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Five Takeaways From Coach Pederson

Posted Mar 23, 2016

Earlier this week, fans heard from executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman and Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie from the NFL Owners Meetings in Boca Raton. On Wednesday morning, it was head coach Doug Pederson’s turn to meet with the media at the annual NFC Coaches Breakfast.

With this being his first time attending the meetings as a head coach at the NFL level, Pederson discussed a number of different topics during his hour-plus media session. Here are some of the major takeaways …

On What's To Come For The Eagles

The Eagles have added talented players like Brandon Brooks, Rodney McLeod and a host of others through free agency, and they also traded away a few big-name players. Pederson began his availability this morning by speaking about what roster spots the Eagles are still looking to fill.

“There are holes at the offensive line position,” Pederson said. “You can never have enough on the offensive line. Secondary is always a key position around the National Football League and the passing game has sort of become the staple – a lot of yards, a lot of attempts- so you need guys who can cover. Then you look at linebackers, because I think that’s always a key position. It’s a physical game and guys can run sideline for sideline. For us, I think another thing is pass rushers. With Jim Schwartz’s defense, I think getting pass rushers is key to what he does on defense.”

On The Defense

Pederson spoke in detail about both sides of the football. On the topic of the defense, he answered a number of questions about where certain players will fit in Jim Schwartz’s scheme. He explained that for players like Connor Barwin, Marcus Smith and Brandon Graham are naturals for what Schwartz is looking for at the defensive end position.

“I think Connor can be an exceptional defensive end and a pass rusher, where he’s comfortable,” Pederson said. “He’s also comfortable in space, which he’s done more with the style of defense they had, but his best position is coming off of that edge rushing that passer.

“(Marcus) is going to go in as a defensive end. He’s another one that has a lot of potential, and as coaches we have to get the most out of that potential. Brandon is a leader of the football team, he’s energetic, he’s high-motored and has a great skill set. I think he’s one player who could really have a big impact on that front.”

As for the linebackers group, Pederson professed his belief that second-year pro Jordan Hicks is well suited to play middle linebacker in the 4-3.

“It’s a comfortable position for him,” Pederson said. “He communicates well in there. He’s solid in there and I think he has the right mindset and right size to fill that spot.”

As for coaching with someone like Schwartz, Pederson explained that it’s a terrific opportunity for him to be able to put the onus of the defense in his coordinators hands and fully trust his approach.

“Going against him for so many years, it’s an attack style of defense,” Pederson said. “He’s done a great job over the years and he’s developed pass rushers. You look at guys like (Bobby) Avril, (Ndamukong) Suh, guys like Kyle Williams in Buffalo and Mario Williams in Buffalo, guys who come off the edge and really attack the passer, and that’s what intriguing because when you can put pressure with four instead of five or six and you don’t have to blitz all the time, it makes it a dynamic defense.

“I wanted to find a defensive coordinator that I could trust, sort of that head coach on defense. He’s been a head coach and obviously now he’s a guy I can kind of turn the keys over to and say ‘Hey this is your deal’. My focus, as you know, is going to be more on offense. I’m intrigued by his philosophy.”

On The Offense

As for the offensive side of the ball, Pederson spoke about where veteran Jason Peters fits into the offensive line mix. While there have been rumors about Peters potentially moving inside, Pederson explained that Peters is still best suited outside.

“There’s been talk about that, but in my opinion he can still play left tackle, and that’s where I want him to play,” Pederson said. “He’s solid out there, has a lot of athleticism out there, and I think that’s his best spot going forward. Now, as he continues each year, is there a chance he could move inside? That’s yet to be determined.”

The signature of the Eagles offense over the past three seasons with Chip Kelly in charge has been the no-huddle, up-tempo attack. While that style of play hasn’t been Pederson’s forte with the Chiefs, he believes the Eagles can still take advantage of it when it makes sense.

