There was finally some positive football-related news to talk about today. After months of uncertainty and concern over the season that remains up in the air, Derrik Gunn of NBC Sports tweeted that there is an expectation of a July training camp for the Philadelphia Eagles.
After having to completely re-write their OTA program away from the NovaCare Complex and include things like virtual workouts, actually getting the team together at the usual time will be of tremendous benefit to the entire franchise, who will need every snap possible to prepare for the year ahead.
That doesn’t mean it won’t be tricky. Bringing an entire draft class up to speed, as well as getting veterans back into the swing of things after a period of voluntary home meetings and the chaos on their doorstep will be a tough transition. The good news is, the Eagles have a Head Coach ready to adapt like an offseason Chameleon.
Let’s not forget that Training Camp itself has seen plenty of changes since his arrival. 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.
Over time, Pederson has scaled his practices back and become far more aware of the strain put on the shoulders of his players. Constantly changing, Pederson then included virtual workouts in his OTA program, providing gym equipment for his players, while other teams kept this period totally light and void of any physical work is the latest in a long line of subtle tweaks to try and lift the Eagles ahead of their competition.
This time around, he may need to be more forward-thinking than ever. Usually, first-team players are given a very light preseason workload outside of game 3. Game 4 is primarily for guys on the back end of the roster to use that platform as one last chance to make an impact. Will that change in 2020? Will Pederson instead start his vets off light and reserves off heavy, slowly switching mentalities as preseason rolls on in order to prepare his first team for the opening game of the season, or will the risk of injury still weigh heavy on his mind?
Will contact drills and live-tackling days be maximized or minimized? Will there be a new focus on 11-on-11 action instead of individual workouts, or will they take precedent with the safety around the COVID pandemic playing a strong role?
It’s safe to say that even when training camp does resume in Philadelphia, it will be anything but a straight-forward return to normality.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports