Doug Pederson reflects on a very eventful offseason and NFL Draft.
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Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson chats with media about the team’s backup quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Nate Sudfeld, the virtual offseason, and much more.
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Q. When we talked to you after the draft, you acknowledged the limited offseason and the on-the-grass time that you could potentially have could impede the development of the rookie class this year. How big of a challenge is that going to be for you, and is 2011 a good comparison for what this is going to be like for the rookies as far as limited learning time? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH PEDERSON: I think 2011 is a good comparison to where we are for the young players. Obviously, this would be the time of year where we are in the middle of phase two, kind of preparing for phase three, the OTA aspect of our offseason. We would be in the building with a lot of meeting time, a lot of extra meeting time with our rookies trying to get them caught up with our playbook.
We are making do with the virtual set up. The coaches have done a great job of meeting and preparing and getting the guys as close to ready as possible, but we do need the grass time to see what these guys can do and see what they have taken away from the offseason from a mental standpoint.
Q. How much can you tell from the classroom settings and the virtual stuff you have been doing with the rookies, how much can you tell if they are ready to hit the field and will you have a pretty good sense when you finally get out there do you think? (Nick Fierro)
COACH PEDERSON: That is probably the hardest thing, is just getting a gauge of where the guys are. Obviously, as coaches, we ask a ton of questions back to them [to see] how much they have regurgitated and how much have they understood what we have put in.
And it’s a time where we can kind of slow things down a little bit, so they do understand and yet, it’s probably the one thing that if we don’t ask enough questions, it’s hard to get a gauge. So that is probably the biggest challenge moving forward. But I would say, for the most part, the meetings that I have attended and been in, the guys have really understood, and they are taking good notes. You can see them through the Microsoft Teams platform that we are using, and we just can’t wait to get them on the grass.
Q. When you look at beyond the rookies, how much time is it going to take for you to be ready to start a football season, grass time? And the second part is, I heard the president of West Virginia talking about college football starting about the same time and he feels that it is going to be reality that someone is going to get sick, but they should continue to go on. What are your feelings on getting ready and what happens if someone gets sick, especially if it is your quarterback? (Howard Eskin)
COACH PEDERSON: To answer the first part of your question, I do think because we’ve missed the entire off-season, it’s going to take all of the five to six weeks that we have of training camp to be prepared for a regular season. I think that you have to — that’s part of training camp is conditioning the mind, conditioning the body for the physical aspect of the game. In the spring and summer, it’s about the mental side, and then just your physical conditioning from workouts and running and things of that nature.
So I do think that a full training camp, moving forward, would it prepare you — because I do think you can get enough contact in, and get enough padded practices in, and you would have to maximize those, but at the same time, you would have to be smart to get your guys ready and prepared for that opening weekend.
The second aspect of it, I think it would be unfortunate, obviously, if someone were to come down sick, but I think moving forward, all the precautions, all the necessary testing, all the medical data that we have now in front of us, I think from a medical standpoint, we would be able to handle someone if they were to come down ill at that time.
It’s a little bit of a hypothetical question that’s somewhat hard to answer, but because so many guys would be [in the same vicinity] — so many coaches, so many players — the organization, would be possibly affected, so it would be unfortunate if something like that did happen.
Q. You have so many new offensive coaches this season and you have some new offensive players. How different is the offense going to look this year and can you tell already without being on the field? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: Before we were able to break and before we had to shut our building down, as the offensive and defensive staff, we were able to meet quite a bit, even with the new coaches and get a sense, get a feel for offensively with [Senior Offensive Assistant] Rich [Scangarello] and [Wide Receivers Coach] Aaron [Moorehead] in particular.
And really now, during these virtual meetings, you see the dialogue that, say, [QB] Carson [Wentz] and Rich have, Rich and [Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Press [Taylor] have, myself, Rich and Press have from a passing game side. Even [Pass Game Analyst] Andrew [Breiner] who is new to the staff and seeing his input.
And the dialogue, even with the players now, with the quarterbacks with [QB] Nate [Sudfeld] and Carson and these guys has been fun to go through. To see the conversations evolve and how detailed the conversations are and what Rich has been able to bring to us as a staff, and what he has been able to bring to the players — I think, and I answered this question the other day from a schematical standpoint, I don’t think from the naked eye you’re going to see a ton of different concepts, different ideas, different things from the naked eye. What you’re going to see from our standpoint is subtleties within what we do as an offense: protections, the play action game, screens, even the run game. But those are all things that we’re going to work on in training camp. But I think overall, you are not going to see big, wholesale changes. We didn’t overhaul the entire offense, and keep in mind, this offense won a World Championship a couple seasons ago, so we are just finding ways to make it better at this time.
Q. There’s obviously a lot of uncertainty at the wide receiver position, you have two veterans coming off injury and a lot of new faces and even WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is certainly still a new guy. What have you seen out of Wide Receivers Coach Aaron Moorehead and what is he bringing that’s different than what you previously had at that coaching position? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: I think it’s hard. I can’t put those two together. I can’t put what we’ve done in the past and what Aaron is doing now in the same bucket. It’s just not the same because we don’t have the grass time, so I can’t see him coaching on the grass. I can’t see him putting the players through drill work. Yeah, during the interview process I was able to watch him instruct me on his drills and things like that, but — so it’s hard to kind of answer that part of the question.