“One thing this group has learned in the last couple of years is how to play fast,” Pederson said. “The tempo of the game, I think that’s a benefit for any offense, to play fast. I want to use some of that. They’re used to that, they’re comfortable with the no-huddle system. Give the quarterback a little bit more freedom to do some things than just a two-minute mode and that hurry-up tempo. I’ve always been intrigued by the tempo of the game.

“I know the officials can control the tempo and the speed of the game, but at the same time there’s a time and a place for it. Incorporating that to what I’m going to bring – we’re going to get in the huddle, break the huddle, attack the line of scrimmage that way also, but there’s a time and a place for the hurry-up and I look forward to utilizing it with what I bring.”  

Pederson has talked multiple times this offseason about the importance of the quarterback position, and he did again on Wednesday, but he also spoke in detail about how important the running game will be for the Eagles.

“Everybody knows that in the National Football League, you have to be able to run the ball,” he said. “With the zone read and the run/pass options that you give your quarterbacks, they look like throws but they’re really run calls. It’s just a way to attack defenses. We’re going to continue to run the football. You have to run the football. The offensive line loves to run the football.

“I thought Philly was just a lot of traditional zone schemes, inside and outside, pulling guards and pulling centers. I had all of that in the (Chiefs) offense too, but I also like lining up with a fullback or a tight end in the backfield. I like having those situations. You’re going to need guys who can lead block on Mike linebackers. You’re going to need guys who can run power and trap and gap schemes. I like that style of running. That’s kind of how I grew up in this league.”

Along the same lines, Pederson was asked about the possibility of adding a fullback to the Eagles’ roster.

“There’s a chance,’ said the head coach. “We carried one in Kansas City with Anthony Sherman. I also want to see how our tight ends hold up, because if you can utilize a tight end back there to do the same thing, it kind of frees up a spot, but I’m going to look into that hard this offseason as we continue to build the system.”

On the wide receiver front, Pederson explained that he and the coaching staff want to take a good look at how Jordan Matthews reacts to playing on the outside, something that Pederson believes is a natural fit.

“I think he can play outside,” Pederson said. “I want to look at him outside this spring as we go through the offseason. With his skill set, he can play both.”

On Joint Training Camp Practices

In each of the past three seasons, the Eagles have held joint Training Camp practices with other NFL teams, twice with the New England Patriots and once with the Baltimore Ravens. When asked if that trend will continue, Pederson said he wanted be opposed to it down the road.

“I’m interested in it. I think in the first year, though, I would stay away from it,” Pederson said. “Just for the fact of it being the first year. Let’s do this thing, get it right the first time and get the first Training Camp under our belt. That’s kind of where I’m at leaning now. I’m not opposed to doing something down the road. I think as you go, it’s good to get with other teams. It’s a break for your players. It’s an opportunity to go against someone else when you’re in those dog days of Training Camp.”

On His Coaching Philosophy

2016 may be Pederson’s first season as an NFL head coach, but his background of playing for and coaching alongside distinguished head coaches is something that he believes has prepared him well for his new chapter in Philadelphia.

“I go back to my days with Mike Holmgren and I think that’s kind of where everything started for me down this path,” Pederson said. “I even think of times down in Miami with Don Shula and how he just led this football team. He was maybe not, later in his career, so much the Xs and Os, but more being the leader, being the motivator, being the guy would stood up in front of the team and got the guys ready to play.

“It’s funny but I even go back to my high school days when I was the head coach at Calvary and I think about those days and why I wanted to be a head coach in high school. I love teaching the game, I love watching the guys perform. That part of it never changes. I just feel like having the relationship with the players is key. I feel like I can connect with the players. They can connect with me. I’ve been in the locker room before. I understand that dynamic and how that works, and then just these experiences these last few seasons in Kansas City have really put me in this position.

“I think (a head coach) is someone that they can come to at time. It’s almost like a father figure. It’s like a son going to your dad. You want to have that relationship where he can come to you at any time. I also want them to see me as somebody who’s played the game, somebody who understands the dynamic of the locker room, somebody who understands the dynamic of practice and what it takes to win a championship, being on Green Bay’s Super Bowl team, what it takes to get there. I want them to be able to see those things in me.”

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