June 17, 2017
Throughout the Philadelphia Eagles' spring practices, a common theme in our observations has been the instruction given to the wide receiver corps from WR coach Mike Groh.
In our practice notes throughout the spring, we have repeatedly noted that Groh is very detail oriented, and doesn't let his players get away with getting those details wrong.
New Eagles coach Mike Groh to Green-Beckham, who was running route with his head down: "Stop looking at the ground! What's on the ground!?"— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) May 23, 2017
And then there was the day he got on UDFA rookie Greg Ward for being in the wrong stance at the line of scrimmage. The two had the following exchange:
Groh: "Look at where you are!"
Ward: (Looks down, realizes he's lined up offsides and moves back)
Groh: "Is this press?!?"
Groh: "Is this press?!?!?!"
Groh: "Then why are you bent over like that?"
Ward: (Gets into better position to fend off press coverage)
In another practice, he corrected rookie Shelton Gibson for running a poor route. On an in route, Gibson was beginning to head up the field before he had the ball, like this:
In the pros, defensive backs in trail position can jump in front of receivers and pick off passes when you do that. Groh instructed Gibson to stay on his line, attack the football, and then head upfield, like this:
That's just a small taste of Groh's instruction, but it has been non-stop throughout practice, every day.
"I just try to coach those guys as detailed (as I can), and stay on them about the details, and never let up on them," Groh explained. "Once we do that and make it hard out there in practice, put pressure on guys to perform in practice, hopefully that just translates to success on Sunday."
Groh has gone back to the extreme basics for the group as a whole.
"There are certain fundamental things that I believe in, like stance, and releases, and attacking the football that we emphasize in our meeting room that the guys hear on a consistent basis," he said. "The details of where we're supposed to be and when we're supposed to be there so that we can be dependable for the quarterback. If the quarterback knows where we're supposed to be and we make the plays that we're supposed to make and the ball comes to us, then more plays come to us. But it all starts with stance, and that's the core for the receiver and really anyone in the game of football.
"We're trying to be specific in finding a really good, explosive stance. It was a common problem, in my opinion, that a lot of guys need to get fixed. That's just a starting point, and then you build off of that."
For a team that had arguably the worst wide receiving corps in the NFL, working on very simple things like stance probably isn't the worst idea.
More interestingly, however, Groh's focus seems to be on making life easier for the quarterback. When the Eagles made their coaching hires after jettisoning Chip Kelly, they formed an extremely quarterback-centric staff.
• Head coach Doug Pederson played quarterback in the NFL for 12 years before becoming the Eagles' quarterback coach from 2011 to 2013, and then the Chiefs' offensive coordinator from 2013 to 2015.
• Offensive coordinator Frank Reich played quarterback in the NFL for 14 years. He also has five combined years coaching quarterback or wide receivers, and three as an offensive coordinator.
• Quarterback coach John DeFilippo was a former college quarterback with six years of NFL experience coaching quarterbacks, and one as an offensive coordinator.
"Guys that play quarterback tend to see the game a lit bit differently," Groh said. "I played quarterback. I didn't play receiver, so I coach the receivers through the eye of the quarterback, and then really focus on the technique of what I think is important to play the receiver position."
It's clear that the Eagles are trying to give Carson Wentz every opportunity to succeed in the NFL, and the hiring of Groh this offseason may be just one more small example.
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