Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this has already been a very strange NFL offseason and it doesn’t seem like anything is going to get back to normal anytime soon.
While the NFL has forged on despite the spread of the virus, first with free agency and soon enough with the draft in some form, the league has already postponed offseason workouts and there’s a real chance NFL teams won’t have any OTAs this spring.
The Eagles were scheduled to begin their offseason workouts on April 18 and OTAs would have started in May.
If there are no spring practices (rookie minicamp, OTAs and mandatory minicamp) this offseason, the Eagles might actually be in a better situation to handle that than the other three NFC East teams. The other three — the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins — hired new head coaches for the 2020 season. That means a whole lot of changes are coming to Dallas, New York and Washington.
It’s not like the Eagles don’t have any changes. They have a new offensive coordinator, defensive line coach, defensive backs coach, receivers coach and a few new offensive voices. But at least they still have Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz in place.
The potential of lost spring practices will definitely hurt any rookie that gets drafted or signed. It’s hard enough being a rookie in the NFL and now they’re going to be behind. Because of that, expectations for some rookies might have to be tempered a little bit.
We know rookies will suffer, but here are 10 Eagles already on the roster who will be negatively affected if there aren’t practices this spring:
He’s entering Year 5 in Schwartz’s defense so at least Mills will have a good grasp of the scheme, but new DBs coach Marquand Manuel might be making some changes too. And now Mills shifting to a hybrid safety role; any extra practice time probably would have helped. If nothing else, it would have given the Eagles a chance to figure out exactly how they want to use Mills. You can extend this to the entire new-look secondary, including free agent signing Will Parks, who will have to catch up once training camp arrives.
The Eagles signed Hargrave to a three-year, $39 million deal because they think he will be a great scheme fit and they’re probably right. But I remember back to 2017 when the Eagles traded for Tim Jernigan. Jernigan played in a 4-3 before but had been playing in Baltimore’s 3-4 for a few years. I remember him telling me it took him longer than he expected to flip his mindset and muscle memory from two-gapping to getting upfield. That’s the transition Hargrave is going to go through and the more time he has to do it the better off he’ll be.
We’re entering Year 3 of the Mailata experiment but the difference in 2020 is that he might actually need to play. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is gone and unless the Eagles draft someone, it looks like Mailata is the swing tackle. For a guy who didn’t start playing football until relatively recently, he can use every second he can get on the football field.
The Eagles will presumably add a receiver at some point this offseason, most likely in the draft. And they’ll probably add a couple. Getting on the same page with receivers is important for any quarterback and missing out on that time would hurt. If that happens, Wentz will probably try to find a way to make it work on his own time if possible.
Another newcomer, Brown seems to be a perfect fit for what the Eagles want out of a modern linebacker. He’s had some ups and downs during his four years with the Chargers and this is a chance for a fresh start. But if he’s going to win a starting job, he’ll be behind Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards and Duke Riley, who have already been in the defense for at least one year.
At the end of the season, when asked about Avery, Howie Roseman said they always knew they’d have to see what Avery could bring with a full offseason. Well, that’s probably not happening anymore. The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick for the defensive end/standup rusher during the season and Avery played 33 total defensive snaps.
The Eagles signed Holyfield at the end of the 2019 season after a year on the Panthers’ practice squad. The 22-year-old running back hasn’t played in an NFL game yet, but the Eagles liked him enough to bring him in at the end of 2019 as they looked ahead to the future.
After a really disappointing rookie season, JJAW was probably hoping to get on the field as soon as possible to start working on his second NFL season. Any extra time with Wentz would help too.
The Philly native basically had a redshirt season in 2019, which wasn’t his expectation but it wasn’t that surprising. But now with Vinny Curry likely gone, there will be some opportunity and the more he can show the coaching staff, the better his chances will be of making the team and then maybe earning some playing time.
This is going to technically be Year 4 for Jones and as Roseman said last week, it’s time for him to prove it. That’s hard to do when you’re not on the field. It also seems like Avonte Maddox is the frontrunner for the starting job opposite Darius Slay, but the Eagles would probably love it if Jones could win that position. Gonna be hard without practices.
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