Minicamp – Day 2 Notes

Posted: June 14th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Here is your roundup of practice notes from Day 2 of the mandatory minicamp. I spent yesterday at my nephew’s high school graduation so this will be a quicker version than normal.

The Links

Brandon Lee Gowton

Jimmy Bama

Jeff McLane

Sheil Kapadia

PE.com

The Notes

Nate Sudfeld had a strong showing. He’s looked good the past two days. It is important that Sudfeld play well because he is the team’s backup QB for now. While Wentz is doing a great job in his comeback, there are no guarantees he will be ready for the opener. There is always the possibility of a set-back. The Eagles need Sudfeld ready to play…and to play well. It isn’t likely that Wentz will have an issue and that Foles will get hurt, but if that does happen, Sudfeld needs to be ready.

He is showing good touch and accuracy on his deep balls. Several guys have talked about his mobility, especially his ability to move in the pocket. So far, so good for Sudfeld.

***

TE Dallas Goedert had a good day. He continues to catch everything thrown his way. He might be a rookie from South Dakota State, but sure isn’t playing like it. He’s shown the ability to get open and he’s a natural pass-catcher.

***

Jalen Mills broke up a couple of passes and has played well all spring. He took a huge step forward from 2016 to last year. If he takes another big step forward, the Eagles are going to be very happy. Mills makes his share of mistakes, but he is a good player and the Eagles want him to remain aggressive. If Mills can cutdown on the mistakes a bit, he’ll become a pretty darn good CB.

***

Jimmy is worried about Cameron Johnston’s punting. Go read his piece for the details. The hang time on Johnston’s punts isn’t what it needs to be. He also is struggling with accuracy. It could be that the Eagles are working on some particular element of his game and he’ll be fine by Training Camp. Or the team might need to go find the best veteran punter on the street to come in here and challenge him.

***

Jimmy also had some praise for Joe Callahan. As long as he is better than Matt McGloin, Callahan will be a rousing success. It is possible that with improved coaching, Callahan could turn out to be a much better backup QB here than he was in Green Bay.

***

WR Bryce Treggs had his best day of the spring. He played well last year in the camps and in TC. Treggs just wasn’t good enough to get on the field. This is a crucial year for him. Treggs needs to impress someone (Eagles or another team) and actually get some playing time. You can’t be fringe roster guy forever.

***

Nate Gerry picked off a pass. According to Jeff McLane, Gerry is playing SAM and Kamu Grugier-Hill is over at WLB. The young LBs seem to get noticed everyday. And for a good reason. You don’t want coaches noticing you for mistakes. Gerry and KGH are playing well so far.

***

Zach Ertz is still Zach Ertz. And that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

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Minicamp Roundup – Day 1

Posted: June 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Forget the OTAs. We are officially onto the mandatory minicamp. That’s right, participation is no longer an option. You show up or the coaching staff sends raccoon assassins after you. And as we’ve seen with the little guy in Minnesota, there is no hiding from those guys.

Has anyone seen Corey Graham???

The Eagles had perfect attendance so the threat worked pretty well. Okay, so let’s get on to the good stuff, the practice notes. As a reminder, there are no pads and there is basically no contact.

First up is Brandon Lee Gowton. He’s put out the best practice notes of anyone so far this spring. He covers a lot of players, gives good info and keeps it entertaining as well.

Carson Wentz update: Wentz continues to look pretty good. The Eagles have a new quarterback drill where Press Taylor throws tennis balls at the feet of the players and they have to dodge them as if they’re pass rushers. Wentz showed no signs of being hampered during this activity. Later in practice, Wentz participated in some 7-on-7 action. He got picked off by Rodney McLeod in the red zone at one point. Bad read, and he knew it, putting his hands on his helmet in frustration with himself. It didn’t take Ginger Jesus long to bounce back. He fired a throw just past the outstretched finger tips of Ronald Darby and into the arms of a diving Nelson Agholor in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a bullet. Great throw and great catch. When Wentz wasn’t participating in a drill, he was off sprinting on another field or having a catch with Alshon Jeffery.

I love the fact the coaches are making Wentz use his lower body in practice. They could take it easy on him and have Wentz focus on just throwing the ball, but the reality is that the Eagles need Wentz back at a high level. That means he needs to have his footwork and mobility tested as the offseason goes along. You can’t just wait for Training Camp or game-action. You’ve got to work on that. And it is great that Wentz seems so comfortable with the drills and moves so naturally, despite having a knee still on the mend.

