The Philadelphia Eagles kicked off the start of their 2014 rookie minicamp on Friday, May 16. The team's seven draft picks, fifteen undrafted free agents, and seven tryout players were all in attendance for practice drills that were closed to the media. After the on-field activities were over, however, the seven Eagles draft picks (plus Alejandro Villanueva) met with Philadelphia media. I was in attendance for every rookie's press conference. Here's what stood out on a player-by-player basis.
WR Jordan Matthews
• I start with Matthews because he was easily the most impressive out of all the rookies, and that's no slight to his teammates. Matthews was simply very well-spoken. He seems very genuine and down to earth.
• Despite hard work ethic, Matthews doesn't consider himself a perfectionist. He used the word "technician" instead.
• Matthews called himself "one of the most competitive guys ever." And if you had any doubt... "I’m going to try to eat healthier than you. I’m going to try to practice harder. I’m going to try to stretch longer."
• You get the sense Matthews is a football junkie. Asked why he was watching Oregon games (he made a remark about watching Josh Huff while in college), Matthews said he can't get enough of watching football and studying tape.
• Matthews was asked about being one of the wide receivers to replace DeSean Jackson. His response: "I’m a totally different player than DeSean Jackson. I don’t even know where those comparisons would come from."
DB Jaylen Watkins
• Watkins was predictably asked about whether he will be playing cornerback or safety. Watkins said he feels most comfortable at cornerback because that's the position he's played longer. He's still learning the safety position.
• Watkins said he exclusively played press coverage at Florida.
• Watkins was asked about having to line up against fellow Eagles rookie and former Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews in college. Watkins noted the defense needed to know where Matthews was lined up at all times. He mentioned how Vanderbilt would line Matthews up in different spots on the field.
• Watkins wasn't able to do positional drills at the NFL Combine due to an injury suffered at the Senior Bowl. He also said he wasn't 100% during his Pro Day. Watkins assured the media he can run 4.3 when healthy, which is faster than his "official" 40 yard dash time of 4.41 seconds.
• Watkins talked a little bit about growing up with his half-brother Sammy Watkins. He said they grew up on the same street and they used to play Pop Warner football in the same league. Jaylen and Sammy were both quarterbacks on different teams back then so they never were on the field at the same time.
• Watkins finished his presser by noting how everyone in the Eagles' facility is friendlier than expected. As a rookie, he didn't expect such a warm welcome. Needless to say it's been a pleasant surprise for him.
NT Beau Allen
• Allen said he received a lot of calls from teams about signing as an undrafted free agent before the Eagles drafted him in the seventh round.
• Allen said he secretly wanted the Eagles to draft him. He really enjoyed his pre-draft visit in Philadelphia. Allen said his visit in Philly was "more organized" than the other teams he visited with. It was "more formal" and "not as relaxed." It sounded like he appreciated the challenge.
• Allen was apparently known for being a bit of a prankster at Wisconsin. Allen downplayed this notion but did admit he (and some friends) hacked J.J. Watt's twitter when Allen was a freshman. They made it seem that Watt was switching positions from defensive end to defensive tackle which caused confusion for some people in Wisconsin.
DE Taylor Hart
• Hart, who is huge, noted that coming to Philadelphia and seeing familiar faces in Chip Kelly and Jerry Azzinaro makes the transition to the NFL a lot easier.
• Hart noted that there are some similarities to Chip Kelly's Oregon teams in Philadelphia but noted the speed of the NFL makes things even faster.
• Hart said he's capable of playing all defensive line positions. He feels best playing at either defensive end position.
• Hart was asked if other teams were interested in him during the pre-draft process due to the fact not many teams seem to run a two-gap 3-4 defense. Hart noted the 49ers and Steelers are two defenses who run that scheme. I'm guessing that those were two teams that showed interest in Hart.
DE Alejandro Villanueva
• Villanueva said if he could go back in time he would definitely do the same thing over: service before football.
• Villanueva noted he's never really had the time in football to stick at one position and build upon it. He said he felt like if he had the time to develop at one position he would have been better. (He was used at multiple positions in college: OL, WR, DL.)
• Villanueva said his decision to leave the military was tough, but he got married last fall and his priorities are now about putting his family first.
• Villanueva will play defensive end for the Eagles. He said he trusts wherever the coaches want to line him up. He doesn't have a preference.
WR Josh Huff
• On signing his contract earlier, Huff said he just wanted to get it out of the way. He didn't want any distractions.
• "I love Philadelphia."
• Huff called the Eagles facility very much a "family environment."
OLB Marcus Smith
• Smith already met with the Eagles media last week so he didn't speak for too long.
• Smith said that he heard Arizona (pick No. 27) and Washington (pick No. 34) would have had interest in taking him if he hadn't been drafted by the Eagles.
S Ed Reynolds
• Reynolds spoke a lot about how he used to be a ball boy for the Giants while growing up.
• Reynolds also talked about how his father used to play in the NFL.
• Reynolds won't be able to attend other Eagles offseason activities before training camp because he's still taking classes at Stanford. Reynolds noted he will communicate with the coaching staff through Skype. He also said the Eagles podcast all team/position meetings and upload them to players' iPads.