Eagles

Eagles minicamp observations, Day 1: Darren Sproles, baby

Eagles minicamp observations, Day 1: Darren Sproles, baby

The Eagles were back at practice on Tuesday and the whole gang was there. 

Every Eagles player who was healthy enough to be on the practice field today was there, including Michael Bennett and Darren Sproles. 

The Eagles cut their practice a little short but not before getting plenty of competitive work in. Let’s start with a couple of anticipated new arrivals:

1. Mighty Mouse was back after skipping the OTAs. The 34-year-old Sproles says he’s 100 percent but coaches are being cautious with him. That explains why he didn’t get a whole lot of reps in his first practice back. 

But what we did see from Sproles wasn’t surprising. He’s still a physical freak. He didn’t do much, but he still obviously has his quickness. 

The most telling thing about Sproles is how he’s already being a leader for his teammates. First day back and even though he wasn’t fielding punts, he was running with the returners and then giving them tips as they waited in line to get their turn. On Monday, Duce Staley said there’s no question: Sproles is the leader of the running back room. 

And while we’re at it, we have seen the same thing from Jason Peters. For some reason, he helped break down the huddle for the third-team offense once and walked across two fields talking with rookie Jordan Mailata (the rugby project). 

Sproles and Peters are still expected to play at a really high level this year, but they bring more than that. 

2. Bennett made his Eagles practice debut. Before the session, head coach Doug Pederson said Bennett would be worked in with the first team over this minicamp, but he wasn’t with the ones today. 

Instead, Bennett was the left defensive end with the second team, while Chris Long and Derek Barnett worked with the starters. That doesn’t mean much yet, but it’s at least a starting point (see story)

Couldn’t see much from Bennett in one practice, but watching him during individual drills, the thing that did stand out were his hands. They looked violent. 

3. As always, I took attendance at practice. Alshon Jeffery was there, but is still not ready to practice. Brandon Graham (ankle) and Tim Jernigan (back) weren’t out there either. 

Sidney Jones missed practice after already missing some time last week. In the locker room, Jones said he’s doing OK, but is being held out with soreness. Haloti Ngata, Chris Maragos, LaRoy Reynolds and Josh Adams were out there, but not participating.  

4. The good news for Donnel Pumphrey was that he was back at practice after missing the last couple of days in OTAs. He needs every possible opportunity to try to prove his worth and he can’t do it on the sideline. He did show a little flash today. He caught a screen pass in the flat and made a quick and impressive move. A long way to go, but I’m interested to see what this kid does in the summer. 

5. Carson Wentz update time: He looks good. 

Still not involved in 11-on-11s, but he’s getting reps in 7-on-7s and individual drills. He had an up-and-down day as a passer, but at least he looks healthy. That’s the most important thing. 

6. The best offensive play of the day came from Wentz. Down in the red zone, the quarterback rocketed a ball into a tight window to a diving Nelson Agholor in the end zone. He beat an outstretched Ronald Darby. It was a great play all around. 

7. The second-best offensive play of the day came in 7-on-7s, when Nate Sudfeld dropped a beautiful deep ball into Dallas Goedert’s arms for a touchdown. It was a perfect pass over linebacker Asantay Brown, but give credit to Goedert too. He just seems to be able to get open. He made a handful of impressive plays today. 

8. Rough day for rookie corner Avonte Maddox. He was beaten twice in three plays for big gains. First by Markus Wheaton and then by Bryce Treggs. He’s going to take his lumps this offseason, but the Eagles don’t need to rely on him this season. 

9. Poor Darby got crushed on a screen pass when Jason Kelce got downfield to block. Darby is listed at 193 pounds, so Kelce has 102 pounds on him. It showed. The center completely obliterated the speedy corner. These aren’t contact drills, but it’s hard to slow down 295 pounds getting out front to block. 

Despite those last two plays, the defense won the day, although the offense rebounded from a really rough start. 

