As I’ve said before, there are a lot of unknowns with the Philadelphia Eagles right now. They’ll have a completely new coaching staff in 2021, Jalen Hurts will be the new man under center, and there will be a plethora of new starters on both sides of the ball.
When the NFLPA released the following statement on April 18, it hurt the Eagles perhaps more than any other team in the NFL:
We believe in the solidarity of players across the NFL and using our collective voice to stand up for each other and what’s right. Our teammates have come together to make a decision as a team as to what is best for us this offseason. We have shared and talked about the facts from our union and our players will not be attending in-person voluntary workouts.“
With all the new faces in the NovaCare Complex, coming together as a team to have hands-on instruction of the new offensive/defensive concepts is crucial.
Last season, we heard almost every week about how the constant Zoom meetings over the offseason hurt the team’s chemistry. And that was with an offense and defense that had been in place for four years prior. Imagine how hard (if not impossible) it is to teach an entire team completely new playbooks through a computer screen.
Head coach Nick Sirianni recognized how difficult this obstacle would be for his new team, and he did everything in his power to get his players to buy in and show up for offseason workouts. According to Sirianni, all it took was ‘really good conversations’ with his veteran leadership and a few tweaks to the schedule to get his players back on the field.
Some of the Eagles players showed up on Monday for the beginning of Phase 2 of the NFL offseason. This phase includes meetings and on-field sessions, geared towards instruction on schemes, fundamentals and strength and conditioning.
The next two weeks will be Phase 3, which is typically OTAs. But this year, it’ll look a bit different in Philly. The team won’t go through 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 sessions — the on-field work will essentially be walkthroughs. The mandatory minicamp that was scheduled for June 8-10 was eliminated altogether. This was the major compromise that Sirianni made with his players in order to get them in the building.
The old-head sports fan will likely look at this and start yelling at the sky. But let’s be honest, the game is faster, more physical, and more injury prone than it’s ever been. With an extra game on the regular season schedule this year, without and additional BYE week, the players obviously don’t want to drain themselves physically before the season even gets underway.
I’m with the players on this one. And I’m glad Sirianni is too.
Everyone in the NFL is a great athlete, the mental side of the game is where NFL players struggle most of the time. Taking this time to drill the new concepts and schemes while giving your players a bit of a rest physically is exactly the way it should be done, and Sirianni deserves credit for taking the initiative to do it.
Not only does it get his players in the building, it builds trust with his team. Throughout the offseason, some local pundits scoffed at Sirianni for his rah-rah persona, claiming that it would be lost on NFL players. Something that certainly doesn’t get lost on players is open communication and willingness to compromise. This is a great first step for Sirianni in his first year as the Eagles head coach.