Q. Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz kind of echoed what we heard from you the other day, that when it comes down to the struggles this season, they really stemmed from the off-season and not having a full off-season because of Covid-19. Obviously, that’s something every team went through, and every team has had to make their own adjustments when it comes to not having that in-person communication. So, I’m curious as you look back on not having that, what changes do you feel like should have been made earlier and what is it about your off-season that’s maybe different from other NFL teams, if that is the case? (Kristen Rodgers)
COACH PEDERSON: I know all 32 teams had the same off-season structure. We all had to abide by the same rules and do the same things. Speaking about our guys on our team, we love the off-season, that’s where we can build. I think every team can say they can build their foundation towards the season and then of course getting into training camp. We had a few new faces going into camp that were starters for us that just didn’t have time on task. When you think about a [WR] Jalen Reagor for instance on offense, who didn’t have an off-season and really, we’re throwing him in there and he’s trying to learn on the fly, and it makes it a little more difficult for a guy like that.
I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses either, we’ve got four wins to our belt and it’s not good enough. That’s the disappointing side of this whole thing. I look back on it and I look at the injuries and that’s something we’ve got to talk about in the off-season. We’ve got to discuss that and see if I need to change up practice or if I need to maybe practice harder or be more physical in training camp. Whatever it is, those are all things that we can focus on beginning next week and the coming weeks.
I know if you want really good culture, you have to be around the guys. You just have to build it with guys in the building and now that we’re doing everything virtual, it makes it a little bit difficult to really establish that but again, I’m not using that as excuse. I’m just saying that those are things that are real issues that we had to deal with.
Q. You mention that culture and building it and being more difficult in this environment. What can you learn about the guys in this type of situation, week 17? You haven’t been here since 2016, where it wasn’t meaningful for you guys. What can you learn in this short sample size about the players and the team? (John McMullen)
COACH PEDERSON: I’ll tell you this, I’ve felt this the whole season that how we handled the testing, number 1, how we handled using the masks and the social distancing, that has been tremendous. My hat goes off to our players. We’ve had just a few guys, I mean myself included, that contracted the virus, but how we handled that I’ve been really impressed with our guys that way.
Speaking on the football side, I just think that as the injuries began to pile up each week that the next-man-up, this is where my hat goes off to my assistant coaches for preparing everybody and not just starters but getting the next man prepared to play and the resiliency of this football team. Quite honestly, there has not been any quit in this team. You watch them play, they’re going to play hard for four quarters, and it doesn’t matter who’s out there. To me, those have been bright spots and things that I’ve been probably the most proud of with this team and how they really stuck together through a lot of adversity.
Q. You mentioned WR Jalen Reagor in that first answer and I understand your putting him in on the fly here but there are rookie receivers who are having a lot of production this year and something similar happened last year with WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. When you look at the investments you’ve made at that position and why you’re not getting that production, is it the evaluation? Is it the development? Is it scheme? What’s the disconnect there at that position?(Zach Berman)
COACH PEDERSON: You’re trying to point the finger in different directions. Obviously, Jalen is a talented guy and a lot of it will fall on us as coaches to prepare our players and get them ready. Then the other half of it falls on the player to get himself prepared and how well he comes in and understands and picks up the offense in this case. What was it week 2 against the Rams, is when he got hurt and now, he misses six weeks and now he’s done for six weeks. That growth process, you’re starting to see glimpses of it now, towards the end of the season with him that we were hoping for in weeks 3 and 4 in the regular season but he had the injury and it set him back.
So, yeah I think you look around the league and you do see some young players who are on some teams with some veteran players. They don’t have the amount of injuries that we have, they don’t have the offensive line injuries that we have or different things that are going on. I’m not speaking for every team, I don’t know that, but all that plays a part into the success that we have individually on the field and collectively as a football team. I think you look back on it and it falls on us obviously as coaches to prepare and that falls directly on me. Maybe I have to install plays better, maybe we have to scale back a little bit more, maybe we can’t overload a player as we go, but these are things that we were learning on the fly with all of our young players.
Q. Staying with the wide receiver position as a whole, the last two weeks you’ve actually got very good production from your wide receiver core, 400 plus yards, 4 touchdowns. I realize 81 of those yards came on WR DeSean Jackson’s touchdown but still that’s been better than it’s been all season. What’s the reason for it? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH PEDERSON: I think you’re seeing the fruits of their labor. I think you’re seeing the hard work pay off. I think you’re seeing as a coaching staff, things that I mentioned when I was answering Zach’s question, is just if we have to scale back as a staff and repeat plays and I can call a play again in a game. The opportunities that we’re providing in practice for our guys to be successful and guys just understanding how to play this game and how to play it the right way. As a staff, as a head coach, I have to be demanding of my assistants, number 1, and then we can be demanding and hold our players accountable. So that’s what I mean by it starts with me, and I think that’s what you’re seeing here with our players. They’re just having more time on task and it’s paid off for them.
