The Philadelphia Eagles held their final minicamp practice on Thursday to close out the team's 2016 spring offseason workout program. It's been over two months since the program originally began on April 4.
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. With 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
This is always the most important takeaway. Other teams around the NFL have already had players suffer season-ending injuries. The Eagles were fortunate enough to make it through the spring unscathed.
Now, the team isn't 100% healthy. Some players such as Jordan Hicks, Rueben Randle, Nolan Carroll, JaCorey Shepherd, etc. were limited at times during practice. But it would seem they're all going to be ready to play by the time training camp begins in 45 days.
2) Doug Pederson is a lot different than Chip Kelly
Eagles practices are so much slower now that Kelly is gone. It remains to be seen if that's a good thing or not, but it's definitely different. Pederson is much more hands on during practice than Kelly was. Some players like having that kind of in-practice instruction. Kelly didn't want to do that kind of thing because he didn't want to slow practice down. He was more focused on maximizing practice reps.
The changes aren't just limited to practice philosophy. Players have pointed out the stark contrast in schemes as well. Gone is the no-huddle approach. The Eagles' offense now features a heavier emphasis on the pre-snap phase. The playbook is much bigger than Kelly's. Quarterbacks have more freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage.
The Eagles haven't completely tried to erase the memory of Kelly. There's still an emphasis on sports science. Post-practice smoothies still exist. The team still plays music during certain parts of practice. There are still some read-option elements to the offense. But to no surprise, so far the Pederson era is a lot more reminiscent of Andy Reid's time in Philly than Kelly's reign.
3) Eagles quarterbacks are splitting reps
I don't think there's a huge gap separating Philadelphia's quarterbacks in terms of performance. While that's up for debate, though, there's no disputing the Eagles have split the quarterback reps nearly equally this spring. For as much as the Eagles have talked about how Sam Bradford is their starter, sharing the reps and not giving the majority to him shows they're not all-in on him. But that's nothing we already didn't know. Drafting Carson Wentz was already the obvious tell the Eagles don't really believe in Bradford in the long-term.
Bradford had a decent spring. He had more good days than bad. He didn't really through the ball deep much, which is totally unsurprising. Bradford didn't struggle to the extent that would make me believe the Eagles will deviate from their supposed plan of starting him in Week 1.
Daniel had the best showing of any quarterback this spring, in my opinion. He wasn't amazing or anything. He just didn't make a lot of mistakes. He was consistently solid. Of course, it helps that he already knows the offense. Speaking of, part of Daniel's value is teaching the offense to Bradford and Wentz. Both quarterbacks said Daniel has been a big help in that regard.
Wentz was up and down. Sometimes he made plays that showed he deserved to be the No. 2 overall pick. He looked really good throwing on the move and he wasn't shy to take chances down the field. Sometimes Wentz showed that he's still a rookie who might not be ready to play right away. Some of his passes are still a little wobbly. His aggressiveness is admirable but he also needs to make sure he's not forcing throws that aren't there. I think the Eagles' plan to not start Wentz immediately is the right call, unless he goes out and plays so well that he forces their hand.
4) Fletcher Cox isn't holding out (yet)
Cox skipped all of the team's voluntary workouts but he showed up to minicamp. Even though he didn't really participate in practice much, it's still a good sign he showed up. Cox easily could have skipped minicamp for a mere fine of $76,580. There seems to be optimism that the two sides will agree on a contract extension sooner rather than later. Pederson said he's "fully confident" a deal will get worked out before training camp. If it doesn't materialize though, will Cox skip camp? For what it's worth, the man dog said he's expecting to be in Philly when camp starts in late July.
5) The Eagles might be better off at cornerback than you expected
The cornerback position is arguably the biggest concern on the Eagles' defense. It might not be all that bad, though. Leodis McKelvin looked really good this spring. The veteran was singled out and praised by Pederson. He broke up a lot of passes and recorded a few interceptions as well. Along with McKelvin, rookie cornerback Jalen Mills has played well. Pederson also praised him. It's not just those two, either. Second year cornerback Denzel Rice made some plays. Even undrafted rookie free agent C.J. Smith flashed a few times.
Nolan Carroll, who was limited due to returning from injury, and Eric Rowe didn't flash so much this spring. But they played well at times during the regular season last year. JaCorey Shepherd still hasn't really practiced yet. He'll be another name to watch after looking good last offseason.
There's a lot of competition at this position and that's a good thing for the Birds.
6) The wide receivers don't inspire confidence
Jordan Matthews has had a good spring. That was expected, since he's a good player. The key thing for him has been minimizing drops.
Chris Givens has also looked good. He appears to be a deep threat to some extent. The Eagles haven't had one of those since Jeremy Maclin left.
Outside of those two, though, the Eagles receivers aren't very inspiring. Rueben Randle missed a number of spring practices due to gallbladder surgery. Nelson Agholor has been up and down while struggling with drops. Josh Huff has also struggled with drops. The Eagles simply need more talent at this spot.
7) Eagles rookies are off to an encouraging start
I already wrote about Wentz and Mills. They're not the only rookies who have stood out. Fifth round pick Wendell Smallwood has looked good catching the ball out of the backfield. Sixth round pick safety Blake Countess broke up a pass or two. Joe Walker got looks at second team MLB. He looked good in coverage. Myke Tavarres and Quentin Gause made some big plays on defense as well.
Third round pick Isaac Seumalo, along with UDFA players Byron Marshall and Aziz Shittu, missed spring practice due to NCAA rules. They'll be back for training camp.
8) Jim Schwartz is going to fit in Philly very well
Schwartz will be hated or love based on how the defense performs. Eagles fans will love his coaching approach thus far. He's had no problem calling out his defense for being "crappy" in practice. His honesty and intensity should go over well in Philly ... especially if the defense is playing well.
9) The Eagles might carry a fullback you didn't expect
Fourth string tight end Chris Pantale was (and still is) a relative unknown heading into spring practices. He's looked good catching the ball, though. He's also been getting first team reps at fullback. Pantale is bigger than your average fullback at 6-6 so it remains to be seen if this experiment will work out. He'll also need to prove he can play special teams well. For now, I might pencil in Pantale for a roster spot. Or the practice squad again, at least.
10) There's a leader in the kicker competition
Eagles fans might prefer Cody Parkey to Caleb Sturgis, but it's the latter who has the edge so far in the kicking competition. Sturgis has simply missed less kicks than Parkey. There's still plenty of time for Parkey to regain the lead, but for now Sturgis has the leg up. (Boooooo bad kicker pun.)
My notes from individual practices can be found below. Don't forget that players begin to report for Eagles training camp on July 25.