Q. Who’s playing wide receiver this week? Who’s able to? And the illness that’s going around, is that something you think is going to affect players this weekend? (Zach Berman)
DOUG PEDERSON: As far as the illness goes, obviously we have to follow protocol with anybody that is complaining of symptoms. We had to follow the protocol. Guys missed — they’re all back in the building today and they’re going to work today and don’t anticipate that affecting them as far as the game goes this Sunday.
And then as far as wide receiver goes, again, without laying out our detailed plans, we’re excited about the guys we’ve got and the guys that we’ve been working with this week in practice. We do have one more day today to hopefully get some of the guys that are normally out there a chance to get some reps today if they can. We’re moving forward. If they can’t, then we move forward with the guys that we have.
Q. RB Miles Sanders, he had the hamstring and the glute now. Close to 80 percent of the snaps in the first two games. Would you have liked to see more of that running back committee approach you’ve liked? Is this a sustainable workload for Miles at this point? (Ed Kracz)
DOUG PEDERSON: I think it’s sustainable, but also we’ve got to be careful. I think it’s a fine line between maybe pushing too much and not enough, and then making sure he stays healthy, he stays in the treatment room and doing the things which he does to get himself ready to play.
We know he’s a three-down back for us. We know that he’s electric when he’s got the ball in his hands. As coaches we obviously have to be smart and have a plan. If we use [RB] Boston [Scott] more or [RB] Corey [Clement] more, then we’ll do that, too, and give Miles rest. But right now, all indications are he’s good and feels good and ready to go.
Q. To follow up on the question about the wide receivers, with that area being so thin right now, there’s the idea that QB Carson Wentz may try to do too much, he may try to again put this on his shoulders without that talent out there. What is the message of trying to reiterate to him that he can trust the offense in place? (Kristen Rodgers)
DOUG PEDERSON: That’s the thing, and it’s one of the things that [passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Press [Taylor] and I, we’ve just talked to him a lot this week about that. Not specifically this week, but really any week. It doesn’t matter if we have all our weapons available or not. It’s a matter of just letting those guys work. It’s our job as coaches to make sure that they’re prepared and ready to go with their jobs, and then Carson just handling and running the offense like he knows how.
This is no different. I think there will be — if anything there’s more communication probably when there’s maybe like it was at the end of the season last year, when some of those new guys and young guys were playing, the communication picks up just a little bit more.
Q. You haven’t really gotten a whole lot out of Boston Scott and Corey Clement, especially in the running game. Are you getting what you need from the No. 2 and 3 backs? And would you like to get them going more? And what’s kind of gone into their, I guess, limited production so far? (Reuben Frank)
DOUG PEDERSON: I guess the obvious answer is the limited amount of touches, right? Just putting them in the game when Miles needs a break. It’s something that we’re very aware of and very conscious of with Miles in his situation now as I alluded to earlier, and Boston and Corey have to be ready to go.
We still have confidence in them. It’s not about that. These guys are dynamic guys. They’ve played for us, so it’s just a matter of getting them more touches if we need to give Miles a break.
Q. The last few years we’ve seen a lot of linebackers leave via free agency, Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort you guys released and he’s gone on to do very good things elsewhere. Every other linebacker you now have on the roster is on a rookie deal. Was enough done at that position to shore it up for this season and for the future? (Jeff McLane)
DOUG PEDERSON: Yes, I do believe that everything — listen, the first thing you do is you look at your own roster, then you look at free agency and then you look at the draft. You are going to select guys and add guys that are number one going to add depth to your roster and they’re going to add talent to that position. We feel like we’ve done both. These young guys are getting their feet wet. Some of them are core special teams players that are doing an excellent job for us there. That’s their way to impact the team right now. And then we keep things on the track and allow these guys to get in games when they can.
Again, with a limited off-season, limited preseason games or no preseason games, we’ve got to bring these guys and catch them up fast, but at the same time, interject them slowly into your system.
Q. Since we talked to you the last time, looks like the league has kind of had its first casualty here with the game. It sort of indirectly affects you with Pittsburgh not playing this weekend. What was your reaction to that? Do you anticipate more things like that happening throughout the season? (Nick Fierro)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, yeah, it indirectly impacts us, but I feel like it directly impacts us from the standpoint of us being more aware of our surroundings, right, our situations, the protocols that we have in place from the league and the PA [Players Association]. It’s unfortunate, and I don’t know all the details about it, but it’s unfortunate that they’re pushing that game [back].
But listen, this is what I keep reminding our players and staff about constantly every single day about wearing the masks, and this is why testing is every day. The protocols are in place to protect players, and now we’re about to get on a plane and travel cross country.
We’ve got to be ultra-prepared when we get on that plane tomorrow.
Q. We talked a little bit Wednesday about the screen game and you spoke of timing as a key element, obviously, of that. Since then we’ve asked some players about it, and they talked about — we’ve put a lot of it on film the last few years and teams are really geared up for that. How do you combat that? Do they know the situations that you like to use screens in or formations or personnel? How do you get back to where you can do that effectively, I guess? (Les Bowen)
DOUG PEDERSON: The players, they’re right. Teams scout you. Teams look at you just like we do ourselves. I’ve got to be unpredictable when it comes to screens. It can’t be the ideal screen situation as a play caller. But at the same time, we’ve got to make sure that the picture that we’re presenting to our defense or to the opponent kind of matches up with say the run game or a play action pass or a QB movement, something of that nature, and then you screen off of that. Some of the top teams that we’ve studied have done that, and those are the things that we have built into our system over the years, and we’ve just got to continue to work and develop that. Really, it’s just an extension of the run game, when you can get an explosive screen, it’s like getting an explosive run from the backfield. It’s just a matter of, I think, mixing it up, not being predictable with it, and then marrying that up with other aspects of your offense.
