For the final day of the Eagles' offseason program, Head Coach Nick Sirianni conducted practice at Lincoln Financial Field to give the team a sense of what it's going to be like this season – minus the 70,000 screaming fans who will fill the stands every week – and then he gathered the players and explained his expectations for them going forward – prepare for a rigorous Training Camp at the NovaCare Complex and the 17-game season ahead, stay in the playbook, and keep away from trouble.
With that, it's the time of the year when the veterans go their own ways and train with their personal gurus and get themselves physically ready for 2021. The Eagles conducted four weeks of a virtual offseason program and then three weeks of in-person work at the NovaCare Complex. There is no official depth chart, as Sirianni has encouraged competition at every position all along. This was seven weeks of introduction to Sirianni's way of doing things and following his five-point mantra – Connect, Compete, Accountability, Football I.Q., Fundamentals – to build a program in Philadelphia.
During the course of the offseason, there was no in-pads work, no contact, no 11-on-11 drills, and no 7-on-7 work from which to draw any pre-Training Camp conclusions. Sirianni used the time to create a connection with his players, to instill the sense of competition that will take place in every corner of the building – including fun competitions like ping pong, pop-a-shot, and the drills the Eagles conducted during the course of Friday's practice, one with wide receivers Travis Fulgham and DeVonta Smith each catching tethered footballs they threw to themselves and another with defensive backs Marcus Epps against K'Von Wallace in which each player went through an agility drill and then finished by picking up a football and shooting into a trash can – and to install the schemes in all three phases of the game. Along with that, the players were held accountable for every move they made, their football I.Q. was certainly tested as they needed to retain all of the information being thrown at them, and the coaching staff took a deep dive into the fundamentals of each position group.
"We were able to really dive into the fundamentals of how guys work," Sirianni said. "It's rare to have as much individual time at this time of year as we had each and every day. What they do and how they mature as a person, how they mature in the weight room, and how they mature in their fundamentals are the three major growths that a player makes. Then it's about us as coaches putting them in the right spots to let those talents shine. What we did find out was what guys need to work on as far as their fundamentals go and what they're really good at as far as their fundamentals go. That was the development there and what we kind of figured out.
"Sure, we didn't get to see 7-on-7 and things like that and team drills … but last year you had none of this. Everybody was on the same playing field and you had nothing. This is what it felt like to me and I know it felt this way for a lot of our coaches – that every correction we made, or every praise that we made, even from walkthrough or from an individual drill, it was so exciting to make that. We're that much further ahead starting camp. We're going to be that much further ahead and that's just three weeks of correction and praise when it's done the right way. That's what is so exciting to me. A lot of great work was done. We've got a lot more to learn, but we know a lot about what our guys can do right now."
All along, the message from Sirianni was consistent: Do what you need to do to get better every day. And to make that happen, focusing on the little things leads to a much more successful big picture.
"I like to say it this way: Being obsessed with getting better. Being absolutely obsessed with getting better. What are those things that are out there? It's different for everybody," Sirianni said. "I just saw a lot of guys out there really working on those fundamentals, really working at their craft. Holding each other accountable. Connecting with each other. Competing with each other. I don't want to single anybody out because there were so many guys who were working together.
"I know that's typical of a new staff. They want to impress. I'm eager to impress my boss and they're (players) are eager to impress us (coaching staff). I felt there was such good work by all the guys … It was just a lot of great work by our guys and it was a good starting point to kick us into Training Camp."
Sirianni was asked about Jalen Hurts and some first impressions from an in-person standpoint of the second-year quarterback who played a significant role in five games last season, with four starts.
"He is a relentless worker. He comes to work every single day with the intent to get better every single day," Sirianni said. "I just saw him take command of the offense and was just on it. You ask him a question and he's on it. And it's really translated into walkthroughs on the field and drill work. Really impressed with his command, his attention to detail, his work ethic. He's got all those intangibles right there and I was really impressed with that from him.
"On the field, he's got a compact throwing motion where he can get it out with ease and super-athletic when he's throwing on the run and moving and reading the defense. I'm really pleased with a lot of the things he did."
With that, the veterans are gone, other than those who will continue to rehabilitate from injuries. Training Camp begins when the players report on July 27. Then the pads will go on, the preseason games will kick off, and Sirianni will go to the next level of learning what his players are all about.