10 observations from Eagles OTAs: Carson Wentz looks like himself, who was missing and more

10 observations from Eagles OTAs: Carson Wentz looks like himself, who was missing and more

It was a beautiful sunny and breezy day in South Philadelphia as the Eagles held their first OTA practice of the spring on Tuesday. 

Carson Wentz has no limitations and will not be held back by the coaching staff. He’s full-go (see story).

The most notable absence from today’s session was Malcolm Jenkins, who also skipped more voluntary workouts earlier in the offseason (see story). It seems possible his absence is contract related. 

Here are 10 observations from today’s practice: 

1. We’ll start with Wentz, because we kind of have to. 

No. 11 took all the first-team reps in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. It’s just one day in, but he looked pretty good. It didn’t seem like he had a ton of rust to shake off. 

He was back to looking like himself. That’s a great sign. 

One interesting thing from Tuesday was that Wentz wasn’t wearing a knee brace on his left leg. There were a few miscues but, for the most part, Wentz looked like Wentz. We’ll learn more as the spring progresses, but he’s off to a good start. There weren’t many opportunities for him to push the ball down the field. That’s what I want to see from him next, especially with DeSean Jackson back in Philly. 

2. Here’s a list of players who were not at practice: Mack Hollins, Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills, Zach Brown, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox. 

Several of them have injuries and were expected to be absent. It’s important to remember that these practices are voluntary, but the Eagles had pretty good attendance on Day 1. The most interesting absence was Brown, whom the Eagles signed as a free agent this offseason. Not sure why he wasn’t at practice today, but we’ll see if he’s there next Tuesday, the next day reporters are allowed at practice. 

3. Here’s a list of players who were at practice but weren’t participating: Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Nigel Bradham. 

Darby, Clement and McLeod stretched with the team and then did drills on a side field. Sanders was on the field with the running backs but did not have a helmet. 

Derek Barnett was wearing a helmet but did not participate in team drills. The defensive end, entering Year 3, had shoulder surgery about seven months ago. No reason to push him now. 

4. There were many players missing on Tuesday, but we at least got a glimpse at some depth charts from team drills. Here are a few interesting notes on offense:

• Jordan Mailata was the first-team right tackle for Johnson, Halapoulivaati Vaitai was the first-team right guard for Brooks and Andre Dillard was the first-team left tackle for Peters. Mailata and Big V are getting cross-trained at new positions and that started today. 

• Stefen Wisniewksi got second-team reps at center and then later at second-team right guard. 

• Without Jeffery at practice, the starting receivers were DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor and Charles Johnson from the AAF. Johnson played for the Orlando Apollos in the short-lived league but is not some developmental player. He’s 30. 

• We saw Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert both get time with the ones. They ran some 12 personnel.

5. And on defense: 

• The first-team defensive line was: Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, Malik Jackson and Vinny Curry. Second-team DL: Joe Ostman, Treyvon Hester, Hassan Ridgeway, Josh Sweat. 

• The secondary featured Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas as outside corners and Avonte Maddox in the slot. Tre Sullivan and Andrew Sendejo were the first-team safeties. (A lot of players missing from that equation.) Cre’Von LeBlanc was the second-team nickel corner. 

• The linebackers in nickel were Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry to start. Nice for Gerry to not get bumped by L.J. Fort or Paul Worrilow. It would have been more interesting to see what things would have looked like with Brown at practice. The second-team linebackers to start were Worrilow and Fort. 

6. Maddox made a tremendous interception on a pass from Cody Kessler during WRs vs. DBs. He leaped backward to pick off a pass that was intended for Braxton Miller. Impressive play. 

7. Goedert did get the best of Maddox on the other side of the field. The second-year tight end is so good at using his body to create space. A little later, he grabbed an opportunistic touchdown when a ball was batted in the air and landed in his hands.  

8. Without Sanders, Donnel Pumphrey and Boston Scott got extended reps and both looked pretty good. Pumphrey might not have a real chance to make this team, but let’s keep an eye on Scott. His number is 49 and that’s atrocious but he looks good in shorts and has ability as a punt returner. 

