Sirianni Waiting For When "Lights Come On"
Well, that's a wrap for 2021 Philadelphia Eagles OTAs. Organized Team Activities – a heavily modified version that eschewed 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, per an agreement between the team and players – concluded Friday, and the Eagles will now break for about six weeks until the start of training camp. New head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters via Zoom on Friday to recap the past few weeks of learning and discuss progress made. Here were the main takeaways from his press conference:
If you're wondering what kind of training camp Sirianni plans to run in Year 1, he offered a few clues. Preseason games, which were cancelled last year because of the pandemic, will be important for evaluation this season. Teams are playing three preseason games. "I will say this: We love the fact that this year we're able to have preseason games and we’re able to have practices against other teams," he said. "Because that's huge. I've always thought that's so important. "Sometimes when those lights come on, it's a little different for some guys. You want everyone to be a really good practice player. That's what you're striving for. That's what we’re demanding as a coach. But sometimes, man, the lights come on, and there's a couple of guys that just do something a little different where you're like, 'Wow.'" As for practices, Sirianni isn't yet sure about the number of padded practices that teams will be allotted. Doug Pederson's camp wasn't the bloodbath that Andy Reid's camp were notorious for, but Sirianni emphasized the importance of practicing in pads. He also hinted that the Eagles would be tackling to the ground – "going live," as it's often called – this summer, although probably in small doses. "When we're able to have the pads on, we're going to have the pads on, because that's how football is played," he said. "That's when you can tell a lot. We're just in shorts out there right now, but you can tell a lot about how a football player is when you put those pads on because, again, that's how the game is played. We'll definitely utilize that.
"I'm sure there will be a period here and there where we're going live to the ground. That's still to be determined. That hasn't been my experience in the past, to be honest with you. It's been limited there. And I do believe in that for different reasons, that we don't go live to the ground. Here and there we will, but not overly done. That's as much as I can answer that question right now."
Impressed by his quarterback's work ethic and leadership, Sirianni said he's learned plenty about Jalen Hurts, even without observing him in team drills.
"He is a relentless worker. He comes to work every single day with the intent to get better every single day," Sirianni said. "And I just saw, even from Zoom meetings when we got in, I just saw him take command of the offense, and really just take command of the offense and was just on it. You ask him a question, he's on it. It’s really translated into walk-throughs on the field and in drill work."
Sirianni also praised Hurts' attention to detail and his "really compact" throwing motion that enables Hurts to deliver "with ease."
Fun & Games
The Eagles held their final session at the Linc, and reporters observed a wacky drill involving a green football. Sirianni also apologized for his tardiness at the press conference, the result of a losing a 3-point contest to wide receiver Greg Ward. There were other fun-but-spirited competitions that took place during camp, as Sirianni blended his main principle of competition and ice-breakers that helped the new coaches become more familiar with their players. "The why behind it is if you practice competing, you're going to get better at competing," Sirianni said. "And this is such a cutthroat business. There are guys constantly coming in for their jobs. It's all about the wins and losses. And the games are tight, the parity is tight. "So, all these games come down to one score. There's constantly a guy coming in for your job, so you're fending off a guy to take your job. I think about it, like, why am I competitive? I had two older brothers that beat the crap out of me all the time. I had to be competitive, and I wanted to be competitive, and my dad made me be competitive. There has to be something to that. I've always thought that.
"So, when you practice competing, just like you practice those plays, you're going to get better and better and better at it. That's the main philosophy behind it." Some of the games were specifically created for certain positional traits. Others simply tested competitive spirit. Per Sirianni, tight end Dallas Goedert housed linebacker Eric Wilson in ping-pong, kicker Jake Elliott "wins at everything" – [insert "everything except kicking field goals" joke here] – and Ward is a lights-out shooter.
"But that's the philosophy," Sirianni added. "And that's the 'why?' And it is the two major things that we talked about – again, getting better at what you do and your craft, and then practicing competing."
– Geoff Mosher (@GeoffMosherNFL) is co-host of the "Inside the Birds" podcast and staff writer for InsideTheBirds.com.
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