One time could be chalked up to luck, an anomaly, or an aberration. But it's certainly hard to ignore something that's been successful four years in a row.
Football Outsiders released its annual study on the amount of "Adjusted Games Lost" due to injury for 2016. The Eagles had the fourth-lowest total in the league at just 38.4 games, behind only Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and Tennessee. Philadelphia ranked first in the NFL in 2013, and has not placed worse than sixth since then. Football Outsiders not only takes the amount of games that players were sidelined, but also factors in their level of involvement because the loss of a starter counts more than an inactive player on gameday.
Yes, the implementation of the Eagles' sports science program coincides with the recent trend of good health, but director of high performance Shaun Huls says that it is only one part of the equation.
"The thing I think about is the team approach," Huls said on Tuesday. "I think it shows that there is a good synergy throughout the entire team to support the guys and keep them healthy."
The process begins before most players ever set foot inside the NovaCare Complex. The scouting department looks for players with a favorable injury history, as that is a good predictor of their future. Upon arrival, the strength and conditioning staff led by Josh Hingst, the athletic training staff guided by director of sports medicine/head athletic trainer Chris Peduzzi, the doctors, and the sports science team already have been given extensive background on the players to provide the best course of action. Doug Pederson, in his first year as head coach, provided a good intuitive sense with regard as to how to get the players ready for Sunday.
"Most of the time we have to pull the reins back on them because they always want to do more, you've got to protect them. You've got to protect them from themselves," Peduzzi said. "They're wired differently."
As a result of this collaborative effort, Carson Wentz was the first Eagles quarterback since Donovan McNabb in 2008 to start all 16 regular season games. At 34 years old, Jason Peters didn't miss a single game, playing 97 percent of the team's snaps. Eight of the 11 starters on defense were available for all 16 games.
"We're in a people business. The strength of that information goes as far as what level of relationship you have with that person. It helps with establishing a relationship of trust back and forth, and communication and everyone going in the same direction," Huls said. "As you monitor guys, train with guys, give them feedback on their progressions, it raises awareness of what they need to do to take care of themselves. I think that was the biggest part, the continuity of training amongst the staff, the consistency of language with the players, and then just being transparent with that information.
"Transparency helps with the guys understanding what we're doing and why we're doing it. That changes the conversation in the locker room in terms of how they're going to recover and what type of training they need from an individual standpoint."
The Eagles want the success in the training room to now carry over to the field. The team will look to build upon Pederson's first year as head coach and Wentz's tremendous rookie campaign when Phase 1 of the offseason workout program begins next Monday. Just like the coaches, Huls has been doing his own version of self-scouting to help make sure the team's overall approach remains at the forefront of the league.
"In-season and offseason we're constantly retuning all of our processes and procedures and techniques. Now, we're focusing on getting the players back in and logistically making the appropriate changes so that we as a staff can improve and hopefully be a benefit to those guys and be as impactful in a positive sense without being too invasive on their daily process when they come in," Huls said.