Are you game planning as if RB Darren Sproles will be available on Sunday? **
PAT SHURMUR: We're game planning for whoever is out there.
He's a unique individual, so?
PAT SHURMUR: I know. He's really unique. He's a terrific running back. We'd love to have him back. If he's not there, really nothing will change as to how we game plan.
How did he look yesterday in practice?
PAT SHURMUR: Looked good. We had a lot of guys back out there running around. It's always good to see guys that have been injured be able to come back and practice.
Did he look like he was 100 percent? Did he do everything?
PAT SHURMUR: He did everything we asked him to do yesterday. So I don't know. You'll have to ask him. Again, I know what you're getting at, but we just won't know who is available until later in the week.
CB Cary Williams said that practices have been a little shorter the past few weeks. Is that preplanned or a result of some of the player feedback?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think we had always planned as the season goes on you do little things as you get near the end of the season, as you get toward the middle of the season we make slight adjustments. What we do is very dynamic. Certainly we listen to what the players are saying. What they're saying is important to us, but we have a plan as we go forward [about] how much work we're going to get done each week.
You guys have struggled in the red zone in the first six games. What were you seeing when you self-scouted during the bye week? Any commonality?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, you hit on something. I think we spent a lot of time last week looking at situational football. We looked at what we'd done the first half of the year, so to speak, in the red zone and on third downs. A lot of it comes down to not one common theme. We like to run the ball in the red zone, as you know. We try to stay balanced in terms of whether we're running or throwing it. We'll throw it or run it on any down and distance. I think it just came down to us being sounder and executing better in most situations.
It seems that your struggles with the run game coincide with the struggles in the red zone.
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, I mean, offensively we're just trying to score points and lots of them. I mean, that's really what we're trying to do, and certainly more than our opponent on any given Sunday. So when you get in the red zone, it's very important that we connect when we're throwing the ball. When we run the ball, we've got to get it in there. So when you're talking specifically about the run game, our problems running the football happened all the way up and down the field, so there is some correlation.
If you don't feel good about the run game does that dictate your play calling when you get into the red zone?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think that's by game. We believe in our ability to run the football and we'll continue to do it throughout the game.
Even though Arizona has lost a couple of star players, is their defense has talented as any you have faced?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, they're a challenging defense. Certainly there are some new faces in there. They've dealt with injuries like a lot of us have, but they're very good on the edges. They're trying to get pressure on the quarterback. They haven't had the production when you just look at the statistics like most folks do -- the sack numbers. So what they're trying to do, because they've lost some marquee pass rushers, is try to create that pressure by blitzing, and they do a very good job of that.
Your offensive line has only given up seven sacks this year. How much of that is due to QB Nick Foles getting rid of the ball a little quicker this year, and how much is attributed to the linemen's protection despite being banged up all year?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, sacks and sack avoidance are both team issues. Nick's been criticized frequently for holding on to the ball too long. Well, if you hold it too long on a consistent basis, you typically get sacked a lot, and so I think in a lot of situations we are getting rid of the ball in a timely fashion. There are certainly plays where we should get rid of it quicker. Then I think our guys are battling. A lot of the conversation revolves around [the fact that] we've had injuries up front. But the guys that were in there battled. A lot of times when you drop back to the pass it's not very clean. As we get our guys back -- I think a couple weeks ago [we] talked about executing a little smoother -- hopefully it will all come together.
Foles was sacked a lot last year or not a lot. But a lot of times he would keep the ball rather than throw it into harm's way. But, again, he only had a few turnovers. Is there a correlation between the fact that he's taking less sacks and committing more turnovers? Is he forcing things to get rid of the ball quicker?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, that might be a good thing to check out. I think each sack and each turnover are isolated type plays. Again, we looked at those last week. There is really no common theme.
Why was going under center so effective against the Giants?
PAT SHURMUR: It's just part of what we do. There are schematic reasons for doing it, but we felt like that was a good thing last week.
When you look at the offense, how important is it for the quarterback to be the leader of the offense? How does Foles rate in that regard?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think what's most important for the quarterback is that he has the respect of his teammates. A lot is made of leadership. I think to be a good leader you've just got to have courage and be willing to stand up and do what you're supposed to do. In situations where it warrants some conversations, say what you think. I think Nick does that. At least behind the scenes, that's what we see.
You were saying that going under center is part of what you do, but you don't do it a whole lot.
PAT SHURMUR: Actually, we do it more than you think. We absolutely do. We play from the shotgun as well as playing from under center.
TE Zach Ertz had two touchdowns last year against Arizona. You guys are developing into a tight end based offense. Can you talk about not only their play, but what Arizona presents in terms of opportunities?
