The Eagles, who have just one cornerback on the roster with more than eight career starts, are in the market for veteran cornerback help, head coach Doug Pederson said as training camp opened Monday.
“It’s a position that we continue to look [at] … outside," Pederson said after practice. "But as you know, [we want to] just create as much competition at that spot.
"Obviously, it’s a spot that we’re going to keep our eye on throughout camp. But now it gives our younger guys like Jalen Mills a chance to get in here and really get valuable reps."
One day earlier, in a somewhat surprising move, the Eagles released fifth-year pro Dwayne Gratz, a Piscataway, New Jersey native, who was a third-round pick of the Jaguars in 2013.
With 43 career games played and 25 NFL starts — all with the Jaguars from 2013 through 2015 — Gratz had the second-most experience among all 11 cornerbacks on the Eagles' roster going into training camp.
So his release leaves the Eagles with only Patrick Robinson (49 starts), Ron Brooks (eight starts) and Jalen Mills (two starts) with NFL starting experience. And Robinson is with his fourth team in four years and Brooks is coming off a serious ruptured quad tendon injury.
Of the seven other cornerbacks on the roster, Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas, Jamal Wiltz and Randall Goforth are rookies, Mitchell White and Aaron Grymes have 84 combined CFL starts but have never played defense in the NFL, and C.J. Smith played one snap on defense last year.
All the Eagles corners combined have actually started more games in the Canadian Football League (84) than the NFL (59).
Jordan Matthews won't need to report to training camp until Wednesday with the rest of the team's veterans, but even when he does show up, the Eagles plan on making him a limited participant.
Matthews was held out of a good portion of spring workouts with what the Eagles called "knee tendinitis," but as training camp is about to start, the wide receiver still won't be a full-go.
"I'm not concerned," Pederson said. "I know Jordan's work ethic. I know the type of player that he is. And we just have to stay on top of it. Obviously, he's been rehabbing all summer. He's been up here, he was in North Dakota with the guys. Just gotta, another one that we'll monitor as we go. We don't play a game for a long time, so I'm not concerned."
When asked what was wrong with Matthews' knee, Pederson said "nothing" aside from rehabbing and "keeping it healthy." Pederson said he isn't a medical guy but reporters could ask head trainer Chris Peduzzi or doctors for more specifics. The Eagles do not make Peduzzi or doctors available to speak to reporters.
Matthews won't be the only Jordan limited at the start of full-team camp. Linebacker Jordan Hicks will be limited at the start after a "minor procedure" to fix a hand injury that Pederson confirmed was a broken bone. Pederson said Hicks will go through individual drills and 7-on-7, but made it seem like Hicks will be held out of team drills.
Beau Allen (pec) is on the Active/Non-football Injury list, but the defensive tackle was working on his own on a side field Monday morning. Pederson wouldn't get into a time frame for Allen's return but said the team wants to make sure he's 100 percent healthy before putting him back on the field.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's going to be Week 1, but at the same time, it's day by day," Pederson said.
Allen declined an interview request after practice but said his rehab is going well.
Learning from the best
Throughout the spring, it became pretty clear that the Eagles plan on using rookie Donnel Pumphrey in a Darren Sproles-like role, meaning plenty of catching the ball out of the backfield.
As training camp started Monday, that hadn't changed. Pumphrey continued to get moved around from the backfield to the slot to outside (see observations from Day 1 of camp).
In addition to having Sproles to lean on, Pumphrey's position coach is former Eagles running back Duce Staley.
"It's helped me a lot. It's been a blessing to have those guys because I'm trying to learn from the best," Pumphrey said. "And with my role, I feel like Darren Sproles is the best to do it in the NFL. It's all a blessing."
Pumphrey spent most of his offseason back in California and even got to take his daughter to Disneyland. He moved back to Philly last week and has been trying to get to know his new home better. He hasn't yet been able to visit some of the city's historical sights but wants to.
For now, he's still getting used to the humidity in the area.
"You think you're in shape until you get out there and the humidity takes a toll on you," he said.
What happened with DGB?
In the long layoff between OTAs and training camp, the Eagles moved on from Dorial Green-Beckham, who had a ton of potential that remains to be tapped.
DGB is big and fast and checks off all the boxes … except on the football field. The Eagles traded for Green-Beckham last training camp, but the former second-round pick was a disappointment in his one year with the team.
So what went wrong?
"First of all, I just want to say with DGB, I can appreciate everything that he did last year," Pederson said. "Coming in late in camp and picking up our system and doing the things he did for us and also with the additions of some of our young guys coming up this spring, we just felt like it was in his interest and in our best interest to let him try to find another suitor, another team and to keep developing our younger guys in that role."
As camps start around the league, DGB remains unsigned.
Veterans aren't scheduled to report until Thursday, but receiver Torrey Smith was at the facility ... and had company.
Torrey Smith playing with his sons T.J. (3) and Can (1). pic.twitter.com/Wx0QMxKk8L— Reuben Frank (@RoobNBCS) July 24, 2017