10. Still need to see more, but I’ve been impressed by Wheaton so far. He has looked good this spring and made a few more catches today. Now, it’s important to remember that he’s a veteran oftentimes going against more inexperienced players, but he’s already shown glimpses of being the player he was before injuries derailed his career. The good thing for Wheaton and the Eagles is that he isn’t needed to be a big part of the offense, but as a fifth receiver, he can give the Eagles some incredible depth. 

Remember, it was just a couple years ago that receiver was a sore spot for the Eagles. Now, they’re really deep with Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Wheaton, Shelton Gibson, etc. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: This one came from our own Andrew Kulp as we watched impressively-fit punter Cameron Johnston boot a few: “I never realized this, but the punter is jacked.” 

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What's helping Mailata transition from rugby to NFL?

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on newest Eagles coach Marquand Manuel, LeSean McCoy's Hall of Fame case, more in Roob's 10 observations

Thoughts on the Eagles’ new secondary coach, LeSean McCoy’s Hall of Fame case and an unbelievable stat about Lito Sheppard and Michael Lewis.

All that and so much more in this weekend’s edition of Roob’s random offseason Eagles observations! 

1. OK, it’s been 18 days since the Eagles fired Mike Groh, and they still don’t have an offensive coordinator. Senior Bowl week is over, the combine is only a few weeks away and free agency starts in less than two months. Of the 10 teams with an OC vacancy, the Eagles are the only one that hasn’t hired anybody. A couple thoughts: 1) Maybe the guy Doug Pederson is going to hire is already in place. Internal candidates Duce Staley and Press Taylor were both at the Senior Bowl practices. Maybe the Eagles are just waiting until the entire staff is complete to announce everything. I doubt it, but it’s possible. 2) Maybe Doug has decided not to hire an offensive coordinator and just do the job himself with his position coaches. I doubt that too, but it’s possible. 3) Otherwise, it has to be Jim Caldwell, right? As long as he’s healthy. By far the most impressive remaining outside candidate. Caldwell was QBs coach of the Colts when they won the Super Bowl and offensive coordinator of the Ravens when they won the Super Bowl. If Doug wants a veteran QB guru for the job, this is a no-brainer. Get it done.

2. I do like the Marquand Manuel hire. I like that he’s been a defensive coordinator on the NFL level, I like that he’s coached in a Super Bowl, I like that he played in the NFL for eight years and I like that he’s got a little background with Jim Schwartz — he played for Schwartz in Detroit in 2009 — but still brings a fresh voice to the coach’s room. He’s got his work cut out for him. Getting Sidney Jones on track is priority No. 1. But the Eagles’ secondary as a whole is going to look very different in 2020, and the Eagles needed a capable veteran voice to bring it all together and make it work. He looks like the guy to do it.

3. The last Eagles defensive players to make a Pro Bowl before their 25th birthday were Lewis and Sheppard in 2004. Since then, 94 defensive players league-wide have made a Pro Bowl before they turned 25. 

4. How many QBs would you rather have right now than Carson Wentz? First I’m going to eliminate anybody in their 30s — Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, all those guys. Who does that leave? You’d rather have Pat Mahomes than anybody, but beyond that? Lamar Jackson? Brilliant talent but I wonder how sustainable his style of play is. Dak Prescott? No thanks. Jimmy Garoppolo? Nope. Deshaun Watson? You can make a case, but I’d take Wentz. Jared Goff? Kyler Murray? Daniel Jones? Nah. The injuries are frustrating but no doubt in my mind that despite everything the Eagles have the right QB to build around. 

5. I wonder if the Super Bowl will be McCoy’s final game. He had a nice first half of the season and showed he has something left, but since Damien Williams’ emergence, he’s barely played and doesn’t even have a carry since mid-December. Shady’s a free agent after the Super Bowl and turns 32 this summer, an age where few running backs are still going. Shady’s the only player in NFL history with 11,000 rushing yards, a 4.5 rushing average and 500 catches. Hall of Famer if he retires now? Probably not quite. But one hell of a career.

6. Curious note about McCoy: He’s never had a carry in a postseason victory. The Eagles were 0-3 in the playoffs with McCoy in uniform and the Bills were 0-1. He didn’t have a carry in the Chiefs’ win over the Texans and was inactive for the win over the Titans. 

