Q. You had ten days without Head Coach Doug Pederson when he was at home in quarantine to handle the on-the-field stuff. What did you get out of that experience and what was your approach to it, and how did it go for you? (Reuben Frank)
DUCE STALEY: First of all, it was awesome just being able to be in that role, [for] the organization [to] look at me and trust me to be in that role to lead the team. So that was the awesome part of it. And I just took it one day at a time. Continuing to deliver Doug’s [Head Coach Doug Pederson] message. Continue to meet with the team. Continue to talk with Doug virtually to deliver his message. I took a lot from it. I tell you, it was exciting for me because of course, playing here in this great city and coming back coaching and being able to be the head coach for those ten days was just awesome. I can’t say enough about it.
Q. When we’ve talked to some of the running backs and we have talked about RB Miles Sanders, they have said how he approaches the field and how he looks at the field has changed and developed since year one. I am curious what you have seen from him and his mental approach to the game and how he sees the field here in year two? (Kristen Rodgers)
DUCE STALEY: I think you nailed it with the mental part. His mental focus right now is unbelievable, just being able to understand the concepts and what we’re trying to do as an offense with him and other players and with his skill level being able to match him up on safeties and linebackers. It’s just [RB] Miles [Sanders] understanding the game a little bit better. Being able to know what to study and what to look for and now he’s going out there and he’s playing faster in year two, so that’s what I see on the field from Miles.
Q. I had asked Doug about this the other day. Without the preseason games and only just a couple of days where you really have the tackling to the ground, how tough does it make it for especially like the rookie running backs to evaluate in terms of ball security? Doug was saying that with the work that you were doing with them, he’s not really too concerned, but how much more difficult does it make to get these guys ready to go? (Nick Fierro)
DUCE STALEY: Just doing my job to make sure we focus on the ball security and make sure they understand how important it is, of course and we do those drills. We do three or four ball security drills every day. We talk about it every day, and we show how certain defenses attack each day in our room.
It’s something that definitely is talked about. Something we share as far as with our players. We talk about with the film, we go out there and we walk-through, we punch at the ball with some of our drills, so every day we’re talking ball security. You can’t go a day without it.
Q. We’ve seen Darren Sproles out on the field a little bit. I know he’s not technically a coach, but how much has he been able to work with the running backs and how much does that help you to have an older guy who has been in the league a long time help those young kids? (Dave Zangaro)
DUCE STALEY: Well, he is coaching, so he is doing that. I joke with him all the time. It’s a big help when the younger guys see him in the room. Of course, [RB] Corey [Clement] and [RB] Miles [Sanders] and [RB] Boston [Scott], they were able to suit up with him and go to war with him. Now seeing him on the other side and being able to come back and coach says a couple things. It says he cares about them, cares about their development. Also, him being out there taking the time away from his family shows how dedicated he is into helping them.
And don’t just look at the running backs. Also look at [WR] Jalen Reagor. He’s helping the punt returners, also. Some of the things when it comes to no matter if it’s a high ball, a short ball, long balls, stuff like that, how to read the punters walk-down, just stuff that’s valuable information, man, valuable information, that comes from a vet like him. They are embracing it. They are loving it and they are enjoying it.
Q. What are the offensive meetings like without a designated offensive coordinator who runs those meetings and how are they different than your previous seven years in the league? (Zach Berman)
DUCE STALEY: No different. Goes back to I guess I did an interview earlier this year when we talked about we all take that role. In those meetings we all have a voice and we are all talking. [Head Coach] Doug [Pederson] is in that meeting, also. We share our ideas. We come up with the game plan, we put it on paper, and we go out on the field and we execute.
Q. Obviously RB Miles Sanders can do short-yardage plays, but is it necessary to bring in a veteran who can do that so it takes a little bit of the load off Miles so he isn’t banged up as much, or is this a vote of confidence that he’s going to be pretty much the three-down lead back of this team? (Jeff McLane)
DUCE STALEY: I think we have good backs. I think that Miles can do it all, and when you have a guy like Miles that can make people miss, that can lower his shoulder and also run you over, you want to put the ball in his hands as much as possible and you trust him. I think that’s what we are. We have [RB] Corey [Clement], we have [RB] Boston [Scott], we have a cast of younger guys, also, and we’ll see what they can do here shortly. But as much as I can give the ball to Miles and let him create and go out there and just kind of just trust him to do the right thing, I think do you it as much as possible.
Q. How have the rookies been so far when it comes to the passing game and what areas would you like to see improvement in? (Chris Franklin)
DUCE STALEY: Strictly running backs or just the rookies in general?
Q. Strictly running backs. (Chris Franklin)
DUCE STALEY: They have been good. Coming out of college, the language is a little bit different. You get on this level, especially being in the West Coast [offense], some of the plays are as long as train smoke, but these guys are getting it. We’re getting better as coaches because we’re trying to shorten it down a little bit. Because a lot of these players come from one-word calls, which means everything.
When they are in the huddle longer than five or six seconds, they get to shaking, a little jittery because by that time either they are on the line of scrimmage or there’s no-huddle. We have to tell them to stay in the huddle, get the play call and make sure they understand the play call.
