Eagles training camp is more than a week old at this point. Players have had their chance to make a strong first impression on the coaching staff, and it appears a few young players have already caught the eye of Doug Pederson. When asked about which undrafted rookie free agents have stood out this summer, the Eagles head coach mentioned three names.
"Well, he's not an undrafted free agent, but Trey Burton has had a nice camp so far," said Pederson. "And I think Paul Turner has been a kid that has showed up a little bit on offense. You know, even defensively, Destiny's [Vaeao] done a nice job at the D-line position. So, there are some young guys that are giving themselves an opportunity to potentially make the roster."
Much is still unknown about Pederson, but one thing that's been consistent since he's been hired is his honesty. That's why it's at least a little interesting when he praises players by name when not specifically prompted to do so. Here's a closer look at each player.
There's been so much Burton hype this summer, and for good reason. The third-year tight end has caught nearly everything thrown his way. He's a reliable daily on a target basis. His versatility allows the Eagles to line him up in the backfield and out wide in addition to his traditional tight end role. Burton has earned a lot of praise from the coaching staff recently.
"Trey's done a really good job coming into camp and got himself ready to go," said Pederson earlier this week." He had a good offseason, had a good 10 weeks in the spring. He's a guy that we're going to have to rely on a little bit. I love the fact that we have depth at the tight end position and [we can] move him around a little bit and create some match-ups. That's what you want out of guys like that. He's a versatile role player in that situation, and he's done a nice job."
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich, meanwhile, literally said that he "loves" Burton.
Burton has already proven to be a special teams stud to this point in his career. Now he deserves the opportunity to make some plays on offense. It's not exactly like the Eagles have so much talented skill players on offense that they can't afford to force feed some plays to Burton.
I previously wrote that none of Philadelphia's rookie undrafted free agent wide receivers have stood out in a good way. Things have changed a little since then. Turner has been having a nice camp. He struggled with drops early in training camp but has been more consistent ever since then.
Turner was the first name mentioned by Pederson when the coach asked about his UDFA receivers earlier this week. Pederson even praised Turner by nickname: "PT."
"He's a kid that's really kind of understood our offense and understood his role," Pederson said.
Turner isn't an overly flashy player. The 5-10, 193 pass catcher hasn't come up with the kind of incredible catches that fellow UDFA receiver Cayleb Jones has made. At the same time, his lows haven't been as bad as some of Jones' mistakes.
If Turner can't sneak onto the 53-man, he might find himself on the practice squad.
The Eagles are a little thin when it comes to defensive tackle depth. Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan are the starters. Mike Martin has played well enough to seemingly move into the top backup spot. Aside from these three, though, things appear to be wide open.
Back in the spring, Pederson praised his UDFA defensive tackles for standing out in a good way. He didn't specifically mention anyone by name, but perhaps he was referring to Vaeao. The Washington State alumnus could push for a depth job or practice squad spot.
Watch Pederson's Friday press conference in the video below via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page.
Q. You had a couple of injuries today to WR Jordan Matthews and TE Zach Ertz on hits that were low. Are you instructing your players not to hit like that?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, we're in a live situation too so I understand the competitiveness of the drill. But I've tried to get the message across too sometimes. We just protect each other; try not to go low if you [can]. It's reactionary stuff. You know, you can't fault the players for trying to make plays.
Q. Did RB Ryan Mathews leave early too?
DOUG PEDERSON: I don't think so. He just was on a limited basis today. [I] wasn't aware if he went in or not, but if he did, it was just limited and just [to] keep the treatment going.
Q. WR Cayleb Jones, an undrafted free agent out here trying to make the roster and a guy making the plays all over the field here. He had 23 missed tackles last season [at Arizona] and was able to show some separation. Do you notice those characteristics?
DOUG PEDERSON: A little bit. For a young guy, he's doing really well. Big, tall target; he’s got some good speed, good length. He has the occasional drop from time to time, but those are all things that young players go through. Obviously the volume of information that we throw at him also can play a part in what he's doing. But yeah, he's really off to a good start. I look forward to watching him play in these games.
Q. In the secondary, can you assess the cornerback depth and with guys like CB Eric Rowe and some of the safeties that can play; S Jalen Mills who played cornerback and free safety in college? Will those guys have to find roles? Will they be specifically cornerback and free safety?
DOUG PEDERSON: Right now you're seeing a lot of rotations out there. That’s something [Eagles defensive coordinator] Coach [Jim] Schwartz and I talked about it is getting many players kind of exposed to different positions on defense. Once we get into the regular season, we'll be a little more sort of role specific. So, right now all those guys are getting opportunities at a bunch of spots.
Q. How do you balance between you want to hit and you want to simulate what these guys may see, and a lot of the guys get banged up. How do you balance that and weigh that?
DOUG PEDERSON: I just know this: Football is a contact sport. This is going to happen. It’s going to happen. Whether it happens today or it happens Thursday night, it's part of the game. I'm a big believer [that] you never shy away from contact. You've got to have contact. It's a contact sport. You know, you just keep training the guys. You keep talking to them about protection. Every drill doesn't have to be live, but at the same time we can still be in position to make tackles and form fit and run game, offensive linemen. We stay up and we learn to do it that way, and it becomes a sign of the football. But, again, it's part of the game. We'll continue to obviously monitor the guys, but at the same time, [we] won't shy away from the contact.