Ronald Darby turned in a strong day of practice. The 24-year-old corner notched several pass deflections, including two leaping breakups on deep throws by Nick Foles. The only real time I saw him get beat today is when he got matched up on Zach Ertz. He contested the throw as much as he could but Ertz was just too big. Outside of that, Darby had an impressive day.

Sometimes I think we forget how good Darby is. He can be over-aggressive at times, but he also makes plays. He had critical INTs against the Giants and Raiders that helped the Eagles win those games. He almost sealed the Super Bowl with a pick. Jim Schwartz wants aggressive corners. Darby should be even better this year.

Staying in the secondary, Tre Sullivan stood out to me with a near pick-six by jumping a slant route. Then he logged a leaping pass breakup on a Sudfeld pass meant for Goedert, who was running a corner route. Maybe the Eagles don’t even need to bring Corey Graham back? If they do, Sullivan should at least be the fourth safety. He’s showing the ability to both cover and hit.

The Eagles need a #3 Safety. Sullivan could be that guy. He is well ahead of where he was last year, but he’s far from locking up a roster spot, let alone a key role. Sullivan proved he could be an impact hitter. He has to show he can cover and consistently tackle this time around.

 Joe Callahan threaded the needle between two defenders with a bullet to Bryce Treggs for a touchdown during red zone drills. I swear someone on the Eagles coaching staff (Mike Groh?) yelled out “SMOKIN’ JOE!” in excitement. I’ve seen enough to believe that Callahan might be better than Matt McGloin was last year, which should make preseason football somewhat more watchable.

No real significance to this nugget. I just enjoyed it.

*****

Next up is Jimmy Bama.

 De’Vante Bausby continues to get reps with the ones. He has clearly emerged as the surprise guy of spring camp.

Sidney Jones sat out practice due to “soreness”. Make of that what you will. Still, it is good to see Bausby getting reps with the starters and handling himself well. I don’t want him to get the job for the heck of it. Bausby has played well this spring. The Eagles need depth. Jones isn’t 100 percent right now. Darby missed time last year. You can’t count on the starters staying out there all year. You need talent and good competition for spots. The Eagles have that.

I’ve been impressed by rookie DE Josh Sweat early on. We noted previously that rookie OT Jordan Mailata struggled mightily trying to block him during OTAs. That continued today, but I tried to ignore that aspect of it, as Mailata isn’t going to block many players in this camp, seeing as he’s just learning the sport. Results aside, Sweat’s get-off at the snap is explosive.

Dave Spadaro has been mentioning that Sweat’s knee doesn’t look 100 percent to him. Jimmy is impressed by what he sees. The real test will be how Sweat plays in pads and when O-linemen can really be physical with him. He also needs to show he can handle the amount of practice reps players get in TC. That wear and tear will give us an idea of whether Sweat is a real possibility for this roster.

You know the coaches are going to fall in love with his explosiveness. If Sweat can show anything this summer, the coaches may not want him on IR.

Recent free agent signing Markus Wheaton made more than a handful of catches today. The signing of Wheaton reminds me a little of when the Eagles brought in guys like Reuben RandleChris Givens, and Dorial Green-Beckham, in that those guys each had some level of previous success with their old teams before joining the Eagles. To be clear, I’m certainly not comparing Wheaton’s intelligence to Randle or DGB.

The difference between Wheaton and Randle or DGB is that Randle and DGB got a whole lot of attention because the Eagles didn’t have jack squat at receiver. Because the Eagles actually have some nice pieces now at wide receiver, Wheaton is more of an afterthought, as opposed to player who is being projected to start out of sheer necessity. Randle and DGB figured they were both locks to make the roster (Randle never made the 53), while Wheaton is not guaranteed a roster spot at all.

Wheaton drew praise from multiple people. Jimmy actually wrote quite a bit more on him. Go read his piece for the full story.

Wheaton has NFL talent and experience. The Eagles were lucky to get him. Even if Wheaton doesn’t pan out, he should be great for practice. Young corners like Rasul Douglas or Avonte Maddox are going to learn more going up against Wheaton than if they were battling some UDFA with a good Pro Day. Wheaton has a legit chance to make the Eagles roster.

*****

Sheil Kapadia had his usual good stuff.

1:39 p.m. – The offense jumps early as a remix of “The Middle” blares on the speakers. Steven Means appears to enjoy both the false start and the song, dancing in celebration. No one likes practice more than Steven Means.

