This feature is a weekly piece on BleedingGreenNation.com titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.
It’s too early to say but …
- Alshon Jeffery, as has been widely reported, is exactly what the Eagles need in the passing game. Huge target. Goes up and gets the football. Has great hands. Uses his body well. Should be a tremendous threat in the red zone. He and quarterback Carson Wentz have established a very strong early chemistry. Jeffery is healthy, he’s motivated and he is clearly the go-to target in this passing game.
- As for the rest of the receivers, Torrey Smith had a fine day this week when reporters were permitted to watch practice, Nelson Agholor caught a touchdown pass and a guy nobody mentions and who is decidedly a longshot to make the team (but he’s my darkhorse receiver) Marcus Johnson has been impressive. Keep an eye on him. Johnson was here on the practice squad last season. He is miles ahead of where he was a year ago. Is that good enough to make the team? We shall see.
- Defensive end Chris Long has a lot more juice in his legs than I expected to see. Suddenly, the defensive end depth chart is far improved over last year. Derek Barnett, if first impressions mean anything, is the real deal. Vinny Curry knows he’s fighting for game reps. That’s a strong foursome. Potentially.
- What is Marcus Smith doing missing OTAs? The answer will have to come from him, but Smith is certainly not helping himself in any way. He is a player who needs every rep that comes his way. Puzzling.
- As much as I think signing Jeffery was Great Move No. 1 of the offseason, I’m just as convinced that trading for defensive tackle Tim Jernigan is going to have as significant an impact on the defensive side of the ball. The guy is a beast. He’s got incredible energy, gets off the ball extremely fast and is relentless. After playing in Baltimore’s two-gap scheme for three seasons, he’s going to be set free to shoot gaps here. "I've been waiting for this for a long time. A very long time,” he told me this week. “To play in a scheme like this, and not only that but with players like this, I feel like we're getting better on every level.”
- The cornerbacks are a work in progress. It’s that simple, and complicated. If you think the Eagles instantly “fixed” the cornerback positions in the draft by selecting Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas, you are wrong. It is fair to say that cornerback is the No. 1 position of concern for this football team. Let’s see how the kids come along, though. Douglas is highly competitive and he’s not as stiff in his body as you would think for such a big guy. Jalen Mills is a better football player now than he was last season. Still, the questions are warranted.
- Quarterback Carson Wentz has a quicker release, a shorter windup, whatever you want to call it. He’s more compact. He’s worked on his game in the offseason, that is for sure. Enjoy how he improves. We are watching a very, very special quarterback.
- Donnel Pumphery isn’t a running back here. He’s a “move” player. He lines up in the slot. He moves around the formation. He takes some handoffs. The idea is to get Pumphery in space in this offense. I say his rookie year is a learning season behind Darren Sproles.
- Another darkhorse to make some noise in the preseason? Tight end Anthony Denham is 6-feet-4 and 235 pounds. He played with the Texans for four games a few years ago. The Eagles signed him to the practice squad in December and he’s stepped up in these OTAs. The Eagles have Brent Celek toward the end of his career. Trey Burton is in the final season of his contract. They need to consider the picture in years to come. Maybe Denham fits in. Long way to go.
- It’s really impossible to say much about the defense at this time of the year, given the no-tackling edict in the NFL. So I will hold off until Training Camp. Jernigan stands out because he attacks the line of scrimmage. The entire defensive line is quicker than I’ve seen an Eagles D-line, collectively. Watching the cornerbacks is, obviously, much easier to do because they are actually permitted to cover. But the rest of the defense is not allowed to tackle, so it makes no sense to judge.
- And this, finally: If Lane Johnson doesn’t make the Pro Bowl this season, I will be stunned. He’s in the best shape he’s been in since he has been an Eagle. He is humbled by his two suspensions. He has a sense of purpose. Johnson, to me, is the next great offensive lineman here. And I think he is right when he says the offensive line can be among the very best in the NFL this season.