Phase Two of the Eagles’ offseason program ended on Thursday at the NovaCare Complex with Organized Team Activities to begin next week. The buzz of the 2019 NFL Draft has settled into a day-to-day routine as the Rookie Class learns the ins and outs of life in Philadelphia.
As the OTAs begin and with a mandatory team minicamp to follow before the players and coaches take their long break before Training Camp kicks off, here is a list of some Things You Should Know and some questions that are no doubt going to be asked before the break in mid-June.
1. What is different with OTA practices?
Organized Team Activities are, technically, Phase Three of the offseason program. Phase Three consists of the next four weeks of the program. Teams may conduct a total of 10 days of organized team practice activity, or "OTAs." No live contact is permitted, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills are permitted. So, for the first time, the coaching staff has a chance to observe the players in a game-like structure. It’s just a look, so don’t go overboard. As we’ve seen in the past, what happens in these practices sometimes doesn’t translate to Training Camp, when the pads go on and the action is live.
2. Will QB Carson Wentz practice?
It’s the overriding question for every fan, and we just don’t have an answer at this point. Head coach Doug Pederson has said he’s pleased with the progress Wentz is making as he recovers from his 2018 back injury, but the Eagles are staying away from establishing any timetable. We’ll know when you know.
3. Any other injury updates?
They’ll come from Pederson, who is scheduled to address the media on Tuesday. The OTAs are voluntary, so keep that in mind. And the Eagles aren’t going to rush back any of their injured players who missed time last season. We’re still a long ways away from the regular season. The Eagles are going to be smart here.
4. What will we learn in the OTAs?
As much as anything, it’s a mental test to see how the players who are new to the system have learned the schemes and translated their classroom sessions to the playing field. Are they lining up correctly? Are they minimizing mental errors? Are receivers, for example, getting to the correct spots on time? That sort of thing is extremely important. The physical part is vital, too, but it’s a different game in shells and shorts instead of full pads. So, as much as possible, hold off on overreacting to what you read and hear. The true, fair-evaluation tests come when Training Camp opens in late July.
5. What are the best positions to keep an eye on?
Honestly, every one of them. The Eagles have been active in the offseason, of course, and they’ve put together a roster that is going to offer some terrific competition throughout. The idea is to make it tough on Howie Roseman and the personnel department when the time comes to reduce the roster to 53 players. On paper, it is already going to be difficult. The Eagles have some apparent depth at every position.
6. How are the rookies going to fit in?
More than any group of players, the rookies are likely to receive the most scrutiny from the coaching staff that, you must remember, has to be teachers first, particularly in this situation. It’s important that the rookie Eagles have a very clear picture of what the coaching staff needs from them. Left tackle Andre Dillard, running back Miles Sanders, wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, defensive end Shareef Miller, and quarterback Clayton Thorson, along with the class of non-drafted players, have only had a couple of weeks of exposure to the demands of the coaching staff. The coaches are going to be patient with the kids, to a degree.
7. How much will the OTAs impact the depth chart?
OK, so I admit that this is a trick question because, as you all know, there is no depth chart right now. Nothing officially, anyway. The coaches are going to work through so many combinations it’s going to make your head spin. Remember last spring when defensive backs coach Cory Undlin rotated a handful of players through the nickel cornerback spot? De’Vante Bausby emerged from the spring as a leading contender to play the position, based on what the media saw, and he didn’t even make the 53-man roster. The point is, everything is fluid. Don’t read too much into which player takes reps where. The coaches are trying to see the players in as many positions as possible.
8. What’s going to be different with the X’s and O’s?
Most of what Pederson and the coaching staff plans to run in the spring is base stuff, so it’s not like the Eagles are reinventing their schemes. They’ll get into tweaks as the summer gets here and the roster is more defined, but for now, it should be fairly basic. The Eagles traditionally spend a few days working on first looks on 2019 opponents, but that’s just a cursory introduction. Eventually, we will see some changes in the schemes, but not so much initially.
9. Which long shot is going to emerge as a spring darling?
Boy, that’s looking into the crystal ball and really hard to do with a roster that blends a nice balance of returning players and new faces. Can we wait until Training Camp and the preseason games to start talking about that? It’s fun to speculate and it’s something we all do, but for now keep in mind that there is no contact in these practices and the players aren’t wearing pads.
10. What are the goals for the rest of the spring?
Most importantly, the Eagles want to get out of the spring completely healthy. Keep your fingers crossed. They also want to get a firm sense, from a coaching standpoint, of what the players can and cannot do and in what situations they can be placed and have success. This is a period for developing chemistry and camaraderie and getting some timing down on the field in every sense. From a mental standpoint, the players have a lot of information thrown at them. How much can they retain? For the new Eagles, they should all have a complete understanding by the end of this spring just what is required of them for Training Camp. This is, in a sense, a dress rehearsal for Training Camp.
But the goals are pretty clearly defined: Stay healthy, continue rehabilitation for those players who are still working on recovering from previous hurts, gain a firm understanding of the schemes and terminology, and foster camaraderie in the locker room and throughout the football team. The OTAs mean a lot to the Eagles, just not necessarily in some of the ways that you might think. Nobody is going to win a starting job over the course of the next three weeks, but every minute counts in the OTA season that is now upon us.