Welcome to the final week of the Eagles' offseason program, after which players will scatter and prepare for Training Camp 2021, which begins on July 27 at the NovaCare Complex when the team reports. What do we know about the Eagles as June begins? Let's get a feel here ...
1. The word you hear more than any other from the players is "energy." It's a constant theme, and it is clear that Head Coach Nick Sirianni and his staff have the daily approach that just comes naturally. Sirianni is an upbeat guy. He's a hands-on coach who doesn't miss a thing on the practice field and, as he's said many times, relationships are important to him. "It definitely makes a difference," defensive end Ryan Kerrigan said. "There is great energy in this building. You can feel it. You want to be part of it. I think that's a great thing to have and not all teams have that positive energy." Said cornerback Darius Slay: "They've got a lot of energy. That's one thing I do know. They got a lot, a lot, a lotta, lotta energy." And the players are enjoying it. That's a huge positive.
2. Safety Rodney McLeod continues to rehab from the torn ACL he suffered in December and says he intends to be on the field for Week 1 when the Eagles play at Atlanta. That's an encouraging perspective for a new-look secondary as McLeod would potentially team with Anthony Harris in the deep secondary. "I'm just extremely confident in the work I've been putting in. The progress has been great week to week, month to month, trusting in the trainers – everyone from the strength staff to the medical staff as well," McLeod said. "Trusting in them, trusting in the process, really, and I think, for myself, it's just a mindset, man. I have to take myself there. That is my goal. I want to be available for my team, not for only eight games but for all 17. That is my motivation. For me, I have all intentions of being there Week 1. At the end of the day, you've got to listen to your body and listen to everyone around me, but I am grinding around the clock to be available for my team."
3. We don't yet know what Defensive Coordinator Jonathan Gannon has in store from a coverage standpoint – Will he employ more zone coverage? Will the Eagles use a lot of man-to-man technique? – but it doesn't sound like Slay – now jersey No. 2, because it was his first college number at Itawamba Community College – has a preference. He just wants to be part of a secondary that is going to be tested each and every week by a slate of great wide receivers on the schedule. "I'm pretty good at being very versatile," Slay said. "I can do it all – play man, zone, whatever needs to be done, I can get it done." The big question at cornerback is who is going to line up with Slay as a starter. Avonte Maddox has a lot of experience both as a nickel cornerback and on the outside, and the Eagles have a slew of young corners who are going to have a chance to earn playing time.
4. Greg Ward hasn't changed his approach after making the transition from a college quarterback to an NFL wide receiver, and as he comes off a 50-catch 2020 season. He isn't in the position where he is trying to show everyone he can play at this level. He's proven that. What Ward is trying to do is to take his game to a new level. "Every day, I'm just trying to improve my game," he said. "I'm trying to make sure I'm on my P's and Q's, and not just me, but everybody around me, making sure we're on the same page. We all need each other. No one is above the whole group. We're working together." The idea at wide receiver, Jalen Reagor has said, is that the receivers will be interchangeable, moving to all three wide receiver positions. We know the Eagles have some real talent in the room and we know that the players are, for the most part, still learning the ways of the NFL – Ward and Travis Fulgham are the veterans with three years of NFL experience. It's going to be fun watching this group grow up together.
5. The linebackers are another group where the competition will be right there in front of everyone to see as the players compete for playing time. Alex Singleton had a breakthrough 2020 and is looking for more in this new scheme where the entire defense is hustling to the football, playing smart, emphasizing creating havoc and takeaways and being physical will be emphasized. "Coach Gannon is awesome. Coach (Nick) Rallis is awesome. I'm excited for everything we're going to be doing. The principles, the way we get to the ball as a team, the defensive we're going to be playing, I'm excited about it," said Singleton, who last season led the Eagles in tackles with 119. "I like them as a coaching staff. It fits well with how I play. Getting to the ball is something I pride myself with. Hopefully, I fit into that nicely."
6. Optimism along the offensive line is running high. Like, very high. Perhaps a lot of people don't put into context what the group went through last season with all of the injuries, but it's important to remember that only center Jason Kelce came through 2020 unscathed. Every other position on the offensive line was impacted by injury. Now, the Eagles are eager to see right tackle Lane Johnson and right guard Brandon Brooks line up together to form a dominating right side of the line.
Kelce feels good and is back for 2021. Isaac Seumalo is healthy at left guard. Jordan Mailata showed last season the kind of upside he has at left tackle, and he's very much in the mix along with Andre Dillard for the starting job there. The depth here is strong with players like Nate Herbig and Jack Driscoll and Matt Pryor, etc., having gained valuable reps last season. "The goal is to be back where we were before when we were, year in and year out, one of the best offensive lines in the league," Brooks said. "I think we look around and see a lot of talent, a lot of young players pushing the veterans, and a high level of competition all around. That's what you want. We all expect big things from this group. That's kind of what we do around here."