Eagles rookie Elijah Qualls returns for minicamp, tries to catch up

Eagles rookie Elijah Qualls returns for minicamp, tries to catch up

As Elijah Qualls stepped on the field Tuesday in the blistering mid-morning heat, the young rookie defensive tackle admittedly didn't know what the heck was going on. 

Forced to miss the Eagles' OTAs this spring because of an antiquated and silly rule that prohibits players from schools on quarters systems from being with their NFL teams until after graduation, the sixth-rounder from Washington estimated he didn't know 70 percent of what was going on Tuesday. 

So he was learning on the fly.

"I honestly didn't know much of what I was doing," Qualls said after practice on Tuesday. "If you don't even know your job, but you go out 100 percent, you can control effort and everything like that. That's just what I planned on doing. 

"If I can think of the play and understand what my job was before the play, I went and did it. If I couldn't, I did the best I could on trying to do my job and then just got upfield, going 100 percent, trying to make a play, [being] a football player." 

The first time Qualls, 22, heard about the rule for schools on the quarters system, he didn't realize how much time he would miss. Qualls, who left school after his junior year, was at the rookie minicamp after the draft, but wasn't allowed back until this week's mandatory minicamp. That's a month away. 

Along with Qualls, fellow Washington product and second-round pick Sidney Jones was also forced to stay away during OTAs while he rehabs from a torn Achilles that will keep him out for at least the start of the 2017 season. 

While Jones used FaceTime to keep in contact with Cory Undlin during his time away, Qualls got phone calls from defensive line coach Chris Wilson to help keep him updated. But Wilson had OTAs to help run and players in the building to coach, so the phone calls weren't a daily occurrence. 

And while Qualls had an iPad to watch practice from OTAs, he was just able to watch and wasn't able to have the coach explain the concept of the play and the adjustments. He just had to take it without guidance. 

But Qualls said learning playbooks and catching up won't be a problem for him. He'll just need to put in the extra work. 

Tuesday, though, wasn't easy. 

"It was a little bit of a struggle," Qualls said. "I felt like I was a little bit behind some of the people. But it was exciting, man. Happy to get out here, get in practice with the vets and everything like that."

During his first practice with the entire team, Qualls said veteran Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox offered him tips and guidance on the plays, and rules when he could. 

"A little crash course," Qualls called it. 

"He's a very, very explosive kid from what I saw when he first got out there," Cox said. "When we first got out there, I know it's his first day and he got thrown a curveball, so he didn't have a chance to go to meetings and my message to him was to watch the guy in front of him. 

"I told him if I get a play, nine times out of 10, when his rep goes, he'll get the same play. Watch the guys in front of him and he'll just learn it."

Qualls was the 214th pick in the draft this spring, but he thinks he should have gone much higher. The Eagles are hoping he's right. 

At 6-1, 321, Qualls is still learning to play on the defensive line. Before college, he was his high school's primary running back at 265 pounds. There weren't many volunteers to tackle him from opposing teams.  

During his time away from the building, Qualls spent about a month working out 1-on-1 with pass-rush guru Chuck Smith, who also works with Derek Barnett and Marcus Smith on the Eagles, as well as players like Von Miller and Aaron Donald. 

During the pre-draft period, Qualls' pass-rush ability was questioned, but the young pro said the time with Smith was huge as he continues to learn how to play defensive line. It was the first time he ever had 1-on-1 instruction like that. 

"I don't have as much time on the defensive line as some people do," Qualls said. 

He's been trying to catch up for a while. So maybe a month away won't be a big problem after all.

Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

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Pederson interviewing 2 for Eagles' OC job

While many folks are off for Presidents Day, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is hard at work trying to figure out how to replace Frank Reich. 

Pederson is spending his Monday interviewing running backs coach Duce Staley and wide receivers coach Mike Groh for the Eagles' vacant offensive coordinator position, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia. ESPN's Tim McManus first reported the news Monday. 

It's possible one or both coaches could take over in some sort of offensive coordinator role. 

Reich left his post as offensive coordinator earlier this month when he accepted the head coaching job in Indianapolis. While it might not seem like an OC who doesn't call the plays has a big role, Reich was a good sounding board for Pederson and seemed to be very-well trusted by the head coach. He also helped put the weekly gameplan together. 

It makes sense that the Eagles don't want to go outside the organization to hire an offensive coordinator. Pederson trusts Staley and Groh and the chemistry inside the NovaCare Complex was tremendous during the Eagles' run to Super Bowl LII. 

Either way, Pederson is going to oversee the offense and call plays. Staley or Groh, if one or both are promoted, will handle some extra responsibility, but it'll still all be on Pederson. 

While Staley has been with the Eagles as a coach since 2011, working his way up from a quality control coach to running backs coach in 2013, Groh is a newcomer. He was added to the staff before the 2017 season to take over for Greg Lewis after the Eagles fired him. Groh did an impressive job last season, particularly with helping transform Nelson Agholor from a bust to one of the team's more explosive weapons. 

LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

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LeGarrette Blount makes his desire to stay in Philly clear

LeGarrette Blount is fresh off of his third Super Bowl title and second in two years with two different teams. 

It sounds like he doesn't really want to go to a third team in three years. 

Blount, 31, played on a one-year deal worth around $1.25 million with the Eagles in 2017, but is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year starts on March 14. He made it pretty clear on Sunday that he wouldn't mind coming back to Philly for another run. 

"It's early so we'll see," Blount said on NFL Network. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there. They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys. 

"I can't say enough about Duce (Staley), just for the simple fact for how well I was coached there and how good he helped me understand things. I feel like Duce is one of the best running back coaches, one of the best coaches I've ever had in my entire life. I obviously want to be a part of that for a while, so we'll see how it goes."

Blount began the year as the Eagles' top running back, but lost some of his role once the team traded for former Pro Bowler Jay Ajayi. But Blount still played a significant role in the Eagles' run to winning Super Bowl LII. 

During the season, he was the team's top rusher with 173 carries for 766 yards and two touchdowns. But then in Super Bowl LII, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown, helping the Eagles to a 41-33 win over his former team, the Patriots. 

The Eagles are going to bring back Ajayi and second-year player Corey Clement. After that, things get murky. Blount and Darren Sproles (coming off injury) are both set to become free agents. 

Blount wasn't shy about his love for the Eagles during his interview on Sunday. He cited trust and how they handled the Ajayi trade with him as big reasons why. 

"They talked to me throughout the process of it happening," Blount said. "They were like, 'we're trading for Jay Ajayi, we just want to let you know.' Like I said, that's obviously another big thing for me, the honesty in that building and how open they are and how they don't keep any kind of secrets for you. They just tell you how it is. It's a big respect thing. Duce was the first person to reach out the me and be like, 'hey, we traded for Jay Ajayi. I just want to let you know.' Again, man, that's why it's a place that I love and I hope to stay there." 

Late in the six-and-a-half minute video, the crew brought out Clement while Blount was answering a question about the rookie. Blount laughed during the middle of his answer, but then got back on track and praised Clement. The two became very close during the 2017 season. 

After Blount's answer, Clement got to chat with his teammate and said getting to work with Blount was a "tremendous opportunity" and would clearly like to keep the core group together in the running back room next season. 

Obviously, it's not up to Clement, but Blount will play a big role and we already know what he thinks of the Eagles.