The labor dispute between the owners and players has delayed offseason activity so far this year, but until now it had not really affected football activities. That changes as this weekend was supposed to be the Eagles’ post-draft mini-camp. While it isn't a crucial event, it does give the rookies their first taste of life in the NFL and it really begins the process of player development for the upcoming season.
The Eagles’ top five picks all have a chance to start and/or contribute to the team in 2011. All of them are very talented and most of them are very experienced, but they are still rookies and that means they need NFL coaching. Never underestimate the impact that assistant coaches can have on young players.
Back in 2005, I remember reading NFL.com one day to see what Gil Brandt was reporting about pro day activity. He mentioned that a lineman from Saginaw Valley State had drawn quite a few offensive line coaches to his workout, as well as the normal contingent of scouts. The coaches and scouts came away raving about the prospect's footwork and overall potential. The player was some guy named
Herremans played in the Cactus Bowl and I was excited to pop it in and take a look. I watched the game and took some notes. I came away impressed, but noted that Herremans had zero chance to play left tackle in the NFL. He was beaten a couple of times by pass rushers in that game. If a guy can't block rushers coming from D-2 schools like West Virginia Wesleyan, Colorado School of Mines or Eastern New Mexico, how the heck is he going to have any chance against NFL rushers? I was so focused on results that I lost track of watching Herremans' raw ability.
I went up to training camp at Lehigh a few months later to watch the team practice. I looked out on the field and was shocked to see Herremans at left tackle with the starters. To quote the great Vince Lombardi, "What the hell is going on out there?" Tra Thomas wasn't healthy so Juan Castillo had to put a backup on the field. He decided that Herremans was the next best fit. That really blew me away. Herremans got beat a few times, but held his own for the most part. How was it that the guy who gave up sacks in the Cactus Bowl could now function as a left tackle in the NFL?
Herremans had the raw tools. He was big and pretty athletic. He did have good feet. He was experienced, so he had a solid understanding of blocking concepts. Herremans was smart and coachable. Castillo was able to teach Herremans the Eagles’ blocking system and the specific techniques needed to make it work. I learned a valuable lesson that day up at Lehigh. Don't underestimate the importance of coaching.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He's followed the team for almost 20 years. Tommy has been trained by an NFL scout in the art of scouting and player evaluation and runs www.scoutsnotebook.com.|
The current Eagles coaching staff would love a chance to work with the rookie class.
Jarrett was probably able to get a copy of the playbook, but that alone isn't enough. Jarrett needs extensive coaching if he's going to push for a starting job this year. Just rewind to last spring.
I'm sure Jarrett will do everything he can to learn the playbook. Taking those ideas and making them come to life on the football field is the real challenge. Jarrett can't simulate that without being part of a full-team practice session. You need an offense to look at and teammates to work with. You also need the supervision of a coach to make sure everyone is doing the correct thing.
Matthews should pick up on the scheme pretty quickly when things do break. He was a heady, instinctive player at Oregon. He also comes from an NFL family. Matthews understands that pro football is a job that must be worked at. Some guys think making the NFL was the hard part. Wrong. Getting into the league is like getting to base camp at K-2. It is just the foundation for a long, hard journey.
I'm sure special teams coach Bobby April is excited to work with Henery. April knows his rookie has a huge leg. Now, April has to refine some things to help Henery to succeed in the NFL. Kickers need time to become comfortable in their new environment. A lot of kicking is mental. There are plenty of guys who can kick a ball 50 yards. The hard part is finding a guy to do that accurately, under intense pressure, and in an almost instantaneous fashion. Henery has those tools. Now, he needs April to work with him on technique and ironing out any potential flaws.
The other rookies all have the potential to step up and contribute in 2011, but they don't necessarily have the same kind of expectations as the early picks. The first five guys need to show us something. They must have coaching so they can help the team this year, even if just as a role player. Fans and the media won't be very patient. They'll gladly attach the "bust" label to a player who is coming along slowly. That label means nothing to the coaching staff, but players are human beings and that kind of criticism can affect them. Let's hope the labor situation gets resolved quickly so the coaches and players can get together and get to work.