The Eagles were back to work on Sunday and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media and elaborated a bit more on how he’s structured training camp practices to be so effective and valuable in his evaluation process.
He also talked a bit about certain offensive position groups, and some updates on injured players, including Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox and Nigel Bradham.
Plus, the head coach was also asked about Andrew Luck’s sudden retirement announcement.
Here’s what Pederson had to say:
On how he’s used training camp
A lot has been made about Pederson’s choice to hold certain starters the past couple weeks and he’s mentioned several times that he structured training camp practices in a way to get more evaluation from them than the preseason games.
He elaborated on that a bit on Sunday, explaining:
“I purposely two weeks ago sort of made -- the first couple weeks of training camp, there’s these different cycles you go through, and the first part of the training camp is you’re really getting everybody reps. Everybody on offense, everybody on defense, you’re kind of spreading the wealth. And then somewhere in that week three, four, we start giving who we think are going to be starters more time and more reps in practice, and so a couple weeks ago that was our time. So I pushed them really hard, offense, defense and our special teams guys, in practice, giving them more reps, and for me kind of staying on them. If there’s a mistake, let’s repeat it. If a guy jumps offsides, let’s fix that, things like that with those starters.
And you really started seeing them -- that sense of urgency went up. Like this is real. Like it’s a real game or it’s a real situation.
And then this past week against Baltimore in practice, I saw the same things: the energy level, the timing of quarterback and receiver, the surfacing of blocks that we talk about up front, defensively being in position to either make a tackle or coverage elements. Those are the things you start seeing when you give these guys more time in practice. And so for me, that’s a gauge that they’re ready, they’re ready to go.
And the more we give them reps, obviously the better they are and the more prepared they’ll be for the start of the year.”
Pederson admitted that cuts will be tough and are tough every year, but that he still works with Howie Roseman and the personnel staff to make sure that they are still looking at option for adding depth at certain positions. But, ultimately, he said it’s hard to make those roster decisions because they affect these players’ lives and they are always tough discussions to have.
On late additions
Later on, Pederson talked about adding players late in camp and how they have to go back to their former film and history to help with their evaluations.
On safety Rudy Ford:
“What we saw on tape from not only a defensive safety position but a special teams player, this kid has a lot of talent, he has some speed. Again, it just goes back to creating that depth in competition, and he brings that to us.”
On DeSean Jackson
Pederson was asked about differences in the wide receiver this go around with the team, and the head coach mentioned that Jackson was really invested in practice and being out on the field with the guys. The head coach also mentioned that Jackson sees things fast on the field and is smarter in his execution on the field.
The type of vertical element he brings to the Eagles is something that not only was missing last season, but opens things up for all the other offensive weapons they have to work with.
“Well, obviously the speed. To be able to get deep and get deep quickly. And it’s not just running straight lines vertically down the field. It’s across the field, deep crosses and different things that he can do, and this is where the experience of playing over time has come in with him and what you see. It provides, or promotes I should say, a little bit softer coverage sometimes on him. Guys aren’t as eager to play bump-and-run on him, and so it definitely opens up a lot more area, opens your tight ends up, [WR] Alshon [Jeffery], Nelly [WR Nelson Agholor], whatever, gives you a little more freedom in your offense.”
And Jackson helps open up the run game too, according to Pederson.
“Well, if they’re going to double him, like some teams have done in the past, that’s two guys away from the box, and you have favorable box counts, numbers in there that you can run against, and that’s obviously just one specific way that -- and then we can move him around. We can motion him, use him in jet sweeps. We can do different things with him, too, that help in the run game that way.”
On tight end depth
With Richard Rodgers going down last week with injury, Pederson was asked what the tight ends behind Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have shown.
“He’s a fluid athlete. He runs well. He’s smart, a good special teams’ player.”
“We had Will last year, Will was on our practice roster last year, and Will is another one that’s a bigger guy that’s a little more in-line, kind of the primary blocker tight end that we have, physical, and he’s one that’s kind of learning the passing game. It probably doesn’t come as easy as say Josh.”
“This guy coming to us late, he’s just gotten better each day. He’s improved. Each game you see him flying around on special teams making plays, and then there was a great catch the other night for the touchdown and certain things. But yeah, he’s improving every day.”
On the offensive line
Pederson was asked about whether he was concerned about the cohesiveness of the offensive line, noting that last year the group had a bit of a slow start before finding their rhythm together.
“That’s the one group, I think offensively speaking, that there has to be that cohesiveness with that group. I will say they’ve all worked together for a long time, and so there is some familiarity there. These guys are able to go through walk-throughs together, hear the calls, terminology, and things like that.
I think any time you disrupt that group, there can be a little bit of that timing that’s off, but it only takes a few practices and maybe a couple of weeks to get that back.”
On returning injured players
The head coach was asked about getting some players — like Nigel Bradham and Fletcher Cox — back at practice this week to feel the intensity and urgency, and whether he’s concerned about them being ready for the regular season. Pederson noted that they’ve been getting some walk-through work in, and Bradham was able to get some individual work, but his main goal is having these players ready to go Week 1.
Pederson also said that he was confident that Cox would be ready to go and that while everybody is different, he expects him to be there in two weeks.
He was also asked about Brandon Brooks, and the head coach noted that the OG was cleared to increase his workload this week. Pederson said they’ll give Brooks some team reps this week and see where he’s at.
“We just have to be careful. I mean, he’s a big guy, and obviously with the injury. But he’s looking good. He’s looking powerful, and I’m excited about that.”
Pederson was asked about Andrew Luck’s retirement. The head coach acknowledged he had talked to Colts head coach (and former Eagles OC) Frank Reich about it, but understood why Luck made the decision he did.
“It’s tough. It’s tough. Obviously, you could tell through his comments last night that he put a lot of thought and a lot of conversation with family, friends, coaches, the owner, and it’s a tough thing for him to be able to step away like that. But I hope he gets healthy and wish him the best moving forward.”