Eagles Wake-Up Call: Pederson Bringing Hitting Back To Camp
Back before we started this site, Sheil and I struck up a friendship on the fields of Lehigh that was based primarily on our common fascination with Ernie Sims.
Sims wasn’t much of a player for the Eagles, but boy could he beat the hell out of his own teammates. Dubbed the “shark in the water” by then-defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, Sims would regularly deck unsuspecting offensive players — sometimes during supposed non-contact drills — sending trainer Rick Burkholder running out to tend to the victim while Andy Reid stared daggers.
“He’s got one speed and one mind-set. I think he wakes up, like, mad at his alarm clock,” McDermott said.
Training camp practices were an event under Reid. Rogue player or no, the action sent you scurrying from one field to the next with head on a swivel as pads crunched and tempers flared and fists flew and bodies hit the turf.
Two-a-day bouts under the Bethlehem sun eventually gave way to new-age track meets in NovaCare’s back yard. It was fly swatters and dance music and constant motion but very, very little contact under Chip Kelly.
It’s back to the old school now that Reid’s pupil is at the helm. There won’t be a return to Lehigh, but there will be a return to hitting under first-year head coach Doug Pederson. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement limits the amount of times you can put the players in pads, but Pederson says they’ll hit “how often and how [ever] many times” they are permitted.
“I fully believe that you’ve got to practice in pads quite a bit, and I feel like it’s important from a timing aspect in your run game,” he said. “It’s just so important, not only offensively, but defensively, as well, for linebackers and safeties and guys that need to be around the line of scrimmage and make plays. [It’s important for] run lanes and blitzes and all of that needs to be done in pads.”
Given the conditions laid out in the CBA, a heightened awareness regarding player safety and the advent of sports science, camps have become less physical overall across the NFL (for some teams more than others). While there are benefits to that approach — like potentially keeping your players fresher and healthier — there is also something to be said for training for football by, well, playing some football.
“You have to be a good tackling team,” Reid told the AP back in 2013 when asked about his training camp approach. “Normally, good tackling teams end up playing late in the year.”
Pederson said there will only be a couple “live” periods over the entire camp where restrictions are off. The rest will be “thud” where there’s contact without tackling to the ground. But they’re going to get their work in.
“I’m a big believer in putting the pads on and banging a little bit,” he said. “And the way training camp is structured, we’ll test them for about three or four days, kind of go hard, and then we’ll back off a little bit, take the pads off, let them recover, put them back on, let them recover again and just kind of ramp up to the regular season that way.”
We’ll see how the approach translates. At a minimum it will add energy and drama to the summer, with players and reporters alike back in shark-infested waters.
WHAT YOU MISSED
“Fletcher Cox had given some serious consideration to not showing up to the mandatory minicamp.” Adam Schefter gave some insight into the Cox extension and also talked about Carson Wentz.
“They’re still smart with the cap. Anytime you can get your core players locked up sooner rather than later is beneficial provided they don’t get hurt.” Joel Corry talks about the Eagles’ salary cap situation.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
With the Eagles moving to a 4-3 defense, Vinny Curry is looking to become one of the league’s next breakout star, says Andy Benoit from the MMQB.
“Vinny is an interesting guy because, in my opinion, you have to know how to coach him,” says Eagles veteran edge defender Connor Barwin. “He’s so explosive, you have to more or less let him just go. When you try to give Vinny a lot of different assignments, places to be, it can slow him down. But when you really just cut him loose, that’s when you see him have a lot of success.”
Cutting Curry loose is exactly what new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz will do. Schwartz runs a much more basic 4-3, gap-penetrating zone scheme. Often the defensive line’s focus is on getting upfield. “My best attribute is to go forward,” Curry says.
Schwartz agrees. Earlier this offseason, in an interview with 97.5 The Fanatic, Schwartz said, “There are some guys that really fit in the defense here last year. I think he was one guy who wasn’t a great fit. He played in that square stance. They play a lot of two-gap. That’s been proven to be an effective system, also, it just didn’t fit Vinny very well. I think we can cut the handcuffs off of him, so to speak, and cut him loose along with the other guys up front.”
Just got locked in a bathroom at a NJ gas station. Praise the Lord for the attendants w/ the garden shears & the other guy w/ the leg kick..
— Carson Wentz (@cj_wentz) June 15, 2016
Howie Roseman and Cox will address the media beginning around 12:30 to discuss the new deal.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.