10 observations from Eagles OTAs: Carson Wentz shows off arm strength

10 observations from Eagles OTAs: Carson Wentz shows off arm strength

Despite the threat of rain, the Eagles worked outside on Tuesday and were lucky: Drops never fell during the hour and a half practice. 

Here are 10 observations from the fourth practice (second open to reporters) of OTAs: 

1. We’ve spent so much time over the last couple years talking about Carson Wentz’s knee and his back. Let’s talk about his right arm. Because he has an absolute cannon and it was on full display today. He fired several passes into tight windows. Those are just throws that not a lot of guys in the world can make. 

It’s hard to pick his best throw of the day, but he did hit DeSean Jackson perfectly in stride on a post to beat Avonte Maddox, who actually had tight coverage. Just before that, he hit Zach Ertz with a beautiful touch pass. Earlier in the practice, he threaded a pass to Jordan Howard. 

It’s still just May, but Wentz looks good. He doesn’t look like his knee or back are bothering him. He’ll need to prove he can stay healthy, but this could be the beginning of a great season for No. 11. 

2. Let’s do attendance. I didn’t see the following players at practice: Mack Hollins, Alshon Jeffery, Malcolm Jenkins, Corey Clement, Jalen Mills, Paul Worrilow, Nigel Bradham, Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Brandon Brooks, Fletcher Cox. 

• Rodney McLeod and Miles Sanders were at practice but were just watching. Sanders wasn’t practicing last Tuesday either. Not a great start for the rookie running back, who did participate in rookie camp after the draft. 

• Linebacker Zach Brown was at practice but also not participating. He was not on the field at all last Tuesday when the voluntary OTAs began. 

• Nate Gerry and Derek Barnett were at practice, but didn’t participate in team drills. Gerry’s injury is unknown, but Barnett is still coming back from his shoulder surgery during last season. No need to rush him. 

• Josh Adams, who had shoulder surgery this offseason, was practicing. He was off to the side last week. 

3. The Eagles’ cornerback situation was a little different today than it was last Tuesday. In first-team nickel, Rasul Douglas was outside and Sidney Jones was in the slot. Jones played some outside and inside today. Expect Jim Schwartz to tinker with lineup combinations all spring and summer. They did that last year with even less depth. The second-team corners were Josh Hawkins and Jeremiah McKinnon outside and Cre’Von LeBlanc in the slot. 

Another defensive depth chart observation: Without Worrilow or Gerry, the Eagles had Kamu Grugier-Hill, L.J. Fort and Alex Singleton as their base LBs. 

4. The Eagles’ first-team offensive line remained the same: Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata. Stefen Wisniewski took some first team reps at center to give Kelce a breather. 

5. One of the most action-packed plays of the day came when Vinny Curry tossed aside offensive tackle Tyreek Burwell to pick up what would have been a sack. (The play before, Curry blew up a run.) But since there was no whistle, Clayton Thorson threw up a deep jump ball that was caught by rookie wideout Carlton Agudosi over Maddox. Agudosi is 6-6 and Maddox is 5-9. 

6. The first-team defense had been shutting down the first-team offense in a red zone drill until Wentz threw a perfect back-shoulder ball to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for a touchdown. Sidney Jones offered tight coverage on the play, but he had no chance. This was our first chance to see Arcega-Whiteside show off his body control and focus, two defining characteristics of the second-round pick. He might not get a ton of playing time this season, but it would make sense for the Eagles to utilize him in the red zone. 

7. Jackson worked in as a punt returner today, which certainly brings back memories. I’m not sure if he’ll hold that role permanently for the Eagles; he is 32 now. But it is possible they’ll throw him back there in big situations. 

While this one was in the air, he commented on punter Cameron Johnston’s leg strength. 

8. Nate Sudfeld made two impressive throws for touchdowns in red zone drills. One went to Richard Rodgers in the back left corner and the other went to Dallas Goedert in the back center part of the end zone. He didn’t have a great day otherwise, but these plays saved it. 

Third-string QB Clayton Thorson also showed off his arm on a deep pass to Braxton Miller. The ball fell incomplete but it looked like Miller slowed down unnecessarily. Maybe he didn’t think Thorson could rifle it into the wind like that. He’ll know for next time. 

9. The Eagles ran a flea flicker today. Wentz to Boston Scott to Wentz to Nelson Agholor down the field. Agholor made a few impressive catches on Tuesday. This wasn’t necessarily one of them, but he did have one that he caught with his fingertips and a one-hander that forced him to turn around his whole body. 

10. Josh Perkins jumped offsides on a hard count and was tossed out of the huddle, replaced by Dallas Goedert. Coaches never have time for a mental mistake like that. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: It looks like DeSean already has a celebratory handshake with Carson Wentz and one with Nelson Agholor. 

