Q. Do you have an update on WR Alshon Jeffery and what are your expectations for him as you get into training camp and into the season? (Rob Maaddi)
COACH PEDERSON: First of all, good morning. It will be good to see you guys on the field later this morning, so looking forward to that.
Alshon is doing extremely well. Obviously, as you guys know, there’s no timetable for him. We’re just trying to make sure that he’s 100 percent before we return him to action. But he’s doing extremely well, and he’s progressing nicely where we want him to be at this particular time, and he continues to progress in the right direction.
Q. I was wondering, what are you kind of looking for out of the rookies today and this week? I know you have like three and a half weeks until the season starts. Also, is everyone going to be practicing today? (Martin Frank)
COACH PEDERSON: The question was a little broken up, but I think you were asking about the young players and the rookies and how practice is and things of that nature. Today is the first day in pads and these guys haven’t been in pads since our playoff game back in January. We want to do our due diligence and I want to do my due diligence to the players to make sure that we are ramping up correctly, and yet still put the pads on and get used to them here in the next couple days. Really, again, there’s a fine line with the amount of reps that our starters take and get compared to some of these guys that are backup guys or situational role players for us that we need to get evaluations on. We don’t have a whole lot of time obviously, so we have to make the most of these opportunities, especially these padded sessions that we have in the next couple weeks.
Q. You have two backs in RB Miles Sanders and RB Boston Scott who were particularly effective as receivers out of the backfield last year. Are you looking to expand the role in the passing game this year by lining them up in the slot and asking them to run more of the receiver route? (Jimmy Kempski)
COACH PEDERSON: I do believe that [RB] Miles [Sanders] has the ability to do that. He’s somebody that we’ve said, ‘Hey, you know, you’re our guy going into this season.’ Definitely want to increase what he can do for us, and if that means using him out of the backfield a little bit more in empty situations, we want to do that and see where he can grow and get better and help us. I do think that skill-set is conducive, not only to him, but obviously matchups and things of that nature from a defensive standpoint.
[RB] Boston [Scott] is the same way. Boston as you saw toward the end of the season, he became kind of our jet sweep guy. He became a guy that we used, he and Miles both actually, out of the backfield together. It’s a good combination of guys together there with those two and really look forward to these next few weeks just getting these guys ready for Washington.
Q. In recent years, you guys have really managed G Jason Peters’ workload during training camp. What’s the plan this year as he switches positions? Can he handle every rep in practice? (Dave Zangaro)
COACH PEDERSON: Well, again, Jason being where he is in his career and obviously the age thing, we’re still going to manage him. We’re still going to take care of these guys. Listen, we can’t just give our starters a hundred percent of the reps. It’s unfathomable to do that. So we have a plan now for these guys. Jason is a part of that plan and we are going to make sure that he is ready to go obviously in a couple of weeks, but at the same time he understands, too, from us, that he has to get the reps necessary to be comfortable going into Washington.
Q. With respect to rep distribution, given the uncertainty of the COVID thing, you don’t know how deep you’ll have to go this season depending on what happens. Does that make it more important to more evenly distribute the reps during these next three weeks, particularly at quarterback? (Paul Domowitch)
COACH PEDERSON: I think right now, the plan — with the protocols that the NFLPA and that the NFL have put in place for us here at NovaCare, I’ve been extremely pleased and excited with where we are as a team in relation to the COVID virus and players being able to protect themselves. I think as we move forward, [QB] Carson [Wentz] and some of the No. 2 guys, [QB] Nate Sudfeld, are going to have to take the bulk of the reps. But I know as we get closer towards the regular season, we have to make some decisions obviously, and we’ll make them at that time.
But now that we are in this sort of protected bubble here, we can really prepare our starters in these next couple weeks and get them ready to go.
Q. What are your early impressions of QB Carson Wentz? Anything jump out to you about him so far in camp? (Tim McManus)
COACH PEDERSON: I’ve been thoroughly impressed. He has come into camp obviously in great shape. He’s the leader of our football team. He’s coaching up the young players, which is great to see. He’s working well with [WR] DeSean [Jackson] and [WR] Greg Ward, [WR] J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside] the guys that were on the field at the end of the season last year and getting a really good rapport with them. [He has] really taking ownership in this pandemic and where we are as a football team and really excited where he is now as the leader of our football team and excited for this upcoming season with him.