9. It’s going to be hard for Cody Kessler to win the backup job as the fourth quarterback. That was a big takeaway from today. First, Doug Pederson said these practices are a great chance for Nate Sudfeld to solidify the second-string job and then Kessler was working behind rookie fifth-rounder Clayton Thorson. To make matters worse for Kessler, Thorson looks pretty damn good. Just one day in, but he looks the part. 

10. I thought Sidney Jones looked good for Day 1. This will be a big season for him and he’s off to a good start, getting first-team reps because of injuries in front of him. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: The best moment of the practice was when Maddox made his great interception because all the DBs celebrated by dancing together and even Darby, who wasn’t practicing, ran on the field to join them. Fun moment. 

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Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

Predicting Eagles' 53-man roster after spring practices

The last time I predicted the Eagles’ 53-man roster was before OTAs and minicamp, so we have more to go on now. 

The Eagles had a total of 13 practices and reporters were allowed to watch seven of them. Based on what I’ve seen over the last several weeks, I’ve updated my prediction: 

Here is is: 

QB (3): Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson 

This didn’t change. Thorson didn’t have a very good spring, but I still think they’re going to use a roster spot on him. Over the last couple weeks, he’s looked overwhelmed and has made some poor decisions and equally poor throws, but he’s a fifth-round rookie. Unless he’s awful in training camp, I think this is his spot. 

TE (3): Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers 

No changes here either. These guys are pretty much cemented. Goedert had a tremendous spring. 

WR (6): Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins, Marken Michel  

I think these top four guys are still making it. I know Hollins still isn’t a full-go, but his ability on special teams keeps him around. Last time, I had them keeping five receivers, but I think there’s a chance they keep six. And I think there’s a better chance of them keeping an extra offensive player than a defensive player. Then, I gave this last spot to Michel, but there are plenty of candidates: Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, Charles Johnson. I think that’s a pretty talented group, talented enough that one of them will do enough to force the Eagles to keep six wideouts. 

OL (10): Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, Andre Dillard, Stefen Wisniewski, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata, Matt Pryor 

The only change from the last time is Wiz is back on here after being re-signed. That kicked Ryan Bates off the list, but he has a chance to stick as a practice squad player. I do wonder about Pryor’s job security. He was a sixth-rounder last year and they kept him on the roster all year, but with Big V’s emergence as a guard, there might be less of a use for Pryor, who they might be able to keep around on the practice squad. 

RB (4): Jordan Howard, Miles Sanders, Corey Clement, Boston Scott 

The big change here is Scott over Wendell Smallwood. No, I don’t think it’s really fair to compare Scott to Darren Sproles and I’m not on the hype train yet, but Scott had a good spring and might be a more complementary player than Smallwood or Josh Adams. And his ability as a punt returner is what might most help him make the team. 

DE (5): Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Vinny Curry, Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller

No changes here, although I do think Daeshon Hall might push for a job. I’ll need to see more from him when the pads go on. 

DT (5): Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, Tim Jernigan, Hassan Ridgeway, Treyvon Hester 

Last time, I had just four DTs, but keeping five makes sense and I was able to steal a spot from the cornerback group (more on that soon). Hester and Ridgeway might be competing for the same spot, but there’s a decent chance both are on the roster. 

LB (5): Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort, Zach Brown, Nate Gerry

I kept six last time because I wasn’t sure which player to remove. Sorry, Paul Worrilow. It’s not that he had a bad spring, but that knee injury did flare up and it’s starting to feel like all five of these guys are definitely going to be on the roster. 

CB (5): Ronald Darby, Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones, Cre’Von LeBlanc 

You’ll notice the omission of Jalen Mills, who is still coming back from a lengthy foot injury. While other recovering players have been working out on side fields, Mills has been noticeably absent and I’m beginning to wonder just how close he is. I heard a few weeks ago that he was expecting to be ready for training camp, but we’ll see. Until I see him doing something, I’m not ready to keep a roster spot for him. I don’t think the PUP is out of the question. 

S (4): Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, Andrew Sendejo, Tre Sullivan

Folks want to cut Sendejo to save a compensatory pick, but I don’t see it happening. Sendejo has been working as as starter as McLeod recovers, so I think he’s their third safety for now. Sendejo had a good offseason, so he would need to play poorly this summer to get cut. 

