Eagles

10 things I can't wait to see at Eagles training camp

10 things I can't wait to see at Eagles training camp

My 32nd Eagles training camp starts Thursday. That’s eight at West Chester, 17 at Lehigh and now seven at the NovaCare Complex.

Over the next few weeks, some careers will come thudding to an end and others will take unexpected turns. 

Somebody we didn’t think had a chance will make the team. Someone else we thought was almost a lock won’t.

It’s always a fascinating time of year, as a 90-man roster drops down to 53.

So here are 10 things I’m looking forward to seeing as camp kicks into gear:

Carson to DeSean

Carson’s never had a receiver like DeSean and DeSean’s never had a quarterback like Carson, or at least not since he played with Donovan McNabb in 2008 and 2009. They clicked at a very high level on deep balls in OTAs. Can’t wait to see how they build on that during camp and into the season.

Miles Sanders vs. Jordan Howard

How far behind is Sanders after missing most of minicamp? How will the reps be distributed between the rookie second-round pick and the accomplished veteran? Where does Corey Clement fit in? The running back position is a fascinating one this summer.

What does Sproles have left? 

Now that Darren Sproles is back, it’s going to be interesting to see how much he has left and exactly how the Eagles plan to use him. Is he mainly a punt returner? How much does Doug plan to mix him in on offense? Sproles is 36 now and coming off two injury-plagued seasons. Only six running backs in NFL history 36 or older have had more than 102 yards from scrimmage in a season. It’s always fun having Sproles around, but there are a lot of questions surrounding him.

How will that second group of defensive ends develop? 

One of my biggest questions going into camp is what the Eagles have behind Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett. The Eagles are high on Josh Sweat, Vinny Curry can give you reps, Daeshon Hall is a former third-round pick who has half a career sack, Shareef Miller is a rookie and Joe Ostman is a guy Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson love but has no real track record. Going to be a wide-open competition here. Should be fun.

How does cornerback play out? 

There are countless ways the Eagles can line these guys up. A lot of it depends on who’s healthy, but I can’t wait to see the competition among Rasul Douglas, Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc.

Sorting out safety

Will be interesting to see how things evolve behind starters Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Andrew Sendejo had a strong spring, Blake Countess is a Howie Roseman favorite and we saw some promising things from Tre Sullivan the second half of last year.

What about receiver depth? 

Always interesting watching the second group of receivers. Veteran Charles Johnson, former CFL star Marken Michel and third-year pros Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson are all in the mix here. I think CJ2 has a real good shot.

Sorting out linebacker depth

Is Nate Gerry more than just a special teamer? Where do L.J. Fort and Paul Worrilow fit in? Can undrafted rookie T.J. Edwards compete? Lots of questions here.

How does Nate Sudfeld look? 

I don’t see any reason Carson Wentz can’t stay healthy for a full season, but the reality is he hasn’t done it the last two years, and the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback has made it through 16 starts just five times in the last 28 years (McNabb in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2008 and Wentz in 2016). With Nick Foles in Jacksonville, a lot of eyes will be on Sudfeld at camp. How will he respond?

How will the new coaches do? 

Philip Daniels is the Eagles’ third defensive line coach in five years and Carson Walch is the fifth receivers coach in five years. Curious to see how both fit in with their new roles, both coaching some accomplished veterans and promising youngsters.

Can JJ Arcega-Whiteside elbow his way into the WR mix? 

You figure there won’t be many receiver reps to go around with Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and DeSean Jackson. But Arcega-Whiteside was so impressive in OTAs I think Doug has to find a role for him, especially at the goal-line. Can’t wait to see if he can build on the promise he showed in the spring over the next few weeks. 

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Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey dies after battle with coronavirus

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey dies after battle with coronavirus

Former Eagles kicker Tom Dempsey died on Saturday of complications from the coronavirus. Dempsey was 73.

