Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Frank Reich praises WR group, competition is 'very tight'

Eagles notes, quotes and tidbits: Frank Reich praises WR group, competition is 'very tight'

If Howie Roseman's goal at the wide receiver position this offseason was to turn a weakness into a strength, he certainly achieved it. 

Even after the trade of Jordan Matthews. 

As the Eagles approach their final preseason game on Thursday night, there is an intense battle brewing for the final receiver spot or two. 

"This is, without a doubt, the best group that I've been around for a while," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said Monday. "I mean, from top to bottom, very competitive. They've all flashed. They all deserve to be here. I believe some of these guys, for a couple guys who might not be here, I think they're going to end up someplace else. That's how confident we feel in this group.

"I think, all in all, we're just very happy with the progress they've made and the chemistry in that room and the production that they've had in practice and in games."

It's unclear what the Eagles' receivers group will look like after final cuts. The Eagles kept just five wideouts after final cuts in 2016, but there seems to be a decent chance they'll carry six into 2017. 

Most folks seem to think these four players are locks for the roster: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Mack Hollins. 

That means the Eagles have these six players fighting it out for either one or two remaining spots: Marcus Johnson, Shelton Gibson, Bryce Treggs, Greg Ward, Paul Turner and Rashard Davis. 

Gibson was a fifth-round draft pick who played better later in the summer after a disastrous start, but he's not guaranteed a spot. Johnson has been very impressive and might be the front-runner. Treggs was on the team last year but didn't have much of an impact. Turner made the initial roster in 2016, but was cut shortly after to make room for Treggs; this summer he's dealt with a serious shoulder injury. Ward is a converted quarterback who has shown a lot of promise. And Davis is a latecomer but is a proven return man. 

There are decisions to be made and they might not be easy. 

So how tight is the competition for those last couple of spots? 

"It's tight. It's very tight. It's always tight," Reich said. "When it comes down to those last roster spots, Coach always emphasizes that it's not only what they do as a receiver, but what they do on special teams, and how they can contribute. Position versatility and special teams, all those things factor into the roster."

For a long time, Matthews was the fifth receiver who was guaranteed to make the roster. His departure in the Ronald Darby trade seemed to open up opportunity for another player. 

"If I'm in that room, and I'm one of those players, yeah, you have to believe that," Reich said. 

More snaps for Kendricks?
Mychal Kendricks has been having a pretty productive preseason. That might be putting it too lightly. 

"Yeah, well, I don't know if you could have any more production than him in the preseason," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "Good gracious. A little bit of it is being opportunistic, but he's been in the right spots."

Kendricks' production is hard to argue with. In three preseason games, he has three interceptions and returned one of them for a touchdown. 

But the real question surrounding Kendricks is if this is the beginning of more playing time. Last year, he was a part-time player despite being a starter in the team's base package. He was the odd linebacker out when the Eagles went to the nickel package, which happens about 70 percent of the time. It's possible that the Eagles could find ways to use Kendricks as a blitzer — a role in which he thrives — but Schwartz has been hesitant in the past because he didn't want to tip their hand in such situations. 

Schwartz, though, did reveal something interesting on Monday. Because Jordan Hicks has missed some time recently with a sore groin (he's expected to be fine for the opener), the Eagles worked their nickel package a little differently on Sunday. Nigel Bradham slid into the MIKE position and Kendricks replaced him in the two-linebacker nickel package. That's a look the Eagles will probably never use in the season when Hicks is healthy, but right now, they're trying to prepare for everything.

"If we had a game today, Jordan Hicks couldn't play," Schwartz said. "It's our responsibility to get the guys that can best produce on the field. He's certainly forced himself into that conversation."

Back and Beau than ever
Big ol' Beau Allen returned to the practice field on Sunday afternoon after passing his physical and being removed from the non-football injury list. Allen was pretty excited to get back on the field after working out privately throughout all of training camp. 

But apparently, those private workouts on separate fields kept him in good shape — "great shape," according to Schwartz. 

"Talking to him yesterday, he felt his timing was off a little bit, just timing of hands and steps," Schwartz said. "That will come back to him. He even said to me that this isn't his first rodeo. It will come back quick.

"Ideally, we'd like to get him some time in this game. He's fine. But just for, in my mind, and in his mind mentally, when we play the [Washington] Redskins, it's no longer, ‘How is it going to feel?’"

Vinny Curry reportedly heading to the Buccaneers

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Vinny Curry reportedly heading to the Buccaneers

One day after being released from the Eagles, Vinny Curry has reportedly already found a new home.

The defensive end is heading to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a three-year deal worth up to $27 million, with an $11.5 million injury guarantee, according to ESPN's Jenna Laine.

After signing him to a five-year, $47.25 million extension in 2016, the Eagles moved on from Curry and his $11 million cap hit on Friday. The transaction saved the Eagles $5 million in cap space with $6 million in dead money — the final three years of prorated signing bonus money.

While Curry had the best season of his career in 2017, his production still didn't match his high cap number and he became more expendable after the Eagles acquired Pro Bowler Michael Bennett from the Seahawks.

Curry will join former Eagles defensive tackle Beau Allen in Tampa Bay. Allen signed a three-year with the Buccaneers earlier in the week. 

As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

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As Bradham re-signs, he lauds former teammate

After getting the opportunity to stay with the Super Bowl champions, Nigel Bradham spoke at length and quite passionately about someone who didn’t get the same opportunity.
Brent Celek.
Bradham, the veteran linebacker, spent the last two years with Celek, who the Eagles released earlier this week after 11 seasons.
“That’s obviously devastating, man,” Bradham said. “Taking about a guy who was here his whole career and the way he came every day and his character every day.
“He really … me and a lot of guys on our team what it takes to win a Super Bowl, and he let us know it doesn’t come easy, it takes work, and he came in and worked every day. Like no other.”
Celek was due to earn $5 million in 2018 but is counting only $1 million in dead money against the 2018 cap, so the Eagles gained $4 million under the cap by releasing him.
That cap space certainly helped them find room to re-sign Bradham, who enjoyed a career-best season in 2017 for the Super Bowl champs.
But Bradham was effusive in his praise for the veteran tight end, who has played the fourth-most games in Eagles history.
“You would never know he was (11) years in because of the way he worked,” Bradham said. “So when you lose a guy like that it obviously takes a toll on your team.
“You hate to lose guys like that that meant so much and impacted this team so much. His leadership was on another level. He went over and beyond the things he could have done as a leader. Obviously, wish he could be here still.”