The Philadelphia Eagles have undergone quite the transformation since the arrival of Doug Pederson, from players and culture, to front office direction and analytic focus. A lot has also changed when it comes to the way that Training Camp is run by the coaching staff and that may be a trend that continues.
Philadelphia had a total of 39 players appear on the injury report last season. Twenty, yes twenty, players found themselves on IR at one point or another — seventeen of those cases were season-ending. The injury bug ravaged the Eagles franchise last year and after an OTA period where many players were away from the action rehabbing, it shifts the spotlight to what has notoriously become a very physical training camp.
When camp rolled around in 2016, a then-rookie Head Coach made it clear he wanted this team to carry his identity. Not only did practices remain in South Philly, but Pederson bought back echoes of the Andy Reid era, embedding “10-10-10” style practices throughout training camp. Perhaps the most prominent change to training camp, was the injection of live-tackling back into Eagles practices. It made sense. Football is a contact sport and you won’t get any better at tackling if you’re not in a situation to practice it in the run-up to the regular season. This was vital for an Eagles team who in 2015 struggled to wrap up receivers on a consistent basis…but things very quickly turned sour once practices began.
Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, and Malcolm Jenkins were among those who sustained an injury during the heat of a competitive camp and one year later, injury scares didn’t exactly evade the team. Wendell Smallwood, Donnell Pumphrey, and even Alshon Jeffery suffered knocks. Jeffery’s injury lingered the entire year and despite playing through it for a whole playoff run, it has forced him to miss the entirety of camp this time around.
After a much shorter offseason following their incredible Super Bowl 52 victory, Pederson tweaked his formula. Padded practices were fewer and the Eagles Head Coach seemed intent on making sure his players were ready and raring for game action.
“I was going to go pads today, but the weather has been in the 90s.” Pederson told reporters. “It’s been hot and these guys have been working extremely hard. We’re a little over 48 hours, obviously, to game time. So just wanted to pull back a little bit these last couple days. We had a hard workout in the stadium and just good work these last couple days. Getting them as fresh as I can for Thursday.”– Doug Pederson following a Training Camp practice before a preseason game in 2018
This leads to a very interesting point. The Eagles suffered some lofty backlash after announcing that they would hold only one practice that was open to the public, as opposed to the two held in recent years. Charging a $10 admission fee that would go toward their charitable efforts to raise awareness around autism, many were happy to donate to such an important cause, but were worried they maybe couldn’t bring a family to the event due to the costs, or even make it at all due to limited availability.
What just about everyone has overlooked however is the level of intensity at these open practices. The Eagles are naturally obliged to almost ‘put on a show’ for fans, meaning the pads go on, intensity builds, and players naturally give that much more due to the stage.
There may be no correlation, but it would make sense that a team who had 39 injuries last season, would want to keep things low-key and consistent as opposed to spiking in intensity around game weeks.
Don’t be surprised if there are more tweaks on the horizon. Maybe the padded practices are less frequent again and the Eagles try some different things throughout that frantic final month of preparation.
Pederson has proven to be one of the most forward-thinking Head Coaches in the league, and he’s now in a position where he can’t afford to expose his players to unnecessary strains or injuries. This may seem minor, but these subtle tweaks may just end up playing a massive role in the months to come.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports