Q. Wanted to start you out with a Cardinals question. At least from the outside looking in they do some unique stuff on the defensive side of the football. They have that jet-pass rushing package where it’s all basically linebackers on the field. How much of an issue is that with a young quarterback in his second start, and how much do you have to rely on C Jason Kelce in that instance? (John McMullen)
DOUG PEDERSON: [Jokingly] Well, first off, let me just say I’m impressed that you are watching our opponent and actually asking me an opponent question. That’s kind of refreshing this morning.
It is a challenge. It’s a unique defensive call by them. They put all linebackers on the field with their defensive back guys and it’s all speed rush. They don’t bring them all every time. They drop guys out. They present eight-man pressure looks, seven-man pressure looks, and six-man pressure looks.
It can be a little bit challenging, and it is challenging to try to decipher the code, but we do the best we can. We go in with the protection plan we have and execute it and try to eliminate as much confusion as possible.
But, yeah, Kelce becomes a big part of trying to decipher that code for us.
Q. TE Zach Ertz has been back now a couple weeks and it seems like you guys are ramping him up, but even before the injury he wasn’t really playing at his customary level. Do you think he can still get back to that with three games left this year? (Dave Zangaro)
DOUG PEDERSON: Most certainly. I think the biggest thing right now is he is feeling better, he’s practicing a lot faster and feeling better, and that goes a long way from the mental side of it with players, just being able to get through the week and to be able to practice.
So for us, I mean, him and [TE] Dallas [Goedert] and Rich Rod [TE Richard Rodgers] having a combination of two or all three, we feel, has been beneficial for us as an offense. We continue to game plan with him, game plan for Dallas, and Rich Rod as well.
Zach is feeling better and we keep him coming.
Q. A lot of the guys this week were talking about QB Jalen Hurts’ poise for a rookie and his leadership quality and how comfortable he was out there. What was he like this week in his second week after having a start under his belt knowing he’ll get another one? Did you see any difference in him? What was his week like? (Jamie Apody)
DOUG PEDERSON: Jalen, he doesn’t get real high and he doesn’t get real low. He just kind of flat lines just a little bit. And that’s a good thing. His blood pressure stays pretty low for the most part.
But you can definitely see a level of comfort I think from just being in that position last week. Obviously taking the lead as a starter again this week, getting all the reps in practice, and working with the players. Just it’s always a new set of circumstances because of the opponent that you’re playing, but he’s done a great job with that and the game plan.
You just see him a little bit more communicating with his guys on the field and having a little more of a rapport with them and a comfort level with them, especially the offensive line guys.
But he’s had a good week.
Q. I’m curious how QB Carson Wentz has been running scout team. It’s something he’s never done before. How has he kind of embraced that and how has he done with that? (Reuben Frank)
DOUG PEDERSON: He’s done really well. It’s exciting actually to watch him because you see him doing the things that when it’s 7 on 7 or team drills or whatever it might be, just how he’s out there just running, and I want to say a little carefree when you’re on the service team or the scout team.
But he’s been doing a real good job. He’s really taken that and really working with some of the younger guys. We obviously present the picture to the defense and he’s able to coach up even the younger guys based on what they’re seeing on the card from a route standpoint or protection standpoint or whatever it might be.
He’s done a really nice job there.
Q. I was going to follow up on Zach Ertz a little bit. You mentioned the injury, but even before the injury he wasn’t getting involved very much, and if he was, the yards per catch were really low. I know some of that had to do with the struggles of the offense and obviously of the quarterback. But did you guys see more into that, there was a reason why the passes weren’t going more down field to the tight end? (Jeff McLane)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, I think the ball was being spread out just a little bit more. We had opportunities. We missed the connection between Carson and Zach just wasn’t there early in the season, and then the ball was going other places.
So it has nothing to do with Zach or anything like that. It’s just a matter of sometimes the game plan, the call, the play design, where the ball is going to go, and you can’t necessarily control.
Now, there were times when we dialed his number up and we just didn’t execute the play. Those are things that as we study our film we get better at and learn and try to improve there.
Q. Yesterday I saw CB Darius Slay was a limited practice participant. Do you anticipate him being cleared by the independent expert by game time? (Les Bowen)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, he’s still in the protocol right now. He practiced yesterday and that’s part of the protocol. I can’t really comment too much further on these types of injuries. He’s still in the protocol. He’ll have another day today and tomorrow before we get on the plane and make the determination on game day.
Q. I know you study different offenses. The air raid offense that Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, he’s from that tree, is that one you studied before, and have you used any of those elements in your offense in the past? (Zach Berman)
DOUG PEDERSON: I’ve looked at some of it in the past. It’s a little different than what, say, the west coast or whatever you might consider the west coast, which we really are more east coast, I guess, in our offensive philosophy.
Now everything has changed. There are some principles and concepts that they use, whether in the RPO game, the designed RPOs, or even some of the QB movement stuff in that system have been pretty effective that we can apply or use and study.
And it’s always good, especially in the off-season, to have certain projects and look at offenses that have success and to see exactly what makes them successful.
It can be an exciting offense because the ball gets spread around to a lot of different guys and the quarterback — it’s quarterback driven and quarterback friendly, but there are some concepts that we have used in the past and will continue to study.
