For Eagles, Health Could Derail Hype
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — A week in front of training camp the hype continues to grow for a talented Philadelphia Eagles team, one expected to be a significant Super Bowl contender.
ProFootballFocus.com proclaimed Philadelphia's offensive line and pass rush as the best in football while the all-knowing people at EA Sports came to the conclusion that the Eagles are the most talented team in football.
With one championship already secured Doug Pederson understands what a Super Bowl team looks like and the one he will begin to steer toward Miami next week measures up well, according to the coach.
“From a talent-wise [standpoint], I would say that it's pretty good," he said when asked about the roster that will start grinding in South Philadelphia on July 24.
Pederson is particularly excited about his offense where skill-position additions at receiver -- DeSean Jackson and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside -- and running back -- Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders -- figure to bolster the core group of Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, Nelson Agholor, Dallas Goedert and Corey Clement.
"From a skill position on offense, it's probably the best we've had going into my fourth season," the coach assessed. "From a depth standpoint, as I mentioned earlier, I think [the roster is] equivalent to what we had going into the 2017 [Super Bowl] season. But listen, all that can change in a heartbeat, as we know. This is a violent sport, violent game, but by no means and, I'm not going to sit here and make predictions and put our team in a box that way, but we still have to go coach and play games."
Caution is the proper approach because many thought the 2018 roster was better than the championship bunch as well but targeted injuries in the secondary really put Philadelphia in a bind until a late-season run toward the postseason which ended in New Orleans during the divisional round.
Many of the injuries were still being dealt with this spring.
"We got guys that are nicked up who haven't been with us [in the spring] and you know some of those are going to linger," Pederson admitted. "I guess as a coach for me I want to be 100 percent heading into training camp and obviously, we are going to be close."
Over half of the projected starting defense -- All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, right defensive end Derek Barnett, linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, as well as free safety Rodney McLeod, were still working their way back from surgeries during OTAs and minicamp.
On offense, Sanders missed on-field work with a hamstring injury while tackles Lane Johnson and Jason Peters skipped voluntary work in an effort to play load management. Agholor missed some time with a lower-body injury while Clement and Josh Adams were working their way back from surgeries.
"This is a long season and training camp is long and we don't play games for a while so I'm going to make sure everybody is 100 percent or 110 percent before they hit the football field," Pederson explained. "But, really other than that, the overall health of the team, is sort of my biggest concern with the team right now heading into the season."
One of the silver-linings to injuries, however, is baptism by fire, something which made players like Rasul Douglas, Cre'Von LeBlanc and Tre Sullivan grow up quickly in the defensive backfield last season. In the spring plenty of younger players on both sides of the football got plenty of extra reps while the veterans were held out.
"One of the things this offseason is a lot of our young players have gained a lot of experience playing games last year, in particular, our young defensive backs and guys who haven't played," Pederson claimed. "And what it's done is given us depth and competition at many positions. That's something I talk about a lot. In order for us to get back to that level of championship football, we need to have that depth and competition heading into training camp and that's where we are right now."
As far as where that competition is going to be the most intense, Pederson first pointed to the defensive backfield.
“You think about defensive back, with some of the new additions we got there. And plus the guys that played last year for us that are out there [in the spring]," the coach said. "Receiver, I think is another deep, deep group of guys that can play, and we've seen that. You know, we've seen that this offseason, this spring. Tight end is a deep group, offensive line is a deep group, D-line is deep. And I'm including the guys that are injured, you know, the Darbys, the Mills, the Rodney McLeods, those guys, when I say this.
... [the competition is] good now and it's got to be great in training camp because as we know, things can happen, and you're going to probably need those guys somewhere along the way.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen