The Philadelphia Eagles finished up minicamp on Thursday to close out their entire offseason workout program. The media wasn't present for most of those workouts save for four days during Organized Team Activities practices and three days of Mandatory Minicamp. And even those events weren't as meaningful as training camp practices because contact is not allowed during the spring workouts. That said, there were definitely some interesting takeaways gathered in that limited time. Here's my list of 10 things we learned.
- No injuries! This is obviously one of the most important things to see. Aside from the occasional missed day of practice (Jeff Maehl sat out a day or two but returned, Nate Allen left a practice early with an illness, etc.), there's really nothing on the injury front to report.
- The Eagles are in trouble if Nick Foles goes down. Foles has clearly looked like the best QB. Mark Sanchez and Matt Barkley have generally struggled and don't pose a threat to Foles at all. Sanchez and Barkley are battling for the backup spot but I'd give Sanchez the edge for now. Don't count out G.J. Kinne to win the third spot. Kinne is behind Barkley for now and could end up on the practice squad again, but he's more than just a camp arm.
- Jordan Matthews has been impresive. We've already talked about the Matthews hype train: "best WR on the team", comparisons to Terrell Owens, and more. While expectations should be kept in check, he's looked good so far in practice. He's really fast and good at using his size. Plus I haven't seen him drop a pass (except for one knocked down by Malcolm Jenkins). He works really hard; you never see him just going through the motions. It's easy to get excited by JMatt.
- Alex Henery will likely return as the team's kicker in 2014. The much-maligned Henery has looked good in practice. He's clearly ahead of rookie undrafted kicker Carey Spear. Barring a MAJOR upset, Henery will win this competition easily.
- Nolan Carroll can play. Carroll was hardly a high-profile signing in free agency but don't be surprised to see him compete for a starting cornerback job. It's worth noting that returning CB Bradley Fletcher has done nothing to lose his starting job at this time. That could change come training camp/preseason.
- No change in the safety battle. Nate Allen entered as the starter and Earl Wolff entered as the backup. This could change in training camp and preseason when the pads go on. For now, Allen has the advantage. Meanwhile, veteran Malcolm Jenkins has taken Wolff under his wing.
- Brad Smith has a pretty good chance to make the final roster. I'm near ready to call Smith a lock. During practice Smith has spent time with the first team as the team's starting slot receiver. I don't think he ends up in that role when the season starts but he's a very good special teams player and that's important to Chip Kelly. ... Other WR notes: I'd say Jeff Maehl and Arrelious Benn (who looks fully healthy) are competing for a sixth spot. Benn may be more talented but he needs to prove he can stay healthy, especially while playing on the special teams unit. Ifeanyi Momah looks better than he did last season and could contend for a practice squad spot this time around.
- Darren Sproles still got it. Sproles turned 31 today (Happy Birthday, Darren) but he still looks fast and dangerous. Chip Kelly made sure to note that Sproles is still a running back and not a receiver, but who are you kidding, Chip? Sproles is bound to catch a number of passes in this offense. As far as other RBs go... LeSean McCoy looks as good as ever. Chris Polk is clearly the number three leaving Matthew Tucker, Henry Josey, and David Fluellen battling for a potential fourth spot.
- The Eagles work hard. It's not an uncommon sight to see extra Eagles hanging around the field after practice. I've seen Riley Cooper run post-practice sprints. Mark Sanchez and Jordan Matthews get some extra throws/catches in. Zach Ertz, Malcolm Jenkins, Brad Smith and others put time working on their hands via the JUGS machine. Players want to get better on their own time.
- A year makes a difference. Kelly, assistant coaches, and players have all noted that everyone feels more comfortable in Year 2. There's less time being spent on figuring things out and more time being spent on actually doing the things that need to be done.
Bonus: My favorite quote from training camp comes from Shady on a day where he wore sweatpants (only one on the team to do that) in 95+ degree weather.
"It's a mental thing. It's so hot, people are saying 'Ah, you're wearing sweatpants?' I mean, I've made it. I probably had one of my best practices today. [smiles]"
My notes from individual practices can be found below. Don't forget that the Eagles staff reports for Training Camp on July 25th.