PAT SHURMUR: Yeah, I think each week the tight ends are involved, certainly. There are a lot of times when we'll have two or three on the field at one time. In terms of opportunities, we've just got to play our game, and the production will sometimes show up when you least expect it. We hit [TE] James [Casey] on a keeper the other night because we had been running a play that looked very similar. It's part of -- we were under center in that situation. So tight end production kind of shows up in bunches. [TE] Brent [Celek] had a couple catches. James had a big catch. Because on a lot of third down situations we have Zach in there, he probably gets more kind of pinpointed type production, but every once in a while it just shows up in places that you don't expect.
When you hired current Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis as the linebackers coach in Cleveland, what stood out about him during his time coaching with the Cardinals?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I've known Bill for a long time. We were GAs together. Actually, I was a young coach. We actually worked together back at Michigan State in the way, way, way old days when we were just first getting started. So I've known Billy a long time. I thought he was an outstanding football coach, and it just made sense for him to be on our staff.
How does he function now as the defensive coordinator?
PAT SHURMUR: I don't spend much time on defense. Certainly, Bill and I are kind of on our halves of the building, so to speak. But he's got great respect of the players. We had an outstanding game last week, and it's fun. I really admire Bill and it's fun to be in the building with him.
With how little RB Chris Polk has done, how comfortable are you guys having him there as the number two in case you need him?
PAT SHURMUR: We're very comfortable with him because he's on the roster. Unfortunately, he's been dealing with injury. But the times that we've handed him the ball or he's gotten in the game, he's had an impact on the game. So we're hopeful that he'll be out there soon.
I understand that turnovers are a team deal, but Foles has 10 of them. What have you been working on, what are you emphasizing and what can he do to limit them down the stretch?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, ball security is important and we certainly talk about it a lot. There are areas where whether you're throwing the ball -- when you're the quarterback, you're responsible for a lot of things, and interceptions, as I mentioned, need to be evaluated by themselves and there are different reasons at times when those happen. But certainly he's aware of it and we're working on it.
How much more difficult is the center's job when going on the road and dealing with crowd noise, specifically in a dome?
PAT SHURMUR: Well, I think in most away venues noise can be an issue if you let it be, but most teams use silent count. So the cadence sometimes, we don't think of it as a problem. The challenge this week for our center is the multiple looks that we face from the Arizona defense.
*If I could go back *
PAT SHURMUR: We're going under center again, all right.
What I'm trying to get at is if there is something you saw on film about the opponent that you thought would be effective or was it just to help get the running game going?
PAT SHURMUR: There are reasons why we do it, and we like to keep those somewhat private. But being under center is part of what we do. We've been under center in every game we've played, much like when you look at the production at the end of the game, sometimes some positions get more production than others. I think the same can be said for being in the shotgun and under center. There are times when because every game plan we have, we go into the game with a certain amount of offense in the shotgun and a certain amount of offense under center. Then as the flow of the game happens, we can do one or the other.
Do you practice a lot under center?
PAT SHURMUR: Sure we do. Unfortunately, you don't get to see that. But I assure you that we practice it a lot.
Back in training camp you spoke about how rookie WR Josh Huff had a lot on his table in terms of what he had to learn because he was learning multiple spots.
PAT SHURMUR: Sure.
For the most part now it appears he is strictly an X receiver on the outside. Why was the decision made to have him more specifically in that role?
PAT SHURMUR: I kind of missed some of that.
You said that he was learning multiple spots in camp and now he's strictly on the outside. Why was the decision to do that?
PAT SHURMUR: I think he certainly plays inside as well. There was the one play where we tried to run the little reverse to him where he was in the slot. So he can be outside and inside. I think initially when you have a young receiver in our system, like early on, you want to train him in one spot to get him up and running. Then as time goes on, much like an offensive lineman who has to play guard and tackle if he's not the starter, or center and guard if you're not the starter, the same can be said for the receiver positions. Now his numbers get a little shorter and roster sizes are minimized. You want to get guys in the game, so they play both inside and out.
The fact that you haven't brought up a running back or signed a running back, does that mean you expect either Sproles or Polk to play?
PAT SHURMUR: I don't know what to expect this weekend. That's a better question for Coach [Head Coach Chip Kelly]. You'll get another shot at him later in the week. I'm sure he won't answer it either, but we're just thankful that some of these guys that have been injured -- it's hard to predict. I mean, it's a long plane flight. Somebody could get food poisoning. You don't know. You don't know. So for us to sit here and predict – unfortunately, I've had a little bit of experience with this where it's fun to try to predict who is in there. I know that you get the little probing questions as to try to read into what we're saying. We don't know. We don't know.
There are only three guys.
PAT SHURMUR: Right, and we have [TE] Trey Burton as well. So we'll play the game, and then we'll adjust it. You know? We may have to go under center more. I don't know.