PHILADELPHIA – The last time the Eagles were inside Lincoln Financial Field, things looked so much different…
Doug Pederson was in the process of pulling Jalen Hurts for Nate Sudfeld…the Eagles were accused of tanking against the Washington Football Team…and a bitter Carson Wentz was still hanging around.
Whew, talk about a blast from the past, but it was just five months ago.
On Friday, the Eagles bid farewell to OTAs and head into their downtime between now and the opening of training camp, with a getaway practice at the Linc.
There was a new man in charge with Nick Sirianni running from this drill to that drill and bringing his team together to go over various directives for practice, and Wentz was nowhere in sight.
Afterward, the new coach was asked for a summation of the three-week OTA period, during which there weren’t any 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. Nor will there be a mandatory minicamp next week, like just about every other NFL team is having.
Sirianni said it was a good time to make connections between the players and coaches and a good time to hammer the fundamentals and techniques.
“Last year we had none of this,” he said. “Everyone was on the same playing field. You had nothing, so this is what it felt like to me and I know it felt like this to a lot of the coaches, every correction we made or every praise we made, like, even from walk-through or from the individual drill, it was so exciting to make that. Like, we're just that much further ahead starting camp.”
Friday in particular, the coach said, was a day for players to work on their skill and their craft, all the while continuing to play to Siranni’s theme of competition.
The defensive backs, for instance, did back-pedal drills against each other and completed the drill by racing each other back to the line of scrimmage.
“They had to do this drill with precision, great fundamentals, and intensity - great speed, like the game is going to be,” said Sirianni.
The coach pointed out a drill between WRs DeVonta Smith and Travis Fulgham where they threw the ball on the green ball machine at practice and the running backs went to the JUGs machine, all the while competing to see who did better.
Also, Sirianni added a drill between members of the defensive line, spotlighting Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham racing against each other
“We just kept on doing different things to, one, make them compete, and also the precision and intensity of the position drills that they were doing,” Sirianni said.
Here's a whip around look from Friday:
- The most impressive play I saw was a one-handed catch DeVonta Smith pulled down during one drill. Smith continued to impress with the easy way in which he moves – almost glides – when he runs.
- Owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman were in attendance. It was interesting to watch Lurie, who, at one point, stood alone, several yards on the field watching intently. He was hard to miss and, for better or worse, I’m sure the coaches and players certainly noticed him.
- The running back drills were fun to watch, with position coach Jemal Singleton pulling on a string attached to a football as each RB tried to navigate his way through a series of bags. Not many were able to complete the circuit on their first try and had to start over when the ball was yanked free by Singleton. Sirianni stood nearby at one point and instructed the players to “lock their elbows.”
- Here’s something that happened just a couple of hours after practice ended: three more draft picks signed their rookie contracts. They were Marlon Tuitupolu, Tarron Jackson, and Patrick Johnson. Only two remain unsigned heading into summer break – Landon Dickerson and JaCoby Stevens.
- Sirianni was a bit late getting to his post-practice because he said he was playing WR Greg Ward in a three-point shooting contest. Sirianni said he didn’t win, and that Ward can really shoot. Is it me or does the coach ever win in any of these competitions he likes to create with his players, such as rock-paper-scissors?
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.