In a four-day span in Indianapolis more than 300 players will be subject to an intense period of poking and prodding from 32 teams and the young men, in the most intense job interview they will ever have, are going to show their athletic skills in a variety of agility and speed and football-related tests.
It's more than a Combine. It's an extravaganza, and it's an extremely important part of the evaluation process ahead of the NFL draft, which happens from May 8-10.
The Eagles will send their contingent of coaches, scouts, athletic trainers and medical staff along with assorted others to dig into the prospects. Literally. The Eagles, like every team, can interview up to 60 players and find out as much as possible with background checks, psychological profiles and character-learning studies.
Fascinating stuff. And, truly, the start of the "offseason," if you will, after so many weeks of relative quiet from your favorite football team.
The NFL Scouting Combine has grown beyond anyone's expectations, to the point now where it is nationally televised on the NFL Network and attracts enough of an audience to make it a "can't-miss" event for NFL fans. Doesn't just about everyone who loves a team tune in, if even for a few minutes? (last year's Combine drew 7.25 million, an 11-percent increase over 2012).
The reality is that the NFL Scouting Combine is an extremely important piece of the NFL draft puzzle. It is a piece, not the entire meal, as teams have their draft boards constructed in their draft headquarters, with tweaking to be done between now and May 8. You aren't going to hear much from the Eagles while in Indianapolis (general manager Howie Roseman holds a press conference on Thursday at 2:30 p.m.) as they go about their business in private, very professionally, with a lot of work to complete before it's all over.
How much weight do the Eagles place on the apples-to-apples workouts? What is the emphasis on the interviews? How many of the players they meet with will they target from May 8-10? Just how much does the draft board change based on what happens in Indianapolis?
The Eagles don't want to go into the draft with any glaring needs. They don't want to have to draft for a "need." They want to draft the "best player available" on their draft board, a formula they've stuck to the last couple of springs with strong success.
And that's one of the reasons the NFL Scouting Combine means so much. Started in 1977, it's become a way of life in the NFL. There is a lot of rehearsal on the players' parts for the interviews, and teams can only value so much of the "Gym Shorts Olympics" that the skills portion comprises, but the Combine is a great chance for the teams that are most organized and purposeful to accomplish a lot.
A year ago we didn't know much about the program head coach Chip Kelly would put in place here. Now we have a much better idea, and the results from 2013 were incredibly encouraging. Bring on 2014!
The start of the "offseason," and the first glimpse into the season, happens at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis later this week, just in time to put the focus back on the NFL and the Eagles and what is going to happen in the days and weeks ahead.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- Teams are able to have conversations with agents of players expected to be unrestricted free agents starting on March 8, three days before the start of free agency. Contracts cannot be executed until 4 p.m. on March 11, however. So, gang, we're only a few weeks away from free agency. What is the Eagles' strategy?
- Again, nothing to report on the team's prospective unrestricted free agents. There are a handful of them who played key roles in 2013 and before, including wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, punter Donnie Jones, safety Nate Allen, to name three, but there hasn't been a peep from One NovaCare Way as to the direction the Eagles might take here.
- Can't wait to see Lane Johnson after his first full offseason in the NFL. Johnson had a fine rookie campaign and now can concentrate on building his body and strength instead of the stress and strain he went through last year on the way to becoming the fourth overall draft pick. Johnson has a chance to be really, really improved in his second season.