7. In Eagles history, Jordan Matthews has the most receiving yards after three seasons and Shady has the most rushing yards after three seasons. One of them will win a Super Bowl ring next Sunday. Both will probably be inactive.

8. Chiefs GM Brett Veach is a remarkable story. He grew up in Mt. Carmel, between Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre, starred at Mt. Carmel High School, played with Matt Nagy at Delaware and was on track to work in Delaware’s athletic department after college when he landed an internship with the Eagles in the summer of 2004. With his work ethic and uncanny eye for talent, he worked his way up the ladder. When Andy Reid asked him to find a wide receiver the Eagles could take in the second round in 2008, Veach recommended DeSean Jackson, even though he was coming off a poor season. When Reid was hired by the Chiefs in 2013, he brought Veach with him. In 2015, Veach was watching film of Texas Tech offensive lineman Le’Raven Clark and Tech’s unheralded QB kept jumping out at him, and Veach knew even then Mahomes was something special, and in 2017 they traded up for him. Mahomes is now the best QB in the NFL, an MVP and one win from a Super Bowl. In span of 10 years, Veach went from interning in the Eagles’ scouting office to drafting Pat Mahomes.  

9. This is kind of a strange one, but Boston Scott this year became only the seventh player in NFL history with 85 or fewer touches but at least five rushing TDs and 20 catches. The dude definitely made the most of his limited workload.

10. I used to think Harold Carmichael’s franchise record of 589 catches was untouchable. Only seven Eagles even reached 300 during the 30-year period from 1985 through 2015, and only Brian Westbrook got over 400. But Zach Ertz will go into 2020 just 64 catches behind Harold, and at his rate of 5.8 catches per game over the last five years he’ll pass him somewhere around Week 12 if he stays healthy. Harold will go into the Hall of Fame in September and have his most hallowed record broken in November. And knowing Harold, nobody will be happier for Ertz.

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Eagles have reportedly hired Marquand Manuel as the new secondary coach

Eagles have reportedly hired Marquand Manuel as the new secondary coach

Marquand Manuel is the Eagles’ new secondary coach, according to a tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

The 40-year-old Manuel replaces Cory Undlin, who had served in that role since 2015, first under Chip Kelly and the last four years under Doug Pederson. Undlin was named Lions defensive coordinator two weeks ago.

Manuel and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz go back a ways. Manuel played for the Lions in 2009 when Schwartz was their head coach.

Manuel was not in the NFL this past year. He spent the previous four years under Dan Quinn with the Falcons, two years as secondary coach and two years as defensive coordinator before getting fired following the 2018 season.

The Falcons reached the Super Bowl in his second year in Atlanta, losing to the Patriots in Houston.

Before Atlanta, Manuel spent three years working under Quinn with the Seahawks, holding a variety of titles on the defensive staff.

Manuel, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, was the Bengals’ 6th-round pick in 2002 and spent eight years as a safety in the NFL with six different teams — the Bengals, Seahawks, Packers, Panthers, Broncos and Lions.

He played in 116 games, starting 58, with two interceptions and a pick-6 while he was with the Packers in 2006 off Jon Kitna of the Lions.

The Eagles also reportedly interviewed Browns defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker for the position.

The Eagles already have a safeties coach on the staff, former Eagle Tim Hauck. He was Pederson's teammate with the Eagles in 1999 and has been on Pederson's staff since 2016.

Quinn had this to say about Manuel on the Falcons’ web site back in 2018:

From the time I've met him from now, one thing that's cool to see that has stayed consistent is the energy and enthusiasm he has for players. He made the transition from player to coach really seamlessly because he knew the boundaries of coach, but he also stepped across to say, I can push you. That's not easy to do. He's always had mental quickness of a quarterback or someone who gets concepts really quickly. That transferred into this coaching fast. He can communicate concepts and ideas quickly to people on the run, in the moment, that's a really valuable asset as a coach.

The Eagles still have openings to replace the three assistant coaches Doug Pederson fired: offensive coordinator Mike Groh, wide receivers coach Carson Walch and defensive line coach Phillip Daniels.

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More on the Eagles