Do short practices make sense? Progress finally from Jalen Reagor? Thoughts on Deshaun Watson?
It’s all here and much more in today’s Roob’s Eagles training camp observations!
1. It’s been fascinating watching Nick Sirianni these first eight practices of training camp. Honestly, he does not come across like a rookie head coach. He carries himself with the confidence and self-assuredness of someone who’s been doing this a long time and knows precisely what he wants.
There’s a sense of purpose in every moment he’s out on the field. Whether he’s calling out a player, sharing a coaching point, talking to an assistant coach or jogging over to high five a defensive guy after a big play, he’s always coaching. He’s always doing something to help somebody get better. He’s involved in everything, and his staff is the same way.
I don’t know how this will go. So many factors determine whether a coach is successful. Mainly talent. But I like what I see so far. He knows what he's doing.
2. My only real question at this point is whether practices are long enough. I wrote Thursday about how short Sirianni’s practices are, and I’m intrigued to see how ready this team is on opening day. Nick’s practices are about an hour shorter than Doug Pederson’s, and I can’t imagine there are very many — if any — NFL teams on the grass less than the Eagles.
But this is the wave of the future — get your work in, be efficient and then get the players off their feet, keep them healthy and focus on learning. We certainly have seen the flip side of this the last few years with the nonstop injuries, and if shorter practices lead to a healthy team, that’s great.
The NFL has been evolving for years toward more of an emphasis on meetings, film study and classroom work learning over endless practices and the physical toll they can take on players, and that makes sense. But an hour and 15 minutes? An hour and 20 minutes? That’s taking it to an extreme. Not to mention more off days than mandated by the CBA.
I understand shorter practices. But this short? I’m just not sure guys can get all the reps they need in 75 or 80 minutes. It’s certainly innovative. We’ll see how effective it is soon.
3. Thursday was Reagor’s best day of camp and maybe his best day ever. It was one of those days that makes you think, "Maybe there's something there." He made that spectacular one-handed catch with Darius Slay in great coverage but also a few other eye-opening catches. Particularly notable considering the late start Reagor had to camp.
It’s been rough sledding for Reagor since he got here, but his confidence hasn’t wavered and he seems to be channeling that chip on his shoulder to performance instead of social media, which is definitely a good sign. Now he’s got to string together a bunch of these encouraging practices.
4. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside spoke to the media for 14½ minutes on Wednesday. He spoke about his career so far — which has been tremendously disappointing for anybody, much less a second-round pick — and he kept talking and talking and talking and trying to explain why this year would be different than his first two NFL seasons, and the more he spoke, the more I just couldn’t help thinking this is a kid who desperately needs a fresh start somewhere else.
I mentioned a week ago how uncluttered Jalen Hurts’ mind is and how that allows him to go out and play free and easy. JJAW is the opposite. He has so many theories and ideas and hypotheses rattling around his head, I feel like it bogs him down. I'm starting to think his only chance to ever be a productive WR is to free his mind, drop all the theories, stop overthinking everything and just go out and play football. I still think he has a chance to be a player, but I just don’t think it’s going to happen here.
5. DeVonta Smith is still out with that knee sprain, but after seeing him sprint from the practice field into the NovaCare Complex Thursday and then dash back onto the field a minute or two later, there really doesn’t seem like much reason for concern. He doesn’t have a brace or wrap or anything on his knee and he’s running with no apparent pain or limp or anything. He literally looked completely healthy sprinting at a pretty good clip. I have no problem with the Eagles being cautious with him, but I’d be surprised if he’s not back out at practice very soon. He needs the work.
6. A lot of times you see young players flash the first few days of camp and then quickly come back down to earth. That’s just the nature of training camp. The guys you’re going up against start figuring you out, mental and physical fatigue sets in, you're getting overloaded mentally, and it’s just hard to sustain that high level of play. Especially for young guys who haven't been through this before.
One rookie who hasn’t stopped making plays is fourth-round pick Zech McPhearson, the rookie corner from Texas Tech. You can tell he’s really got a good football mind because he’s picked the defense up quickly and he’s been able to transfer that into playmaking. The kid is always around the ball. At least so far. I’m not sure how much playing time will be available for McPherson if everyone is healthy, but he’s definitely a guy to keep an eye on.
7. Not much to say about Watson. Don’t want him anywhere near this football team.
8. When the Eagles drafted Kenny Gainwell, claimed Kerryon Johnson and brought back Jordan Howard, a lot of people assumed that’s it for Boston Scott. But if anything, Scott might have even a bigger role this season than he’s had the last two. He gets a ton of reps with the first offense, Hurts loves throwing to him, the coaching staff seems to really appreciate his versatility and he’s probably the best receiver in the running backs room, something this coaching staff really values.
Scott averaged 7½ touches in 2019 and 6½ last year. But in the games that he didn’t start in place of Miles Sanders, he barely played. Last year, he averaged 17 touches in his three starts and four in the 13 other games. Scott is a very good goal-line and short-yardage runner, a willing blocker and a very good receiver.
It’ll be interesting to see how all these running backs line up, but I’ll be surprised if Scott doesn’t have a significant role on offense, especially in the passing game.
9. One name that keeps popping up as we talk to players is Ted Rath, the Eagles’ vice president of player performance. How did Jordan Mailata reshape his physique? Ted Rath. How did Nate Herbig lose 25 pounds? Ted Rath. How did Jack Driscoll get bigger and stronger? Ted Rath. These guys have been raving about him.
Rath joined the Eagles last year during the offseason as director of sports performance, but this was his first full offseason with the team (and with a new title) and it will be interesting to see whether the work he’s put in — especially with the offensive linemen — helps the Eagles reduce injuries.
10. And a random observation: Vashti Cunningham is high jumping at the Olympics in Tokyo and Michelle Carter is announcing the event for NBC. Their fathers were teammates on the Eagles during training camp in 1993. Cunningham’s dad of course is Randall, and Carter’s dad is Michael, who was a three-time Pro Bowler with the 49ers (and Olympic shot put silver medalist) and spent training camp with the Eagles in 1993 before deciding to retire. Cunningham is ranked No. 2 in the world going into Saturday’s final.
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