Top storylines we would have been following at Eagles’ 2020 OTAs

Top storylines we would have been following at Eagles’ 2020 OTAs

In a normal year, the Eagles would be starting their Organized Team Activities around now. 

Of course, this is not a normal year. 

While the Eagles began OTAs on Tuesday, May 21, last year, they are stuck with their virtual offseason for now because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team has been holding their offseason program — meetings and workouts — through Microsoft Teams, which is nice but it doesn’t exactly replace on-field instruction. Maybe there will be some in-person practices before training camp, maybe there won’t be. Hopefully, we’ll find out soon enough. 

Earlier this offseason, I already looked at the 10 non-rookies who would miss OTAs most.

And now, I’m going to look at some of the biggest storylines I would have been covering — possibly this week — if the Eagles were able to hold their 2020 OTAs: 

Does the offense look different? 

The area of the Eagles’ coaching staff that has the most changes this offseason is on offense. Mike Groh was fired, Press Taylor was promoted to pass game coordinator, Rich Scangarello was hired as a senior offensive assistant, Andrew Breiner was hired as a pass game analyst, Marty Mornhinweg was brought back as a senior offensive consultant and Aaron Moorehead was hired as wide receivers coach. 

In addition to all that, the Eagles added a bunch of speed receivers in the draft, which should give them an added element to what became a plodding offense in 2019. 

So how different would Doug Pederson’s offense have looked? 

To me, the most intriguing hire of that bunch is Scangarello. At the combine, we learned more about the specific role Scangarello was supposed to have. A big part of that was going to be working with the quarterbacks and implementing QB movement, play actions and some screens. The Eagles admitted that Carson Wentz seems to be at his best when they got him moving and this hire was made with that in mind. 

But because of this unusual offseason, Scangarello won’t be able to coach Wentz face-to-face for some time. Wentz is entering Year 5 and it’ll be important for these two to gain a level of trust between one another. That probably isn’t as easy without being in the same room. So how much of those philosophies will make it into the playbook? This is the time of year we would have started to get some hints. 

Is Jalen Hurts on the field? 

Would the Eagles’ second-round pick simply have been the third-string quarterback during these practices? Or would Pederson have used this time to play around the possibility of using Hurts with the first-team offense as that Tasyom Hill-type of player. It was a possibility that seemed to intrigue him the night they drafted Hurts. 

Replacing Malcolm Jenkins 

Malcolm Jenkins left as a free agent in the offseason and the Eagles now have the task of replacing him on the field and in the locker room. The locker room part is something we’ll find out over time but we would have at least found out who was lining up at his spot at OTAs. My guess is it would have been Jalen Mills to start but then maybe the Eagles would have mixed in free agent Will Parks and draft pick K’Von Wallace. 

Lining up at CB2 

Darius Slay is clearly CB1 and Nickell Robey-Coleman is very likely the starting nickel corner. That means that CB2 is open. Avonte Maddox would have likely gotten the first crack at that position this spring but there will probably be a competition between Maddox and Sidney Jones. While many have given up on Jones, the idea of the once-heralded draft pick finally living up to his potential is exciting and this would have been one of the battles to watch. 

Depth chart at linebacker 

Nigel Bradham is gone, Kamu Grugier-Hill is gone. So the Eagles have plenty of questions at the linebacker position right now. Here’s a look at the guys fighting for roster spots and depth chart positions: Nathan Gerry, T.J. Edwards, Duke Riley, Alex Singleton, Jatavis Brown, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley. 

My guess right now would be that Gerry and Edwards are the top two but after that, there’s plenty up for grabs. 

Our first look at Jalen Reagor 

The Eagles will need a big season from their first-round pick and OTAs would have been the first time to see Reagor in a full-team setting. Via DraftKings, the over/under on receiving yards for Reagor as a rookie is 700.5. 

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Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Randall Cunningham joining Las Vegas Raiders organization

Former Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham is reportedly joining the Las Vegas Raiders organization.

While Cunningham, 57, can still likely throw bombs to Raiders receivers, he'll be guiding them spiritually as the team chaplain, according to ESPN.

"I'm elated, flabbergasted," Cunningham told ESPN on Friday. "I've already been in on some [Zoom] meetings with the team. I plan on spending a lot of time with the guys when it's OK. I've talked with Marcus Mariota, Nelson Agholor. What an amazing group of people Mark Davis and Jon Gruden have put together."

Cunningham played his college ball at UNLV and coached high school football in Las Vegas for a couple of seasons a few years back.

Randall has spent much of the past few years working with daughter, Vashti, and son, Randall II, in their quest for Olympic dreams.

The former NFL MVP is highly regarded around the league and will be a solid addition to the Raiders organization. His Twitter account, which is mostly dormant, has the handle "PastorRandallC."

Randall worked with Raiders head coach Jon Gruden during his playing days in Philadelphia.

"He's going to take care of the guys in Las Vegas," Raiders owner Mark Davis told ESPN.com. "Jon had him address the team in a team Zoom [recently] and he did a really good job of setting the stage for the team in Las Vegas.

Just last week, NBC Sports Philadelphia ranked Randall as the second best quarterback in Eagles history.

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If DeSean Jackson sits, Eagles have an intriguing but risky option

If the Eagles are without DeSean Jackson for any or all of the next football season, which certainly seems within the realm of possibility at this point, there’s one person on their roster who has a similar skill set.

But he comes along with a ton of question marks.

Marquise Goodwin is definitely not DeSean Jackson, but at his best, when he’s healthy — which hasn’t been very often — he can do some of the same things as Jackson.

Over the past four years, Goodwin has only four fewer catches of at least 40 yards than Jackson, and in his one full season, he was among the league’s best big-play practitioners.

In their statement Friday, the Eagles made it clear that if Jackson doesn’t commit to showing genuine growth following what the team called “absolutely appalling” social media posts, he’s gone.

If the Eagles are forced to play regular-season games without Jackson, Goodwin could turn out to be a huge addition.

Jackson of course is one of the greatest deep threats in NFL history. His 31 career TDs of 50 yards or more are second only to Jerry Rice.

Over the last four years, Jackson has 13 catches of at least 40 yards — including two long TDs against the Redskins on opening day last year, his only significant action of the year. Goodwin during the same four-year span has nine 40-yard catches. Only 14 receivers have more during that stretch.

Jackson’s career average of 17.4 yards per catch is highest among active receivers and highest in the NFL over the last 35 years. But Goodwin is 5th on that list at 16.6, behind only Jackson, Josh Gordon (17.2), Mike Williams (17.1) and Kenny Golladay (16.8), with a minimum of 100 catches.

Goodwin, acquired for virtually nothing in a draft-weekend trade with the 49ers, is one of only 11 active players with more than one career 80-yard touchdown. He also has TDs of 67, 67, 59 and 55 yards.

So his resume is solid. He’s fast and he’s a deep threat. He can score from anywhere on the field.

And he’s an Eagle.

The problem is injuries.

Lots of them.

He missed four games in 2013 with a broken hand. He missed six games in 2014 with a concussion and hamstring and rib injuries. He missed 14 games in 2015 with a rib injury. He suffered three more concussions in 2016 and a fifth in 2017. He missed five games in 2018 with injuries and seven last year with a knee injury.

He’s only managed 30 or more snaps in 13 games the last two years.

The only time Goodwin played 16 games was in 2017 with the 49ers, and he had a career-high 962 yards, finished 3rd in the NFL at 17.2 yards per catch and had five 40-yard catches — 7th-most in the league.

But in his six other seasons he’s averaged 14 catches and 226 yards. He has only 35 catches for 581 yards over the last two seasons, although he does have 5 TDs.

So which Goodwin did the Eagles get? 

The one who is one of the NFL’s top deep threats or the one who’s often injured and can’t stay on the field?

The Eagles have had a hard time keeping anybody healthy lately, so relying heavily on a guy with such a long injury history is a risk.

But when it comes to stretching the field, there aren’t a lot of options.

Alshon Jeffery has 20 career receptions of at least 40 yards, but 17 were with the Bears, none since 2018. And we don’t even know when he’ll be healthy enough to play.

Greg Ward had a promising start last year but he’s an inside slot guy and had only had one catch longer than 15 yards last year, a 38-yarder against the Cowboys that set up a Miles Sanders TD.

Deontay Burnett only played 15 snaps last year and had a 41-yard catch against the Giants, but who knows if he’ll even make the team. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is more of a big-frame possession guy than a deep threat and of his 10 passes as a rookie none were longer than 30 yards. 

Jalen Reagor has the potential to be a big-play threat, but he’s still an unknown quantity, a rookie without offseason programs and perhaps without preseason games. Quez Watkins and John Hightower are speedy, but it’s never easy for late-round rookies to get on the field, more so this year.

The reality is the Eagles need Jackson on the field. A healthy Goodwin is the next-best option. But based on his recent history it’s not one they can depend on.

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