Philadelphia Eagles

How did an injury-plagued Eagles become one of the NFL’s healthiest teams?

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The Philadelphia Eagles are preparing to go to war with WFT this weekend and will do so at full strength. Despite suffering a few bumps and bruises along the way, this team has somehow remained one of the NFL’s healthiest, a sharp contrast to what we’ve seen in recent years. But how did we get here?

The numbers, Mason. What do they mean?

It’s gotten to a point where it’s almost concerning how healthy the Eagles are, purely because the sheer mention of this fact alone could be considered a jinx. Yes, I’ll take full responsibility if everything falls apart after this article. Sorry in advance.

Just like every other team in the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles have sustained injuries. They lost veteran leader Brandon Graham to a season-ending injury at the start of the year and have missed Brandon Brooks for the entirety of the 2021 campaign up to this point. But in terms of debilitating injuries, there’s been an uncharacteristic lack of them.

The Eagles currently have the third fewest amount of players on injured reserve (7). In 2020, they had the most in the entire league (17). That’s not counting the soft tissue injuries, missed games, and bumps and bruises that also hindered the team on a weekly basis.

It’s not just 2020 where the team were ravaged by injuries either. They had 13 players sat on IR in 2019, 20 in 2018, 12 in 2017, and 6 in 2016. It’s become a rarity to see the Eagles this healthy and well-conditioned.

Context is also an important part. The number of injuries is one thing, but the positions impacted is another entirely. The Eagles had a real habit of suffering cluster injuries at corner, wideout, and all along the offensive line over the past few years. It did lead to some nice surprises from players like Cre’Von LeBlanc in 2018, and expedited the rise of Jordan Mailata, but Howie Roseman was constantly having to pluck from practice squads just to make sure there was a viable team to field.

That pattern evaporated from all existence in 2021…but figuring out how is another mission entirely.

Feel my Rath

The first person to turn to is Ted Rath. He was formerly the Rams’ director of strength training and performance for three years, earning the NFL’s Strength Coach of the Year Award in 2017. He signed with the Eagles in 2020, so his immediate impact wasn’t exactly felt given that the team might has well have been throwing rocks at each other in practice instead of footballs.

However, if you look at the Rams IR stats during his tenure, things get interesting. They had 10 players hit IR in 2019, 14 in 2018, and 14 in 2017. Not exactly conclusive of anything. But in the year he won the SCOYA (that sounds fun to say out loud), the Rams finished as the healthiest team in the NFL based on adjusted games lost due to injury.

Injuries are so sporadic and can’t really be attributed to anything in particular. Nobody is responsible for a player getting hit at an awkward angle, or taking a bad landing. However, his methods and ability to condition players may well help his players handle those situations better and reduce the risk of soft tissue injuries.

Rath’s role with the Eagles isn’t what it was with the Rams. He’s now the Vice President of Player Performance, a more senior role meaning he has more say in the methods, diets, exercises of his players, as opposed to being the one carrying them out.

According to some very thorough research (I found his LinkedIN lol) we can see exactly what Rath is responsible for:

Rath’s role as Director of Sports Performance led him to oversee all aspects of the teams Performance related decisions including, Strength & Conditioning, Sports Science, Performance Nutrition, Travel Strategies, and numerous additional aspects.

Joining a youthful coaching staff, there is a chance that there are plenty of new ideas being implemented and Rath is able to have a much greater impact on the physical wellbeing of his players as a result.

Fernando Noriega

The second wildcard here is the man who has the role of Head of Strength & conditioning. Rath’s right hand man, if you will.

Noriega worked with Rath during his time with the Rams, spending five years there in total and three with Rath, who he followed to Philadelphia.

We can definitely attribute some of the sharp progress made on the health front to Noriega’s impact and likely chemistry with Rath. The two would’ve been very familiar with each other and carry the same basic principles as a result of their success in Los Angeles.

Roseman’s change of heart

The third wildcard here is a slight change of heart from Eagles GM Howie Roseman. He made it clear last offseason that he wanted to move away from players with concerning injury histories and learn when to cut ties with ageing vets. That didn’t stop him from kicking the tires on Jason Peters one last time, but alas.

Sure, Landon Dickerson was coming off of an ACL, but there was no offseason signing made because of a cheap price tag that came as a result of an injury. Dickerson has shown no signs of regression at all and despite missing the entire offseason to rehab his torn ACL, has been Stellar during his rookie year.

Roseman’s focus on freak athletes might also lend itself to better conditioned ones upon arrival. Drafting players who are captains and come from more rigid programs such as Alabama might also instil a better sense of discipline and effort in training sessions and other areas such as diet etc.

Not a single 2021 arrival in Philadelphia has landed on IR…yet. It’s genuinely staggering. No Malik Jackson injuries, no Timmy Jernigan setbacks, no costly strains to wide receivers or hamstring problems for corners. The Eagles have weathered a season in which they not only had a late bye week, but are now facing a second of a three game stretch in just 12 days.

The conditioning on this team has been nothing short of phenomenal. Whether it’s Roseman, the new strength and conditioning staff, or the injury gods forgetting to hit the big red button, all Philadelphia fans can be thankful for the health and success of this team going into 2022.

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire

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Liam is a 25-year old sports journalist from the UK and founder of the Philly Sports Network. In just five years he turned a hobby into one of the fastest-growing Philadelphia sports sites in the world, amassing 7,000,000 views and writing over 3,000 articles. Drawing attention from the likes of CSN, NJ.Com and Bleacher Report in the process, Liam is set on changing the way Philadelphia sports teams are reported on forever.

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1 comment

  • Lee says:

    Great article, the injuries have bugged me for years and I am glad we addressed it. Maybe Howie is getting better at his job 😳

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