Q. You guys are in a position now it’s the third year in a row where if you win out there is a really good chance you can win the division. It’s a third different quarterback trying to do this. Different players, a lot of different personnel. How much can you draw on the success of the past two years and how much are you sensing the guys understand the urgency of the situation? (Rob Maaddi)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, it’s important that we understand where we are and what’s in front of us. I think it’s part of my job to make sure the guys understand that we still control our own destiny. We need a little help obviously the next couple weeks, but we just got to take care of our business and see what happens here at the end of the year.
But being able to go back and lean on some previous experiences help us get through times like this, right? We’ve always talked about the next man up, and we’re definitely doing that again this season. Something that we’ve got to — we just can’t put ourselves in this position. Obviously, we can’t control injury and that’s a big part of this game.
But we got to have success throughout the entire season, like we did in ’17 and parts of ’18. You just never want to come down to the — you want to be playing your best ball, I understand that, in the last month of the season and giving yourself an opportunity.
But you also have to look back and say, hey, there were some games this year that maybe we let our opponents take a game from us, and we’ll learn from those, too. These past experiences have been really good for the guys to lean on here in the last, and will be in the last month of the year.
Q. Bit obscure here, but T Prince Tega Wanogho was protected earlier in the week. He has been sort of a forgotten guy this year. Will he be up on Sunday, and where he is health-wise with his knee issues coming out of college, and what has he shown throughout the season in practice? (Jimmy Kempski)
DOUG PEDERSON: Prince has been doing really well in practice. One of the things we have to do each week is we get to protect four of our practice squad players. Obviously, we’re down offensive line bodies and we just want to protect him this week so no one can take him from us in case we needed him.
We haven’t made that determination yet if he’s going to be active on game day, but he’s done a nice job this year. He’s gotten better. He’s improved. He’s understanding everything we’re doing. He’s healthy and feels good.
So just excited for him moving forward and obviously in the future.
Q. What are the specific challenges that this Cardinals defense presents? (Bo Wulf)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, we talked a little bit earlier. This is a multiple front. They disguise coverage. I think they got two really good corners. [Cardinals CB] Patrick Peterson is a really good corner; [former Eagles LB and current Cardinals LB] Jordan Hicks is a smart, active, aggressive linebacker who kind of knows us a little bit and can maybe sniff some things out.
And they play extremely fast, and these last couple weeks they’ve been able to get after the passer and get some sacks, especially on third down where they bring in a lot of these linebackers as rushers. That’s what presents the biggest challenge just because of their multiple on defense.
So we got to try to keep it as simple as we can and just trust our rules and trust our guys as we move into this game.
Q. You were just talking about Jalen Hurts’ leadership abilities. For a rookie quarterback to do this — and you saw Carson do it as a rookie and as a player you saw former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb here — how impressive is that to step in and have that respect as someone who can lead a lot of times a bunch of veterans as well? (Ed Benkin)
DOUG PEDERSON: It’s very important. You just look at the history of Jalen and the big games and the teams that he has been on in college and how he’s been in that leadership role. I think that was kind of instilled in him at an early age with his family and his father, just having that work ethic and nothing really bothers him. Nothing really shakes him up. He just steps in and commands the huddle.
And it’s things that we talk about, things that I talk to the quarterbacks about all the time, and especially young quarterbacks is, hey, all eyes on me type mentality. You’re the one speaking and giving the direction in the huddle. You command that huddle.
That just comes natural to him I think because of his history and the teams that he’s been on.
Q. WR Jalen Reagor yesterday was talking about the amount of time he’s been able to spend after practice with Jalen Hurts and the other young receivers. Do you see them growing some chemistry with the extra work they are getting and how much more is there in the passing game with Jalen and these young receivers? (John Clark)
DOUG PEDERSON: This is exactly what it takes for teams to be successful, when players take it upon themselves to spend time after practice working on their craft or in the classroom watching extra tape when they’re not around the coaches, right?
This is what you see from really the majority of our football team, is guys spending — I break the team down at the end of practice and allow them to get off the field, but they want to stay on the field and get more reps. I think it’s so important that they do that.
I do think that the chemistry is beginning to build with them. It’s something that is exciting to see them kind of get on the same page, kind of just dialog through route combinations and things that Jalen is seeing, or Jalen Reagor is seeing and really working on their craft.
I think it’s so important that they do that, because that just carries them, the good ones, right? You think about the Jerry Rice’s of the world and those top receivers and quarterbacks. That is what they’ve done early in their career and really as their careers progressed, they spend that extra time.
It’s so important that everybody continues to do that just so it helps the entire team.
Q. Obviously you guys have used a lot of guys who aren’t on the roster particularly in the secondary this season, especially the last few weeks. Have any of those guys stood out to you, maybe surprised you with what they’ve been able to do? Guys like CB Kevon Seymour and CB Michael Jacquet and DB Grayland Arnold, any of those guys help make a name for themselves? (Martin Frank)
DOUG PEDERSON: Well, I do think that the more they play the more opportunities they get, the more chances for us as coaches to really evaluate their performance. Michael Jacquet is probably the one that has played the most for us in the secondary and done a really nice job as a young player. It’ll be good to see where he is at obviously physically bouncing back this week.
You mentioned Grayland Arnold, another young player that can — when he’s up — he’s played more special teams, but he flashes and does some good things.
And Key, last week just got put out there last week and really did some good things.
And they are all learning experiences and just understanding the defense. But all those guys, plus there are many more. You think about [S] K’von Wallace and some of the young DBs that we have being able to bring a guy like [DB] Elijah Riley in. It’s just they’re young and yet they’re eager to learn, want to learn, and they really want to perform well.
So that’s what’s exciting about watching all these guys play.