The Eagles squeaked out a win against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Thursday Night Football and continue their successful short-week streak. The team traveled back to Philly following the contest, and head coach Doug Pederson met with the media on Friday to discuss the win, give some injury updates, and discuss what’s up next.
Pederson talked a bit about how the team is resilient and seems to play their best football when their backs are up against a wall — and that’s what he credits to being 2-2 vs 1-3. He specifically credits the coaches for putting together a gameplan on a short week and the players for understanding and executing that gameplan.
Here’s what the head coach had to say:
On Avonte Maddox and other injuries
The first question Pederson was asked was about the status of Avonte Maddox. The cornerback suffered a scary injury with just a minute left in Thursday’s game, but has since said he’s doing well and the head coach said that he’d let the team’s official statement be the update on that situation.
Injury update: Avonte Maddox was evaluated at the hospital last night and diagnosed with a concussion and a neck injury. Doctors determined he was safe to travel with the team to undergo further testing.— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 27, 2019
He went on to say that Maddox was in great spirits last night on the plane, and that he went home and came back for more medical evaluation on Friday morning, but the head coach hasn’t had a chance to connect with him yet. Pederson said that the players weren’t surprised Maddox was able to make the trip home with the rest of the team, and lauded the medical staff for how they communicated with all levels of the organizations.
The head coach confirmed that they did have a member of the Philadelphia Eagles go with Maddox to the hospital — although, he couldn’t remember exactly who that was — but they did know that the CB would be meeting them at the plane.
Later on, Pederson was asked about Sidney Jones, who suffered a hamstring injury, and whether they were expecting Ronald Darby back anytime soon. He mentioned that he has a meeting with the medical staff, and doesn’t have any updates yet.
He did talk a bit about how it’s challenging to have so many injuries at one position. Pederson said at first it was the receivers, and now the defensive backs are taking a hit. But, the head coach did say it’s fortunate that they have a couple extra days to get guys healthy before their next game.
Pederson was then asked about DeSean Jackson, and he mentioned that the receiver is in the same situation. They will see how he progresses and re-evaluate things mid-week next week to see where he’s at.
On Derek Barnett’s (questionable) hit
Pederson said that Barnett’s hit was close, even when he was replaying it in his mind after the game, it was hard to evaluate when the whistle blew.
“Guys were still fighting. He was, obviously, still fighting for extra yards, and it’s just unfortunate. We don’t need that type of a hit, obviously, but it was right about the time the whistle blew, so it was kind of right at impact.”
The head coach acknowledged that they coach the players to play until the whistle, and sometimes in loud stadiums like that sometimes it’s hard to hear. Pederson emphasized that it’s unfortunate, and hopes that the player is healthy and can bounce back.
On personnel decisions
Pederson said that he and Howie Roseman will talk later on Friday about where they’re at personnel-wise with all the injuries, and discuss whether they need to bring in some depth at the cornerback spot.
“It’s obviously not out of the question if we have to make that decision.”
The head coach also talked about Craig James, the CB activated from the practice squad ahead of Thursday’s game. James said after the game that he knew taking the field following Maddox’s injury, that he would likely be targeted, and the head coach said that James showed great awareness for the situation.
“Just a great all-out effort. He knew it was coming down to those last two or three plays of the game, and stepping in there and doing what he did late in that game is very commendable, and he did a great job.”
Later on, Pederson was asked whether James would be an option for them in more of a long term situation, as well as what they’ve seen from him in practice. The head coach said that James is definitely a viable option. He was primarily a special teams player when he was brought in, he’s a smart kid and has handled being bounced from the active 53 to the practice squad (and back) very well.
He was also asked about CB Ajene Harris out of USC who is currently on the practice squad. Pederson said that he was a training camp addition, but he’s another viable option for the team. Harris has been with the team for awhile at this point, so he’s someone they will take a look at.
Pederson also agreed that the locker room culture is strong enough that they can bring in a notable name mid-season without causing issues. He said that the leadership on the team is in place and they’ve proven the past few seasons that they can add talent during the season without causing waves.
On the play-calling vs. Packers
There was a 4th and 3 early on that Pederson uncharacteristically decided to punt rather than go for the first down, and he explained that it was partly because it was early in the game. Pederson also said that sometimes you make decisions based on how you’re playing and other times you make decisions based on the quarterback you’re playing. And going against Aaron Rodgers changed some things he maybe normally would have done.
Pederson said that he thinks how they used the run game against Green Bay could be a little bit of a recipe for how the offense can perform moving forward. He explained that without DeSean Jackson out there to have that deeper threat, they relied on the run game a little bit more.
“But, even with DeSean, I think that’s how we can play, and utilize that run game. It does open up some things for us in the play-action game, and last night was an indication of that.”
Later on, it was brought up that Pederson had previously likened his success in short weeks to simplifying the game plan. He acknowledged that was part of their success against Green Bay. The head coach noted he even found himself repeating plays, both run and pass, against the Packers which can be fruitful because QBs and players learn from the first try.
He said that they will probably simplify things occasionally throughout the season, but there are going to be games that they’ll need to have a more complex gameplan.
On PI and catch challenges
Pederson explained that the pass interference call that he challenged, he thought that maybe the defender got his hand in there a little bit before the ball. Ultimately, that didn’t go in the Eagles’ favor, “and that’s ok”.
The head coach also explained about why he didn’t throw the challenge flag on a questionable Green Bay reception — it looked like it bounced before being caught. Pederson said he didn’t have a clear picture of the play and didn’t want to risk losing another challenge and timeout.
He was also asked about how he thinks the new pass interference reviews are working. Pederson said he thinks they’re working fine, noting that it gives them a little bit a leeway and an opportunity to challenge a call.
“I feel like it’s working, and we’ll continue to evaluate it, keep studying it
On the offensive line
Pederson was asked what the difference was for the o-line against the Packers. The head coach had a hard time pinpointing one specific thing, but noted that the group played well against Detroit and bounced back from the loss in Atlanta.
He talked about how Isaac Seumalo had to bounce back after a tough game against the Falcons, and played better against the Lions and then had an even better game on Thursday against the Packers.
“As a group, I think they played extremely well. This was a good defensive front tha they played against.”
The head coach said it’s just a mindset, coming off a short week and feeling a little bit of pressure to perform and execute better — something they all felt as a team.
“They blocked their tails off and no sacks. Did a great job.”