Head coach Doug Pederson expects to start live contract drills on Friday — the first time this summer that the Eagles will allow tackling to the ground in their summer practices.
Normally, the contract drills would start in late July or the first few days of August, but this unusual camp — guided by pandemic guidelines — has forced Pederson and the rest of the NFL coaches to create a different type of schedule.
“We're evaluating everybody,” said Pederson, “but there are some young players that we want to see in just sort of game situations. We're now at the point where we would have had two preseason games, and it's time to get some answers on some of our young players.”
The lack of preseason contests means players won't experience their first contact against an opponent until the regular-season opener, meaning Pederson and his staff must draw the fine line between ramping up the intensity and keeping his players healthy as they get closer to kickoff.
“We do a lot of things that are planned with our preparation,” Pederson said. “We only have so many days to get our football team ready for the opener, and I've got to be smart with how we practice. We do know that injuries are going to be a part, especially early in camp with players, and we're starting to see that just a little bit.”
Several Eagles are already banged up from the early days of training camp. Running back Miles Sanders is one of the players whose status is week-to-week due to a lower-body injury. Pederson hopes to mix in enough breaks for his players in between the live hitting to keep them fresh for the rest of their training camp workouts.
“I have these planned maintenance days,” he explained. “It's for guys to rest, to stay healthy, to stay fresh, and also have lighter practices so that guys can, as a team, we can continue to maintain speed but at the same time keep the bodies fresh.”
This is the time of the year when teams are allowed to be less specific when describing players’ injuries. The severity of many of the injuries likely won't be known until right before the start of the regular season.
However, Pederson believes his players will be ready to go even as the hitting intensifies.
“I'm not concerned with these guys,” he said. “My focus is getting the entire team ready to go for our opener.”