The Philadelphia Eagles wrapped up their 2018 spring offseason workout program last week. We’re now in the dead zone until training camp begins in late July. Here’s a final look at 13 things we learned about the Eagles based on watching their OTAs and minicamp practices.
1 - Mostly avoided injuries
Getting through spring practices without suffering new injuries is the number one goal. Doug Pederson even said as much.
Unfortunately, the Eagles suffered a season-ending injury on the first day of OTAs when Paul Worrilow tore his ACL. But while that’s a bummer, Worrilow wasn’t necessarily a lock to make the final roster. And the Eagles avoided major injuries outside of that one.
It’s not like Philadelphia’s roster is completely healthy. They still have a number of key players on the mend. Hopefully those guys will continue to do well in their rehab. For now, it’s good to know the Eagles didn’t add many more players to that list.
2 - Carson Wentz is probably starting in Week 1
I don’t know how you could watch Wentz this spring and think he’s NOT going to be ready to play Week 1. Barring an unexpected setback, he’s going to be the guy under center for the Eagles’ season opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
Wentz obviously still has some hurdles to clear — he didn’t do any 11-on-11 work in OTAs or minicamp — but there’s no indication he won’t be able to do so. He’s been relentlessly attacking his rehab. He looks hungry to go back out there and complete the unfinished business he has from last year.
Eagles fans should be very excited to see what Wentz has in store for Year 3. History bodes well for him.
3 - The cornerback battle will be real interesting to watch
It wasn’t that long ago when the Eagles had some of the worst corners in the NFL. Now they have a glut of talented youth at the position. The only question is: how will it shake out?
Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills seem locked into the starting jobs on the outside. They’re both coming off strong spring showings.
Who replaces Patrick Robinson as the nickel corner? De’Vante Bausby came out of nowhere to emerge as a legitimate contender for the job. He took a lot of first team reps there, especially with Sidney Jones missing some time. Avonte Maddox has the athleticism to play the position but I didn’t get the impression he’s mentally ready just yet.
I know everyone wants to see Jones on the field. So do I. But he has to earn his playing time. You don’t just hand it to him. Hopefully he’ll be ready for training camp after missing multiple weeks of practice due to his “lower body soreness” hockey injury.
Not mentioned here is Rasul Douglas, who received praise from Pederson for having a good spring. I don’t think the 2017 third-round pick really has a path to playing time right now. Not a bad backup to have around, though.
4 - The Nate Sudfeld hype isn’t unfounded
We’ve heard the Eagles coaching staff say that Sudfeld was “turning heads” in practice last season. We’ve heard them say that they think Sudfeld is going to be a “very, very, good player.” We’ve heard them say he’s basically the next Joe Montana.
OK, so that last one isn’t true.
But you get what I’m getting at. They’ve really hyped him up. Is it justified?
We still need to see how he looks in extended game action, but I will say that the hype isn’t totally unfounded based on what I’ve seen in practice. Sudfeld flashed nice mobility, accuracy, and arm strength this spring.
I think he projects to be a capable No. 2 quarterback, at least. And a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
5 - Replacing Mychal Kendricks shouldn’t be too difficult
Some were skeptical of the Eagles’ decision to release Kendricks earlier this offseason. I mean, how can they possibly replace a player who was projected to play, like, one third of the snaps this season!?!
Releasing Kendricks on the first day of OTAs allowed the Eagles to give more reps to his potential replacements. I thought both Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry looked pretty good while lining up with the first team defense. They’re both very athletic and adept in coverage. I wasn’t as impressed with Corey Nelson.
It’s still a very close race. Plus we have to see how these linebackers hold up when the pads go on in training camp and the physicality picks up. For now, I’m not really all that concerned about this group.
I know Jordan Hicks’ injury history is worrying but we’ve seen that Nigel Bradham can fill in for him. As for who would step up in Bradham’s place, like Kendricks did last year, I think the Eagles can at least get by with what they have. Whether that’s a rotation of Grugier-Hill/Gerry/Nelson or one of those guys stepping up and seizing the job ... or the Eagles signing a bandaid veteran like they did with Dannell Ellerbe last season. It’s not a major concern.
6 - Philly Goedert could make an instant impact
As it’s been pointed out before, it typically takes tight ends longer to adjust to the NFL than rookies at other positions.
It’s possible Goedert could be the exception to the rule, to some extent.
The Eagles’ first selection in the 2018 NFL Draft was very impressive in spring practices. Goedert caught everything thrown his way and looked unguardable at times in the red zone.
Goedert’s playing time will still be kept in check with Zach Ertz ahead of him. Richard Rodgers, who received some first team reps in the spring, could also be in the mix.
With this in mind, I don’t expect Goedert to post crazy yardage numbers. But he could be a really effective in specific situations such as third down and the red zone. We could see him post some significant first down conversion and touchdown numbers.
Once again, we still need to see how Goedert performs when the pads come on. He definitely stood out in shorts.
Quick takes on other Eagles draft picks:
Avonte Maddox - Has flashed potential but doesn’t seem mentally ready to play the slot in a full-time capacity.
Josh Sweat - Has shown the ability to generate pressure but he’s largely been going up against third string offensive linemen.
Matt Pryor - Has lined up at both second team right guard and third right tackle. The Eagles are trying to get him a lot of reps, which seems like a good sign for Pryor’s roster chances.
Jordan Mailata - Has a long way to go. Hard to even trust him to play in the preseason, unless it’s Joe Callahan under center.
7 - The defensive line needs to get healthy
Philadelphia’s defensive line, which generated the most pressure in the NFL last year, was a huge reason why the Eagles won the Super Bowl. They’ll need another strong year from that unit as they try to defend their world championship.
The good news is that Eagles still have a lot of defensive line talent on their roster. The bad news is that it’s not all healthy.
Super Bowl hero Brandon Graham is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery. Graham said he’s ahead of schedule but it’s unclear exactly when he’ll be back. He said he’s shooting for Week 1. Hopefully that’s the case. Graham is incredibly important to this defense, as evidenced when he made the biggest play in Eagles franchise history by strip-sacking Tom Brady in the Super Bowl.
Tim Jernigan, meanwhile, could miss up to half of the 2018 season. The combination of his restructured contract, which isn’t favorable to him, and what we’ve heard behind the scenes indicates he might be out for even longer.
Haloti Ngata, who figures to start with Jernigan out, sat out the entire spring. It’s unclear if the Eagles were just going easy on the 34-year-old vet or if he’s still not 100% recovered from the biceps injury he suffered last year.
Hopefully it won’t take too much longer for this unit to get healthy. The defensive line is absolutely imperative to the Eagles’ success.
8 - Philadelphia needs to figure out their safety depth situation
The Eagles currently don’t have any proven backup options behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. That could easily change if Corey Graham is re-signed, which is very possible.
I’ve also been intrigued by Tre Sullivan’s development. We already know he’s a very physical player. But he also looked very good in coverage during spring practices. He was one of the few players who was able to match up with Goedert. The Eagles even lined Sullivan up in the slot at times.
Jeremy Reaves is a player who could shine more once the pads come on. For now, he looks more like a practice squad candidate.
9 - No real leader of the pack for the fourth running back spot ... or is there?
It’s not easy to gauge the running ability of running backs in non-contact drills. With that in mind, I don’t think anyone created real separation for the fourth running back job behind the trio of Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement.
But if I had to give someone the lead, I’d say it’s Matt Jones over Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams right now. BGN has learned the coaching staff likes the Washington castoff. Also look at what Dave Spadaro recently had to say about him:
Who is No. 4? Matt Jones has the size and running backs coach Duce Staley is hammering Jones, working him hard, coaching him like he’s never been coached.
Pump had a few moments during the spring that were encouraging. Still need to see a lot more from him. Smallwood didn’t really stand out, good or bad. Adams still hasn’t been able to practice as he recovers from a foot injury. The undrafted rookie has a lot of ground to make up.
The fact that fourth string running back is one of the more “interesting” battles on the Eagles’ roster is a testament to Philly’s depth.
10 - Interesting battle for depth jobs at wide receiver
Keeping along those lines, I’m interested to see who wins the fifth and sixth receiver jobs. Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins are locked in. The final two spots will likely come down to Shelton Gibson, Markus Wheaton, Greg Ward, Bryce Treggs, and Rashard Davis. Marquess Wilson could be in the mix with a strong summer, too.
Gibson looks a lot further along than he was at this time last year. His drops haven’t completely gone away but they’re not nearly as frequent. Wheaton has proven NFL production under his belt and looked capable during spring practices. Ward saw some first team reps in the slot. Treggs picked up where he left off last summer. Davis, who boasts return ability, was singled out and praised by Doug Pederson. Wilson didn’t stand out a ton but he has intriguing size at 6-4, 206 pounds.
I’d say Gibson and Wheaton are the current leaders for the final two spots. But there’s plenty of time for things to change on that front. This should be a real healthy competition in training camp and preseason.
11 - Doug Pederson has come such a long way
It’s amazing how far Pederson has come since being an unpopular hire in 2016. The Super Bowl winning head coach does not come off nearly as awkward as he used to during press conferences. Now he owns the room.
More importantly, Pederson has instilled a great culture in Philadelphia. While speaking with the players, it’s apparent they really want to play hard for this guy. “Happy workers make more productive workers.”
Pederson faces a big challenge this year as he tries to have his team fight off complacency in order to repeat as Super Bowl champions. He’ll be heading into the season without some of his key offensive assistants (Frank Reich and John DeFilippo) as well.
But Pederson has earned the right to your confidence. They don’t win the Super Bowl without him. He’s legitimately one of the best head coaches in the NFL right now.
12 - Howie Roseman still might have some tricks up his sleeve
It wouldn’t be surprising if Roseman makes some trade before the season starts. You look at positions like cornerback and defensive end, for example, where the Eagles have a lot of bodies and could look to ship someone out for a draft pick.
Then there’s always the possibility of a Nick Foles trade, especially with Wentz looking healthy and Sudfeld stepping up.
It would be great for the Eagles to add even more draft assets to help keep their roster depth stocked for years to come.
13 - Some random thoughts
I’m still intrigued by Joe Ostman as a developmental prospect. He doesn’t have the ideal combination of height/weight for playing defensive end but the dude is rocked up and can generate pressure.
I think Joe Callahan warrants a non-zero chance of being the No. 3 quarterback on the 53-man roster if Foles gets traded.
Richard Rodgers looks to be locked into the third tight end job with no one doing much to challenge him.
I think the Eagles should really bring in a veteran to compete with Cameron Johnston. Donnie Jones is still on the market after un-retiring earlier this offseason.
I can’t wait to see the Super Bowl banner raised before the home opener on Thursday, Sept. 5.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl.