Learning Curve: What Eagles’ Rookies Must Know
You hear about it all the time. Rookies mention the “learning curve” they face and how tough the adjustment from college to the NFL can be. But what, exactly, is that learning curve?
To find out, we spoke to a rookie in each position group to take us through what they specifically have to learn, from route techniques and man-to-man coverage to pooch punts. Because the Eagles don’t have a rookie quarterback, we spoke to Quarterbacks Coach Ryan Day.
Day: “If you had to name one throw, it’s probably that 22-yard seam route against a zone coverage. You can’t float it up in the air, you have to drive it into a window. And naturally, the quarterback is a leadership position. Not all quarterbacks are leaders, but the best ones are. You have to build some respect on your work ethic and setting a standard. If you come in and start barking at people, it’s not going to work so there’s definitely that adjustment stage.”
Raheem Mostert: “One of the things I’ve been working on is getting my pads lower, just trying to hit the hole fast and bring a little more power. When you’re low, the defense can’t really see you because the offensive line is much bigger. Two, you take certain hits at certain angles but if you’re low you can lean forward and fall forward.”
Nelson Agholor: “You want to have a clean release so you can have the same timing as your quarterback. Winning at the line of scrimmage is like a chess match. You have to counter what other people try to do. You just do what you need to do to get leverage and get that angle.”
Justin Tukes: “The most challenging is route running. You look at the hips of the defender, which defender will cover you and understand the coverage. Square hips says [the defender] has anything underneath. Open hips to the outside says you can’t go outside of them and if their hips open to the inside, they have the inside. It’s also their eyes. If they’re looking at the quarterback it’s zone; if they’re looking at you it’s man.”
Center Mike Coccia: “You have to be very conscious of every step you take. It’s about angles, especially in pass protection. You have to make sure you don’t over-set or under-set. The set line is your kick. In pass protection when you come off the line, you take the kick slide. You have to determine where the defenders are and read all of that.”
Defensive end Brian Mihalik: “From a scheme standpoint, a lot of players aren’t used to playing a two-gap defense like we do here. I know I wasn’t; I played in a 4-3. In college, you just tried to get up the field and all you have to do is take care of that one gap. Here, it’s more hands on your man. The most important thing is just striking your man and getting your hands on him. Once you get your hands on him and lock him out, you’re in control from there.”
Jordan Hicks: “Being patient with my eyes. In this defense, linebackers need to be patient. Fast reactions a lot of times put you out of position.”
Eric Rowe: “The one technique you have to learn is you can’t get your hands on after five yards down the field. In college, you can just keep banging them. But here, you can’t touch them anymore. You really have to learn to use your feet when you break and stop using your hands so much. We do these cone drills everyday that teaches us to use our arms because they coordinate with your feet to get out of your break quicker.”
Punter Kip Smith: “You have to get used to the different styles of punts, like the pooch punt inside the 50-yard-line. That’s been the hardest for me; they call it Australian. They punt the ball up and down instead of normal punts where it’s flat, so you switch it to end over end. You kick it to get the back spin so if it lands inside the 5-yard-line, it spins backwards.”