We can talk all we want about coaching and about integrating the X's and O's of a new defensive scheme, and of the way new offensive line coach Howard Mudd will teach his system, and how the rookies and newest Eagles will learn the way this organization does things.
But what we haven't considered enough is how the players are approaching the offseason away from their teams' strength and conditioning programs, away from the structure of, in this case, the NovaCare Complex. Here, the players would normally report in the morning and enjoy a full breakfast and then a lunch, have total access to the athletic training staff and then immerse themselves into Barry Rubin's strength and conditioning program.
When you're 25 years old and you feel invincible, it's sometimes easy to forget how disciplined you have to be to remain at the top of your profession. And that's what has me as worried as anything about how the players are approaching the work stoppage we're in. Anyone who thinks it will be business as usual, and that we can accurately predict that a player who was good last year will advance another step this season is foolhardy.
How does anyone really know that players are approaching the offseason with the proper edge? A gain of 5, 6 or 7 pounds can be the difference between a Pro Bowl player and a reserve. It is understood how difficult the rehab process is for those players coming off of a major injury, but the conditioning part of the offseason is critical for every player. And I doubt, very seriously, that players who gather for informal team practices are gaining much other than breaking a sweat and gathering with their mates.
There is no way players can duplicate the tempo and the intensity of a coaches-run practice.
It's a random thought, I know, but it is something to consider as we eyeball the end of the work stoppage. Teams need to prepare themselves for the idea that the player who exited at the conclusion of the 2010 may not be the same player who reports for 2011. Hopefully, that means that each and every player will be diligent in his preparation for the season to come. But that isn't going to happen. And the teams that prepare for that scenario -- having a quality player ready to go to step up from reserve to starter -- are the ones who will make the most strides when business resumes in the league we love.
- It is increasingly clear to me that the Eagles really want to see Marlin Jackson with the idea that he can be a versatile piece in the secondary. Jackson can play safety and cornerback and if he can stay healthy -- a big, big if -- he would be quite an asset. There is no greater guy in the locker room and he has worked extremely hard in his recovery from last spring's injury. But he has also missed the last two seasons, and that is a lot to overcome in a young man's game.
- Why do I look at Greg Lloyd's bio and talk to people and think he really has a chance? I don't discount late-round draft picks, not one bit. He has the mentality and the body and the athletic ability to play at this level. Think Jeremiah Trotter, 2.0. Let's see how Lloyd looks when he finally gets here.
- Slow down on the Alex Henery hyperbole that I read elsewhere. Special teams coordinator Bobby April is very high on the team's fourth-round draft pick, and Henery certainly has the makeup to make his mark in the NFL. But David Akers is here and while his future is admittedly uncertain, Henery has a long way to go. April in no way predicted greatness for Henery when he spoke to the media last week. April said that Henery "could" be a great one here for 10 or 15 years. But as April well knows, the mental side of things is far different in the NFL than it is in college, no matter the size of the football program. That said, Henery has a world of talent.
- So if first-round pick Danny Watkins is the leading candidate to start at right guard along Mudd's offensive line, who plays right tackle? Well, let's back up a bit. I believe Mudd when he says that he will judge players solely on what they do once he sees them, that past performance has no impact on his designs for the offensive line. That is fine as long as he has enough time to fairly judge the players at his disposal, and that is no guarantee as this work stoppage continues. But here are the candidates as I see them for right tackle: Winston Justice, who was coming on prior to his knee injury last year; King Dunlap, who filled in very nicely at both tackle spots in the 2010 season; Austin Howard, a big-bodied lineman with good feet who showed a world of promise last year in training camp. Justice may have the edge in my book, but I want to see Dunlap. Hopefully he has taken the right approach to the offseason. He has a lot of ability.
- We had a poll on the site through the weekend asking where fourth-round draft pick Casey Matthews fits here, and the results were mixed. The Eagles want to look at him on the weak side and in the middle, so he has a big challenge ahead to get stronger and to perhaps put on a few pounds. Linebacker is a very, very fluid situation. The Eagles have some young talent there that needs to be sorted out. Linebackers coach Mike Caldwell has some pieces to work with, though.