Two days removed from the first live-contact practice of the summer, the Eagles returned to the field Sunday to continue the mad dash to the season opener 21 days away.
Doug Pederson views the upcoming schedule a bit differently, though. Where most people count days, he counts practices.
“When you think about 21 days, I think about 10 days of camp left,” Pederson said Sunday. “Then, you’re into game week and you’re making some roster moves within the next 10 to 14 days. It feels a little different, obviously. Things have moved along and kind of sped along.”
The Eagles held their first padded practice a week ago and their first live-contact period on Friday. The defense, particularly the line, has often had the upper hand against the offense early on. A defensive advantage early in training camp is to be expected, especially considering the Eagles’ offense has been missing key pieces at times.
Still, Friday’s practice ended with a two-minute drill in which the defensive line dominated both the first- and second-team offenses. Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Josh Sweat each had a sack, wrecking three of the offense’s first four plays in its final reps of the day.
Center Jason Kelce said the offensive front handled itself well for parts of Friday’s practice, but he conceded the final portion of the session was a bad showing for the group.
“It was a horrendous two-minute drill,” he said. “It was probably the worst two-minute drill I’ve ever been a part of, so that’s unacceptable.”
The typical edge that defenses have in camp comes in part because it takes longer for offenses to establish the timing and coordination necessary to execute plays. Quarterbacks and receivers need time to develop chemistry on routes and ball placement. Offensive linemen need to work through pass-protection packages, passing off games, and handling combo blocks in the run game.
“It’s a little bit harder to tune up five guys [on an offensive line] working together, to tune up a whole offense,” Kelce said. “One player screws up on offense, it’s an unsuccessful play. If one player makes a play on defense, that’s a great rep. So I think offense is much more of a consistency position in general, no matter which one you’re playing. This is pretty much par for the course in terms of training camp.”
The problem that faces the entire league — not just the Eagles — is the fleeting number of practice days left until Week 1. The Eagles will head to FedEx Field to play Washington on Sept. 13 after just a few weeks of practice time because of the coronavirus-altered offseason. Their offense will take its first snaps without having had the foundation of OTAs and minicamps.
The Eagles have the benefit of continuity in their play-caller and starting quarterback to go along with a significant amount of their offense personnel intact, but they’ve still gotten a limited number of reps together this summer. More than half of the team’s offensive starters have missed at least one day in the first week of padded practices.
Because of the limited number of reps, Pederson said the first few weeks could resemble the start of baseball season.
“I think that it’s kind of like a baseball season where hitters are sometimes ahead of the pitchers early in the season until the pitchers get in their groove and their rhythm,” he said. “Obviously, with a couple of weeks of padded practices and being limited in what we can do, I think it’s going to be that way, possibly early in the season. But one thing that we’ve got going for us here ... is the veteran presence on offense of a staff that hasn’t changed over a lot of terminology.”