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NFC East Rivals Push the Envelope as Eagles’ Sit Back

Eagles

Photo Credit by John McMullen/JAKIB Sports

Eagles

PHILADELPHIA – While the Eagles decided to kick back this spring, utilizing only six of a potential 13 on-field sessions available to them under the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, a couple of division rivals were pushing the envelope in the other direction.

On Thursday, Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy was fined $100,000 by the NFL and the league also took away a 2023 OTA from the Cowboys’ allotment due to a little too much physicality. More son it was the second consecutive year that McCarthy has been overseeing sessions that get a little too physical per the CBA.

A day later it was revealed that the Washington Commanders got a little too physical as well and Ron Rivera is also $100K lighter in the wallet while the Commandeers were docked two 2023 OTA practices because of too much contact.

NFL clubs are strictly limited when it comes to how much contact players can have during offseason workouts, with both the league and NFL Players Association monitoring practices.

The Eagles, along with the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals, were the only two teams to scuttle mandatory work this spring and Philadelphia has defaulted to player safety when it comes to its planning process.

“It’s always about the players’ health,” coach Nick Sirianni said.

The decision as a whole by the Eagles is an organizational one with GM Howie Roseman and Chief Medical officer Arsh Dhanota playing major roles.

“There’s also got to be a point of yes, I am hearing the trainers, I’m hearing the strength staff and our sports science department, I’m hearing the doctors,” said Sirianni. “They’re the experts in the yardage of how much guys have run, the timing of this day is a longer day, then this day is a shorter day, then this day is a longer day.

“I didn’t go to school for that. I went to school to be an education major, but I was really preparing to be a football coach. That’s what my coach was preparing me to do.”

It’s never a surprise when veteran coaches like McCarthy and Rivera push back against a new line of thinking. Sirianni, who just turned 41 earlier this week, is an old soul from a football perspective but is a tad more open-minded when it comes to the new way of doing things.

An example of that was the move away from team drills to strictly 7-on-7 work which Sirianni explained.

“As we looked at all the different years that we’ve had, even when I go back to my days as a coordinator with the Colts, even when it was 11-on-11, it was a passing drill,” said Sirianni. “What happens there sometimes is you get these big dudes out there and you’re like, all right, we’re not going real hard.

“… good luck telling Jason Kelce we’re not going real hard or Fletcher Cox or any of those guys. So, we just took them out of it and we were able to go full speed [in 7-on-7s].”

The end game from the coach’s perspective seems to be that you can’t practice physicality until you’re permitted to be physical by rule so the Eagles have re-imagined their spring work to better focus on technique and fundamentals.

“When you have a [practice] where you have five or six periods of team periods, well, naturally your individual period time is going to shrink,” Sirianni said. “We were able to have 35 minutes [in the last OTA practice] of individual time of perfecting our fundamentals.”

It will be interesting to revisit this dichotomy in the NFC East, especially early in the season.

-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for JAKIB Sports.