The Philadelphia Eagles made Doug Pederson available to reporters via conference call on Tuesday morning with the team concluding their virtual offseason workout program. Let’s look at the biggest takeaways from what the head coach had to say.
BRANDON BROOKS TO BE REPLACED INTERNALLY?
Pederson said that his “heart sunk” when he got the news about Brooks’ season-ending Achilles injury. So, not unlike all other Eagles fans in the world.
Pederson said the team hasn’t made a decision at right guard yet and they’re going to look at a lot of different scenarios. But he did say the Eagles are going to start by looking at their in-house options.
It doesn’t seem like the Eagles plan to spend significant money to help replace Brooks. Maybe they’ll add a free agent if the price is an unexpected bargain. They might just roll with a competition featuring young guys like Matt Pryor, Jack Driscoll, Nate Herbig, and Sua Opeta, though.
THE PLAN FOR JALEN REAGOR
The Eagles obviously have high hopes for Reagor after selecting him at No. 21 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. But how exactly does he fit in as a rookie?
When asked if the Eagles will immediately cross-train him at multiple wide receiver positions, Pederson said Reagor will start out with just one. He then specifically mentioned Reagor will be learning from DeSean Jackson, thus indicating Reagor will begin at the “Z” role.
The Eagles first had JJ Arcega-Whiteside exclusively learn the “X” position behind Alshon Jeffery last year before receiver injuries forced him into working in at other spots. JJAW admitted learning multiple roles was a challenge that contributed to his rookie struggles.
Perhaps Reagor will pick up the offense more quickly than JJAW did, although the former obviously isn’t going to have a normal offseason to do so. It remains to be seen just how big of a role Reagor will have from the jump. If he’s only playing “Z” behind Jackson then it might be JJAW at “X” and maybe Greg Ward at “Y” in the slot? It’ll be disappointing if Reagor — the Eagles’ only significant offseason investment at wide receiver — isn’t able to make some kind of immediate impact.
ALSHON JEFFERY: HERE TO STAY?
Here’s all what Pederson had to say about Jeffery:
“Alshon has done extremely well this off-season with his rehab. I’ve been — not just Alshon but with all our veteran players, to be part of this virtual off-season like they have, I’ve been really impressed with everybody that’s taken part and Alshon is one of the guys. The dialogue that he’s had in the receiver room, being able to converse with some of the young players that we have on our roster and just getting themselves back healthy and obviously there’s no timetable for him right now. I just want him to focus on his rehab and get strong, but the second part of your question is, he’s a big part of our offense, and we do plan to have him in the offense at some point. But if there’s a couple games there where he’s not ready, then, we’re not going to put him out there and just wait for him to get healthy. But yeah, he is a big part of the process moving forward, and he’s a great leader, and he’s going to be able to help the young players come along.”
It’ll be interesting to see how Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh and wide receivers coach Carson Walch utilize Jeffery this season.
JALEN HURTS’ GROWTH
Hey, remember when the Eagles used the No. 53 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on a quarterback? Pederson gave an update on what he’s seen out of Jalen Hurts thus far.
With Jalen, it’s something — with young quarterbacks, you always have an idea or an understanding of where they are, not only at the beginning of your off-season, but at the end. You take things slower with young players. You take things a little bit slower so that they can understand the terminology. They can call a play in a huddle and teach them everything else that goes along with it. The one thing we — as we’ve talked, even in this meeting here, is just not having them on the grass. But his growth from a mental standpoint from the beginning of the off-season to now has been very good. His ability to recall plays and recite plays and put them — one thing [Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Press Taylor has done is put him into a huddle situation where he’s calling plays and being able to just spit that back to him. He’s done that at a really good, high level and now it’s just a matter of once we get him on the grass, he has to do it for real and go from there. But I’ve been really impressed with his progress this spring.
The thinking here is that Hurts will enter the season as the Eagles’ third string quarterback behind Carson Wentz and Nate Sudfeld. To be determined if the team actually uses Hurts in some kind of gadget capacity. Hurts could also earn the No. 2 job if Sudfeld struggles and/or he really excels in preseason.
ANTHEM DEMONSTRATION PLANS TBD
Rodney McLeod said he expects his teammates to join him in demonstrating during the national anthem this year. It’s unclear if Pederson will participate.
“You’re hearing a lot about it more and more, but one of the things as a head football coach that we are going to continue to do is have discussions in every area, not only with social injustice but the anthem, with anything that comes up. And that’s one of the things that I think going into my fifth year with this football team, we have been able to have dialogue and conversation. So nothing has been determined. I understand that players — and I support players who demonstrate peacefully and stand for something because it’s part of — we have to fix the whys. It’s part of the whys and trying to understand our players, and we support our players. I support our players. But we are going to have these conversations I know once we get into camp.”
Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien has said that he’ll be kneeling during the anthem this season.
Pederson was also asked about what he learned from the Eagles’ recent internal conversations about race relations in light of George Floyd’s death.
“Me personally is just the first thing I wanted to do is listen, listen to my players, listen to the guys that have feelings, have strong beliefs, and I want to understand everything that I can. A lot of it’s personal, for me, just hearing from the players — and I don’t want to get into a bunch of dialogue that way, but me just understanding more and more about what these players go through on a daily basis and what the black community, the African American community go through on a daily basis. And we are seeing it more and more, not only with sports but obviously in our communities. And so for me personally, it’s just understanding that, and this is what I told my team several weeks ago, a couple weeks ago when we had a team meeting is I want to learn, I want to understand. I came from a world that didn’t understand that. And so for me as an adult, I want to also be able to take the information and teach my own boys, for those of you that know my three sons. I love all our players, coaches, and that for me is what I’ve taken away is just the understanding and knowledge what have these guys go through on a daily basis.”
The NFL issued guidelines for return to work during the coronavirus pandemic but there’s a lot of skepticism about teams realistically adhering to protocol. How are they really going to maintain proper distance with a 90-man roster ... plus coaches ... plus training staff ... plus even more people?
Pederson said the Eagles might use Lincoln Financial Field more often in addition to their normal headquarters at the NovaCare Complex.
“That’s a good question because these are all protocols that the NFL, the NFL PA obviously must sign off on. Listen, we understand, I understand that this is a unique time in our society, in our country and our world. This is just what we’re faced with. So we’re going to make the most of it and use the resources possibly with the NovaCare facility, possibly with our stadium to take advantage of everything that we can. And the No. 1 thing here is making sure that our players and our coaches and all our staff are safe. That’s our most important aspect of everything right now. But we are in the process of taking a look at a lot of different scenarios. Again, like I mentioned, using the stadium, possibly, or using the stadium and using the NovaCare facility to be able to handle the numbers that we have in training camp from a player perspective. It’s going to look different. It will feel different, but at the same time, we are going to embrace it and we are going to make the most of it, and our job as coaches is to prepare our football team for the regular season.”
“Well, I guess, don’t misunderstand; we are going to keep everybody together, but we just might have to use the stadium and transition over there from time to time. And these are all things that we are looking at. But we are going to keep everybody together. We’re going to socially distance when we are inside the buildings. We’re going to wear masks. We’re going to do all the protocols that we’ve been asked to do and we’re going to make that work.”
The Eagles are currently still slated to begin training camp in late July. We might not hear from Pederson again until then.