According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the NFL are looking to cut their preseason in half, leaving teams with just the opening two games to play. When it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles, this is both a blessing and a curse.
The Eagles decided to inject a youth infusion into the roster this offseason. Going into last year, the average age of the Eagles’ roster was 26.6 years old, which was the 2nd oldest in the NFL. Veteran leaders were set free across the board and a new breed of player was drafted – one focusing on speed, speed, and more speed. Without OTA’s however, these very raw players, several of whom will be expected to have key roles in 2020, will have a Mountain to climb when it comes to getting up to NFL game speed.
It’s not just the rookie pool either. Last year’s draft class is carrying over some pretty heavy baggage for the coaching staff to lift. Whether it’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s development, Shareef Miller’s lack of involvement in 2019, or ensuring Andre Dillard is ready to go at left tackle, this offseason was absolutely vital and it was ripped away in the most unpredictable fashion.
Doug Pederson has tried to make the most of a very adverse situation by introducing virtual workouts and bringing in guest-speakers such as Steve Kerr and Mike Trout to bring the group closer together. Impressed by the way his young players are taking in information, all that’s left for Pederson is to get them onto a practice field.
I don’t want to call it a setback, but at the same time we do have some young players that played for us last year that are going to have to take a big step forward, and some of the guys that you mentioned. Pryor, he played last year at the end of the season. Herbig got in a game there at the end of the year.
And these guys have to understand that there’s a little bit of a sense of urgency once we get into training camp. Things are going to move fast. Things are going to move fast and we as coaches need to evaluate these players. I have to put them in position to be successful to show what they can do and that’s everything that we are in the process of doing right now leading up to camp.
The blessing of preseason being shortened is an obvious one. Pederson will have more time on the practice field with his players, which is arguably far more valuable in the grand scheme of things. Those extra two weeks of practice will not only enhance cohesion in the locker room but obviously go a long way in negating the on-field action lost during a canceled OTA period.
Not only that, but the team totally rebuilt their coaching tree this offseason, meaning that every second spent on the practice field is just as valuable for players who have been on the team a while having to get used to some new faces and philosophies.
An extra two weeks of practice is all well and good, but not even Pederson knows how that will look right now. The state may well be recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak better than most, but the NFL wouldn’t let location of teams play a factor in what they can/can’t do. The Eagles, for instance, wouldn’t be allowed padded practices if other franchise weren’t in the interest of fairness, which could essentially mean that those extra two weeks of practice are walkthroughs or individual drill-based.
Pederson spoke about how training camp could differ this year in a recent press conference:
So we’re going to make the most of it and use the resources possibly with the NovaCare facility, possibly with our stadium to take advantage of everything that we can. And the No. 1 thing here is making sure that our players and our coaches and all our staff are safe. That’s our most important aspect of everything right now.
But we are in the process of taking a look at a lot of different scenarios. Again, like I mentioned, using the stadium, possibly, or using the stadium and using the NovaCare facility to be able to handle the numbers that we have in training camp from a player perspective. It’s going to look different. It will feel different, but at the same time, we are going to embrace it and we are going to make the most of it, and our job as coaches is to prepare our football team for the regular season.
If Camp is borderline unrecognizable, then losing two full preseason games is a crucial blow to a very young roster who need to get up to game-speed as soon as possible. Obviously, every team is in the same boat, but the Eagles specifically have undergone a lot of changes this offseason and there’s a lot resting on the development of young players.
Whether it’s a starting left tackle, a battle at an outside cornerback position, or the future of an entire linebacking group, the Eagles still have a lot of questions to answer and preseason has long been the arena in which they’re contested. Without those two games, it’s going to be even harder to separate what is already a very fine margin when it comes to positional battles.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
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