ST (3): Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, Rick Lovato 

Unless Kamu really applies himself to becoming a kicker, these three are set.

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3 Eagles land in PFF's top 50 NFL players going into 2019

3 Eagles land in PFF's top 50 NFL players going into 2019

There’s plenty of hype surrounding the Eagles this season and there should be. The Birds are coming off back-to-back playoff seasons and have a really talented roster. 

They also have three players on the ProFootballFocus’ list of top 50 players heading into the 2019 season.

(For reference, the Eagles had four players in their top 101 players from the 2018 season.)

In the top 50 list, the Cowboys also have three players (29. Travis Frederick, 32. DeMarcus Lawrence, 40. Zack Martin), the Giants have one (43. Saquon Barkley) and the Redskins don’t have any. Sorry, Washington. 

Let’s take a look at the Eagles on the list: 

41. Brandon Graham 

Here’s what they said: Sacks don’t tell the whole story for any player in the NFL, and no player epitomizes that more than Graham. He’s recorded double-digit sacks in PFF’s system only once (2017) but has been as consistent as they come from an overall pressure and pass-rush grade standpoint. He has recorded 45 or more pressures in six of his last seven seasons in the NFL and has earned 81.0-plus pass-rush grades in five of them.

My take: It’s true that sacks don’t tell the entire story, but Graham had just four last season. That’s too low. He was hampered by an ankle injury at the start of last season and it showed; he got off to a slow start. But Graham has been consistently disruptive over the past few years. He’s a very good player, but falls short of being great. I don’t know if he's a top-50 player, but it is nice to see his all-around game get recognized because his sack total has never officially gotten to double digits and he’s never made a Pro Bowl team. 

24. Jason Kelce

Here’s what they said: Kelce’s four-year overall grade (91.1) ranks fourth among the 94 interior offensive linemen with at least 2,000 offensive snaps played since 2015, and his 93.4 run-block grade ranks first among the same group of qualifiers. Most recently, Kelce earned a career-high 88.0 pass-blocking grade in addition to his 80.7 run-blocking grade in 2018. He also earned a 94.6 run-blocking grade throughout the Eagles’ Super Bowl run in 2017, a single-season mark that ranks first in the PFF era (2006-18) among qualifying centers and one that landed him PFF’s top run-blocker award in 2017.

My take: Kelce was the highest-ranked center on the list and the second-highest offensive lineman behind OT David Bakhtiari at No. 13. It’s high praise for Kelce, but he deserves it. He had a really good season in 2018 and has consistently been one of the top centers in the league for a while now. You can argue about whether or not he’s the best center in the league, but there’s no questioning whether or not he’s one of the best. With his football knowledge, Kelce keeps getting better despite being over 30 and despite all his injuries. He’s been an All-Pro the last two years, but hasn’t made the Pro Bowl in those seasons, which is an absolute joke. 

4. Fletcher Cox 

Here’s what they said: It’s a shame that Cox plays in the same league as Donald; he’d be the unanimous decision for top defensive interior if it weren’t for the Rams' superstar. Cox’s pass-rush win rate in 2018 (20.9 percent) is the fourth-best single-season mark of any defensive interior in the PFF era. And his 91.2 pass-rush grade this past season, another career high for the big man, also ranks inside the top 10 among qualifiers since 2006.

My take: The only players ranked higher than Cox were 1. Aaron Donald, 2. Tom Brady, 3. Bobby Wagner. That’s some impressive company, but it’s about time Cox gets his due. He’s a dominant player. Is he the fourth-best player in the league? I don’t know. What PFF does, ranking players regardless of position, is really tough. Is Cox better than Patrick Mahomes, who comes in at No. 6 or Drew Brees, who comes in at No. 5? I have a hard time saying he is. But that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Cox is an absolute wrecking ball. He’s gone to four consecutive Pro Bowls, but finally made his first All-Pro team in 2018. PFF is right, it’s a shame he’s playing in the same era as Donald, who is a future Hall of Famer. But it’s not just Donald; there have been plenty of other great interior lineman over the last few years — Gerald McCoy, Ndamukong Suh, Damon Harrison, Geno Atkins, Kyle Williams, Jurrell Casey. It has taken a long time for Cox to get his credit, but he really is one of the best players in the league. 

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