With zero preseason games in 2020, NFL coaches will have to get creative in how they conduct practices to prepare their team and evaluate young players battling to make the final roster.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson noted he might plan for more scrimmages than in a normal.
"That's something that, as I alluded to earlier, just coming up with creative ways, whether I do more scrimmage situations -- I do a couple live practices during camp anyway," he said in a Zoom meeting with reporters Monday. "I've got to do maybe some more scrimmages and put our young players, put the guys we need answers on in those situations. I've got to come up with ways of having game-like situations in practice because we are missing the preseason games. 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."
Unearthing young players who can contribute this season will be more challenging than in a normal year. Given that practice-squad players could play an even bigger role this season if a team is hit hard by COVID, finding players who can contribute well down the roster will be vital this training camp.
"Once we get into the training camp, or the padded portion of camp, I've got to do what I feel is best for the football team from a standpoint of putting guys in position to succeed on the football field, meaning we have to have answers on some of our players, especially the young guys," Pederson said. "We haven't seen these rookies, live and in-person. It's my job as the head coach, from a scheduling standpoint as we go throughout this training camp, to put our guys in competitive situations to see what they can do and then do the best we can at the end of training camp to come up with the 53."
From an on-field perspective as the Eagles ramp up to training camp, one adjustment will be the shuffling offensive line after veteran Jason Peters was brought back to play guard. Pederson said the team is confident the 38-year-old can make the adjustment.
"We had many conversations with Jason," he said. "We took a look at our roster, obviously, and felt that where Jason is and the type of player is, his leadership on the football team, the transition would be relatively easy. I'm not saying it's going to be easy but relatively easy for him, being a veteran guy moving into that guard spot."
Juxtaposing Pederson's answers to questions about veterans like Peters to replies about how rookies will respond to the unusual offseason, it shouldn't be a surprise if we see teams hang on to more veterans this offseason than give young undrafted rookies a shot at making the 53-man roster.