Eagles

Eagles mailbag: 1 open practice, breakout player, Mack Hollins

Eagles mailbag: 1 open practice, breakout player, Mack Hollins

We have officially entered the NFL’s dead period. It’s really one of the only times during the year when there’s not much NFL action. Sure, there are some signings and some news breaks, but teams are off until training camps begin. 

The Eagles will report to training camp on July 24 before their first practice on July 25. 

With some time to spare, let’s answer your questions: 


First, I want to make sure everyone knows I do not run the Philadelphia Eagles and this was not MY decision. Because if I ran the Eagles, there’s no way I’d do this. 

If you haven’t heard, the Eagles will have just one open training camp practice for fans at the Linc this summer. They are charging $10 per ticket and that money goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, which is an absolutely great cause. But this isn’t the way to raise money for that great cause. 

I totally understand the outrage and frustration for fans. For me, the biggest issue isn’t the $10, it’s limiting the amount of open practices. It wasn’t that long ago that you could watch nearly 20 practices for free at Lehigh and the first year they held camp back in Philly, they still at least had four. To have one open practice is just unforgivable. It’s hard to get to an NFL game and it’s equally as hard to pay for it. So training camp has offered a way for fans to get close to their favorite football team for decades. How many people do you know who have a special story from Lehigh or West Chester? I get those days are long gone and I understand why. The positives of having camp at your own facilities outweigh the positives of the team-bonding experience away from the city. 

But why can’t the Eagles at least have one more open practice? We haven’t gotten a good reason yet. 

My biggest issue with the news is the limited access, but the $10 isn’t great either. I know it’s for charity, but a free family event has now turned into something that will cost over $50 for a family of five. It’s so hard for families to afford anything involved with the NFL and training camp was, to me, kind of like a sacred thing. It sort of feels like the Eagles knew they wouldn’t face as much backlash by making it for charity, but this still isn’t right. 

I don’t believe Gibson’s injury is serious. He was healthy enough to watch practice on the sideline and didn’t appear to be very hurt. I’d expect him to be ready for training camp. 

But has he really made great strides? I haven’t seen that. I know he had a good spring and summer last year, but that success didn’t really translate into the season in 2018. He had one catch last year. It was a 48-yarder, but just one. In his first two years, he has three catches for 59 yards. That’s almost nonexistent offensive production. And think about how desperately the Eagles needed a deep threat last year after Mike Wallace went down early. And still, Gibson played double digits in snaps just once all season. 

The biggest thing Gibson has going for him is his ability as a gunner on special teams. He’s been able to carve out a niche there, but he’s definitely fighting for a roster spot this summer. I don’t think he has one locked up. 

He is! And I captured proof during minicamp! 

I guess I’ll use this space to talk about Hollins. It was a good sign to see Hollins return to practice, even if he was just limited during minicamp. If he is trending the right way, he’ll be able to be a full participant at camp and then theoretically make the roster as the fifth receiver. He needs to stay healthy, but that should be his job to lose. Unlike Gibson, we’ve actually seen Hollins have some success. He had 16 catches for 226 yards and a touchdown as a rookie and it’s a shame he lost his entire second season. Aside from his ability as a receiver, he’s a good special teamer, which is important for those last couple receivers on the depth chart. 

Hollins hasn’t talked to reporters — at least in an official capacity — since about a week before the 2018 season, when he said he was ready to go. Then he missed the entire season. The mystery around his injuries has made his name a joke over the last year and that’s a shame too, because if he can stay healthy, I think he could have a role on this team. 

My pick is Derek Barnett. And the Eagles could really use it. 

One thing we know is as long as Barnett is healthy, he’s going to have a ton of opportunity. He’s going to be a starter and with the addition of Malik Jackson as a pass-rushing DT and the loss of Chris Long and Michael Bennett, it looks like Barnett could really be a three-down player. 

I actually think there was a good chance Barnett was on his way to a breakout season last year before injury. His stats don’t look great; he had just 2 1/2 sacks in six games, but he suffered his shoulder injury in the Tennessee game and tried to play through it in the next two games. So, really, he had 2 1/2 sacks in his first four games. Actually, he had 2 1/2 sacks in back-to-back games against the Colts and Titans, so it seemed like he was getting hot. It’s Year 3 for Barnett in 2019 and the Eagles are expecting — and really need — him to have a big season. 

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"He needs to be a double-digit [sacks] guy in order for this defense to really work the way it's supposed to work," according to NBC Sports Philadelphia's Barrett Brooks.

Brooks and Derrick Gunn discuss why Graham comes in eighth on their list of the 10 most important Eagles in the video above. 

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While many Eagles fans have mixed emotions about Donovan McNabb and his tenure as a Philadelphia Eagle, that feeling is not mutual. 

In town Thursday to meet kids at the Salvation Army Kroc Center in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, McNabb told me that it’s all happy when he reflects on his time with the Eagles.

“I don’t get involved in the banter outside, the negative or people’s opinions," he said. "It was fulfilling a dream of playing football. And I have four kids of my own who were a part of the run we had here in Philadelphia so it was fun — it was a lot of fun.”

As for this year’s Eagles team, McNabb believes this squad can get to the Super Bowl, and he feels that everything begins and ends with Carson Wentz and his health. But it comes as no surprise that the former quarterback picked the guys who protect Wentz as most important to the Eagles' success outside of the signal caller.

“I think that offensive line has to gel like they were a couple years ago and take pressure off of Carson," McNabb said.

And yes, Philly fans, Five will always love you … and laugh with you. 

“I truly love what the fans have done for me and the support that I’ve had through my career," he said. "Sometimes you have your opinionated fans and that motivates and drives me, to this day. I laughed about it now and I laughed about it then.”

Fans will have a chance to chuckle with McNabb this fall when he’s inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on November 7.

You can watch more of my interview with McNabb above.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles