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Coaching Takes Center Stage Now

Posted May 15, 2017

Three days of Rookie Minicamp ended on Sunday morning as the players gathered on the NovaCare Complex practice fields at 11:21 a.m. and listened as head coach Doug Pederson gave his final messages for the weekend. One step down, many more to go as the coaching part of the equation comes into focus ...

Three days of Rookie Minicamp ended on Sunday morning as the players gathered on the NovaCare Complex practice fields at 11:21 a.m. and listened as head coach Doug Pederson gave his final messages for the weekend. One step down, many more to go as the coaching part of the equation comes into focus.

Something that Pederson has mentioned time and again, and not a lot of people have acknowledged the importance, is having a full season of Eagles game film to watch and study as the team gets ready for the 2017 campaign. Twelve months ago, the coaching staff showed the offensive players of Kansas City’s scheme from 2015, and the defensive players watched Jim Schwartz’s past defenses in Buffalo and in Detroit and even Tennessee, perhaps.

A year ago, then, the players were watching a scheme. Now they’re watching themselves and the Eagles from a season prior, and that’s going to make a difference. What was black-and-white, grainy video last spring is now 4K clarity.

What did the coaching staff learn from three days of practice with the rookies? They learned about the newcomers’ ability to retain and translate information. They had a chance to see what kind of physical condition the players are in right now. They gained some knowledge in personality and an early understanding of the players and their on-field habits.

It’s just a start, but it’s valuable stuff. And as we move toward the next step for the entire team – Phase Two continues for both the rookies and the veterans – the developmental portion is instrumental.

The three-tiered challenges for every football team are these: 1. Draft well and make smart, strategic personnel decisions and additions; 2. Develop the players on the roster and, 3. Retain those who have a long-term fit with the team.

Very simple. And very complicated.

The onus now is on the coaching staff working to integrate the existing roster with the offseason additions. How, for example, will Alshon Jeffery transition from being a go-to receiver in Chicago into this offense? It certainly helps that wide receivers coach Mike Groh was in the same job with the Bears when Jeffery had fantastic seasons in 2013 and 2014. Jeffery knows what to expect from Groh and Groh knows what makes Jeffery tick.

Same with offensive guard Chance Warmack, who signed a one-year deal in free agency after four seasons in Tennessee. Warmack was an All-America player at Alabama, where his position coach was Jeff Stoutland, who is now the Eagles' offensive line coach. That means something. The fit it right with the two of them.

On Friday, Pederson was asked about the number of skill-position players the Eagles have suddenly accumulated and how the coaching staff can best utilize the improved talent base. It comes down to coaching, Pederson said.

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“As we go and we really understand our personnel in year two as a coaching staff on offense, I think we'll come up with creative and unique ways to get guys the ball. It doesn't always have to be in the passing game,” Pederson said. "We're going to continue to explore that, obviously, now that we've got this new influx of young players who have that ability to touch the football. We're just going to continue to find ways to do that.”

The rookie class made its first impression over the weekend and now they’re going to ramp things up by becoming integrated with the veterans. The tempo changes. The level of athleticism certainly goes up a full notch or three. Instead of working against fellow rookie Mack Hollins, as an example, cornerback Rasul Douglas is going to see Jeffery over the next several weeks. He’s going to be introduced to an entirely different level of player, not only in size and explosiveness and understanding of the scheme, but in technique and in tricks of the trade. This is when the impressions that are going to stick will begin.

That’s what is next for the Eagles: More coaching. A reliance of teaching terminology and technique. Many more steps of development and the leaning from a coaching staff that has been here for a full season and then some, and that is much more prepared to teach the Eagles way than it was 12 months ago.

ROOKIE CAMP NOTES

  • First-round draft pick defensive end Derek Barnett loved the draft experience, but he was just as excited to get back into the training portion of his football career once he left Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago. “It felt great to get back at it,” Barnett said. “I was really looking forward to getting my workouts in and getting back into the kind of football shape I want to be in. You go through the draft process and you are taken out of your routine with a lot of meetings and dinners and visits. Having a chance to catch my breath and work out was great. I’m ready to go.”

  • Sometimes, all you need is a chance. Offensive tackle Victor Salako was one of 20 tryout players in for the weekend, and he ended up impressing enough to earn a contract. The Eagles waived/injured quarterback Jerod Evans on Sunday and signed Salako, a two-year starter at Oklahoma State. A scouting report on Salako, from NFL.com prior to the draft: “Two-year starter at left tackle who utilizes his size and frame to compensate for his athletic deficiencies. Stiffness in lower half prevents him from playing with good balance and leverage in both running and pass blocking. While he has the size that will intrigue teams, his lack of functional athleticism could make it tough to find a long-term fit on the next level.”

  • The media attended about 15 minutes of individual workouts on Friday, the only access permitted during the weekend’s camp. So any reports of performance were not possible, but future spring practices, the Organized Team Activities, specifically, will be open.

  • Because their classes don’t graduate until late, as with most of the Pac-12 teams, former Washington cornerback Sidney Jones and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls won’t be able to take part in any workouts until the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. It is a rule the NFL should revisit, as it limits players’ chances to make the team as rookies.

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