The T-shirts Eagles coach Doug Pederson gave his players this spring carried the words “Everything Matters” on the back.
Pederson took a more strict approach to organized team activities and minicamp this spring, hoping to lay the groundwork for a focused, disciplined season. The Eagles were sixth-worst in the NFL in delay-of-game penalties last season, 12th-worst in false starts. Their defense was the league’s ninth-most-penalized.
“Everything we do in life, and really, anything we do in life, matters. You have choices and consequences to those choices,” Pederson said Thursday, as he concluded minicamp and said goodbye to the team until July 24. That’s when players will report for training-camp practices that are scheduled to begin July 25.
“The decisions we make sometimes matter, and so I feel like as a football team, as coaches, as players, and even as personnel, support staff, everybody in the organization, everything we do matters. It matters to winning games or losing games on the football field.
“So I just want to keep reiterating that point with our team. Just getting them to understand that if we jump offside in practice, we’re probably going to jump offside in a game, right? If we don’t do the little things right in practice, we won’t do them in the game. Everything that we do matters.”
Thursday closed the books on a solid spring for the Eagles. Rookie running back Miles Sanders has a hamstring problem that should be healed by training camp, but no one suffered a long-term injury, unlike a year ago, when the team lost just-signed linebacker Paul Worrilow for the year after he tore his right ACL in organized team activities.
Quarterback Carson Wentz looked sharp and healthy. Pederson said Thursday that the back injury was completely healed, after causing Wentz to miss the final four regular-season games last year and the two playoff contests.
Wentz and DeSean Jackson seemed to forge an instant connection, and Jackson showed up eager to work, perhaps with a sense of urgency to win a ring at age 32. When Jackson couldn’t handle a low Wentz pass Wednesday, Jackson automatically punished himself with five pushups.
“It’s a compliment to DeSean for spending the offseason here and getting to know Carson not only personally but on the football field,” Pederson said.
Several important veterans were not full practice participants this spring, and we don’t have a clear picture of their status for the start of training camp. That group includes defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot), linebacker Nigel Bradham (thumb), cornerback Ronald Darby (knee), corner Jalen Mills (foot), running back Corey Clement (knee), running back Josh Adams (shoulder), and wide receiver Mack Hollins (groin).
Safety Rodney McLeod (knee) said Thursday that he expected to be ready to go for training camp, but he doesn’t know whether the training staff will want to be cautious at first. Right guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles) is not expected to be ready for training camp.
Pederson said he told his players after the final minicamp practice “that I appreciate all the hard work. This week, everybody was here. … That I appreciate their effort, their hard work, attention to detail.
“And then secondly, I basically just said, ‘Hey, enjoy the next 5½ weeks. Spend time away from football with your family. Spend time with them, and friends.'
“And then the third, and probably the most important thing is, get your mind ready to go. Get your mind right these next couple of weeks. And that's just not players. I was talking to myself, coaching staff, everybody, because when we come back in July, we hit the ground running and we're ready to go.”
Asked about players whose improvement has impressed him, Pederson mentioned several, but he started off with a trio of 2018 rookies: tight end Dallas Goedert, corner Avonte Maddox, and defensive end Josh Sweat, all of whom stood out to observers of spring workouts.
“I had a lot of fun out here these six weeks,” Goedert said. “I feel a lot better going into the break this year. Having a firm understanding of what’s going to happen when I get back is probably the biggest thing. Before, it was ‘What’s training camp like? Is it as hard as people say?' ”
Goedert and other Eagles are pretty sure their offense will be potent.
“Really, the [offensive] possibilities are just endless. … Every position is just stacked. Really excited to see how the coaches use us, and how we can go and just dominate each and every game,” Goedert said.
“I think we can get mismatches all over the field. … Really, we can do whatever we want.”
Safety Malcolm Jenkins said he understood Pederson’s message and how it applied to a team that had struggled valiantly through injuries to defend its Super Bowl title last season but made just a few too many mistakes in a playoff loss at New Orleans.
“When you talk about the margins of winning and the margins of improving as a player and as a team, once you become good, it’s all about those small things,” said Jenkins, who put aside his campaign for a better contract to attend minicamp. He has said he will report to training camp as well.
“Missing the mark just by an inch, while it doesn’t seem big in that moment, you rack up [mistakes] day after day after day, you really put yourself behind," he said.