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Mike Groh talks playmakers, why the Eagles like 12 personnel, and more

The Eagles OC opened up a lot about the development of some key offensive weapons.

The Eagles had their third practice of training camp on Saturday and offensive coordinator Mike Groh had quite a bit to say in his first meeting with the media since the spring. He’s got a lot to be excited about with so many healthy playmakers and a lot of young potential on the roster.

Here’s what he had to say:

On health and offensive weapons

Groh talked about how exciting it was to have so many guys healthy at this point of the offseason, and being able to coach through the details and work on the communication so early on with the first-team group.

Wide receivers

The OC was also asked about the pass-catching core that they’ve assembled and how talented the skill players are on this year’s roster.

“Really excited about that group as a whole.”

He went on to say that most people talk about Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, but they’ve got a lot of depth at the position and experience, and have a lot of guys who also have the skill set and talent that they are looking for. Groh noted that there’s a lot of competition at the position.

Speaking of Agholor, Groh was asked about his ceiling and what he has left to learn after blossoming quite a bit the past couple of seasons.

“I hope he’s got a ceiling even higher than where he’s been. But like you said, he’s had a really productive two years. He’s a guy that’s very dependable to us, and probably an unsung hero in our offense. He does a lot of things that a lot of people don’t notice, but is recognized by his teammates, so he’s willing to do that.”

He was later asked to expand on what some of those unnoticed things that Agholor does, and Groh mentioned his blocking and things like that, and that he had to do a lot of blocking at the point of attack for them last season.

The OC was later asked about Mack Hollins and what he’s had to battle back from to be on the field during training camp. Groh mentioned that as his former position coach, he’s got a lot of respect for Hollins and the energy he brings each and every day. He explained that Hollins was able to persevere through an injury that didn’t really have a clear definition, and was moreso about how he felt each day, was impressive and he couldn’t be happier for the receiver.

Running backs

Groh also talked about Darren Sproles and — with a big smile on his face — mentioned that everyone is very excited that he’s back. He went on to note that Sproles helped on the field a lot last year once he got healthy, and in the locker room is a big help to the running back room with his vast experience and energy.

The OC admitted that it does turn up the heat on the rest of the rushers, but that competition is a really good thing among the roster.

Groh also talked about Miles Sanders, and noted that they drafted him so high because they think he can be a really great player, but it’s still a little early since they haven’t really seen a ton from him thus far. But it’s been exciting, and they’ve seen what they expected, based on the limited things they’ve asked of him.

He also mentioned that since they acquired Boston Scott from New Orleans, he’s done a really good job for the team. They haven’t done any of the math yet in terms of the final roster, so he’s still got a really good chance of making the team and he’s shown some really good things already in training camp.

On 12-personnel

(Paging Benjamin Solak and Michael Kist)

Coming off the 2018 season, Groh and the coaching staff talked about wanting to implement more 12-personnel sets, and they’ve started to do that more in training camp. Groh said that they led the league last season in 12-personnel, so that’s always been a focus of theirs, but doesn’t particularly agree that they’ve been putting more of a team focus on that thus far in training camp.

He talked a bit about having a really strong 5 group of skill guys out there when they’re in 12, but that they also feel really confident when they go to 11-personnel. So, they feel confident in either group, but they want to continue to refine what they’re doing with those guys.

Groh did acknowledge that at this point last season they were just starting to get to know Dallas Goedert’s game and skill set, and now they have a good idea of what he can do and how they can utilize him. Speaking of strengths, the OC was asked to elaborate on some of those about Goedert.

“In the passing game, the guy is explosive. He gets down the field in a hurry, he’s a big target, and he’s got soft hands. He’s easy to spot down the field, so we had a really explosive, a really good looking play down the field to Dallas.

Even more than that, we think he’s continuing his development on the line of scrimmage as a blocker. Really understanding the game and the communication that it takes to not only play his position, but next to the tackle and all the things they gotta get done to together. He was really strong at the point of attack and continued to improve all year long last year.”

Later, Groh was asked what specifically the team liked about the 12-personnel grouping.

“We think it’s a very versatile personnel group. I think more people on defense, you’re not getting base defense as much as you used to. More people are playing, what we would call, big nickel so they’re bringing a safety into the game instead of a corner [...] so we still really like that match-up with both of our tight ends on a safety.”

On the offensive line

Groh was asked about the plan for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and the OC said that he’s the right guard for right now. They are trying to prepare him in that way as they continue to manage Brandon Brooks and his return from his Achilles injury.

In addition to getting Vaitai ready for the first preseason game, Groh also noted that they are working on building depth at the position. They know first hand that as you go through the 16-week season, you’re not always playing with the same 11 each week, so they want to make sure everyone is prepared to step in when needed.

Groh also had a lot of great things to say about first-round pick Andre Dillard and noted that he can kick out and he can pass protect. Dillard is coming from a different system, so there’s a lot for him to learn, but “he’s extremely sharp, he can speak our language”.

On Nate Sudfeld

He talked about the difference in Nate Sudfeld’s preparation this season as the No. 2 quarterback, and Groh mentioned that the biggest difference is that he’s just one play away from getting into a game. Mentally he has to prepare as a starter because of that, making some of the mental aspects the biggest differences this offseason.

Groh said that Sudfeld is getting a lot more reps as the No. 2 guy, but that this time last year he was also taking on an increased snap count because of Carson Wentz still dealing with injury — so he is at least used to that kind of workload. The OC said Sudfeld is very studious and energetic, and is a smart guy.

On the rule changes this season

Groh admitted that they were already coaching the blind side block the way it’s going to be officiated, so that isn’t a huge change for them and is just about guys being smart and taking some of the violent hits out of the game.

Regarding the changes to pass interference, Groh noted that they’ll probably just have to get into preseason games to see how things are being called and then figure out how they’ll use their challenges and things moving forward. But from a technique standpoint offensively, they’ve always tried to coach within the rules, so it will be more of an emphasis for them.

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