In what will be a truly unusual training camp, one of the biggest challenges facing Doug Pederson will be coming up with the Eagles’ 53-man roster before the start of the 2020 season.
It won’t be easy.
There were no OTAs or minicamp this spring. Padded practices won’t begin until Aug. 17. And there won’t even be preseason games this year.
So what’s Pederson’s plan to evaluate his players?
Once we get into the training camp or the padded portion of camp, I’ve got to do what I feel is best for the football team in terms of putting the guys in position to succeed on the field,” Pederson said during a virtual media availability on Monday morning.
“Meaning, we’ve got to have answers on a lot of our players, especially the young guys. We haven’t seen these rookies live and in person. It’s my job as the head coach, from a scheduling standpoint as we go out this training camp, to put our guys in competitive situations to see what they can do and do the best we can at the end of training camp to come up with the 53.
Pederson said he might hold more scrimmages during camp to put his players, specifically his young players, into competitive situations. Remember, in addition to the cancelation of the preseason, teams are not permitted to have joint practices this year either.
While Pederson feels good about where his rookies are from a mental standpoint, they still haven’t been on the field as Eagles. While the entire team will report for training camp on July 28, strength and conditioning work won’t begin until Aug. 3 and padded practices won’t start for two weeks after that, on Aug. 17.
That means the Eagles will have less than three weeks after padded practices begin to make roster decisions before final cuts need to be submitted by 4 p.m. on Sept. 5.
It’s clear the Eagles are going to focus on evaluating their youngest players. On Sunday, as the Eagles continued cuts to get down to the new 80-man limit, they waived five players — WR Shelton Gibson, WR Marcus Green, DE Daeshon Hall, DT Albert Huggins, and CB Tremon Smith — who spent time with them last season. The Eagles are clearly prioritizing getting a chance to evaluate their undrafted free agent class instead of evaluating bottom-of-the-roster guys they’ve already seen. The only UDFA they’ve cut so far was Khalil Tate, a college QB trying to make it in the NFL as a receiver; no time for projects this summer.
While it certainly seems likely that NFL teams will lean toward keeping players they know better as they make roster decisions, Pederson didn’t agree with the notion that the Eagles will rely less on rookies in 2020.
Somehow, Pederson is going to have to cram an offseason’s worth of evaluation into 2 1/2 weeks.
“I’ve got to come up with ways of having game-like situations in practice because we are missing preseason games,” Pederson said. “It can definitely be done. We’ll be creative about it as a staff and we’ll eventually have the answers we need at the end of camp.”
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