Q. You don't second-guess?
DOUG PEDERSON: No, I can't. I can’t. If you second-guess, you get beat.
Q. You spoke very highly of RB Wendell Smallwood. How important is this time that he's missing, knowing that you wanted to see what he's like with the pads on?
DOUG PEDERSON: You know, it's tough for a young player and for us as coaches to get that true evaluation. But we know who he is, what he is. We saw a lot this spring [and during the] first couple days of camp. I have a good idea. Right now it's a matter of him just getting healthy and getting back on the field and getting caught up. What we're doing doesn't change much from day-to-day offensively. So, when he does come back, it's just a matter of trusting himself and getting him coached up.
Q. T Jason Peters and S Malcolm Jenkins, what’s their timetable?
DOUG PEDERSON: It's day-to-day. It’s day-to-day. Those are two guys that are valuable pieces of this football team and we'll continue to monitor both of them. But both of them are on track and we'll just monitor it day-to-day.
Q. Any reason why QB Carson Wentz is wearing a camera on his helmet and the other two quarterbacks aren't? Is there any sports tech behind that and any particular reason why?
DOUG PEDERSON: No, no. If you notice, too, we do it every day. We put cameras on several guys, offensively and defensively, and [we] just wanted to put it back on him today. It's just something that we just keep looking at the film. It's nothing that we're using right now. It's just something we're, as a staff, just seeing if it's beneficial to the players, beneficial to us as an offense or defense.
Q. Any schedule for your quarterbacks this Thursday night? What is your schedule for your quarterback rotation?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it's typical in the first game you try to get them all in the game, but I don't have the exact timetable as to how long and how many reps each one will get.
Q. You talked about giving defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz autonomy over the defense. But in meeting rooms in the building, do you spend any time in those defensive meetings or do you generally just stay on your side of the fence?
DOUG PEDERSON: Most of my time is spent on the offense and getting the guys coached up there, but Jim and I will sit down from time to time and just talk and see where everybody's at. Plus I'm evaluating the tape, so I get to ask questions and find out more about players and just stay in tune with everything that's going on. Right now it's a fine line because we're also trying to get everything executed on offense as well. So, the bulk of my time is still on the offense.
Q. How did G Brandon Brooks look today?
DOUG PEDERSON: He's good. He's good. He's another one that's day-to-day. It was good to see him and [RB] Ryan [Mathews] out here getting some individual work [and] some group install stuff. We'll just kind of keep progressing with both of those guys.
Q. RB Ryan Mathews, specifically, is it nice to get him back out here coming back from an ankle injury, only for a short period of time, but to get him back out here as your top running back getting him into the flow of things?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, it's valuable. Especially the first part of camp when he hasn't had the exposure to pads yet, and get him out here and run around. It was good to see him put the ball in his hands a little bit, see how he was running around. I thought he did a nice job when he was in there. We'll just keep giving him more and more and more every day.
Q. Any more updated impressions of QB Carson Wentz from what you’ve seen over the last few days?
DOUG PEDERSON: Not really. I think he's doing a nice job. He's on track. He's learning. This is that time of camp where we've thrown so much at these young players and all the players that the volume of information usually catches up to players, to quarterbacks, in specific, but he's done a nice job with it. He's learned to kind of categorize everything and keep things relatively simple.
Q. Was CB Nolan Carroll out there today?
DOUG PEDERSON: He was not out here today. Again, the ankle, just monitoring him. [We] just want to keep him coming so he's ready for the regular season.
Q. Your kickoffs, it looks like you’re working on kicking higher, into the corner. Is that because the touchback has been moved to the 25-yard line now?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, we're exposing ourselves to a lot of different things right now in that regard. I think you're going to see that in the preseason, teams trying to kick it higher, trying to land it more on the goal line and try to cover and keep teams inside the 20. It will be interesting, again, with sort of the trial and error through training camp, just how this thing's going to play out going into the regular season.
Q. How are the kickers adjusting to that?
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, normally they're just used to kicking the ball deep in the end zone. But both have really worked hard this spring and obviously in camp to try to land that ball a little bit shorter. But the key is also keeping it high for the hang time and off of a small tee sometimes it can be taxing. But they've both done a good job.
Q. How do you feel about your wide receiver corps in this first week of practice?
DOUG PEDERSON: It's a good group. It's a group that really prides themselves in making plays and doing the right thing. And Rueben Randle is a guy that has kind of stood out right now. Jordan Matthews goes without saying. He's a player that works extremely hard. He's obviously the first one in the building and the last one to leave. He's just a sponge. He wants to soak everything up. Chris Givens, Paul Turner, you can go down the line. Every one of them has had days where they've made plays. You just never know who is going to show up on any given day. But as a group they've done a really good job.
Q. Do you feel like you have a good deep threat?
DOUG PEDERSON: I do think there are some guys that can stretch the field, but I also think you do it by scheme. [It] doesn't always have to be the fastest guy down the field. These guys have really embraced what we're teaching.