As the month of June approaches, the Philadelphia Eagles are very busy getting ready for the 2012 season. For the fans, this is probably the most boring time of the offseason. The draft is over and free agent signings have slowed down tremendously. The only thing going on right now is the team practicing outside in their helmets, jerseys, and shorts- with no pads. The practices are laid back, and there is minimal hitting. So what’s the big deal? Well, truth be told, this is perhaps the most important part of the offseason for every NFL team.
Championships are won in May and June, not January and February. The OTA’s are a time when coaches and players can work together installing the offensive and defensive scheme’s. By working with no pads, the team can slow everything down and make sure that everyone is on the same page. By the time Training Camp rolls around, the players and coaches should all be comfortable with the scheme’s. In fact, Training Camp is the time when the team practices all of the things they learned in OTA’s. The purpose of Training Camp is to go full speed and add complex twists to the scheme’s, not learn the basics.
Last season, there were no OTA’s because of the NFL Lockout. The Eagles were perhaps the team most negatively affected by this because they had many new players, a new defensive coordinator who hadn’t coached defense in nearly 20 years, and new offensive and defensive line coaches. Therefore, they spent most, if not all of Training Camp putting in the basics of their scheme’s. By the time the regular season began, it was obvious that the defense was still not comfortable with the basics of the scheme. Which I believe is the reason they couldn’t hold on to leads at the end of games. The players didn’t know the scheme’s well enough to execute them under pressure. This season, there will be no excuse for that.
The final four games of last season may not have been fools gold, as Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie put it. In fact, I think those four games could be a spring board for this season. The players finally seemed to grasp the complex wide-nine scheme, which resulted in the four best performances of the year. With an entire offseason of work, the Eagles could come into the season with a very good defense. The key will be whether or not the players put in the effort during this OTA season. Will it pay off if they do? Only time will tell.