PHILADELPHIA — A final decision was made on whether or not to hold a conference.This spring's practice was hinged on wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead receiving a punt.
Coach Nick Sirianni likes to incorporate friendly competition wherever he can, so at the conclusion of Wednesday’s OTA session, he had Moorehead, the formerWideout, and Nick Rallis, linebackers coach, shagging punts in an effort to determine whether a Phase II-style, light practice would be cancelled on Thursday.
“He dropped the first one,” Sirianni said. “Nick Rallis dropped the next one, and then Aaron came back and caught the third one, which you would expect from a guy that played with Peyton Manning and played in a Super Bowl.”
With this, the players were sent to their summer vacation even earlier than they had expected. The team's philosophy probably played a larger role in the decision to cancel the last practice.
The Eagles have taken the on-field portion in their offseason training program back a long way. The offseason is Phase III where 11-on-11 drills and 7-on-7 drills can be allowed, so teams are permitted to hold 10 OTA training sessions. Philadelphia became the AFC championAs the only teams to decline to schedule a minicamp while still holding six of a possible thirteen Phase III practices, they were also the lowest-ranked in their league. Sirianni decided not to conduct an 11-on-11 drill during six of those practices. Instead, Sirianni preferred to concentrate more on fundamentals in individual drills to prepare for training camp.
The Eagles represent a group of teams opting to lighten players’ offseason workloads. This week,Doug Pederson, coach, announced that veterans would be exempted from minicamp. The , And These are some of the teams who cut short their minicamps.
“The guys are in good spots,” said Pederson, the former Eagles coach who was able to hold an extra minicamp in April since it’s his first year at the helm in Jacksonville. “So I felt that it was the right time to give them a little extra rest before we get ready to get cranked up in July.”
The Eagles' primary driver is their health. They finished 12th in Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric in 2021 (76), a sharp improvement from their ranking of 30th in 2020 (128.1). Since 2017, the Eagles have been looking for answers to player health concerns. In recent years, this search has led to multiple personnel changes in its medical and training departments. Following consultation with veteran players, the Eagles modified their offseason schedule to remove minicamps and team drills during OTAs last year. This was in response to an increase in regular-season game play from 16-17. Sirianni indicated in April that their team believed the change in approach was important in maintaining a healthy body in 2021.
The decision to pull out was made by several departments, including the medical and strength staffs, as well as the sports science department.
“I am listening to their input in that,” Sirianni said. “But like when the offense takes the field, the defense takes over the field, or the special team takes the field, my names are on it. Win or lose, it's my name. It's the same here.
“I'm listening to them, but I also have a feel for what the team needs as far as, hey, we need five more plays on 7-on-7 here, we need 10 less minutes of individual here.”
The Eagles did not play their starters last season, believing that the Patriots had shared practices.They did a lot of hard work leading up to the game in a controlled environment. The Eagles will be following a similar approach this summer with joint practices with the And .
While these lighter offseasons could benefit overall health, it’s also possible they impact performance. The Eagles were 2-5 in their first season last year before finding their groove late and winning the final NFC wildcard spot with a record of 9-8. It’s hard to know how much the lack of reps in the offseason factored into their slow start. Sirianni is now in his second year as Eagles head coach. He leads a roster that currently features 30 players aged 23 or younger.
No matter what price the Eagles pay for their reduced workload, they believe the benefits are worth it.
“We're comfortable with … where we are, with the amount of time that we're spending in this offseason,” Sirianni said.