Q. What is an ideal screen situation? (Les Bowen)
DOUG PEDERSON: [Jokingly/laughter] Well, I’m not telling you because then my opponent knows. We’ll do that one off the record. Next year.
Q. You guys signed Hakeem Butler as a tight end. What have you seen from him in the first couple days, and what about him did you like as a tight end and not a receiver? (Dave Zangaro)
DOUG PEDERSON: This guy is long, he’s athletic, smart kid. So far what we’ve seen, we’ve used him primarily a little bit as a look squad tight end just to kind of get him acclimated to what we do, how we practice. But he’s kind of that hybrid wide receiver-tight end body type that teams have used in the past and someone that we can continue to grow and develop and use him in the offense at points in the future.
But it’s obviously early with him, but we’re excited that he’s here, and we’ll get him prepared.
Q. Will WR DeSean Jackson and WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside be able to practice today? (John Clark)
DOUG PEDERSON: In regard to DeSean Jackson, he is working day by day. He’s getting better. He’s getting stronger. He won’t be out there again today as far as that goes. He’ll be inside, getting treatment and things of that nature, trying to get him optimistic for the game on Sunday.
And then J.J. will actually get some work today. We’ll have him out there and see where he’s at. He’s progressing really well, so we hope to get him out on the field today.
Q. I know you said that Miles is expected to play on Sunday, but how much has the glute injury impacted his conditioning? I know you said it’s something he’s been working on. (E.J. Smith)
DOUG PEDERSON: In Miles’ case he’s now getting his legs under him as far as the load, I guess, of playing in games, and he feels good. It’s just that injury, there’s a lot of sideways tackles in this league where you’re getting hit on that area of the body or the lower legs. It’s something that he’s aware of. He feels good.
I don’t have any concerns with him moving forward, but something that — we’re going to keep an eye on him, as well as we do with all our injured players, as you guys know, and make sure that we’re not putting them at risk.
Q. How would you define the identity of this offense? (Mike Kaye)
DOUG PEDERSON: I would define the identity as using the strength — number one, you’ve got to go off the strength, I think, of your quarterback, and then you build your plans around that. So obviously the identity, you want to be able to run the football, play action pass, the QB movements, and then as [The Inquirer reporter] Les [Bowen] mentioned, the screens, you’ve got to mix in the screens effectively in your system. You want to be physical up front. That goes without saying. You want to be dominant there, control the line of scrimmage, all of that, and that’s where the run game comes in.
But I think you’re seeing that you’ve seen the identity a little bit kind of rear its head up in these games, and then it goes back down because we haven’t been as successful on 1st down. Been in too many 2nd-and-long and 3rd-and-long situations, which gets you out of who you are a little bit as an offense.
Those are the things that we have to focus on, continue to work at that, and go into each game with that mindset and that confidence level.
Q. The 49ers are also quite banged up, as you probably know. As far as the quarterback position is concerned, do you prepare for both 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and 49ers QB Nick Mullens, and what kind of differences are there between the two from what you’ve seen? (Martin Frank)
DOUG PEDERSON: Obviously you prepare the same. They’re very similar in style. They both throw the ball. They’re both smart. They handle the run game — there’s a lot of run game checks with this offense, and they handle that really, extremely well. They don’t do a lot as far as mixing personnel. They keep it very basic and vanilla and just let their players play. They both run the offense extremely well, as we saw last week with Nick.
You just have to go in and prepare — it’s different than, say, you’ve got Jimmy Garoppolo and Michael Vick, you’ve got two different types of quarterbacks. It’s two different styles. Then you might have to plan differently.
But I think you go in with your game plan, what it is, you execute it, you focus on your job, no matter who’s playing quarterback.
Q. You’ve spoken about the injuries at length, but yesterday’s injury report it almost would have been easier to say who did practice than who didn’t practice. You had so many on there. How frustrating is that for you as a coach because there’s really nothing you can do about that, injuries happen, but it changes the whole look of your team. (Jamie Apody)
DOUG PEDERSON: It is difficult as you plan the day and as you’re trying to prepare for a game. Yeah, you want everybody to practice. I’m selfish that way as a coach. You want everybody to practice, but you just know that that’s impossible. It’s just not going to happen.
You look around the league and the amount of injuries that have kind of piled up here in the first month of the season, and I think every team is kind of going through a little bit of adversity from the injury front just a little bit.
And now you throw in COVID, right; you throw in a guy getting just the sniffles and we’ve got to keep him out of the building because you just don’t know. There’s the unknown surrounding our game right now. This is why, again, I can’t lose sleep, I’ve just got to prepare the next guy, keep talking to the team about our protocols that are in place, the testing, the masks, all of that, and you go practice, and you hope that you get those guys back and they’re ready to play.
I guess the one thing that we can do is the virtual meetings, right? So if a guy is out of the building, for instance, we can still have him involved in meetings virtually. So that’s always a positive when guys are out of the building.