That’s a great note on Means. Guys that practice with energy are valuable. You need them to keep things interesting and competitive.  Read the rest of this entry »


The Assistants Live

Posted: June 12th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

Every spring, assistant coaches meet the media. It is almost the NFL version of proof of life. Oh sure, you can see Jeff Stoutland all the time, but how do you know that is really him? Could be a Stoutland-bot or a body double. By letting the assistants talk, we are assured they are real live human beings.

Sheil Kapadia talked to the coaches about winning the Super Bowl. CBs coach Corey Undlin gave a terrific answer.

“I’m still (looking back) a little bit, you know? I mean, you get asked questions like that anywhere you are in this city, obviously, and you come up with some stuff. I mean, I said this on that NFL (Network) thing, whatever they’re doing on that. When we went to Carolina and we played Carolina on that Thursday night, as far as the games go, when we got on the plane and went home — short week, they were a good team, and the way that we were playing in that game, as fast as we were playing, we got back on the plane and I was like, ‘OK. All right.’ Like, this is, yeah. And then when we went to Dallas on Sunday night and made them quit, that was probably number two as far as just in my mind. And then, I mean, I could go for two hours here about different things that happened. And then, I mean, Jalen Mills’ play in the end zone against Oakland. Third and five, right down there in the corner, made them kick a field goal. It was 10-7, I think. I mean, I got 50 of those. The whole thing was obviously amazing. In this city, to be a part of that here? There’s nothing like it.”

We made Dallas quit.

That is about as good a line as you’ll ever get from an assistant. I’ll be interested to see if Jason Garrett or Jerry Jones responds. That team did quit and they know it, but I don’t know if they’ll acknowledge that publicly.

It was interesting to see how many coaches talked about the parade. That really was a special day.

*****

Zach Berman wrote about Duce Staley. You may recall hearing that Staley will become more involved in game-planning.

“I feel good about it,” Staley said Monday in his first public comments since the staff changes. “The good thing about it [is] one thing we do as an offense, coaching unit, is we come together and we all game-plan. …We all have our input. Doug would be the first one to tell you that we all just have titles, but when it all boils down, we’re all in the same room together game-planning.”

The beauty of the Eagles offense is that it isn’t the creation of one mad genius. It isn’t something that was handed down from one guru to his young protege. The offense has everything from Bill Walsh to Chip Kelly in it. Eagles coaches steal good ideas from everywhere.

Staley has played for and coached for some gifted offensive minds. He’s learned plenty about what works in the NFL and how to run a good offense. Now he’ll have more of a chance to use that knowledge. Staley’s goal is to continue to grow so he can eventually make the transition from RB coach to head coach. That’s a rare move, but Staley is proving to be a special coach. You aren’t going to find many RBs coaches who have as much respect from their whole team as Staley does. He is a natural leader.

And he’s tough. Go back and watch the All or Nothing special on Dallas. Those position coaches struggled at times to be the leader of their rooms. That’s not the case with Duce. He’s not going to put up with crap from anyone.

*****

PE.com has a piece with nuggets from several assistants. How did Gunter Brewer get his job?

“I was just sitting in the office one day (as the wide receivers coach at the University of North Carolina), and I sent Mike a text (of) congratulations (after Eagles won the Super Bowl). It was the end of the recruiting process for us. He just sent me a message back, ‘Hey, can you talk?’ I said sure,” Brewer said. “He said he might have an opportunity to move in a different position and would I be interested in talking with he and the staff about the position that was there. One thing kind of rolled into another and Coach (Doug Pederson) flew me up.”

Brewer went to Wake Forest and was coached by some guy named Al Groh, who had a son named Mike. Sound familiar at all?

Brewer is a legitimately good coach so this isn’t someone just hiring a buddy.

*****

Proof that Michael Bennett is really an Eagle.

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LB Update

Posted: June 10th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | No Comments »

We know Nigel Bradham will be the SLB and will be one of the Nickel LBs. Beyond that, there are plenty of questions.

Jordan Hicks could eliminate a lot of questions if he can fully recover and then stay healthy this year. Hicks is a gifted MLB and his presence in the middle of the defense makes the unit stable and more talented.

What about WLB?

The Eagles signed Corey Nelson from Denver with the expectation that he would come here and win the job. They aren’t going to give it to him. There are some holdover players who will offer competition. Kamu Grugier-Hill is in his third year with the Eagles. He has mainly been a STer, but got plenty of reps with the starting defense in the recent OTAs. KGH made some plays and flashed his athleticism.