But from the mental side of it, what he has taken from our meetings as a staff to the players and to see the players, especially these young players, grasp ahold of the information, has been very positive and very good for me as a coach to know that the information is being transferred with one voice. That’s something that’s very important; as we communicate, with the offensive line, with the running backs, the tight ends, receivers, quarterbacks, whatever, that we’re speaking the same language. One of the things that I’ve required my staff to do, at the end of every week, is e-mail me or text me a one-liner on how the players are doing, how are they understanding the information being taught. And I think it’s a great gauge as to how Aaron is doing and he’s doing a great job right now because the guys are retaining, they are regurgitating the information and then spitting it back to him with confidence and with ease.
Q. There’s been a lot of reports about T Jason Peters and T Andre Dillard. Where are you right now with Andre, and what’s going to kind of determine how you move forward with Jason, who is obviously still unsigned? (Reuben Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: With Jason Peters, we’ve always said that we would stay in touch with him during the off-season and we have.
Jason Peters is a tremendous, not only football player, but he is a tremendous Philadelphia Eagle and I have a lot of respect for a guy like Jason Peters to play that left tackle position for so many years at a high level and so I have a lot of respect for his game and what he has accomplished in his career. But as we move forward, Andre Dillard was the player that we drafted to be that left tackle for us. Andre played last year, and I think that kind of propels him into this off-season where he’s taken command of that role, and we have a ton of confidence, I have a ton of confidence in Andre Dillard and playing the left tackle spot. The one thing I think that –when you look at — this is why we drafted Andre Dillard.
You look at his skill-set and what he brings to our offense and what he brings to the Philadelphia Eagles, it fits right in line with everything that Coach Stout [Offensive Line/Run Game Coordinator Jeff Stoutland] talks about, teaches, preaches about, and what we are as an offense. We know that he — and he understands that, yeah, strength is a big part of playing offensive line, but that’s something that can be worked on in the off-season and that’s what he’s doing right now. But moving forward, I have a ton of confidence in Andre and I look forward to getting him back, and getting him in the huddle, on the grass, our quarterback has a ton of confidence in him and that’s how we’re proceeding moving forward.
Q. Along the lines of trusting Andre to get stronger in the off-season – what is the message to the players when they are not in the building in terms of is there a different level of trust that you need to have that they are working, and what’s the message in terms of trying to stay ready for whenever it is that things can open up? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: You hit the nail on the head when you said the word trust. That’s been my messaging throughout the entire off-season program, and that was a word that I actually, when I thought about where we were as a football team coming off of last season, really the last two seasons, we needed to trust. Then we hit the pandemic and now more than ever, we need to trust each other, and I have to trust the players that they are doing everything in their power to get themselves physically ready because when we do get back to the building, whenever that is, if it’s the mid to the end of July, the messaging is they need to be in the best shape of their lives and they have embraced that.
The players have embraced that. I’ve had a chance to talk to several of them, especially the veteran players and their leadership, they have embraced the fact that they know that it’s go time. It’s time that they have to trust each other. They have to trust their off-season program. Some guys are limited in what they have available to them to work out. Some guys have home gyms. Some guys don’t. But whatever they have available, they need to get themselves in the best shape possible.
So you mentioned trust; that’s where we are at. That’s what we are doing right now is trusting each other that through this process, we’ll be — I’m not saying we’re going to be a well-oiled machine in July, but the guys should be in pretty good shape when we do get a chance to have them back in the building.
Q. Is there a way to check on a guy’s progress physically? With the playbook, you can sort of check in and see what they’ve learned. Is there a way at all to see how guys are progressing with their bodies? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s just something that, through a camera, and through a Microsoft Teams meeting, just to see them progress, see them work out – that’s part of the virtual workouts. That’s why we did the virtual workouts this way so our strength staff can focus on spending quality time with these players. Is there a measurement that we can use? I mean, again, we just have to trust the fact that these guys are doing everything in their power to be in top shape. We can’t fly to them. We can’t go see them work out, whatever. We can’t do any of that. And so, we are just asking that they take this serious. This is their job and we’ve got to trust that as coaches.
Q. What are some of the protocols being discussed for when things are opened back up in terms of testing, spacing, ways of keeping guys safe? What’s that going to look like from what you’ve been told so far? (Tim McManus)
COACH PEDERSON: That’s a great question. Those are all things that [Eagles Chief Medical Officer] Dr. Arsh Dhanota and his medical team, our trainers, are in the process of discussing right now – what is that going to look like. I don’t have a definite answer for you at this time. I wish I did. It’s something that I think when Dr. Arsh has more information, maybe when there’s more testing available, just his plan. I lean on him because he’s in the know. He understands this virus, this pandemic, and what it can do to the human body. So, at this point, I don’t have a definite answer for you.
