The Philadelphia Eagles finished up mandatory minicamp practice on Thursday to close out their entire spring offseason workout program. It's been nearly two months since the (mostly) voluntary program originally began on April 20.
Media was present for a limited sampling of the Eagles' practices: four days during Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and three days of Mandatory Minicamp. These events weren't as meaningful as training camp practices because contact is strictly prohibited during spring workouts. That said, there were definitely some interesting takeaways gathered in the last few weeks. Here's my list of 10 things we learned.
1) No major injuries
Undoubtedly the most important takeaway from the spring. Earl Wolff (knee), Mychal Kendricks (arm?), Randall Evans (?), and DeMeco Ryans (Achilles) were the only players who finished spring practices at less than 100%. One would think they should be ready by the time training camp begins in early August. It's especially important for Wolff to get healthy because he's in a make-or-break situation.
2) Sam Bradford is getting healthy and he's intriguing
Bradford had a good spring. He's not 100% yet but he's made visible progress in his recovery and he expects to be fully ready by training camp. Except for the last day of minicamp, Bradford looked pretty sharp and consistent. He often showed the kind of "repetitive accuracy" Chip Kelly requires from his passers. Bradford can really rocket the ball into tight spaces. I'll be very interested to see what he does in training camp.
Notes on other QBs: Mark Sanchez doesn't look bad at all. He's clearly much more comfortable in the offense than he was at this point last year. Still, I don't buy the idea that he'll start over Bradford unless the latter is injured.
When it comes to the third string QB battle, Matt Barkley seems to have the edge over Tim Tebow for now. Barkley has been OK. Tebow has struggled. In defense of Tebow, Sanchez really struggled picking up the offense at this time last year. Maybe Tebow will be better in training camp, maybe not.
3) There's hope for the "Walter Thurmond at safety" experiment
Heading into OTAs, it wasn't even clear who would start next to Malcolm Jenkins. Now it already seems like Walter Thurmond, who no one knew was going to be moved to safety, is now the favorite. He had a really strong spring. He looks natural in coverage. It'll be interesting to see how he holds up when it comes to tackling. He also needs to prove he can stay healthy.
4) The wide receiver position is fluid
At this point, the first team wide receivers look like this: Josh Huff and Riley Cooper on the outside with Jordan Matthews in the slot. Matthews got some reps on the outside during the spring but the bulk of his work came on the inside. Nelson Agholor showed why the Eagles used a first round pick on him this spring. He's really talented. He's fast, runs good routes, and attacks the ball in the air. He's going to be too good not to earn playing time.
As for the depth guys, Seyi Ajirotutu seems like a lock to make the roster. He's already known for his special teams prowess but he looks good as a pass catcher as well. Consider him an upgraded version of Brad Smith. Miles Austin didn't really stand out either way but Chip Kelly really gave him some high praise recently. Of the undrafted free agent wide receivers, Rasheed Bailey has stuck out to me. He isn't flashy but he can move the chains. He could the land on the practice squad.
5) Evan Mathis is gone and the Eagles really trust Allen Barbre
The Eagles released Mathis prior to the team's mandatory minicamp. Philadelphia's offensive line depth was already a question mark prior to cutting him, so now it's even more of a concern. The Eagles don't seem so worried, however. For some reason they're just really high on Allen Barbre. He'll be the starter at left guard. Matt Tobin seems like the early favorite at right guard, but he won't be handed the job. Tobin will have to hold off Andrew Gardner, Dennis Kelly, and Kevin Graf to keep his starting spot.
6) Mychal Kendricks is still here
Kendricks is entering the final year of his rookie contract and the Eagles haven't discussed an extension with him, but he's here for now. The combination of him and Kiko Alonso should make for quite the starting inside linebacker duo. It remains to be seen how DeMeco Ryans factors in because he hasn't been able to fully participate in team drills yet.
7) Nolan Carroll is the early favorite to start at cornerback
Carroll had a really good offseason last year. I even highlighted him as one of the best players from last spring. Outside of his dime linebacker role, however, he didn't really play much last season despite the struggles of Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams. Carroll is now the early favorite to start across from Byron Maxwell. He took most of the starter's reps this spring and he played well once again.
8) Zach Ertz is primed for a big year (again)
Zach Ertz has been doing what it takes this offseason to earn himself more playing time. The Eagles have seen improvement in his blocking. He looks good as ever as a pass catcher. He even took some first team tight end reps while Brent Celek ran with the second team at times. Despite having a good season in 2014, Ertz didn't quite make the leap that some expected from him. Maybe he makes the big leap this year.
9) Good early showing from rookies
I already touched on Agholor. He's been impressive. Aside from him, second round pick Eric Rowe has also stood out. He's knocked some passes down and he even had an interception during a red zone drill. Rowe was burnt by Agholor a few times, however. Third round linebacker Jordan Hicks looked good in coverage. JaCorey Shepherd knocked down a ton of passes, which is something he did in college as well. Randall Evans finished spring practices with some kind of minor injury. Brian Mihalik looks like he needs to add some weight. The Eagles could redshirt him like they did with Taylor Hart last year or put him on the practice squad.
10) Outside linebacker depth is questionable
With Brandon Graham being elevated to a starting role (and being very excited about that), the depth behind him and Connor Barwin isn't proven. 2014 first round pick Marcus Smith needs to step up, especially after misses some spring practices due to a groin injury. The team is high on Travis Long, who is coming off an ACL injury. Vinny Curry is getting some looks on the outside but isn't a full time linebacker. How will this position play out?
My notes from individual practices can be found below. Don't forget that Eagles Training Camp begins on August 2.
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