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Philadelphia Eagles rookies face their first big test this weekend

From The Eagles.

NFL: Combine Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

This feature is a weekly piece on 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.

After months of primping and preening and conducting countless interviews with NFL teams, eating huge meals and flying across the country, rookie Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert gets to do something he truly loves this weekend when the team’s Rookie Minicamp takes place at the NovaCare Complex.

He gets to play football.

“I can’t wait,” Goedert said. “It seems like forever since I’ve been on the field actually playing football.”

Goedert won’t have the full experience of “actually playing football” this weekend, given the non-contact, more-cerebral-than-physical side to this camp. It’s a mental exercise, basically, as the rookies are introduced to the ways of the Eagles’ “New Normal.” The rooks – draft picks, unsigned players and tryout hopefuls consisting of a group of more than 40 players – arrived at the NovaCare Complex on Thursday and went through the gauntlet of having their equipment fitted, taking physicals and meeting with position coaches.

And this is just the beginning.

By the end of the weekend, they will have a very small, but very real, sampling of what the NFL is about on a day-to-day basis. They will have a chance to meet the Philadelphia media, hundreds of whom will be at Friday’s opening practice – opened to the media for only the player warm ups and individual drills, so it’s always amusing to see “reviews” of how players fared in the first practice of the season – and they’ll be kept on an extremely tight, extremely aggressive schedule.

This is an introduction to a world that is remarkably fast paced and demanding, in every way.

“I remember that it was a blur, just like the whole season,” running back Corey Clement said. “You walk into the building the first time and it’s an entirely new world. Everything is faster. You have to be on point from the very first day.”

After that, the rookies will stick around and continue their acclimatization as the Eagles continue their offseason conditioning program through June 15. And then it’s vacation until Training Camp begins in late July.

The fun is starting.

With that, there are some questions on the table about this team, some of which head coach Doug Pederson will answer on Friday when he meets the media (for instance, he will provide an update on defensive tackle Tim Jernigan’s reported back surgery). The Eagles, it sure seems, have done a fantastic job of re-stocking the roster and giving it a wall-to-wall depth that may be, for this time of the season, unequaled in recent Eagles times. I can’t remember a time when the team had six quality defensive ends (including draft pick Josh Sweat), a potential fifth wide receiver (Markus Wheaton) who had 44 receptions and five touchdowns scored as recently as three seasons ago, or a running back signed off the street who enters the depth chart right around fifth or sixth with the sheer talent of Matt Jones or, for that matter, a backup group of offensive linemen that is so promising and includes the starting left tackle of the previous Super Bowl championship team. Oh, and a team that has a No. 2 quarterback who won the Most Valuable Player award in the Super Bowl? Unheard of here, and maybe anywhere.

So the Eagles are deep and they are talented and they’ve got a bunch of rookies here who don’t know up from down at this point.

It won’t be any easier for them in the months ahead.

“You just keep getting so much information, so much volume of information, thrown at you,” wide receiver Nelson Agholor said. “You learn that you have to stay on top of things. You have to work on that playbook like you’ve never worked before. There is so much pressure to perform day after day. You can tell a lot about players and how they handle it early on.”

Says head coach Doug Pederson: “A lot of it, you want to find out how much a player can handle mentally. That’s a big part of that first weekend. How much can they retain? Do they learn quickly? How much work are they going to put into it right off the bat? That’s the kind of weekend it is.”

The media has a very limited window into what happens during the course of this weekend, so any “scouting reports” you read or hear are largely for entertainment purposes only. The real challenge comes for the players as they take what they’ve been force fed in the classroom and translate those sessions into on-field tests. The players who win the mental game now have a better chance of winning the physical challenges a bit later down the road.

For the coaching staff and the personnel-evaluation team, that’s what matters most at Rookie Camp.

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