Q. Specifically about S K’ Von Wallace, LB Davion Taylor and LB Shaun Bradley, three guys who played a lot of reps for you in their first game without a pre-season, how they did? (Reuben Frank)
DAVE FIPP: I’m excited about all three of those guys. They had some ups and downs. Davion had the penalty on the punt return. I felt like he worked really hard on those plays though. Proud of his effort.
I think all those guys got a lot of room for improvement. But I thought all of them showed up for their first game and did a nice job out there.
Shaun Bradley obviously played more than the other two guys a little bit, had a few more snaps for us. I thought he handled his first game well.
Good for all those guys. They had no pre-season games, so for them getting out there playing those plays for the first time full speed, the whole field, I thought overall it was a good place to start. I think all of them, all of us, got a lot of room for improvement on all those plays really.
Q. S Rudy Ford, hard not to notice him Sunday. What does he mean to the punt return coverage unit and special teams overall? (Paul Domowitch)
DAVE FIPP: Rudy has always been a really good player for us, talented. Obviously last year he got nicked up, so we didn’t have him for a chunk of the season.
But you guys all saw, he’s got great speed, can run on the perimeter. I would also say this, though, I thought there was some really good team coverage. Any time you’re talking about a gunner, you also have to talk a little bit about the punter. Usually if the punter is hanging the ball up there, the gunner has a chance to make more plays. I thought [P] Cam [Johnston] did a better job this game than in the past at times.
Obviously, there was some improvement in some areas. Still got a lot of work to do. Rudy knows that. He can be better in some areas too. He has stuff he really wants to improve and get better at. The good news is he is really hungry right now, he’s in a good spot. So we’re excited about him.
Q. With Rudy’s speed, are you more apt to let your punter this year go for distance than maybe in the past when you’ve been concerned with the hang time? (Paul Domowitch)
DAVE FIPP: I think there’s a lot of variables that go into every play. I kind of alluded to that last week when I talked to you guys.
There’s just a lot of situations in a game. But I would definitely say the faster that coverage group is, the further they can get down the field before the ball is caught, then the further you can punt the ball down the field, the less trouble you’re going to run into at some point.
I think there’s some truth in what you’re saying. It’s never as easy as any given play or speaking in generalities, but yeah.
Q. What is the reason for the punt return rotation? What is your level of concern about WR Jalen Reagor’s ball security? (Zach Berman)
DAVE FIPP: Jalen obviously put that first one on the ground. I was disappointed for him on that play right there. I thought he did a nice job of bouncing back. He responded. We didn’t blink.
We know there’s going to be some ups and downs with every young player. We’re going to hang in there with him. He’s really explosive. We’re excited about him. I thought he did a really nice job on his last return. Unfortunately, we had the penalty on that play, but I thought he did a really nice job of handling that. I thought he went back in the game and did a good job.
I thought [WR] Greg [Ward] did a great job. We’re probably going to rotate those guys in and out. A lot of different stuff that goes into that, I’m not going to get into all the specifics. I think you’ll see both those guys back there at some point, or quite a bit in every game throughout the course of the year.
Q. We saw LB Duke Riley have a pretty heavy workload on defense and special teams. Is that sustainable for the year? (Dave Zangaro)
DAVE FIPP: We track all that stuff. I think he had 80 snaps or so. He was the highest for us. He did a good job. I mean, I think you got to look at all those situations individually. We’ve kind of always done that. How much a guy is playing on offense or defense, how much on special teams, how old is the guy, how much energy does he have in his tank.
We’ll just kind of monitor it based off of week-to-week I would say. Also kind of where our roster is at. If there’s another option, or maybe on some plays there’s other options. We always keep a close eye on that, so we’ll see moving forward. We’ll play it one week at a time now.
Q. In the game neither team tried to attempt a kickoff return. In your case a lot of times it was because your kicker put it through the back of the end zone. Have you reached the point where you’re not even going to try any more, for any balls that reach the end zone? (Nick Fierro)
DAVE FIPP: Well, I would say I wouldn’t share necessarily all that answer just for competitive reasons.
But I would never say never. There are times where we feel good about returning the ball in the end zone. We go into some weeks saying that’s a good idea, some weeks we say it’s not as good of an idea.
I think right now early on in this season, obviously the ball travels really well in the air. These guys can all kick touchbacks a lot easier. Later in the year there’s going to be a lot of kicks returned, guys won’t be able to get the ball to the end zone, or the kickers won’t be able to. We have to get ready for that.
This year having no pre-season, you also want to have guys get reps under their belt even if the ball is not returned against them, they can start training their eyes, there’s a lot of situations. They can start to work their technique, their eyes. They can start to see what return is setting up on them, start getting a feel for live coverage throughout the course of the early part of the season here. So we are getting ready to cover them as we go.
Q. You mentioned no pre-season. We talked before, and head coach Doug Pederson kind of mentioned, maybe the uncertainty was even a little bit more on special teams. Going back to normal seasons, did you notice a big difference in how guys were ready and ramped up? (John McMullen)
DAVE FIPP: I noticed a difference. I was nervous going into those first few plays, all of them. Even the field goal team. We had a bunch of young players playing on that field goal unit who did a really nice job for us.
