Good morning, Eagles fans. It’s a good day: Most of the Eagles have reported to camp and are awaiting coronavirus test results as the acclimation period of this training camp is underway. Tuesday was a busy day, with Marquise Goodwin becoming the first Eagles player to opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns about the virus just before Jalen Reagor and Jalen Hurts spoke to the media.
Reagor and Hurts are both making up for the lost time earlier in the offseason with the cancellation of OTAs and minicamps, just like every other rookie in the league. The good news for the Eagles: They won’t be counting on many rookies to play significant roles this year, unlike some division opponents. More on that later.
— EJ Smith (email@example.com)
When Doug Pederson and his coaching staff start studying the tape to prepare for the Washington Football Team for the season opener, they’ll have to get creative. Washington has an entirely new coaching staff headed by former Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, along with a quarterback competition and a potentially disruptive rookie edge rusher in Chase Young. Especially without a preseason, the film study might involve Ohio State, Carolina, and even the Chargers’ defense.
But the unfamiliarity goes both ways, and the Eagles have the advantage of being the only team in the NFC East to not have a first-year coach grappling with the fallout of an abbreviated offseason and a canceled preseason. The Dallas Cowboys fired Jason Garrett in favor of Mike McCarthy, and the New York Giants ousted Pat Shurmur before hiring Joe Judge this offseason.
The Eagles go into the season with the same head coach, defensive coordinator, and quarterback they’ve had since 2016. That advantage isn’t lost on Pederson.
“I’ve thought about that with the new staffs just in our division here and in our conference,” Pederson said. “It has to be extremely tough not to be around [each other]. They spent a little bit of time, probably maybe a few weeks way back in February and March, maybe together, but it would be hard. And then not having your players in the offseason, trying to teach a new offense, defense, special teams, I’m sure is probably difficult in its own right.
“Our players are excited because they are not having to learn a necessarily new offense or defense or special teams. So I’m not necessarily thinking it’s going to be a leg up, but at the same time, it does give us confidence going into camp that we are all on the same page.”
Dallas at least has the luxury of a seasoned quarterback in Dak Prescott and, like the Eagles, a nucleus of players with experience playing together. Washington and New York both have second-year signal-callers and some developmental players at key spots.
After the lockout in 2011 cost teams offseason practices before training camp, new coaches overcame the disadvantages better than expected. Two teams that year, including the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers, finished with winning records; three teams went 8-8, and three teams had losing records. There was still a preseason in 2011, though, and a more traditional training camp.
This season’s ramp-up period will require teams to gradually increase the intensity of practice, and will limit teams to a maximum of 14 padded practices in a 20-day window starting Aug. 17 to prevent injuries.
“I think if we do things right and we take advantage of the way the rules are lined up for us, we can get something out of those [practices],” Rivera said in a video news conference Tuesday.
Will we see an increase in production in our return game? From whom? — from JaRiem Wiggins (@uh82cflyeglzfly)
Good question, JaRiem. I wouldn’t predict a serious uptick in kickoff return production. The rule changes to kickoffs in recent years to increase the number of touchbacks have been pretty effective. There were nearly 100 fewer total kick returns last season than there were in 2017, and the NFL wouldn’t have it any other way.
Punt returns are a different story, though, and I think there’s a chance we could see the Eagles improve on that area. The Eagles had the eighth-worst yards per return on punts last season with Boston Scott and Miles Sanders taking on the brunt of returns. Neither Scott nor Sanders returned a single punt in college, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Eagles struggled with them back there for the first time.