Top Eagles storylines at 2019 mandatory minicamp

Top Eagles storylines at 2019 mandatory minicamp

After a few weeks of voluntary OTA practices, today is the first mandatory session of the entire offseason. 

The Eagles’ mandatory minicamp is three days, running through Thursday. Players already reported for physicals.

These practices are still light; they’re not like training camp. Players can’t wear pads, so we’re talking about players in shorts and helmets. And practices can’t be any longer than 2½ hours.  

This three-day minicamp is the last time the team will be all together until training camp kicks off in late July. 

Here are some storylines to watch: 

Oh, hey, Malcolm! 

During the voluntary portion of the offseason, Malcolm Jenkins was uncharacteristically absent from the NovaCare Complex because of a purported contract dispute. But he reported for his physical on Monday, according to ESPN. 

Had Jenkins skipped this entire minicamp, he could have been fined a total of $88,650. That won’t happen now.

Hopefully we'll hear from Jenkins and find out just how unhappy he might be or we’ll find out if this whole thing was blown way out of proportion. 

It’s not that Jenkins is getting peanuts, but he has outplayed his contract that has him ranked as the ninth-highest-paid safety in the league. Jenkins has two years left on his deal. He’ll make $8.1 million in base salary this year and $7.6 million next year. 

The rest of the group

Aside from Jenkins, there have been other MIA players this spring, but those guys should definitely be back. Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor, who all missed at least some time this spring, will be back on the field. Peters, Johnson and Jeffery missed all four OTA practices (out of 10 total) open to reporters. 

We haven’t gotten a chance to talk to Peters since he re-did his deal to stick around for another year or since the Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round as his eventual replacement. He can be a hard guy to find and he isn’t required to talk to reporters this week, but we’ll see if it happens. 

O-line depth chart 

With some of the missing veterans back, we’ll get a better sense of depth charts. 

During OTAs, the starting OL looked like this: Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Jordan Mailata

It should look like this at minicamp: Peters, Seumalo, Kelce, Big V (?), Johnson 

The Eagles have been cross-training Vaitai at guard this spring, but if they have him with the first team (in place of a recovering Brandon Brooks) during this mandatory portion, it’ll tell me they’ve liked what they’ve seen so far and that he really might be a fit as a depth guard and tackle. Stefen Wisniewski, who has started 24 games in three years with the Eagles, was the second-team center for much of OTAs. 

Wentz with full weapons 

Carson Wentz got paid since the last time we saw him on the practice field. His four-year extension worth $128 million was signed on Thursday. During the four OTA practices we saw this spring, Wentz looked great. We shouldn’t get too carried away, but it’s a good sign as he gets back from that back injury and further away from the knee injury. 

In mandatory minicamp, Wentz should have his full complement of weapons and it’s a scary group. All three top receivers will be out there, as well as his top tight ends and hopefully most of his running backs. Miles Sanders has been dealing with a hamstring injury and the Eagles have just been showing patience with him. Corey Clement is still recovering, but should be back by training camp

But if Wentz has everyone, it’s a dangerous group: 

WRs: Jeffery, Jackson, Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside

TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert 

RBs: Jordan Howard, Sanders

Cornerback battle continues 

One of the most intriguing storylines with this Eagles team is in the secondary, specifically at cornerback. The Eagles have six corners they really like and six corners who at least deserve a shot to earn a starting job: Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, Sidney Jones, Avonte Maddox, Cre’Von LeBlanc. 

Don’t expect to see Darby or Mills practicing this week, so we’ll likely get more Douglas, Jones and Maddox working with the ones. Jim Schwartz said final determinations aren’t made in the spring, but it’s a bit of a proving ground for all of these prideful corners. 

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Eagles reportedly 'intend to sign' running back Jay Ajayi

Eagles reportedly 'intend to sign' running back Jay Ajayi

Jay Ajayi was indeed in the NovaCare Complex on Friday morning for a workout and it apparently went well. 

According to a report, the Eagles “intend to sign” Ajayi. 

Not sure what kind of negotiations are going on for a running back coming off an ACL surgery with already questionable knees, who was available in mid-November, but apparently, those negotiations are ongoing. I’d imagine it won’t take long for Ajayi to sign. 

On Friday morning, we learned why the Eagles were interested in Ajayi. Darren Sproles is out for the year and Jordan Howard has a stinger and hasn’t yet been cleared for contact.

That left Miles Sanders and Boston Scott as the only healthy running backs on the roster. Sanders is the only healthy running back from the original 53-man roster. 

Earlier this morning, Pederson confirmed that Ajayi was in the building. 

“We'll see where he’s at physically, see where he is health-wise,” he said.

Apparently, Ajayi’s knee checked out. 

It’s hard to believe, but Ajayi is still just 26. He’s coming off an ACL tear last season and he already had issues with his knees, which is the easiest explanation for why he’s unsigned in November. 

Because during his career, Ajayi has been a really good player. He has a career yards-per-carry average of 4.5 and was very good for the Eagles during their Super Bowl run in 2017 and even the first quarter of the 2018 season. 

During last season, Ajayi wasn’t shy about how important the contract season was for him. He wanted to earn a big contract somewhere, but that was derailed by the ACL injury. 

The Eagles initially picked up Ajayi for a fourth-round pick at the 2017 trade deadline. Before that deal, there were questions about Ajayi’s locker room presence, but he ended up being a great fit in Philly and helped seal a Super Bowl title. 

It’s also important to remember that Ajayi hasn’t played in over a year. He tore his ACL on Oct. 7 last season. He probably won’t be able to carry a heavy workload early or perhaps ever again, but the Eagles obviously think he might have something left. 

Out for the year, Darren Sproles a reminder that sentimentality has no place in NFL

Out for the year, Darren Sproles a reminder that sentimentality has no place in NFL

Darren Sproles’ season and possibly his career are ending in a way he desperately wanted to avoid. 

On the shelf. 

The Eagles announced on Friday that their 36-year-old running back/returner suffered a torn right hip flexor and is done for the season. It seems likely this is an unfortunate end to what was a remarkable career. 

It’s also the latest reminder that sentimentally truly has no place in a sport as barbaric and cruel as football. 

The Eagles fell into that trap when they brought back Sproles in July. And, as clichéd as it is, Father Time is still undefeated. 

The fact is, that after Sproles struggled to stay on the field in 2017 and 2018, the Eagles should have been a little more wary about bringing him back to do it again in 2019. They never were. And in his final three NFL seasons, Sproles missed a total of 36 regular season and playoff games. 

But Doug Pederson is loyal. Sometimes, he’s loyal to a fault. 

And Sproles didn’t want his career to end on a bad note, not after 2017, not after 2018. Pederson never wavered either; if Sproles wanted to return, he’d have a spot for him. 

Really, Sproles is just one piece of an even bigger problem from this offseason. The Eagles were relying on Sproles (age 36), DeSean Jackson (age 32) and Jason Peters (age 37). Sproles and Jackson have now had major injuries and Peters has missed the last month after getting a knee scope. 

Sure, it’s easier to find the problem in hindsight. But even back then, it was fair to question moves to bring in/back older players. 

“I would do it again. I would do it again,” Pederson said on Friday morning. “With all three of those guys, I would do it again. These are great players and these are great leaders, these are great teammates. Been a part of this organization for a long time, so I would make the same decision again. I think you can’t go into it blind, obviously. We know where they are in their careers, as we talked about, and that’s something you have to consider.”

Earlier this season, Sproles eclipsed Tim Brown to move into fifth place all-time in NFL all-purpose yards. It was something he cared about.  

1. Jerry Rice: 23,546
2. Brian Mitchell: 23,330
3. Walter Payton: 21,803
4. Emmitt Smith: 21, 564
5. Darren Sproles: 19,696

That’s some impressive company for Sproles, who had a tremendous career, especially for a guy who stands at 5-foot-6. He was one of the most electric players in the league from the moment he was drafted in 2005. 

And he was great in Philadelphia. He made his only three Pro Bowls with the Eagles in 2014, 2015 and 2016. But since then, injuries took over and his age didn’t help. 

Sproles had an all-time great career. He and the Eagles just tried to hold on to it for a little too long. 

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