PEDERSON PRESS CONFERENCE FRIDAY OCTOBER 6, 2017: COX OUT, SMALLWOOD IN QUESTION AGAINST CARDINALS
Q. What happened to RB Wendell Smallwood and what’s his status for Sunday?
DOUG PEDERSON: He has a knee, and he’s questionable.
Q. How did he hurt his knee?
DOUG PEDERSON: In the game.
Q. When in the game?
DOUG PEDERSON: First four quarters.
Q. How is DT Fletcher Cox?
DOUG PEDERSON: He’s doing well.
Q. Is he –
DOUG PEDERSON: Out.
Q. He’s ruled out, so not that well –
DOUG PEDERSON: This is going to be short and sweet by the way.
Q. On Smallwood, what exactly is the knee injury?
DOUG PEDERSON: It’s a knee. And he’s questionable.
Q. After the game he looked fine; was it something that kind of happened on the way home?
DOUG PEDERSON: It happened during the game.
Q. If he’s not out there, how does that affect the running game?
DOUG PEDERSON: It doesn’t. It does not.
Q. You’ve been saying that Fletcher Cox is day-to-day and he’s doing well, but second straight week, so what’s going on with him?
DOUG PEDERSON: He’s good. I mean, he’s right on track where he needs to be. It’s week five, and we’ve got a lot of football left, and he’s progressing nicely. We’ve got to just be careful.
Q. Will you get DT Destiny Vaeao back this week?
DOUG PEDERSON: He’s questionable, as well, yes.
Q. Is Wendell practicing today?
DOUG PEDERSON: Today, no.
Q. You have talked about how you have different runs for each of the different guys, so does this mean if Wendell can’t go, do you limit the playbook or are you teaching those other Wendell runs to RB Corey Clement and RB LeGarrette Blount?
DOUG PEDERSON: No, and I need to explain that. We do have specific runs for guys, but all the guys have to know those specific runs. We do call for specific guys in certain situations, but listen, LeGarrette has to know them all, Corey has to know them all, Wendell has to know them all, even RB Kenjon Barner has to know them all. That’s kind of the way we approach that.
Q. How is RB Corey Clement with pass protection?
DOUG PEDERSON: Good. Good. He’s improving. He’s smart. [Running backs coach] Duce [Staley] has worked extremely hard with him and LeGarrette both in protection, and he’s doing nice.
Q. In signing RB Kenjon Barner last week, you said it was going to take a bit of time for him to get up to speed. Is he there yet?
DOUG PEDERSON: I would say no, he’s not like the whole play back, but he is very familiar with the terminology. The thing is, it’s one thing to know it and kind of have a refresher course, but then to do it full speed on game day is a little different. And so want to make sure he’s comfortable with whatever we decide to put him in on, he’s comfortable with protections, with runs, with routes, whatever it might be.
Q. Do you feel any differently standing up there 3-1 this year versus last year when you stood up there 3-1?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, I think, No. 1, our 3-0 start last year, even though we won those games, it covered up a lot of mistakes that we made in those games, offensively, defensively, and in the kicking game. I think this year the guys are playing probably a little more confident. They’re learning how to finish. The execution is better. From the quarterback’s position, he’s understanding not only the concepts, but game plan and situational football and putting our team in good situations there. And the ability to run the ball, we’re a little bit more consistent there, especially the last couple weeks. A little more confident standing here, but at the same time, a lot of football left.
Q. With Wendell Smallwood we saw him not be able to get through a full season last year. Are you concerned about his durability long-term?
DOUG PEDERSON: I’m not. This is a physical game, contact sport. These things are going to happen, particularly to runners, and it’s just part of the game. So I’m not concerned with this long-term.
Q. Wendell missed three straight practices. Why is he questionable for this game?
DOUG PEDERSON: He has a knee and he’s questionable.
Q. Why isn’t he out if he hasn’t been able to practice?
DOUG PEDERSON: Because for me it’s a game-time decision with him.
Q. In TE Zach Ertz’s case, how much do you think having WR Alshon Jeffery on the outside has benefitted and helped him?
DOUG PEDERSON: I really think — of course it’s benefitted him tremendously. He’s getting a little more of the one-on-one stuff. You’re not seeing the combo coverages necessarily on Zach until you get kind of into the red zone area. But I think having Alshon on the outside, on the perimeter has really allowed him to have better one-on-one match-ups, and he does a great job with that, and a good route runner. It’s really helped him.
Q. It seemed last year defenses were focused not just on Zach in the middle but Jordan Matthews on the middle. Has having the outside right cleared that up?
DOUG PEDERSON: It does, it does. It definitely kind of spreads people out, and defensively you’re worried about a couple of guys, not just one, or an area of the field, as you mentioned, the middle of the field. So yeah, it definitely spreads out and you create some more one-on-one match-ups.
Q. Does Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson typically shadow a receiver, or do they play sides more?
DOUG PEDERSON: He typically goes with the best receiver, yes.
Q. So you expect him to be on Alshon Jeffery a good part of the day?
DOUG PEDERSON: We expect that going into this ballgame, yeah.
