June 15, 2022   6 MINUTE READ

“Missed Opportunities”

Q&A: New OTA Format Preserves Bodies, Stunts Learning

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After an unusually light offseason team program, the Eagles are looking towards training camp.

On the latest “Q&A” podcast on Inside the Birds, former Eagles Jason Avant and Quintin Mikell gave their perspectives on the team’s unique OTA program and more.

Wide receivers

ITB photo: WRs Quez Watkins, left, and John Hightower are in their third seasons with the Eagles.

Light OTA Schedule

Quintin Mikell: “Most of the team is younger. Usually, the OTAs is the time when you’re developing the younger guys to get some depth, developing them into potential starters. I am not of the belief system that OTA reps are a waste of time. I generally understand that you don’t want to wear your team out before the season starts, but I feel like those are missed opportunities to get really get some growth and development in your backup players and guys that at some point are going to be in an important role moving forward.”

Jason Avant: “If you’re going to have some cutbacks, let the older guys miss the practices. That’s what we did back in those days. Reward the old guys that you know are going to show up on Sunday that have the experience, maybe they do need some time to heal, but these young guys should be taking most of the reps, should be competing in practice for a spot, getting a lot of growth and development.”

Individual Drills vs. Team Drills

Mikell: “Hopefully, if they’re true professionals, the players will continue to work on those individual aspects of their techniques away from OTAs. That brings me to why I feel like they missed a little bit more there is because these are things that they can work on their own. These are things that you don’t necessarily need a coach for. You can go out after OTAs by yourself and work on technique. But what you can’t do [alone] is go 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 in a team setting and be able to get those reps.

The biggest adjustment for young players is adjusting to the speed of the game. I wish the Eagles focused a little bit more on the team aspect because that’s really where your team grows. Everybody can get better by themselves, but you can’t really get better as a team unless you’re working as a team.”

Avant: “I think that we got to this place because of injuries. And not just injuries on our team, but injuries around the NFL. From what we’ve been through, where it was three-hour practices and you felt like you were being on display and heading into a game. We were the ones taking all of the reps the entire time running our legs into the ground. But it’s a different time. I think ownership is so scared to lose a player during this time of the year. But the truth of the matter is if you’re going to lose a player, you’re going to lose him. I’ve seen guys tear their ACLs walking. I don’t think you should not do something because of fear of being hurt.”

Jalen Reagor

Mikell: “I want to see him succeed. I do think he’s got a lot of talent. I want to see him, especially early on, with the ball in his hands. Even if it’s a simple hitch route or a simple slant. Let him slowly build up his confidence. He comes into the game and he’s asked to do things he’s not necessarily ready to do yet in terms of route trees and getting down the field and judging the ball in the air. I’d like to see how he can develop that way and then start to add more to his plate. Unfortunately, he might end up the odd man out.”

Jalen Hurts

Mikell: “I do think he does need to develop better in the passing game, not only just for his own health, but the health of this team. It’s no secret that most running quarterbacks have injury histories and they tend to fade away in the playoffs if teams catch up to what they’re doing. Across the board, if he can develop into a better passer, it’s going to help everything about his game and this team.”

Avant: “Eventually if you’re running that much, they’re going to catch you, and it won’t be good on that day. So, you have to change your mentality and run when it’s necessary and not run when you don’t know what you’re looking at…Hurts is undersized for a quarterback and it’s hard to see over the offensive line. We should consider what Drew Brees does. A lot of times the left tackles would take vertical sets instead of 45-degree angle sets because Brees was a little bit shorter. They would give him more space and more room. From my perspective, the times that Jalen Hurts is having problems in the pocket is not because he’s short, it’s because he is on the wrong side of the field. NFL defenses are tricky because it’s their job to disguise. They’re not going to let you see what they’re doing.”

Autonomy For DeVonta?

Avant: “The coach has to feel that the receiver is smart enough and understands the offense completely in order to give the player autonomy. You have to know it just like the coach. I love Smith and I think he’s going to be an excellent player, but do I think that he’s going to touch the ball seven times [every game] and one of those is going to be a touchdown? No. That’s the type of player that you want to give that autonomy to. I can give Devonta Smith Pro Bowl stats, but will Pro Bowl stats equal Super Bowls and/or playoff wins?”

– Benjamin Paul is a staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com

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