Friday was a great day for Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni. He spent 75 minutes on the football field with 26 players – including nine draft picks, seven players signed after the 2021 NFL Draft, five selected veterans, and tryout candidates who are hopeful to impress the coaching staff this weekend – as the team's Rookie Minicamp took full flight and Sirianni was in his element. He loved it. In his first practice as a head coach, he moved around the field and worked with every position group, touching each aspect of his football team.
A glorious time.
This is what Sirianni is meant to do – he is a football coach who loves nothing more than digging in and working with players and coaches and pushing for that "one percent better every day" approach and, well, there wasn't anyone in the world happier than Sirianni on Friday. This camp runs through the weekend as the Eagles get a close-up look at their Rookie Class, and while the on-field work is limited in its scope, it's still important for Sirianni and his coaching staff to see what the players are doing at the NovaCare Complex armed with the first installation of the team's three-pronged (offense, defense, special teams) schemes.
Here is how Sirianni viewed the day of practice as he met the media after practice and, for the first time, discussed the players on this roster after seeing them live and in-person ...
On what he's looking for from his players, a message that he introduced in our exclusive conversation prior to the start of the on-field work: "We set some goals for them, and really it was to go out there and compete, was to learn the offense, the defense, and the special teams, get the basics down, get one percent better every day, connect with their teammates. Then finally, the fifth goal that we set for them was to go out there and show us what you guys can do. That was the main thing. That was the main message is: Go out there and show us what you guys can do. My message to the coaching staff was, 'Hey, let's let these guys go out there and show us what they can do. Let's keep the installs very simple. Let's keep them very simple so they can get out there and they can exhibit their abilities on the field.' So that was my message to the coaches and that was my message to the players today, this morning."
On top draft picks DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson being "culture setters" for the team: "DeVonta, it's pretty early just these last two days with them, but DeVonta is kind of a lead by example. He's just out there, and he just seems determined at all times, and he just really can't wait for the information to get to him and can't wait to get better. I think that's contagious, and I know that's contagious. Let me rephrase that. The way he kind of works and he's gone about the meetings virtually. Then, today also was virtual and then being on the field with him.
"And Landon, I know he works, too, and they've got different personalities, and that's what's cool about football. You can lead in so many different ways. You can lead in so many different ways, but the common denominator of both of them, they both love football, and they both work really hard. They're both ultra-competitive and they've both got a lot of talent, and those are important parts of leading, as well. It's been nice to get around them and kind of see how they lead because, yeah, they have that special quality of being able to lead."
On the goals for his coaching staff, which he worked with on the field for the first time: "The guys that are new to me, I think they wanted to come out and impress me and show me that I made the right decision of hiring them. So that was pretty cool to see them coaching. I know they have a ton of energy. You can't fake what they have every single day because they bring it every single day. But the goal for them again, was keeping it simple for the players, and they've heard me talk about fundamentals and technique a million times. It's one of those things where I'm not going to stop, either. I'm going to be a relentless pit bull about fundamentals and technique. That was another main thing.
"Like we got individual time with them. When you guys (the media) were at practice today, that was our individual time. Like they got individual time to improve the fundamentals and technique. That's what we know that through fundamentals and technique, that's how a player gets better, and that is our job. Our job as coaches is to put them in the best positions they possibly can be in so they can excel and to get them better as a football player every day, and we know the lifeline of that is technique and fundamentals. That was something that we've just been stressing since we got here, and I know they were chomping to get out there and start teaching the way they teach their technique."
On tailoring an offensive scheme around the talents of quarterback Jalen Hurts and his multipronged talents: "I don't believe that that's good coaching when you just say, here's our offense and let's go. You learn it, your talents are 'this' and your talents are 'that,' but here's what we run. That's just not good offensive football. Good offensive football and good defensive football and good special teams football for that matter is adapting to the players you have and playing to their strengths. Of course, Jalen has strong qualities of being able to extend plays and move around and extend plays, so we're definitely looking at those things and doing those things.
"We've all had a very extensive amount of time with quarterbacks that are mobile, and that's the same thing for (RB) Miles (Sanders). Miles, what does he fit? Again, these are things when we get on the field with him, we'll figure out a little bit more, but that's still to be determined of what everybody's skill set is. But we are putting in an extensive amount of offense and Coach Steichen (Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen) has done a great job and the offensive coaches of really relaying the message to the players and installing it, and the players have done a great job learning it."
On what Smith showed him in his first day of practice on the field: "As advertised, he catches everything. Like that ball touches his hands, he catches it. He's really long. I think you guys saw that, right? He's got long arms, and he's got a big catch radius. Again, you just don't know exactly what – you've got a really good idea, right, of what you have, and then when you get him on the field, then you just be like, man, we can do this and we could do that, maybe he can do this that maybe we didn't think he could do. You know, it just showed his length. He showed his unbelievable hands, and he showed – I just thought he showed excellent, excellent ability to change directions at the top of the route. Even better than what I saw on tape, to be 100 percent honest with you. So again, a lot of things that I expected, because we spent a lot of time watching him, all his catches the last couple years, but it was great to see him in person. He's got a lot of talent to him, and look forward to working with him."
On what Dickerson, coming off a torn ACL suffered at Alabama last December, can do in this camp on the field: "For him this weekend is just the walkthroughs, being involved in the walkthroughs, learning the offense. So a lot of the goals we just talked about with everybody else, obviously he can't do them at the same speed. Not going to set a timetable on Landon and his return, but he is working hard. We've got a great training staff and great strength staff that are working hard with him to get him ready to go as soon as he's able to."