good to see that eagerness on both sides, but at the end of the day, they shake hands, they make up and we don’t carry it off the field. So we just leave it on the field and leave it at that.”
Despite the two shaking hands afterward, Dillard was visibly upset while speaking with both Pederson and Howie Roseman later on.
“Listen, young players, I mean, there’s pressure to play. You think about [QB] Carson [Wentz] in his first year and there’s pressure to play. He’s doing an outstanding job. It’s a tough sport. Without getting into a ton of detail, I just think that he’s so passionate about what he does and how he plays, and he wants to be perfect. He wants to be right. He doesn’t want to make mistakes. I just reassured him after practice, he’s been doing an excellent job and playing really well. So there’s really nothing to worry about.”
On facing Nick Foles and John DeFillipo
Pederson touched on how the familiarity between the OC and QB can definitely help, and that Foles and Flip are starting off with a strong foundation from the 7-8 games they worked together in Philly.
“For a coordinator, a play caller and a quarterback to be together again or at least for a long period of time, has that -- they can really -- I know this: You can have great conversation. You can bounce ideas off each other and you end up thinking alike, so it’s a positive.”
Pederson was also asked how Nick Foles made him a better head coach:
“Again, it wasn’t -- some of it was play design, play call, what he liked, but I think that’s the communication that you have with play caller and quarterback, the same that Carson and I have, and that just makes me better as a play caller. It makes me aware of his strengths, which are different than Carson’s strengths or Cody’s [QB Cody Kessler] strengths or Clayton’s [QB Clayton Thorson] strengths. All that makes me not only a better coach, but a better play caller.”
On next week’s joint practices
Next week the Eagles will host the Baltimore Ravens for joint practices ahead of the Week 3 preseason game. Pederson said it’s a good next step in evaluating players’ progression against a new offense/defense.
The head coach also admitted that hosting a joint practice does affect the team’s general routine, but that it’s a good thing to be able to face different opponents and break up the monotony of camp. Pederson even said he’d love to have more joint practices if they could.
On the current state of the team
Pederson was asked what he’s learned about the team so far through training camp:
“I think we’re right where we need to be this time of training camp. It’s not a perfect or a finished product, obviously. We’re still building and working through some things. I thought this week, I ramped the intensity up a little bit in practice this week, going back to Saturday with the Saturday, Sunday, padded practices. All by design to get our penciled-in starters ready to go for week one. I think we’re progressing. Again, by no means is it a finished product but I like where we are right now.”
The head coach was also asked what he wants to see improve heading into the regular season:
“Obviously we work a lot of situational football. I mean, today was a little backed up and we did some red zone today. We have to continue to improve. Third down, we weren’t a very good third-down team last year on offense or in the red zone. Those are areas I’ve emphasized in training camp.
Defensively, the same way. Creating turnovers. You’re seeing our defense get some hands on the ball, knocking passes down. Those are all things that we strive, or at least strive to do in practice and we have to get better to give ourselves a chance.”