Nate Herbig had good reason to look at the 2020 season as a success from an individual standpoint. A rookie free agent signing out of Stanford in 2019, Herbig started 12 games (five at left guard, seven at right guard) and played 79 percent of the snaps, second most among all Eagles offensive linemen to Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce.
But that's not how Herbig reflected on the year.
"I feel like I left a lot on the table. I'm disappointed in myself. I feel like I could have been a lot better," the center/guard said.
Knowing what it takes to play in the NFL, Herbig dedicated himself this offseason. He plans to report to Training Camp in less than two weeks at 325 pounds, 30 fewer than his rookie year playing weight. He said it's the lightest he's been since his sophomore year of high school.
How did he do it? He spent the entire offseason working out with Lane Johnson in the All-Pro right tackle's home gym when the Eagles' workout program wasn't in session. He cleaned up his eating. He aims for 11 hours of sleep each night.
"I said in the past that I wanted it, but my body didn't show that. I want to show the Eagles, I want to show the world, I want to show myself that this is what I want. I want to play in the NFL for a long time. I feel like I can be a good player. I want to give myself the best opportunity to be the best that I can to help the team," Herbig said.
"I have the rest of my life to take a vacation. I don't want to waste the opportunity. I want to try and be the best version of myself. I just turned 23 (on July 10). I knew I needed to lose weight. I knew I needed to get in better shape. I needed to become more of a student of the game."
Herbig got away from the Philadelphia area recently, but not for a vacation. Instead, he joined Johnson and three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks for the OL Masterminds summit in Frisco, Texas, last weekend for a gathering of offensive linemen and coaches to talk shop and sharpen their skills ahead of the upcoming season. For Herbig, it highlighted just how fortunate he is to play in Philadelphia.
"Being down there made me really thankful that I play for the Philadelphia Eagles," he said. "Seeing how much respect guys around the league have for those two (Brooks and Johnson) makes me realize I've got to work to get better."
It's not just the players, as the Eagles have three Pro Bowl linemen up front when you add in Kelce. It's also the coaching. Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland returns for his ninth season with the team. The longest-tenured assistant on the staff was retained by new Head Coach Nick Sirianni.
"He's taught me a lot. I owe a lot to Coach Stout, personally the best coach I've ever had," Herbig said. "He's just raised my game, the way I prepare mentally, my knowledge of the game, my confidence, everything. I owe Coach Stout a lot of that and I'm thankful he's back."
Stoutland piecemealed together an offensive line that didn't have Brooks and Johnson for most of the season. The Eagles utilized 14 different offensive line combinations in 2020, which opened the door for Herbig to get the extensive opportunity to play. Now with everyone back and healthy, Herbig wants to kick that door off its hinges and win more playing time in 2021.
"You get a taste and you want more. You don't want to be complacent," Herbig said. "This is probably the hardest I've ever worked in an offseason in my life. I can't wait to get to camp to keep soaking up what Brooks and Lane and Kelce and others teach me."
News and notes
• Herbig on the return of Brooks, who missed all of 2020 with an Achilles injury: "The guy never misses a beat. I'm like, 'OK, I'm getting better.' And then watching him, I'm like, 'OK, I've got a lot of work to do.' He's elite."
• Herbig on the culture established by Sirianni: "He's a very intelligent coach. He's a great leader. It's a great vibe. We have great conversations, laughing and smiling in the building, but when it's time to work, we get to work. He leads that. He shows it day in and day out. He brings the juice, brings the energy. He's the man. Very fortunate to have him as my coach."