Dempsey contracted the coronavirus in March at the Lambeth House, a retirement home in New Orleans, and is one of at least 15 residents to die from the virus, according to The Times-Picayune.

Dempsey was an Eagle from 1971-1974, but also played for the Saints, Rams, Oilers and Bills.

Born without fingers on his right hand and toes on his right foot, Dempsey was known for his small flat kicking shoe. That shoe now resides in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“Tom's life spoke directly to the power of the human spirit and exemplified his resolute determination to not allow setbacks to impede following his dreams and aspirations,” Saints owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “He exemplified the same fight and fortitude in recent years as he battled valiantly against illnesses but never wavered and kept his trademark sense of humor. He holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Saints family."

The year before he joined the Eagles, Dempsey gained fame by kicking a 63-yard field goal to give the Saints a last-second 19-17 win over the Lions at Tulane Stadium in 1970. It broke the previous NFL record for longest field goal by 7 yards.

That was the NFL record for 43 years until Matt Prater hit a 64-yarder in 2013. Others had tied the record but it took over four decades to beat it.

In his four seasons with the Eagles, for whom he played the longest, Dempsey kicked in 47 games and made 66 of 108 field goals (61.1%). He also made 84 of 90 point-after attempts. Dempsey is 18th on the Eagles’ list of all-time scorers with 282 points.

Dempsey retired to New Orleans where he began his NFL career as an undrafted free agent in 1969. He had been battling dementia since 2012. 

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Darius Slay explains why he’s wearing 24 to honor Kobe Bryant

Darius Slay explains why he’s wearing 24 to honor Kobe Bryant

You can still hear the giddiness in Darius Slay’s voice when he talks about Dec. 6, 2015. 

That was a special day for the Eagles’ new cornerback. 

That was the day he met the Kobe Bryant. 

The meeting between the late NBA superstar and the then-third-year NFL pro came after a Lakers-Pistons game at The Palace of Auburn Hills during the 2015 season. It’s a day and a moment Slay will never forget, getting the chance to meet his favorite basketball player and a personal idol. 

And now with the Eagles, Slay will honor Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, by wearing the No. 24 for the football team Bryant loved. 

“I was surprised that he even knew me,” Slay said. “I don’t know if the people told him, ‘You got Darius Slay out there waiting on you from the Detroit Lions’ or gave him a pre-talk about me or something. I don’t know. 

“But the fact that he came around the corner and (there) was like 20 to 30 reporters waiting on him, he kind of walked past all the reporters, everybody and came directly to me, like, ‘What’s up Slay? I love your game, man.’ He was talking about my style of play and we just chopped it up for a minute.”

Slay said he was so in shock that day he barely had any words to speak but he was able to hold a short conversation. Then Slay got Kobe’s autograph and they took a few photos together, including this one: 

Slay previously wore No. 23 in Detroit but that number is occupied by Rodney McLeod with the Eagles. And Jordan Howard, who wore 24 last year, left for Miami as a free agent. So things lined up perfectly for Slay to take the second of Kobe’s two retired numbers. 

When Bryant died in January, it became even more apparent how much he meant to his fellow athletes. When Bryant visited the Eagles in LA during the 2017 season, there was a similar giddiness with them. There’s a really good chance that Bryant was your favorite athlete’s favorite athlete. 

“I just love how much he competed,” Slay said. “He was a true competitor. He worked on his craft. I believe the work you put in is [what] you get out of it.” 

Slay said he also really admired that Bryant was always willing to seek out answers from others, most notably Michael Jordan. Even though Bryant was constantly being compared to Jordan, he was never hesitant to pick Jordan’s brain. 

Similarly, Slay said he loves talking to other cornerbacks and asking advice. He doesn’t care who that cornerback is; if he has a question about their technique or facing a particular receiver, he’s going to ask. 

“It’s just the part about doing anything and be willing to do anything to be good and be great,” Slay said. “That’s why I took out a lot of stuff that he did and that’s what I’ll continue to keep doing.”

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