PHILADELPHIA – Phase 3 of OTAs, the final portion of the Eagles’ offseason kicked off on Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex amid high expectations for what was a surprise playoff team last season in Nick Sirianni’s first go-round as an NFL head coach.
The last days of work before training camp begins in late July are May 31, June 2-3, and June 6-8. Reporters are scheduled to get their first on-field look since rookie minicamp later this week.
Philadelphia is one of two NFL teams (Cincinnati is the other) that will not have any mandatory spring work and the Eagles are also going down the somewhat counterintuitive road of scheduling fewer practices than they are allowed under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
It’s an organizational philosophy that Sirianni bought into last year when there were still many pandemic-related hurdles when it came to protocols and the unproven, little-known mentor was trying to win over his veteran players.
TRANSITIONING AWAY FROM TEAM DRILLS
A compromise was worked out to wipe out mandatory minicamp in exchange for nearly 100% attendance at voluntary OTAs that focused more on teaching and conditioning than on-field work. The results played out favorably so it’s become status quo only this time things are being scaled back even further in some ways with traditional team drills (11-on-11s) scrapped in favor of heavy 7-on-7 work.
“We are transitioning away a little bit more from 11-on-11s this year. We are not going to see those this year,” Sirianni confirmed earlier this spring.
Much of the modern NFL is about the passing game in the offseason while the more physical parts of the game need to be perfected during the summer when pads are allowed. Until then, it’s about technique and fundamentals with the big boys and the more physical parts of football like the ground game.
“[We] look forward to getting a lot of good work done with our individual [drills], get a lot of individual where we can work on our fundamentals,” Sirianni surmised. “Then we’ll be doing 7-on-7 because it helps our skill guys and quarterback in making the read and different looks he’s going to get.”
HEALTH AND SAFETY FIRST
The cost-benefit analysis of the Eagles’ approach is about safety and getting to the starting line (Week 1 of the regular season) as healthy as possible.
“Everything that we do is going to be thought out with the players’ health and safety in mind first,” Sirianni conceded.
The 7-on-7 work figures to be a little more exciting than usual because the Eagles made a splash on Day 1 of the draft by trading for veteran receiver A.J. Brown and later brought in 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry after he was released by the New York Giants.
Before the start of the Howie Roseman-coined talent-gathering season, both the WR and CB rooms had significant holes that seemed to have been addressed on paper, and watching the cover trio of Darius Slay, Bradberry, and Avonte Maddox trying to lock down Brown, DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins should be interesting.
Jalen Hurts’ development is also key and as Sirianni noted, helping the QB makes his progressions second nature against all the different looks he’s sure to see might be the most important part of the work, along with building a chemistry with the pass-catchers.
“I think this is an exciting time to be an Eagle,” Hurts said. “I think coming off of the things we were able to accomplish and overcome last year, I think there’s a lot to look forward to.”
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) May 31, 2022
-John McMullen covers the NFL and the Eagles for JAKIB Sports.