Yeah, there was uncertainty. I think I said last week we did a lot of live drills. Felt we had them well-prepared, the best we really could, even being critical on ourselves.
That being said, until those plays really play out full speed, you never really know what’s going to happen. I thought guys handled themselves well. I thought there was a lot of really good things that showed up.
That being said, like I say, there’s a lot of errors in there, a lot of room for improvement. I think the challenge in this league really is just getting better each week. The teams that can get better each week, keep doing it week after week, having a chance to play their best football down at the end of the year.
Q. Losing CB Craig James looks like for an extended period, such a big part of the special teams group. How big a loss is that? Where do you go without him? (Ed Kracz)
DAVE FIPP: To be honest with you, I don’t even know how long he is out or if he is out. At the end of the day all these guys could go down at any one play right there. We’ll just have the next guy step up, go in. We’re confident. We have contingency plans.
In that game [CB] Cre’Von LeBlanc came in, played snaps, did a nice job. He had one gunner rep, a couple on the outside as a jammer on punt return. I thought Cre’Von went in there, competed well, did a nice job for us.
If he were to be down, we would be able to adjust the roster a little bit, get somebody else up potentially. Those are all the things that happen for us week-to-week. We’ll see who we have available to us, and then put the best 11 out there.
Q. The 53-yard field goal, looked like it was just a little bit short. K Jake Elliott has a great leg. What did you see there? Did he just not hit it right? Was the hold not great? (Les Bowen)
DAVE FIPP: I’m glad you asked about that play. I’ll say this, the first part of that play probably nobody saw. Obviously, we took that negative play on offense before that. We had the sack there and it backed it up.
I’ll be honest with you. At first, I thought they were spotting the ball at the 38-yard line. Right away in my head I’m thinking that’s a 56-yard field goal, that’s right on the edge of his range. That wind kind of turned, not that it was really strong, but just a little bit back into us going that way at that point in the game. It was, like right on the edge of that decision-making process with Coach. I think I jammed him up, to be honest with you.
He’s like, ‘No, it’s on the 35.’
I’m like, ‘Yeah, go, go, go.’
Those guys got out there late. Just started poorly by me. Those guys got out there late. They went to execute. I would say if you look closely at that play, if you look real close, it probably wasn’t our best snap and hold. That all has an effect on the thing.
Anyway, he ended up missing the kick. I’m actually really encouraged about Jake. He’s hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen him hit it since I’ve been here. He’s been steady. I think that play was less of him and more to do with the other circumstances starting with myself than anything.
Q. This might be a little too macro at this point. There were 19 missed field goals in the league over the weekend. The most since 2002, week 13. Any theories why? Would that have something to do with the operation not being practiced as much during the offseason? (Reuben Frank)
DAVE FIPP: To be honest with you, that’s the first I heard of that. I knew about the one and it kills me.
But no, I don’t know. I will end up looking at all those usually probably by the end of today I end up going through all the plays in the league. It’s hard to tell because I couldn’t tell you. I feel like I read there were two blocks, so that obviously is two of those 19. But I’m not really sure what happened on the other ones, whether there’s some mechanical snap hold stuff going on or if it’s more guys missing it.
I would say in order to give you a really good answer, I’ll have to go back through. Next week I’ll be able to give it to you.
Q. Jalen Reagor, we saw a few muffs earlier in training camp. Any theme between those and the one on Sunday? (Dave Zangaro)
DAVE FIPP: No, I would say this: he had really four guys. We didn’t do a good job on the outside slowing those guys down. Their two gunners were humming at him a million miles an hour, too fast, too close to him. Our guys were close to him. So we really had four guys in his face.
I’m not making an excuse for him, but that’s the situation that happened. It was a tough situation. Very first punt return back there.
Anyway, he ended up putting it on the ground. Obviously, it’s not acceptable. We’re not accepting it. It starts with me. But in terms of confidence with the guy, I’m not worried. Now if it continues to be a theme, obviously we’ll have to talk about it more.
I would say right now, like I said, he bounced back, went in the game, handled the ball well. One of the balls was on the ground. He did a great job of getting our team out of the way, kept his poise. I thought he made a great decision back there deep when the ball went over his head, and bounced on the four-yard line on a long punt. I think it was off their 38-yard line there. Showed good awareness for where he was on the field.
He’s done a lot of good things for us to just get super down on any one player for any one mistake, especially these young guys.
The bottom line is I think when you watch young returners throughout the league, and if you just go back in history, I think Devin Hester has more muffs than anybody, and he turned out to be a real good player. I think Darren Sproles put a bunch on the ground early in his career.
I’m not saying it’s acceptable or tolerable, but when you look closely at that stuff, there’s a little bit of a history of young players doing that.
But we’re excited about him. We’re excited about what he brings to us. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll continue to get better and better.