Doug Pederson: We’re Not In ‘Catch-Up’ Mode
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson returned to work Wednesday, less than two weeks after quarantining away from his family and team following a positive test for Covid-19.
In his Zoom session with reporters, Pederson mostly talked about the team’s ramp-up into Phase 2 of training camp. Teams can now spend 3 ½ hours on the field with Friday and Sunday designated as non-padded practices with helmet and shells permitted flanking an off day Saturday.
Phase 3 begins Monday. Teams can practice in pads. A maximum of 14 padded practices is permitted by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Here are some takeaways from Pederson’s Zoom session:
Business As Usual
Pederson has typically conducted two practices each training camp that feature full tackling to the ground –– “live sessions,” as they’re called.
Despite the schedule adjustments this year, Pederson isn’t deviating from his normal camp plan. He’s expecting to conduct two “scrimmage” practices this camp with tackling, full-force blocking and game-like contact.
“I’m going to stick to two days of having situational, scrimmage-type practices,” he said. “I feel like it’s a great way to get our guys prepared to game situations, game action.”
Despite the cancellation of OTAs, despite his own absence because of Covid-19, and despite the restructure of training camp that has delayed all NFL players and coaches from having more field time for the first two weeks of camp, Pederson insisted that the Eagles aren’t in “catch-up” mode.
Pederson said the offense and defense have each been installed, adding that daily teaching sessions, both virtual and in areas where the Eagles are holding their classrooms, have enabled the Eagles to learn the playbook and get their needed instruction from coaches.
“We’re working through situational football now,” Pederson said, meaning that learning the basics are already behind. “We’re working through all the different scenarios even though we’re doing walk-throughs and we’re doing classroom.
“We’ve had time with these players, even on the grass. We’ve had time with our rookies this past week. The only thing we’ve missed really is probably just the live practices that we would have had under a normal situation.
“We’re not really playing catch-up, we’re just enhancing what we have moving forward.”
Evaluation vs. Reps
Maybe the biggest difference Pederson was willing to acknowledge was the evaluation process in the absence of preseason games.
Rookies and other veterans fighting for jobs or playing time will mostly be evaluated by their showcase during the two scrimmages and in other practices, which Pederson said are typically grueling and intense even without tackling to the ground.
Also, the cancellation of preseason games actually gives coaches more chances to evaluate. For every preseason game, there’s a day off before and after, which means in a typical offseason players are on the field just once during a three-day stretch four times every camp.
With no preseason games this summer, and therefore fewer off days, coaches will have more opportunities to see players on the field.
“It’s a little more of a fluid schedule, I would say, for the next couple of weeks,” Pederson added. “We’re going to have a lot of good answers because of the amount of days that we have stacked back-to-back or end-to-end coming up.”
Pederson usually mixes and matches personnel during practice, in some cases taking reps away from veterans to see younger players or top backups run with the starters.
But this year, Pederson has veterans moving to new positions, especially Jason Peters and Jalen Mills. Pederson said he and the coaches will find the “fine line” to making sure veterans get the proper amount of reps throughout camp without taking away opportunities for others.
“I can remember back when I was a young player getting reps with those starters. I mean, it gets your juices going a little bit,” Pederson said. “It’s exciting for that player, but at the same time, that’s a game rep for them. That’s a true feeling on what game day is like.
“I’m still going to do that. The coaches are going to do that. The coordinators are going to do that and make sure that our guys, one, they’re prepared to go and do that, then at the same time it allows us to find answers on some of these young players.”
– Geoff Mosher (@geoffmoshernfl) is co-host of the Inside the Birds podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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