With the West Coast offense, the West Coast offense speaks to everybody when it comes to the passing game, so that’s why the plays are long. So once again, once they figure out the call, now they got to break the huddle, get lined up and run the play.
So it has been a transition. Usually, a lot of those things come with OTAs. You’re able to get out there with OTAs and be able to be redundant with some of the calls and you’re able to teach them the concept, not just the route that they are running, but the concept just in case we plug them in somewhere else. It’s been challenging, but I think those guys are doing an awesome job.
Q. If I could circle back to the time you spent as the head coach in the building for those ten days, I’m sure that becoming a head coach is something that you’ve thought about, so what did you learn from that experience and is there anything that you learned that when you think about having the opportunity, it affected how you would do things? (Bo Wulf)
DUCE STALEY: I learned the three L’s, and the three L’s are listen, learn and lead. So that’s what I got from that awesome experience.
And just being able to step in – and one of the things we talk about as coaches, and you guys have seen it with players, of course, over the last couple years when one of our star players go down, it’s the next-man-up mentality as players.
Well, Doug will tell you, it’s the next-man-up mentality this year dealing with the pandemic as coaches, also. When Doug was out of the building, he trusted me to step right in and take over and continue to deliver our message as a team and continue to deliver his message. It was awesome. I learned a lot and I have a little notebook up there with some secrets in it [laughter], so it’s been cool.
Q. We’ve talked about how Miles has an impact in the passing game. How does that affect the way defenses can play you guys, whether he’s lined up in the backfield or in the slot? (E.J. Smith)
DUCE STALEY: It means a lot. Being able — and you saw last year, you saw Miles get better, get better and better in the passing game from protection to running routes and catching the ball. Those are the three main things when it comes to being an elite, third-down back. Protection is No. 1. Route running is No. 2, and then of course we all know you have to catch the ball.
I saw Miles just continuing to climb the mountain and continuing to get better in all three phases. When you are back there and you have a linebacker and you’re trying to take advantage of a linebacker and you’re out there and you’ve got [TE Zach] Ertz who is in the slot and [WR] Alshon [Jeffery] and you’ve got D-Jack [WR DeSean Jackson] and you have Miles, it’s a perfect match up for him to be able to go out there and take advantage of a linebacker who thinks he can cover. And I tell him all the time, just don’t sell those guys short. Continue to be disciplined. Continue to learn all you can learn because you have the skill set to go out there and be a good route runner.
That’s one of the things he’s been practicing on this off-season, a couple of things we’ve been talking about trying to get him better. I’m just excited for where he is.
Q. In the past, Doug has talked about you leading the developmental program and gave you a lot of credit, not only for guys like RB Boston Scott but WR Greg Ward, TE Josh Perkins, all the practice squad guys. How much different is that this year in a truncated off-season to really work those guys, the younger players who don’t get a lot of reps, how much different is that for you this time? (John McMullen)
DUCE STALEY: This whole year is going to be different. This whole year is going to be full of adjustments and that’s what we have to do as a coaching staff. That’s what we’ve been doing. Doug has been doing an awesome job. He put together a great plan which we all know that can be adjusted any day. When you look at the developmental program at some of these younger guys, the thought process hasn’t changed. You want to develop these guys. You want to help these guys understand the NFL. We want to make sure they compete daily. And we just want to continue to show them how to study film, so it’s a couple things that’s involved. We’ll see how it goes once we break camp because of course now, like I said, we’re doing a little adjusting, but the thought process is to still go through with that.
Q. RB Elijah Holyfield came in at the end of last year and we didn’t really get a chance to talk to you about him. He is an interesting guy. Was very, very productive in college. It looked like in the early part of the Draft process, he was going to be maybe a high-round pick and then he ran horribly slow and kind of dropped off the table. How do you see him? What do you make of his whole journey to this point? (Les Bowen)
DUCE STALEY: I tip my hat off to him because once he came in, he basically learned 80 to 85 percent of our offense in that short period of time. So the kid is a smart kid and he works hard, and you’re able to see that with some of the workouts that he was doing away from the building and also some of the workouts that he’s been doing now with [Director of Sports Performance] Ted [Rath], and you see it on the field. He’s a hundred miles per hour every play. He’s going to get in there. He’s a physical specimen. He’s going to get in there and knock you around with protection. Special teams, he’s going to run down and he’s going to knock you around a little bit. I like where he is. He’s hungry. He’s out to prove to everybody, all the doubters at least, he’s out to prove to them that he can play. One of the things that we’ve seen from many players, and those of you that study this game for a very long time, you have guys that run slow with the 40, but then you have guys that play fast. So, you have to look a little deeper; does he play fast or does he play like the 40 he ran?
That’s how I started studying these players and I’ve been doing that for a while and that’s how he see some of these players.
Q. How do you see Elijah? (Les Bowen)
DUCE STALEY: I think he plays fast. I think he plays faster than what his 40 represents. Hey, that 40 is a nerve-wrecking deal man. You have to get up there, do everything right. Sometimes you don’t run the time that you want to run initially and then you go back and run slower. It’s a lot of pressure that’s involved versus getting out there and just telling him to pin your ears back and run, and you see a lot of guys like that even play faster. Look at Jerry Rice, for example. Prime example.