Training Camp kicks off this week for the Philadelphia Eagles – the players report Wednesday – and we're previewing the biggest storylines to get you ready for the action. Today, we look at the head coach and his approach to this year's camp.
Chris McPherson: First, there will be joint practices this year against the Ravens. The sessions with the Dolphins in 2017 broke up the monotony of practicing against the same opponent day in and day out. It also gave the Eagles a chance to scout some of the talent as a deal was made at the deadline in October for running back Jay Ajayi, who provided the run game a boost down the stretch.
From an injury standpoint, Carson Wentz's progress loomed over all of Training Camp. The fact that he's had a healthy offseason and is ready to roll is going to do wonders for the team. It remains to be seen who will be limited for the start of camp due to injury. There is enough depth across the board that the competition will be fierce. The talent is there on paper, and Pederson was asked whether this is the most talented group that he's had since becoming head coach. It's Pederson's job to cultivate that talent and bring the players together as a team. The foundation for that was done in the spring. Now, it's time to take it to the next level.
One of the tenets of Pederson's camps has been that they are physical. With the team healthier and coming off the full offseason, I expect Pederson to ratchet up the intensity. The pads go on for the first time on Saturday.
Fran Duffy: I can't say for certain what Coach Pederson will do differently this summer, but naturally there will be one big change from 2018 to 2019. Remember that last season, the Eagles were coming off a shortened offseason thanks to the Super Bowl victory, with a larger-than-normal amount of players coming off of injury to boot. By necessity, one would think that the reins had to be loosened a bit by the coaching staff just from a pure attrition standpoint last summer. My guess is that won't have to be the case this week when camp opens!
Dave Spadaro: Coming off a Super Bowl win and an offseason that was nearly as demanding for the players from a personal-appearance and emotional sense, Doug Pederson trusted his instincts last summer and backed off his veterans as much as he could in Training Camp. He limited reps. He saved time when he could. He got the veteran players who went through that incredible experience off their feet as much as he possibly could to save them for the season.
Did it work? Mixed bag, for sure. The team was sluggish out of the gates in 2018 and, truthfully, for much of the season, but they kicked into a collective new gear and reached the postseason.
So, how does Pederson play it now? As Fran and Chris said, this is a “normal” Training Camp and Pederson has already stated that he wants it to be more physical. OK, good. What other nuances will be different, perhaps, from last year? A quick look from my perspective …
• From an X’s and O’s standpoint, the personnel dynamics have changed because the offense has become, well, more dynamic. DeSean Jackson brings a new element of speed to the passing game, which we will discuss tomorrow. Pederson’s offensive approach will change from last year, even if it’s just a smidge, because of Jackson’s game-breaking skills.
• Also, Pederson has a lot more to work with here. This is an extremely talented offense, more so than in any of Pederson’s seasons here. The personnel groupings are going to change, and Pederson is going to experiment throughout camp and the things we expect to see – two tight-end sets, spread formations, players moving around in the offense – might not be decided until late in the summer. When you have so many pieces, you “play” with them as much as possible to see what works best.
• Most of all, Pederson knows his quarterback in Week 1 right now. Last summer, Carson Wentz was recovering from his knee injury, racing to be cleared to play in Week 1 against the Falcons. Not until the days before that NFL opener was Nick Foles officially named the starter. This summer, Pederson has Wentz healthy and ready to go. That means the world for Pederson, who doesn’t have to pick and choose which reps and when Wentz can get under center. He is full go from the first whistle of camp. And that changes everything for Pederson and the offense. From the first practice on, it’s full speed ahead for the offense.