Eagles OTA observations: Wentz does more, standout players

Eagles OTA observations: Wentz does more, standout players

While plenty of folks outside the hedged fences of the NovaCare Complex are still talking about the White House visit that wasn’t, the Eagles are trying to get back to life as usual. 

On Wednesday morning, that meant taking the field for another OTA practice. Their ninth of 10. It was open to reporters. 

Here are 10 observations: 

1. Michael Bennett and Darren Sproles are still not at OTAs. They’re expected to show up next week for the Eagles’ mandatory minicamp. Fletcher Cox and Nigel Bradham were also missing Wednesday; no reason yet from the Eagles. 

The following players were at practice but did not participate, presumably for injury or maintenance reasons: Haloti Ngata, Sidney Jones, Donnel Pumphrey, Josh Adams, Joe Walker, LaRoy Reynolds, Ryan Neal and Marquess Wilson. 

2. Missing practice for Donnel Pumphrey simply can’t be a good thing for the second-year running back. After a terrible spring and summer a year ago, Pumphrey really has to prove himself if he wants to try to stick with the Eagles. Can’t do that from the sideline. 

3. The Eagles did some new position drills. The receivers used cattle shoots, normally reserved for running backs to work on leverage, to keep them low in and out of their breaks. 

And then the quarterbacks did drills in the pocket while they had giant rubber balls rolled toward them. The focus had to be about standing in the pocket and delivering a throw as that pocket collapses. 

4. Carson Wentz did indeed participate in more today than we’ve seen from him before (see story). Today, he did 4-on-4 drills and later 7-on-7s. During those 7-on-7 drills, he completed two consecutive passes to his favorite target, Zach Ertz. 

5. Speaking of tight ends, rookie Dallas Goedert caught two touchdowns from Nick Foles when the team did some red zone work. That might be a sign to come if it’s a glimpse into the Eagles’ plans for the young tight end. The Eagles have Alshon Jeffery and Ertz, who both warrant a lot of attention near the goal line. That could give Goedert a chance to catch some touchdowns in his first NFL season. 

6. Nate Sudfeld threw the pass of the day during 11-on-11 drills. It was a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline that was brought in by a streaking Shelton Gibson. Sudfeld tossed a few dimes today. 

7. With Sidney Jones’ not practicing, De’Vante Bausby made the most of his opportunity. The young cornerback has been turning heads all spring and might have had his best day to date. He picked off two passes (he probably would have drawn a DPI on one, to be fair) and swatted another back in Foles’ face. Eventually, it’s probably going to be hard to keep Jones off the field, but keep an eye on Bausby. The hype seems real.  

8. While we’re on the topic of hype, I have my nominee for this year’s Na Brown Training Camp Hero Award. I think undrafted wide receiver Tim Wilson can be that guy. The former Radnor receiver, who went undrafted out of East Stroudsburg, continues to look pretty good. He’s not incredibly athletic or fast, but he works hard, has good hands and seems to compete. He has all the makings of a training camp superstar fans will love. 

9. Rasul Douglas is a skilled trash talker, which is a good thing. The Eagles are coming off a Super Bowl, so they’ll use any kind of edge they can in practice. Sometimes, it’s good to have guys to stir the pot in practice. After Bryce Treggs caught a pass over the middle, Douglas yelled to him from the sideline, telling him he didn’t think he’d survive that hit in a real game. 

10. Rashard Davis made the catch of the day. The 5-foot-9 receiver settled into a zone and needed to rise up to make a catch between two defenders on a ball that sailed a little on Nick Foles. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: The Eagles’ playlist was almost all country music at Wednesday’s practice. That’s unusual. Normally, they’ll toss a country song in the mix, but not exclusively country. 

Without desperate needs, look for Eagles to play long game in this NFL draft

Without desperate needs, look for Eagles to play long game in this NFL draft

If the Eagles draft a lineman early in the 2019 draft and then everything goes perfectly with the guys who are already on the roster, that rookie might not play much or at all in his first NFL season.

The Eagles would be OK with that. 

And that goes for any position where the Eagles don’t have immediate, desperate needs. By design, there are many.  

See, the Birds tried their best to fill the holes in their roster during free agency. Now, they enter the draft Thursday feeling pretty free. They’re not beholden to any particularly dire draft needs, which should help them avoid an unnecessary reach when they’re on the clock at 25. It’s a sound plan to avoid a dangerous temptation. 

“That’s one of the things that’s exciting with where we are right now,” Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said last week. “We could go play right now and we think we’re a pretty good team.”

