Let defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz make it real.
If you’re wondering “who looks good” at these Organized Team Activities, entering their final week before a mandatory minicamp at the NovaCare Complex, and you ask who is playing where and how the depth chart is shaping up, you’re approaching the spring practices the wrong way.
This is the way to look at what the Eagles are currently doing, according to Schwartz.
“This time of year, we're really not competing. The players are really competing against themselves,” Schwartz said earlier this week. “They're not competing against their teammates; they’re not competing against somebody else at the position or the offense. They're competing to get themselves better as a player. We try to keep that in mind at this time of year.”
Veterans use this time to brush off any lingering rust and get on the field and develop some chemistry. This is a breeze for them, honestly. Important to be here, voluntarily, and not particularly taxing if you’ve been in the program long enough to know what it’s all about.
For the younger players, every rep counts.
“For someone like me, it’s great,” offensive tackle Jordan Mailata said. “I feel like I’m in a totally different place now. I know what’s going on. I know what the words mean in the offense. I know more about what is happening around me. I feel like I get better and better every day I’m out on the field.”
The mental game is what’s really important right now. The players are on the field for walk-throughs and a daily practice four days each week, and they’re in the classroom for multiple hours learning more about the playbook. When practice is over at 1:30 each afternoon, players report to their position rooms for 30 minutes of meetings and then break for treatment and a bite to eat.
After that, the veterans are free to go. The rookies have more classroom work to do.
“It’s a lot of mental repetition,” said wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, a second-round draft pick. “They want to see how much of what you are taught in the classroom you can retain and then take onto the practice field. Everything has to be extremely precise in this offense. What you do matters because there are players around you that depend on you to be in the right place at the right time.
“I’m here to learn. Ideally, you want to get to the point where you’re out there just playing and not thinking about anything. You just go out and do it. That’s when you can perform at your best.”
One year ago, tight end Dallas Goedert was buried in his playbook and trying not to be overwhelmed by the moment. He handled himself just fine and by the time the regular season got into its second quarter, Goedert was a valuable part of the offense. The Eagles saw enough of him to get excited about his upside.
In Year 2, Goedert is in a different place, with a different role.
“I’m so much more comfortable, it isn’t even close,” Goedert said. “This time of the year, you’re in the playbook, you’re in the classroom. You have to get it down there first before you take it to the field. I think I’m faster in the offense because I know what I’m doing now. I have a good feel for what I’m supposed to be doing and that makes a huge difference.”
The Eagles wrapped up their second week of Organized Team Activities on Friday and move into the final week starting Monday. Then it’s a three-day mandatory minicamp before the long downtime before Training Camp begins. Each day, the coaches’ job becomes easier, in that the players have another set of experiences to rely upon. They know more one day than they did the day before.
“It’s all going to come,” rookie running back Miles Sanders said, “if you put your time in and understand that it’s your job. This is a business. You have to perform every day. To perform, you have to get it down mentally. Without that, it’s hard to have any success. You have to know what you’re doing and where you’re going on every play.”