As far as first days go, this one was special.
A new Eagles era with Nick Sirianni was ushered in - and his father, brother, wife, and young children were there to enjoy the moment - and the fans came back to the NovaCare Complex to join in the opening day of Training Camp, 2021. The team went right into 11-on-11 drills and showed great competitiveness, tenacity, energy, and speed. It's far too early to make any observations that truly matter as far as personnel, but there were some news and notes from the post-practice joint press conference held by Sirianni and Executive Vice President/General Manager Howie Roseman. Let's get right to it ...
• On the very important vaccination front, Roseman said that "over 90% of the guys have started the process and will be vaccinated and we continue to give information to the other guys." That's extremely encouraging for a team that wants to build chemistry and connection, things that are difficult to do when players who aren't vaccinated have to take part in virtual meetings and aren't permitted to have off-the-field social contact with the rest of the team. This is top of mind for NFL teams, and the Eagles are in great shape here.
• Tight end Zach Ertz was on the field and taking regular reps, something Sirianni liked seeing for the first time. "We just want to get him out here and see what he can do in person, right? I've seen plenty of tape on Zach and everything that he's done. He's been such a good player in this league for so long. But we just are getting him here in person, seeing what he can do, seeing how we can use him. That's our job as coaches, to figure out how we can use each player and what we can do to take advantage of their abilities. Zach is no different. That's what we're doing right now, is seeing what we can do with him. Again, there's a lot of tape on him that suggests what we can do. Now it's just being out here and coaching it and seeing what he can do in person."
• Jalen Hurts took the reps with the No. 1 offense, as he did in the spring. The Eagles also have Joe Flacco and Nick Mullens taking reps at the position. Sirianni said that Hurts has "earned" those reps and that he will continue to be in that position. "The growth where we want to see is just acceleration in the offense, right? It's just getting better and more reps at the offense," Sirianni said.
"This is the first time we've had an 11-on-11 team period, right? These are some of the first times he's run these plays. Now, maybe he's run a version of these plays, but there's some plays he's never run before. We can't get enough of that, whether that's in the film room, whether that's on the field. He's just got to continue to take these reps. I am so confident in Jalen. He's a gym rat. He's just thinking about football all the time, that's what I love about him. He's going to use those mental reps, that's for sure. We just got to get him more reps out here on the field."
• One of the reasons for optimism coming from inside the Eagles is the health of the offensive line. Last year, as we know, the line was ravaged by injury. Having veterans back in the fold is huge for the offense. We've talked about this the entire offseason: The offense will be led by the guys up front. "When we look at our team this year and talk about what we're really excited about, it starts with the O-line," Roseman said.
"Obviously, part of our lack of success last year was the O-line and the injuries that they had. We have a lot of resources at that position, it's really important to us as we build our team. You see today, having (right guard) Brandon (Brooks) out there with (right tackle) Lane (Johnson) on the right side, that's huge. If we can start with the offensive line and make sure those guys are playing at a really high level, that's going to help everybody in the quarterback room. From there, talking about the skill position group. Most of these guys, the receiver group, the running back group, besides Zach, the tight end group, those are young guys. They get a chance to grow and build together. But it starts with the offensive line, making sure we're looking at ourselves in the mirror and saying can we fairly evaluate the quarterbacks because of who is protecting them and the weapons they have around them."
• It isn't sexy and it doesn't generate headlines, but Sirianni's daily message is consistent: Stay focused on that day and improve just one percent each time out and move on from there. He reiterated the message again on Wednesday. "My message to the team is very clear: We attack every day. It's a climb and we're attacking every day," he said. "We like to even break it down further than that. We're not only attacking every day; we're attacking the little parts of that day, right? The players right now are attacking rest. The coaches, when we're done here, I'm going to go up with the offensive staff and we're going to watch the tape and we're going to attack the crap out of the film. Then we're going to attack the meeting room, right? Then we're going to attack the walkthrough, then we are going to attack the meeting room again.
"It really is just a climb, trying to get a little bit better each day. We know if you can do that, the gains you can make ... What I'm saying to you is no different than the message I'm saying to the team. The gains that you can make when you go in and think about each and every day you're going to work, each and every period you're going to work, your gains can be huge. That's all our goal is, is just to try to get better, a little bit better with each thing that we're doing so the gains, by the time we get to that first game, we're ready to roll."
• The Eagles placed offensive tackle Le'Raven Clark and safety Rodney McLeod on the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list and placed offensive lineman Landon Dickerson - who was injured in his final season at Alabama - on the Active/Non-Football Injury list. The team said they would monitor those injuries on a day-by-day basis and didn't bite when asked if the players would be ready for the regular season. Also, safety Andrew Adams, defensive end Matt Leo, and linebacker Alex Singleton have been placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Offensive lineman Isaac Seumalo has a hamstring injury and is week to week, wide receiver Jalen Reagor has lower-body tightness and is day to day, wide receiver Quez Watkins is day to day as he completes his physical, wide receiver Greg Ward is day to day with an illness (non-COVID), and defensive backs Shakial Taylor (day to day, lower body), and Nate Meadors (week to week, hamstring) missed Wednesday's practice.
• Finally, circling back ... the fans. It was so great to see them at the NovaCare Complex. Sirianni loved every bit of them. "That was nice to have the fans back out, especially for Training Camp. It felt like Training Camp again, right? Instead of just being there yourself. Now it's important as a team that you don't care who is in the stands, right? You don't care if you're practicing in a parking lot, if you're practicing in a playground, on these fields, if there's 100,000 people there, doesn't matter. It's the same process," he said. "It was cool to have them out there. I think everybody kind of got going and felt that out there."