Q. As much as you can share, what has the logistics of the offseason been like in terms of a schedule of the players, the schedule for you, and the schedule with the coaching staff? (Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: Good question. I get this quite a bit with where we are. We started the offseason program back on April 27th and we started with virtual workouts with our veteran players. And again, understand, it’s a voluntary offseason program, but we had just about – well, on the first phone call message, we had everybody involved, and we’ve continued to have everybody involved. That’s exciting, because guys are taking this thing serious.
We’ve only had a week with our rookies. We began last Monday, May 11th, with our rookie program, and so now, we’re basically into our second full week of the entire football team. And then, basically, it boils down to virtual workouts and virtual meetings. We’re still in a phase where we are going to continue with our virtual workouts, and then our coaches, alongside of that, work with the players with their virtual meetings.
Special teams, [Special Teams Coordinator] Coach [Dave] Fipp is meeting with the veterans. He’s also meeting with the rookies. Same with the veteran coaches. They are meeting with their veteran players and they are meeting with their rookies. That’s just the nature of where we are right now and what we’re doing, and we’ll continue this to the end of the offseason program.
Q. Are you confident that you’ll be on the field in late July, and how much does this play into the T Andre Dillard situation, for example? You do need to get him on the field to really feel comfortable with him starting at left tackle, right? And if you are delayed, would that make the equation more like, ‘Gee, maybe we should talk some more to T Jason Peters?’ (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: I’m preparing as if we’re going to be back in our building by training camp. Nothing is definite, nothing has been set, obviously, but I’m preparing that way to be back in the building hopefully in mid-July so we can be on the grass. That’s my preparation. That’s my mindset right now as I prepare for training camp. That’s one of the things – we get these guys back, it’s got to be full steam ahead.
We’ve got to get – not only just Andre, but all of our players that are in starting roles – we’ve got to get them caught up to speed and we’ve got to test them early. I’ve got to set up tough practices in training camp. I’ve got to set up opportunities for them to be successful, but yet work through maybe some failure early in camp, and that’s just part of the learning curve. Even with a guy like Andre, a young player, one of the things that you go back, he had a chance to play in a few games this past year it, and he played well. Wasn’t perfect, but he played well, and that’s something that as coaches we continue to grasp ahold of. He’ll have confidence going into training camp.
But I think with any player, if more time is missed, yeah, there’s going to be probably slight setbacks. You’re going to be slower than you would be under normal ideal situations.
Q. With the backup quarterback position, with this uncertain offseason, do you anticipate QB Nate Sudfeld still being the backup quarterback on gamedays? How is QB Jalen Hurts picking up things? (John Clark)
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, having played in this league for so long and seeing this pandemic and thinking back to when we came out of the lockout year, I think early on in this season, this becomes a veteran-laden football season. Football teams are going to have to rely on their veteran players, and Nate is one of those guys for us. He’s been on our roster the last couple of seasons and he knows exactly what we are doing. I have a ton of confidence in Nate to become the backup quarterback. Nothing is ever handed to anybody, and we always try to create, I always try to create competition at every position, and quarterback, as you guys know, is not exempt from that.
But I fully expect Nate to come in and be aggressive and do the things that he’s capable of doing, and become the backup to [QB] Carson [Wentz]. And then with Jalen, Jalen is about, right now, just learning and picking up our system, and he’s another one, another young player that we drafted who, there’s a lot to learn from the quarterback position.
So, are we going to take it a little bit slower maybe with him until he grasps the offense? You might have to. What I like about it is always the unknown, and the unknown is how well a guy I think can progress. And then once we get him on the grass, put him through drills, put him through practices, then we see exactly what these guys are all about.
Right now, Jalen is doing an outstanding job of picking up the offense, spitting it back to [Eagles Passing Game Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach] Press [Taylor] and understanding what we are trying to get done, and we go that route with him right now at this time.
Q. Just curious now that you’ve talked about the virtual process, and this is obviously the first time for it, there have been different approaches. Saints Head Coach Sean Peyton told the guys to show up for training camp, and some people are doing virtual meetings but not virtual workouts. How did you come up with your process, and now that you’ve been into it for a couple of weeks, how do you think it’s working for you? (John McMullen)
COACH PEDERSON: Yeah, that’s a really good question, because it’s something that I definitely had time to think about the offseason when we had to leave our building around March 13th, March 14th at that time. It gave me time to prepare and time to think about how I wanted to handle the offseason. I just felt like with so many new staff members, even [Eagles Director of Sports Performance] Ted Rath being new to the team, new to the sports performance department, that I wanted our guys to be exposed as much as I could to him and our strength and conditioning staff. I basically wanted to put our guys in an offseason program. I wanted them to work out. I wanted to do meetings.
I just didn’t feel – and listen, this is my own belief –I just didn’t want guys to be idle. I think when you become idle, you get a little bit … it becomes a challenge. And so, this way, it gets the guys up. It gets the guys moving. It gets the guys thinking about football. And is it right? I don’t know. We still don’t know if training camp is going to start on time or not. But, at the same time, I do know that at least we are getting some football done and hopefully we’ll be better off for it.
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