Q. This is our first time seeing the team, you’ve obviously had an opportunity, especially over the last five days to see them, who are some of the young players, rookies or second-year guys, or some of the new guys that you added this offseason in terms of free agency that really caught your eye when you’ve seen them on the field or watching them back on film? (Jeff McLane)
COACH PEDERSON: We have a lot of new faces to the roster this year, and when you think about free agency, some of the new guys there with [CB] Nickell Robey-Coleman coming in and helping us. [CB] Darius Slay, we know what he is. We can go right down the list, [S] Will Parks, [DT Javon] Hargrave, guys like that.
But when you get to that next level of guys, I’ve been real impressed with our linebacking group, even [LB] T.J. Edwards, a guy who we had last year, who came in and ended up playing some games for us and [LB] Duke Riley who we had last year. These are special teams players, but they are now situational, in the mix to play a lot on defense and [I have] been real impressed with those guys. I think about how [DB] Jalen Mills, for instance, is transitioning to that safety spot and how well he has embraced that opportunity. I think about [CB] Sidney Jones and young players that we have had on our roster now and it’s time. It’s time for these guys to really make their mark on their careers in the National Football League. So I’ve been excited about them.
Offensively, [RB] Miles Sanders, we talked a lot about him and [RB] Boston [Scott] and been excited about those two guys. Our tight end situation with [TE] Dallas [Goedert] and [TE] Zach [Ertz] and even with Perk [TE Joshua Perkins] there, adds some really good depth. [TE] Noah [Togiai] has been a bright addition there and of course [TE] Caleb Wilson, so there’s really good competition there at tight end.
You look at the receivers, obviously take out [WR] DeSean [Jackson], [WR] Alshon [Jeffery], and [WR] Greg Ward, as we know, we talked about him. [WR] J.J. [Arcega-Whiteside] we talked a lot about him. Excited where these guys are right now at this time of camp. But really those young players, [WR] Jalen Reagor has really been impressive out on the football field. It will be interesting now as we get into the pads to see the physicality of all these guys as we continue to pursue towards, or at least make our move here in the next couple weeks towards the regular season.
Q. What are your expectations for week one relative to what they would be in a normal year, and if they are downgraded at all, what does that mean for how important the off-season stuff is? (Bo Wulf)
COACH PEDERSON: With the pandemic and where we are in preseason with no preseason games, the first thing that stands out is the first game is a real game. It’s a game that matters, a game that counts. So one of the things we have to do as a staff, and not only just a coaching staff but personnel staff, is make sure we have the right guys going down to Washington for week one and you always want to be — obviously you want to be competitive. Without having games to really evaluate and critique, mistakes get magnified in regular-season games.
So we have to do our best to eliminate those in the next couple weeks. In practices, it’s my job to put our team in situations to understand that out on the practice field so that we can minimize those issues when we get ready for Washington.
Q. Along those same lines, what are you most interested in seeing today from the guys putting pads on for the first time given how behind technically you are given that they have not been on the field in so long? (Jamie Apody)
COACH PEDERSON: It’s crazy because just a few days ago would have been our first preseason game last Thursday, so we would have been in pads for two weeks leading up to that game. For me it’s about getting the guys out there in pads, running around. Again, first time that we are going to have – it’s not live contact, but it’s contact needless to say since that playoff game.
I just want to see these guys move around. They have to get used to the equipment again. Practice is a little bit lighter today but at the same time, we are going to fly around and work on some of these situations that I’ve been talking about and really get a feel for where we are as we begin to ramp up and really get into the meat and potatoes of our schedule here in the next couple weeks.
Q. I wanted to follow up on last week, you were talking about limiting the live sessions to maybe two or so, like you usually do. But without the preseason games, how much tougher does that make it to evaluate some of the rookies you have on offense, like your rookie running backs and wide receivers in terms of ball security? (Nick Fierro)
COACH PEDERSON: I think that’s an issue that every team is going to face, but that’s one of the things that we have to do through our individual periods each and every day. We stress ball security a lot. Even I think about [Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach] Duce [Staley] and some of the things he does with his running backs and the ball security drills: taking all our skill position players through ball security circuits and tackling circuits where we can sort of replicate in-game situations so that ball security — we can minimize and sort of eliminate, hopefully eliminate the turnovers. I do believe that teams who take care of the football have a greater chance of winning games, and that’s a big emphasis to us especially in these padded portions of practice.