Q. Against the Giants you put Alshon in the slot a little bit, seemingly to free him up a little bit. Is that a similar option that you think you can move around guys so that Patrick isn’t necessarily always on the same guy?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, and in Patrick’s case, listen, he’s very comfortable going anywhere inside, outside. You see him all over the field with the best receivers, and we’re going to continue to find creative ways to get Alshon open even in the middle of the field, big body, big target in there, and he actually loves being in that slot position. We’ll keep him moving around. Just defensively I think that whoever is on him, if it is Patrick, then he just has to be aware of where Alshon goes once he breaks the huddle.
Q. T Jason Peters at 35 has gone through injuries in his career. What’s he doing behind the scenes to still be able to be play at this level?
DOUG PEDERSON: Gosh, the way he conditions himself during the week, the rest he gets, how he eats, the way he prepares, and the way Stout [Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] manages him during the week, too. You saw it in training camp, he’s not one of these guys that gets 100 percent of the reps, and we do the same thing during the regular season, and we do it with a lot of guys, but with him in particular he has really benefitted from having a little extra rest and just the way he takes care of himself off the field.
Q. The corners on each of the teams you’ve faced have been really good; from Chiefs CB Marcus Peters to Giants CB Janoris Jenkins and last week with Chargers CB Jason Verrett and then Redskins CB Josh Norman. Is that maybe part of the explanation on why Alshon Jeffery — not necessarily that he has bad numbers, but hasn’t gotten off to a fast start?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think that’s part of it. Anytime you put their top defender against your top receiver — I don’t want to say it eliminates the field, but it definitely draws your attention to other areas. It can be part of the — I don’t want to say a problem, but it can be part of the lack of targets and things like that just because it’s a solid match-up. You’re not going to sit there and try to shove sand when you don’t need to. You’ve still got a tight end and a couple other receivers in the run game that you can work. But it does limit some targets, yes.
Q. What have you seen out of the Cardinals’ offense specifically when Cardinals RB Andre Ellington is in the game?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, listen, this offense can be explosive, especially with the guys they have and him particularly. And it’s another great test for our defense, a pass rush becomes important. But yeah, they like to shoot the ball down the field, and it’s an explosive offense. Work is cut out for us.
Q. From the point that DT Beau Allen was hurt in the spring until now, can you talk about not only his progress, but are you surprised how quickly he’s back playing at the level he is?
DOUG PEDERSON: I’m not. I’m not surprised, and the reason I say that is just because of the way he handled his business once he was injured this spring and how he came back and his rehab, he was so driven and so motivated to get back on the field, and I’m not surprised. It did take him a couple games, however, just to get his legs back under him and his stamina that way. But he’s playing well right now.
Q. Arizona seems to have a pretty stout defense; going into this game, do you have to stay balanced in your line to win, or can you win this game if it gets into a shootout for you?
DOUG PEDERSON: I think you have to be balanced. Against teams like this, you’ve got to be patient in the run game. They are a stout defense against the run, and they play so much man coverage in the back end. It’s just going to be — you have to be patient in games like this. You trust your players, you trust your scheme, and there’s going to be that ebb and flow of the game, ups and downs, but I think it does boil down to how well we do run the ball, again. I think that can be a factor if we have any success there to help us in the passing game.
Q. What about with young players like QB Carson Wentz and RB Corey Clement just in terms of they’re so versatile and do so many things, I think, defensively with Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu, with Cardinals ILB Deone Bucannon, just in terms of picking up blitzes and things like that?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it’s a challenge, but it comes down to our preparation and their preparation, study during the week. We’ve got one more practice today to get through and kind of clean some things up from the week.
But yeah, it’s a — any time you play young players, as mentioned with Corey, especially in the backfield, protections are important. One thing that Carson has done a great job with is being able to sort of help those guys when they’re on the field and direct them. It’s like one of those things like, ‘Hey, you’ve got that guy,’ the light kind of comes on, like ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got that, I know what you’re talking about,’ and you see some of that from time to time. And that’s great to see from two young players being able to do that.
But yeah, it’s a challenge. This is a pretty good defense that we’re facing. Really first four weeks of the season they’ve all been pretty good.
Q. I know you said earlier in the week that you’re only thinking about this game and not the fact that you have another game next Thursday, but obviously you’ve done some planning; what’s your plan for next week to try to get the team ready? You have some guys that are banged up; how are you going to approach that?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it’s– as you said, we’re focused on Sunday, but you just do what you can next week. Your practices really are more of a glorified walk-through. You’re trying to get guys healthy and rested, and all the treatment, they live in the training room. We try to — we’re on the road again, so it’s a travel day on Wednesday, and it’s just part of the business. I mean, every team is going to go through it during the season, and it’s just how well we can handle not only this game Sunday, but come back Monday ready to go and get ready for a game in a couple days.
Injury report as of Friday
DT Fletcher Cox (calf), CB Ronald Darby (ankle)
S Corey Graham (hamstring), RB Wendell Smallwood (knee), DT Destiny Vaeao (wrist), S Jaylen Watkins (hamstring)