If it wasn’t clear by now, the upcoming Eagles’ season will be one unlike any other. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league has been forced to take drastic measures to ensure football is played in September. In addition to the use of masks, tracking devices, and other protective procedures, the NFLPA announced that no NFL preseason games will be played.
NFL Preseason games have been a hot button topic for fans and the league in the past, but the elimination of them will have significant ripples throughout training camps as summer winds down. For the Eagles, both the present and future are at stake as players gear up for the season.
Despite Lackluster, Eagles Preseason Still Holds Value
There isn’t a big outcry for the loss of the Eagles preseason. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. For the most part, it’s second and third stringers battling it out with fringe and camp players. That doesn’t make for the best entertainment. Usually, the selling point is “hey, it’s football! You haven’t seen it in seven months!”
So for the fans, the impact is minimal. The same goes for starters, who see minimal playing time. Some veterans see preseason games more as a health risk instead of a way to warm up for the season. That’s certainly a fair view. With the number of injuries Philadelphia has faced, this could be a silver lining.
But it’s a different story for those bench players on the field. They depend on these games in order to make an impression on the team and show them they deserve a roster spot. To the average viewer, these players may seem unimportant. However, teams desire them not only for depth but for potential.
Young Eagles Will Be Impacted
Young, inexperienced players who are just joining the Eagles will likely be hurt the most by having no Eagles preseason games. There were a number of undrafted free agent signings made by Philadelphia following the draft. Among these signings are two running backs, UCF’s Adrian Killins and Cincinnati’s Mike Warren.
Killins, who scored both first- and second-team All-AAC honors, complied 2,459 yards and 25 touchdowns during his college career. Killins has the speed needed to grab attention. He had a 4.39 second time for the 40-yard dash at UCF.
The 5-11 Warren rushed for 2,918 yards, in addition to 442 receiving yards. Warren is known as a bruiser, being able to brush off tackles thanks to his size. The Eagles haven’t had a running back like that since LeGarrette Blount.
Miles Sanders is unquestionably the clear-cut number one back. Boston Scott scored a spot thanks to his hot streak at the end of last season. The third spot is up for grabs with Corey Clement and Elijah Holyfield competing with Killins and Warren.
Now, both could see their chances drop considerably if they don’t leave a mark in training camp. With so much time being lost, the Birds could simply opt to go with the player who has more experience with the system in Clement, even with his heavy injury history the past two seasons.
Other players, such as linebacker Dante Olson and defensive tackle Raequan Williams, were facing towering climbs up the depth chart as well even before the preseason cancellation. The practice squad may be their best bet for hanging on to an NFL team.
Looking For Training Alternatives
It seems the Philadelphia Eagles already have plans in mind for determining the final roster. As head coach Doug Pederson explains, the team is going to make sure younger players are able to get the training and attention they need:
“Just coming up with creative ways whether I do more scrimmage situations … and put our young players and put the guys we need answers on in those situations,” Pederson said. “I’ve got to come up with ways of having game-like situations in practice because we are missing the preseason games, so it can definitely be done. We’ll be creative about it as a staff, and we’ll eventually have the answers we need at the end of camp.”
The odds of a UDFA making an immediate impact is very low. In that case, the Eagles might not be in so much trouble if these players don’t shine. Still, they could still miss out on valuable contributors in the future if the scrimmages don’t provide the same opportunities games do.
Clement himself was undrafted, and eventually became part of Eagles’ history by putting up 100 receiving yards in Super Bowl LII, showing why no-name players should never be written off.
Putting together the best 53-man roster is every NFL team’s goal, and it’s no different this year. The Eagles have a unique challenge ahead of them when it comes to evaluating talent, and if they hope to continue digging diamonds from the rough, it’s an obstacle that needs overcoming.