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.” 

More on Eagles

• Eagles know exactly when celebration will end

• Staley confirms Eagles will have lead running back

What's helping Mailata transition from rugby to NFL?

Does this move make Nick Foles to Jacksonville more likely?

USA Today Images

Does this move make Nick Foles to Jacksonville more likely?

The Jaguars were already one of the favorite teams to land Nick Foles this offseason. And that was before they brought in his former QBs coach. 

Now, John DeFilippo is heading to Jacksonville and it’s fair to wonder if Foles won’t be too far behind. 

Foles and DeFilippo weren’t together long in Philadelphia. Foles came back in 2017 so the two worked together for just one season, but that season ended with Foles holding the Super Bowl MVP trophy. DeFilippo was highly regarded by the Eagles and by the quarterbacks in his meeting room. 

This is what Foles said about DeFilippo late last season, when it became likely Flip would find a job elsewhere. 

He grinds. He puts us through some stuff, which is awesome. He's a great coach. I know he's focused on us right now, but I also know he's going to be a great head coach someday, and I'm excited for his opportunity.

DeFilippo, 40, might still be a head coach someday soon, but he’s going back to an OC position for now. He was the OC and play caller in Minnesota but was fired by head coach Mike Zimmer before the conclusion of the 2018 season. 

Even before the arrival of DeFilippo, the Jaguars were clearly in the mix to get Foles. 

The real question would be whether or not they’d be willing to part with draft picks to get Foles or if he’d simply be a guy they might want to sign if he becomes a free agent. 

The Eagles were able to get to an incredibly high level of play while DeFilippo was working with Foles, so it would make some sense for there to be a reunion in Jacksonville. It doesn’t mean this is where Foles will definitely end up, but there seems to be at least a little better chance after this move.

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

Nick Foles still the Eagles’ quarterback in alternate universe

AP Images

Nick Foles still the Eagles’ quarterback in alternate universe

In some parallel universe, Nick Foles and the Eagles just wrapped up their season in New Orleans — turns out the Saints are pretty good in that world, too. The difference in this alternate timeline are the questions Howie Roseman faced the Tuesday after.

“Do you think Nick has earned the right to be the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL with his next contract,” shouts a reporter.

“Are you afraid Nick could hold out if he doesn’t have a new contract before training camp,” barks another reporter.

The Eagles never drafted Carson Wentz. They didn’t need him. Foles received a contract extension from the team in 2015, and now it’s time to go back to the table.

Is it so crazy? Foles was 26 years old and amassed a 14-4 record as starter with a playoff appearance over the previous two seasons. He threw 29 touchdowns to two interceptions in 2013. Sure, he fell back to earth then got injured the following year, yet even at the time, there were people (ahem) making the case the Eagles should stick with Foles.

There lies the point of departure between the two worlds.

In our reality, Jeffrey Lurie gave Chip Kelly full control over personnel in 2015 and Foles was traded to the Rams, setting off the present series of events. But in the parallel universe, Kelly never assumed power, and Roseman gave Foles the type of low-risk extension quarterbacks such Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Tannehill and even Russell Wilson were signing around the same time. Kelly was still relieved of his head coaching duties the following season, still succeeded by Doug Pederson, and the Eagles still went on to win the first Super Bowl in franchise history, too.

Again, knowing what we do now, is any of that hard to believe? Were he given the chance years ago, the Eagles might just be Foles’ team today, with a new contract looming or possibly already signed.

But Wentz is here now. No matter how you feel about Foles, the Eagles are heavily invested in Wentz. He’s younger. He has a better arm. He’s more athletic. When healthy, Wentz is capable of doing things on a football field that only a handful of quarterbacks in the league could dream of doing. He’s more talented, period.

Foles deserves the opportunity to be a starter somewhere, and there was a time when he deserved that opportunity here. Unfortunately, difficult as it may be to let a Philly legend leave, that time has passed.

The moral of this tale: whatever concerns there are about Wentz’s ability to stay healthy or regain his MVP-caliber form, he deserves a proper opportunity to lead the Eagles — the one Foles never got.

If we learned anything at all from the Foles experience, it ought to be not to give up on a young, up-and-coming franchise quarterback too soon.

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