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Eagles reportedly 'intend to sign' running back Jay Ajayi

Eagles reportedly 'intend to sign' running back Jay Ajayi

Jay Ajayi was indeed in the NovaCare Complex on Friday morning for a workout and it apparently went well. 

According to a report, the Eagles “intend to sign” Ajayi. 

Not sure what kind of negotiations are going on for a running back coming off an ACL surgery with already questionable knees, who was available in mid-November, but apparently, those negotiations are ongoing. I’d imagine it won’t take long for Ajayi to sign. 

On Friday morning, we learned why the Eagles were interested in Ajayi. Darren Sproles is out for the year and Jordan Howard has a stinger and hasn’t yet been cleared for contact.

That left Miles Sanders and Boston Scott as the only healthy running backs on the roster. Sanders is the only healthy running back from the original 53-man roster. 

Earlier this morning, Pederson confirmed that Ajayi was in the building. 

“We'll see where he’s at physically, see where he is health-wise,” he said.

Apparently, Ajayi’s knee checked out. 

It’s hard to believe, but Ajayi is still just 26. He’s coming off an ACL tear last season and he already had issues with his knees, which is the easiest explanation for why he’s unsigned in November. 

Because during his career, Ajayi has been a really good player. He has a career yards-per-carry average of 4.5 and was very good for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run in 2017 and even the first quarter of the 2018 season. 

During last season, Ajayi wasn’t shy about how important the contract season was for him. He wanted to earn a big contract somewhere, but that was derailed by the ACL injury. 

The Eagles initially picked up Ajayi for a fourth-round pick at the 2017 trade deadline. Before that deal, there were questions about Ajayi’s locker room presence, but he ended up being a great fit in Philly and helped seal a Super Bowl title. 

It’s also important to remember that Ajayi hasn’t played in over a year. He tore his ACL on Oct. 7 last season. He probably won’t be able to carry a heavy workload early or perhaps ever again, but the Eagles obviously think he might have something left. 

Out for the year, Darren Sproles a reminder that sentimentality has no place in NFL

Out for the year, Darren Sproles a reminder that sentimentality has no place in NFL

Darren Sproles’ season and possibly his career are ending in a way he desperately wanted to avoid. 

On the shelf. 

The Eagles announced on Friday that their 36-year-old running back/returner suffered a torn right hip flexor and is done for the season. It seems likely this is an unfortunate end to what was a remarkable career. 

It’s also the latest reminder that sentimentally truly has no place in a sport as barbaric and cruel as football. 

The Eagles fell into that trap when they brought back Sproles in July. And, as clichéd as it is, Father Time is still undefeated. 

The fact is, that after Sproles struggled to stay on the field in 2017 and 2018, the Eagles should have been a little more wary about bringing him back to do it again in 2019. They never were. And in his final three NFL seasons, Sproles missed a total of 36 regular season and playoff games. 

But Doug Pederson is loyal. Sometimes, he’s loyal to a fault. 

And Sproles didn’t want his career to end on a bad note, not after 2017, not after 2018. Pederson never wavered either; if Sproles wanted to return, he’d have a spot for him. 

Really, Sproles is just one piece of an even bigger problem from this offseason. The Eagles were relying on Sproles (age 36), DeSean Jackson (age 32) and Jason Peters (age 37). Sproles and Jackson have now had major injuries and Peters has missed the last month after getting a knee scope. 

Sure, it’s easier to find the problem in hindsight. But even back then, it was fair to question moves to bring in/back older players. 

“I would do it again. I would do it again,” Pederson said on Friday morning. “With all three of those guys, I would do it again. These are great players and these are great leaders, these are great teammates. Been a part of this organization for a long time, so I would make the same decision again. I think you can’t go into it blind, obviously. We know where they are in their careers, as we talked about, and that’s something you have to consider.”

Earlier this season, Sproles eclipsed Tim Brown to move into fifth place all-time in NFL all-purpose yards. It was something he cared about.  

1. Jerry Rice: 23,546
2. Brian Mitchell: 23,330
3. Walter Payton: 21,803
4. Emmitt Smith: 21, 564
5. Darren Sproles: 19,696

That’s some impressive company for Sproles, who had a tremendous career, especially for a guy who stands at 5-foot-6. He was one of the most electric players in the league from the moment he was drafted in 2005. 

And he was great in Philadelphia. He made his only three Pro Bowls with the Eagles in 2014, 2015 and 2016. But since then, injuries took over and his age didn’t help. 

Sproles had an all-time great career. He and the Eagles just tried to hold on to it for a little too long. 

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