There is also Nate Gerry (#47 above). The second year player is no longer a rookie making the transition from college SS to pro LB. He has some experience under his belt on STs and even defense. He now wants to go from backup to starter.

Gerry was 218 pounds at The Combine in February of 2017. That is not the body of a 218-pound kid anymore. He must have spent a ton of time in the weight room. That is someone in the 230-pound range, and with a chiseled build. Thankfully he didn’t go on the Lawlor diet to bulk up.

With Paul Worrilow hurt, the Eagles need a backup option at MLB. I wonder if Nelson or Gerry could get looks in there. Nelson played between the tackles a lot when he was with the Broncos and on the field in their Nickel D. He can take on blockers and play in traffic. It isn’t his specialty, but he can do it.

Gerry is tough and instinctive. Normally former DBs play outside, but the Eagles could at least give him a look in the middle.

Some people are going to see the uncertainty at LB as a problem. It could be.

It could also be a position where things work out just fine. Nelson is an experienced, talented player. He has good coverage skills. KGH is a terrific athlete and should have a good feel for the scheme by now. Gerry has bulked up enough to handle LB, but still looks like he will be athletic enough to fly around and make plays. Hicks is doing a great job in his recovery.

The Eagles let go of Dannell Ellerbe and Najee Goode. Those guys didn’t have the athleticism/cover skills to do what LBs need to these days. The Eagles have a talented group of athletes in the middle of their defense. That’s the way football is headed these days. You need guys who can run and cover.

If Joe Walker can come back from his injury or rookie Asantay Brown (only 215 pounds, but a gifted athlete) proves to be a quick learner, the Eagles could have a really intense competition for both roster spots and playing time.

*****

I wrote about some takeaways from the recent OTAs.

I talked about the LBs in there.

It is also possible I mentioned that Wentz dude.

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Final OTAs

Posted: June 8th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Final OTAs

The Eagles had their final day of OTAs on Thursday. There will be a mandatory mini-camp next week and after that we’ll have Training Camp.

Here are your links for the day:

Jeff McLane

Jimmy Bama

Sheil Kapadia

Brandon Lee Gowton

PE.com

******

We’ll begin with an interesting nugget from Jeff.

  1. What’s up with Isaac Seumalo? The third-year offensive lineman once again didn’t participate in team drills. While it hasn’t appeared that he’s injured, a source close to the situation said that the third-year offensive lineman has an upper body strain. Seumalo has participated in individual drills. He’s jumped in for a handful of plays during the offensive installation period. And his only other involvement in drills has been as the lone center – read: he just snaps the football – during 7 on 7s. One theory for his limited participation was that the Eagles didn’t want to risk injury to a player they’re trying to trade. The injury basically shoots that idea down. But how much could Seumalo be worth if available? Teams have the film from last season. He could provide versatility. And offensive linemen are rare commodities in the NFL. I just don’t see him fetching more than a low draft pick or some other team’s failed project. Seumalo is only 24, so it may be too early to give up on the former third rounder, but his star has certainly fallen in two years. He could merely be a career backup.

It certainly is possible that Seumalo could have suffered an upper body strain while lifting weights in the past couple of months. Let’s hope that is what’s going on.

While Seumalo struggled last year, he has shown NFL ability. You don’t give up on guys like that lightly. We see how Nelson Agholor struggled before finally having things come together for him. Seumalo isn’t some project. He has size, skill and ability. For some reason, the potential of 2016 just wasn’t consistently there last year. The Eagles would love Seumalo to bounce back and show he’s worth keeping around to develop for the future.

*****

DE Joe Ostman got a lot of mentions.

BLG – Today is the second day in a row where Joe Ostman stood out to me. He notched a would-be sack on Joe Callahan. Now, the quarterback did hold on to the ball for a considerable amount of time, so that helped, but still. Last year’s NCAA sack leader has shown the ability to generate pressure in practice. The Eagles are already deep at defensive end so it would be ideal if they could hold on to Ostman for the fuutre.

FD – 15. Sudfeld entered the drill as the second-team units took the field. After a completion to Shelton Gibson, the defense took over. Tight coverage on the back end allowed the defense to get home for “sacks,” and undrafted free agent Joe Ostman was seemingly the benefactor, posting three “sacks” at the end of practice. The undersized pass rusher makes up for his lack of length with great technique and effort off the edge, and I believe he’ll be a player to watch this summer.

Interesting that Fran sees Ostman as a player to watch. Fran isn’t prone to hyperbole so this is a player he’s genuinely impressed by. You can talk about the fact these were coverage sacks or the fact they came in non-contact practices. The key is that Ostman found a way to stand out. He got people’s attention. You can bet he got the coaches attention as well.