Q. I wonder if you could take us back a bit to the pre-draft process with QB Jalen Hurts. When did he first really get on your radar? What kind of interactions did you have with him and what was it about it that led you to really like him as a quarterback and want him on your team? (Tim McManus)
COACH PEDERSON: Wow your taking me back to a long time ago. So, obviously he was one of the top prospects at the position coming out of college and his story is well documented, Alabama and then of course at Oklahoma transferring and all that. Again, he was one of the top quarterbacks in the draft this past year, so we do our due diligence, like we do every position. We evaluate and we talk to our regional scouts in that area. I talk to coaches. I have my assistant coaches who are evaluating as well talk to the player and he became an intriguing figure for us.
Guys you know this, and as long as I’m the head coach here, we’re always going to evaluate the quarterback position, that’s not one position that is exempt from anything. If we’re not looking at that position, I feel like we’re not getting better, we’re not adding depth. You’ve seen us here over the course of my five years, how the backup quarterback has been very effective and that’s something I’m going to continue to do is evaluate the quarterback position. So that’s kind of how he became a Philadelphia Eagle, just where we were and adding that depth and adding competition and adding value to the position.
Q. Did you in assessing Jalen Hurts’ performance after watching film, feel like there were too many occasions when he left the pocket early and what are some of the ways he can improve upon that? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: I did. I did feel like there were times where he did escape a little bit too fast. Again, young players sometimes do that, and this is where we can coach him up and show him exactly where his eyes need to be, for instance, how he can time the drop up with the route combination or what he’s seeing defensively. Then just trust the protection overall whether it’s a pressure look or not. There have been a few times the last couple of weeks that he’s gotten out of there a little bit too early and something that he can learn on and build upon and kind of calm himself in the pocket as he continues to play.
Q. You spoke Monday at the end of your session about wanting to have some say in the way personnel was evaluated in the draft and things like that. I just wanted to clarify, are you talking about more say then you’ve had up to now or what can you tell us about that? (Les Bowen)
COACH PEDERSON: No, don’t misunderstand what I was saying. Our process here is we lean on the scouting department. We lean on Howie [Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman] and his department and our scouts in the evaluation process. My staff also evaluates these players as well and I evaluate the players as well and all I’m saying is it’s a collaborative effort. It’s something that we talk and discuss. Listen, by no means do I want to cross that line. My side is the football side, I want to coach football. That’s what I love to do but at the same time I want to make sure my staff is doing the right things. We’re evaluating the players that can help us. That’s all I’m saying there. I don’t want to cross that line at all.
Q.I know you lean a lot on your veteran players for input and things like that, what have your conversations been like with them as far as what they feel is the cause behind a lot of your unforced errors this year, more than usual? Have you gotten anything from them, and can you share any of that with us? (Nick Fierro)
COACH PEDERSON: I’ve talked to a few of them throughout the course of the year and really it just comes down to just attention to detail and focus. It’s something that each player has to understand that when we practice, we try to simulate game situations in practice. Obviously, you can’t simulate the game speed, but we can focus in on doing our job and listening to the snap count. Whether it’s a defensive false start or neutral zone infraction, a false start on offense, those are all things that we have to eliminate. I think we had five of those pre-snap penalties even in the game against Dallas. Obviously, this time of year too there’s a new quarterback and we talked a little bit about cadence with [QB] Jalen [Hurts] and making sure he’s louder and all those things that he can improve upon. It just comes down to each player and this is what I’ve heard from our team and some of the guys is just concentration. Just focusing in on doing their job on that particular snap.
Q. I know we’ve asked you about your collaboration with Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman during the off-season but what’s that relationship like and your collaboration like during the season when there are so many injuries and there are so many moving parts? (Mike Kaye)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s still high, we talk every day. Obviously, this year has been different from the standpoint of the pandemic has not allowed us to really bring in players like we normally would after a game. You just can’t bring a guy in on a Monday or Tuesday and work him out any more like we did say last year. It takes five days of quarantine before you can actually work the guy out. So, the process has been a little bit slower this year and we’ve relied more heavily on our practice squad, which is why they increased the practice squad numbers for us. Our communication is still all about how we can we improve the roster and who’s going to be up this week and who’s going to be allocated and we still have a great process even during the season.