The Eagles were back at practice on Monday heading toward Week 1 of the 2019 regular season, and head coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media afterward about the final 53-man roster, what he thinks about some of their cuts signing with Washington, and gave some updates on injured players looking to make their return.
Here’s what he had to say:
On the final roster
The head coach was asked if this was the most talented 53-man roster he’s had while in Philadelphia. Pederson said that from a depth standpoint, “definitely”, and it’s nice to have a lot of the same guys back. But, at the same time, they still have to go out and execute, but he does feel like it’s his deepest roster yet.
Carson Wentz was asked a similar question about depth during camp and the QB noted it didn’t really matter unless the group came together and gelled on the field. Pederson agreed but said that he thinks that happened, specifically during that week of joint practices with Baltimore.
“You see the communication, the things that go on — the things that have to go on — during a practice, during a play of a practice, depending on what you’re working on. And I do think that these guys really did begin to communicate that way, and come together and gel, and you know this is a good time to see that happen.”
On Clayton Thorson
“Listen, it’s tough enough to make the decisions we have to make. And we have to let players go, and obviously that was one of the positions, at quarterback, that we felt like we had the depth that we talked about earlier.
You have to make those decisions to put a guy out there in hopes of bringing him back, and Clayton was a guy we hoped we could get back and put him on practice squad. But, other teams are looking at our roster as well, we’re looking at other teams roster.
I’m happy for him, that he got picked up, and he’s getting a chance to continue playing in this league.”
On the PS quarterback
It was then pointed out that they signed Kyle Lauletta to the practice squad instead of Thorson, which seemed to contradict what Pederson was saying. The head coach said that they definitely wanted a quarterback on the practice squad, and the process is what made them sign Lauletta.
“We wanted a quarterback, and just not being able to get him back at the time, we had to find and wanted to find another guy we could develop and grow.”
On having so many offensive weapons
Pederson was asked about the egos of the players he has in the locker room, especially given there are a lot talented guys and only one football to go around. He said that the guys who have been with the team understands how it works, and the guys that they’ve added will catch up quickly, and he doesn’t believe that you have to go into a game planning for each guy to get a certain number of touches.
“The balls gonna go where the balls gonna go, and that’s based on the play design, and it’s based on the progression, and what the defense presents. So, bottom line, is obviously having enough for everybody in the gameplan, but at the same time our execution and ultimately trying to win a football game.”
He later also said that Darren Sproles will primarily play at punt returner, but that he’s still a guy that can get in and do some damage. Pederson said Sproles will likely get carries on third down, and be a guy they use in certain packages.
On the tight end numbers
The Eagles as of now only have two tight ends on the final roster, with two more on the practice squad. Pederson acknowledged that there’s still time for that to change, but he does feel comfortable with the depth, and that third tight end could even end up being Andre Dillard.
He went on to explain that with the roster they have, getting a third tight end into a football game is hard anyway unless they’re in a short-yardage or goal line situation. Plus, they feel like they’re going to spend most of their time in the 11 and 12 personnel schemes, and then factoring in the running backs they have, they don’t really feel the need to carry that third tight end on the active roster.
On the cornerbacks
Pederson said that they are all going to play, and that’s an area he thinks got stronger this offseason. They’ll have to wait until later in the week, but the top two guys to start are likely Ronald Darby and Sidney Jones, but Rasul Douglas will play quite a bit, and Avonte Maddox will also gets reps as the nickel corner.
On Washington signing a couple Eagles players
The Eagles Week 1 opponent, and NFC East “rival”, signed both Wendell Smallwood and Treyvon Hester the past couple of days, and Pederson was asked how much about getting insider information is realistic.
“I think it’s a real thing. I don’t know how much it plays into the game-planning part of that week. It happens a lot, but I’m sure coaches will pick the brain and see what they know and see what they can use. And probably it just kind of confirms what they’ve seen on tape.”
On the team’s messaging
Pederson was asked how the messaging evolves heading into the season, with the team wearing shirts that say “Everything Matters” during camp. He noted that nothing changes, and everything does matter, even moreso at this point, and that’s still the message.
He went on to talk about how the players have a little more free time during the week now that they are heading into the regular season, so that message includes how they fill that time and whether they spend any of it doing extra film study or diet and rehab commitment.
Pederson later talked a bit about how things are for him as he approaches his fourth regular season as head coach, and he noted that he’s still excited, nervous and anxious. He’s fired up for the guys and sees it as a good opportunity for the team, and he’s ready for Sunday.
Pederson was asked about Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox, Nigel Bradham, and Ronald Darby and their availability for Week 1. He noted that they all practiced on Monday, but they haven’t made any official announcements yet. He said that they “fully expect” all of those guys named to be available on Sunday.
The head coach was asked about Derek Barnett, who didn’t participate during the offseason as he was recovering from surgery. Pederson said, “I feel really, really good about Derek. He’s been probably the one that’s been practicing the most during training camp, with getting more reps each and every week. So, he’s in a really good spot”.
Jordan Mailata’s back is “week-to-week” after further testing and he’s still rehabbing, and they just have to give him the proper time before he’s ready to get back.
Pederson was asked about Jalen Mills, noting that by the time he gets off PUP it’ll have been about a calendar year since he injured his foot. The head coach said he hurt his foot and they didn’t want to rush him back, and sometimes things like that take longer to heal.