He will need to have success in TC and against starting blockers to really be considered possible roster material, but it is good that Ostman is flashing and making people take notice of him. I mentioned the other day that I think he’s a good fit for the Wide-9. I also think he’s the kind of ultra-competitive guy who will go just as hard in practice as in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl. Effort isn’t everything, but it means a lot.

*****

WR Mike Wallace impressed.

Jimmy – Mike Wallace had a nice leaping grab today in traffic. This isn’t exactly high level analysis here, but he’s a guy who “looks the part.” Again, as we noted back in March, a whole lot of wide receivers changed teams this offseason, and many of them got huge paydays. Of the receivers changing teams (or staying put, but landing new deals), Wallace was the second-most productive of the group over the last two seasons.

Jeff – During the first set of team drills, Foles made two strong successive throws to receiver Mack Hollins and receiver Mike Wallace. The second toss was a little high, but Wallace impressively snagged it out of the air. He’s had a nice spring so far and should be more than just a deep threat.

BLG – Mike Wallace made a really impressive leaping grab in traffic on a throw from Nick Foles. The veteran wide receiver has quietly had a nice spring. He’s caught just about everything thrown his way and he doesn’t struggle to get open. Seems like a pretty capable replacement for Torrey Smith, which is what everyone expected.

This offense can be even better if Wallace has a good year. Torrey Smith was fast, but inconsistent. Wallace is more productive and more talented. You have to really appreciate how good Howie Roseman can be. The Eagles upgraded from Smith to Wallace…and saved money. That’s impressive.

*****

Ronald Darby played the slot.

Sheil – We have our third different slot corner of the spring (Sidney Jones and De’Vante Bausby were the first two). Ronald Darby plays inside with Rasul Douglas and Mills on the outside. He breaks up a pass over the middle intended for Wallace.

BLG – Ronald Darby, who took some reps as a nickel corner today, broke up a Foles pass intended for Wallace. Wallace called for a flag, so there may have been some holding, but I’ll give Darby the credit here. I thought he covered receivers well for most of the practice. One example was when Mack Hollins went deep and Darby was there with him the entire way.

Darby has the kind of build you expect a nickelback to have. My question is whether he has the instincts. Darby is athletic and physically gifted, but he showed last year that he guesses too much. That’s bad outside, but can be even worse over the middle.

The coaches are going to give everyone a look in the slot. May the best man win.

*****

WR Rashard Davis made a good play.

Sheil – Agholor is not participating in this portion of the team drills. Ward had replaced him, but now it’s Rashard Davis. Davis catches a ball in space and puts a tremendous move on Elijah Qualls as the offensive players go nuts. Brandon Brooks imitates Davis like he’s Russell Westbrook performing a Eurostep.

Jimmy – A receiver who did some nice things today was Rashard Davis. He had a nice hands catch away from his body on a sharply thrown ball, and he juked the crap out of a linebacker who fell to the ground (didn’t catch who it was) on a run after the catch.

Davis’ appeal to the Eagles is undoubtedly his punt return skills. At James Madison University in 2016, Davis had 15 punt returns for 426 yards (28.4 per return) and 4 TDs.

The Eagles signed Davis last year in the preseason. I remember Mike Mayock desperately wanting the other team to punt the ball to Davis. Mayock had seen Davis show some big time moves in practice and he wanted to see what the young man did in a game. Davis didn’t get a chance to show off his skills.

The Eagles like his potential as a returner and slot receiver. That doesn’t mean he’ll pan out, but there is something there. He has NFL potential.

*****

Steven Means made a good play.

BLG – I’ve written about this in previous offseasons but I’ll never get tired of Steven Means doing his sack celebration during non-contact practices. Means flew off the edge and notched a would-be tackle for loss and started celebrating like he just sacked Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. I genuinely appreciate his enthusiasm. Here’s a clip of what the celebration looks like, in case you were curious.

Fran – Soon afterward, Steven Means knifed into the backfield on a toss play for what would have been a tackle for loss on Matt Jones. Means dropped the hammer with his celebration behind the line of scrimmage, as the energy level continued on the defensive side of the ball.

Guys like Means bring energy to practice. I can’t tell you how important that is. It keeps everyone going and makes things more alive, more fun. Football practice can be tedious, unless you have the right guys around you. Means isn’t going to let anyone get bored, especially when he’s making plays.

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