Good morning, Eagles fans. Long time no see. All of us over at The Inquirer are happy to return to your inbox after a few months away, and we hope that you and your family have stayed safe and healthy during that time.
With the return of the newsletter comes a glimmer of hope surrounding the coming football season. The Eagles’ rookie class reported to the team’s practice facility Monday to take a coronavirus test. Afterward, the rookies were sent home to await test results while practicing social distancing.
This is the beginning of the adjustment period coming for the NFL this season, with so much in flux and many unanswered questions. We know at least this much: The NFLPA told players Tuesday that there will be no preseason games played this summer, according to multiple reports. More on that later.
— EJ Smith (email@example.com)
There will be plenty of repercussions due to the limited offseason the league has put in place because of the pandemic. After rookie minicamps and summer OTAs were both cancelled, there’s a lot of lost time heading into this year’s training camp. The next thing on the chopping block: preseason games.
The NFL and NFLPA are still determining the best way forward for training camp, but it’s clear now that preseason games will not be played. The two sides had agreed to cut preseason games in half earlier this offseason.
Many veterans will be happy to hear the development, but bubble players and rookies have the most to lose.
The group with the most at stake during preseason is those fighting for roster spots. Without last year’s preseason, Eagles players such as Daeshon Hall and perhaps even T.J. Edwards might not have made the team. Decent showings in those early games helped Greg Ward, who earned a spot on the practice squad before eventually becoming somewhat of a cult hero after getting promoted during the regular season.
While Jordan Mailata has made the 53-man roster each of the last two seasons, he’ll still need to prove he’s ready to play in the regular season to maintain his roster spot, especially with the looming threat of sickness temporarily knocking players out during the year. There’s not as much room for considering developmental players.
Mailata isn’t the only recent draft pick who has yet to play significant snaps in the regular season. The Eagles essentially redshirted Shareef Miller last year after taking him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft. This training camp, he’ll compete with Hall, Joe Ostman, and Casey Toohill for one or two defensive end spots.
The Eagles won’t likely get much clarity on the cast of receivers brought in last season, either. There are 13 receivers on the team’s roster going into camp, with five or six spots available. Which players the team chooses will be based off practice reps instead of live game reps, which could complicate things.
Players such as first-round pick Jalen Reagor and his draft classmates Quez Watkins and John Hightower are already behind on learning the Eagles playbook from the receiver position.
Don’t expect rookies, even Reagor or second-round pick Jalen Hurts, to make an immediate impact. Earlier this offseason, coach Doug Pederson said the team would have to limit the number of positions Reagor would learn at the start of camp, and that was before the preseason was off the table entirely.
“The hardest thing we are dealing with with our younger players is not having the grass time in the offseason,” Pederson said last month. “But right now, he’s going to come in and he’s going to learn one position and he is going to learn from DeSean Jackson, and learn everything he can. Obviously the playbook is extensive and we just have to see what he’s taken from the offseason to training camp, and then once we see his potential and his growth, then we can use him in multiple spots.”
What do you think Jalen Hurts’ role will be on the team this year? Will he just be a back-up quarterback? Or will coach Pederson find other creative ways to get him onto the field? — Dan May (@dannmaal) on Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Dan. My first instinct was to point out the nonexistent offseason to explain why I think Hurts could have a smaller-than-expected role, but I’m actually not sure how much it will matter. If he’s going to be used as a gadget player while he learns the ropes as a backup quarterback, he’d be learning only a handful of plays each week, which should be manageable even early on.
The only problem with having a package for him before he’s fully mastered the offense as a designated quarterback is the need to dress Nate Sudfeld. In the past, the Eagles have rarely dressed three quarterbacks unless injuries at other positions piled up so high that there wasn’t any space on the inactive list for Sudfeld. The new CBA allows teams to carry up to 48 players instead of 46 on game days, given that one of those players is an offensive linemen, so maybe that gives them the breathing room to keep both Hurts and Sudfeld active.