Roseman insists the Eagles are completely focused on the long-term welfare of the franchise. Part of the luxury of having a de facto GM and a head coach with long leashes is that there’s less pressure to find players who will produce and start immediately. Roseman and Doug Pederson can afford to think about the long term without worrying about saving their hides in 2019. Many teams have a much different dynamic. 

Last week, I asked Roseman how the Eagles balance long-term goals with wanting to see their high draft picks contribute immediately: 

Certainly, when you draft someone high, when it’s in the first round, second round, you love to see him play. That’s part of the great process that we have, that you get to see them play on the field in the National Football League after you spend all this time evaluating and scouting them, taking them off the board and bringing them to Philly. But that’s really about what’s best for the team. 

We had a situation where in 2002, we drafted Lito (Sheppard) and Sheldon (Brown) and they didn’t play at all (as rookies). And in 2004, they were huge contributors to our football team. We can’t view the draft as just what’s best for just this moment. We have to view this draft as what’s best for our team going forward.

We’ve heard the Lito/Sheldon example before and, even though that was 17 years ago and Roseman was still a low-level front office employee back then, it’s a good example. Neither player (Sheppard was a first-rounder, Brown was a second-rounder) started a single game as rookies because they were stuck behind Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor. But both were starters for the Super Bowl team just two years later. 

Still, teams would typically like to get a certain level of production out of their first pick in the draft. Here’s a look at the Eagles’ first picks of the last several drafts and how much they’ve played as rookies: 

2018: Dallas Goedert (No. 49): 16 games, 8 starts, 48% of offensive snaps

2017: Derek Barnett (No. 14): 15 games, 0 starts, 41% of defensive snaps

2016: Carson Wentz (No. 2): 16 games, 16 starts, 99% of offensive snaps

2015: Nelson Agholor (No. 20): 13 games, 12 starts, 58% of offensive snaps

2014: Marcus Smith (No. 26): 8 games, 0 starts, 6% of defensive snaps 

2013: Lane Johnson (No. 4) 16 games, 16 starts, 100% of offensive snaps 

2012: Fletcher Cox (No. 12) 15 games, 9 starts, 48.6% of defensive snaps 

Just three of the Eagles’ last seven first picks have played more than 50 percent of snaps on their respective side of the ball and two of them were top-five picks. Just look at the last two years. The Eagles took Barnett in 2017 despite having Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Chris Long on the roster. They took Goedert last year despite having Zach Ertz. 

So how much will the Eagles’ first pick play in 2019? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s really dependent on the position of the player and the health of the veterans in front of them. Assuming good health, a defensive lineman would be a rotational player, an offensive lineman might be a backup, a receiver would be rotational, a safety would see the field in big nickel, a running back would be in a rotation and a linebacker might start. 

But the beauty of the Eagles’ situation right now is that they don’t have to care about any of that. They can afford to take the best player on the board and play the long game. 

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Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Chris Lindstrom

Eagles NFL draft options at No. 25: Chris Lindstrom

In four years at BC, Chris Lindstrom played in 50 games and became a starter as a freshman back in 2015. That’s a ton of college experience. 

Most of his time in college was spent at right guard, but Lindstrom did play some tackle briefly. He clearly projects as a guard or possibly center at the next level, but a damn good one. And he comes from a family of good offensive linemen, specifically his father, who was a Hall of Famer at Boston University. 

There’s a thought that guard might not be as valuable a position as tackle, but with the increasing threat of interior pass-rushers, that’s not exactly a fair assessment. And Lindstrom was a first-team All-ACC player as a senior in 2018. 

Lindstrom is a good athlete with quickness, with a football pedigree and plenty of starting college experience. Plug-and-play. There’s not much to dislike about him. 

Current roster at iOL: The Eagles didn’t pick up the option on Stefen Wisniewski’s contract, so he’s a free agent. Isaac Seumalo is the starter at left guard, Jason Kelce is the starter at center and Brandon Brooks is the starter at right guard, although, he is coming off an Achilles tear. Their top (and only) interior backup is Matt Pryor, who was a sixth-rounder last season. 

How he would fit: Lindstrom has the ability to come in and start, which is big if Brooks isn’t ready. But he might also challenge Seumalo for that starting left guard spot. Then Seumalo could be a utility backup and a good one at that.  

Eagles history at iOL in draft: The last time the Eagles drafted a guard in the first round, they took an old Canadian fireman in 2011. But that can’t prevent the Eagles from going guard again. They did use a Day 2 pick on Seumalo just a couple years ago, so they still value interior linemen. 

Other options at 25