The Eagles had an off-day on Monday, but there was still a lot to unwrap from the first four days of training camp. Specifically, what head coach Doug Pederson and coordinators Jim Schwartz and Mike Groh had to say about the guys so far this summer.
There was a lot of talk about young guys and which players are making big strides, but there was also some appreciation for the team vets. We’ve still got a few weeks before the regular season gets underway, but the team’s first preseason game is just nine days away!
Here’s what the coaches had to say:
1. Michael Bennett already impressing
The Eagles have spent a lot of time and resources to cultivate the type of winning and cohesive culture they have today, and Jim Schwartz is excited to add veteran Michael Bennett to the team.
As much as they talk about emotional intelligence, it’s become increasingly about what these guys do on and off the football field, and Bennett should be an all-around asset heading into the 2018 season.
Despite missing some time with his new team earlier in the spring, Bennett has already impressed Schwartz, who wasn’t shy with the hype during his training camp press conference.
COACH SCHWARTZ: He’s going to be a great asset to this team. First of all – and I hadn’t had a whole lot of exposure to him other than watching him wreck the offenses that I’ve been a part of – but because he wears those little tiny shoulder pads you don’t realize how big he is. You guys go watch him, watch him stand next to Fletch. That’s when it comes to me. It’s like, wow, this is a big man.
Again, asset to the team not just from his play, but I think I mentioned this back in the spring, Mike is a great mentor to younger players, and I’m not just talking about off-the-field stuff and stuff like that.
Watch him during an individual period and watch him provide instructions to the back of the roster guys, to the undrafted free agents. He’s not a selfish player. He’s a team-first guy. He’s been a pleasure for us to have around.
I’m really, really excited about seeing all the different ways he can contribute to this team, because it’s not just going to be on the field.
2. Sidney Jones isn’t acting like a rookie
After tearing his Achilles and missing most of his rookie season, cornerback Sidney Jones has impressed during the spring, and continued that into training camp. Jones was activated for the final regular season game of the 2017 season, and made his first career tackle.
It wasn’t exactly the stat-line fans were expecting of the potential-laden draft pick, but that little boost of confidence of in-game experience has already gone a long way for Jones. The second-year player made use of his time on the sideline and was sure he’d be mentally prepared when got back out on the field.
Merrill Reese asked Schwartz during his time with the media if he was less tentative about Jones seeing more playing time this season.
COACH SCHWARTZ: He’s at a completely different spot than the rookies are right now. Sitting in every meeting, he made good use of that time. Just getting his body ready and training, knowing what he’s got to go through, it doesn’t seem like he’s a rookie player out there.
3. Greg Ward Jr. has impressed Mike Groh
After signing with the Eagles in 2017 as an undrafted free agent, wide receiver Greg Ward ultimately landed on the team’s practice squad for his rookie year, but has impressed his coaches so far this offseason. Ward was a college quarterback before shifting positions as he turned pro, but so far seems to be working his way through his new position with long hours and lots of training.
Earlier in the spring, Doug Pederson mentioned receiver Ward as a second-year player who had made big strides, and Groh didn’t hesitate to back up that assertion during his time with the media.
MIKE GROH: Greg has come in, and just like a lot of quarterbacks, he’s got that quarterback mentality. He’s used to being in the building early, staying late. Watches a bunch of tape on his own. He kind of is shadowing [WR] Nelson [Agholor] a lot with a lot of things he’s doing and doing a tremendous job of that. As he has made that transition, you see him get more and more comfortable. Not thinking as much about playing the position of wide receiver. Just reacting off what the defense is doing. He has excellent short-area quickness, really soft hands, reliable hands. He can lock the ball up in traffic and transition quickly to a runner. So, we’re excited about Greg and his potential.
4. Young WRs standout to Pederson
Similar to what Schwartz had noted about Sidney Jones, Doug Pederson noticed an increased sense of confidence from receiver Shelton Gibson. During his rookies season, Gibson was only active for the latter part of the year, but did see snaps on special teams and nabbed two receptions in the Week 17 game against Dallas.
Now heading into Year 2, Gibson should see a big leap after putting in the work in the film room and
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, I think he has improved, and the second part of that I think is just confidence, just playing. He played some special teams roles for us towards the end of the year last year. It gives him a little bit of confidence. He’s really embraced the offseason. He’s studied, he’s worked hard, and he’s done a nice job. He’s off to a good start to this year’s camp.
Another young receiver Pederson is excited about is Tim Wilson, the local guy who earned a spot through a tryout. The team ultimately only has 53 final roster spots, but with some veteran wideouts to help elevate the new guys — like Mike Wallace and Alshon Jeffery — there’s not reason Wilson couldn’t earn one of the spots with a solid preseason performance.
DOUG PEDERSON: Yeah, after the tryout. He did -- first of all, going all the way back, I just remember how he flashed with his speed, quickness, agility, really good ball catcher, and quite honestly, he’s a smart kid. He understands routes. He understands leveraging defenders, and so it warranted an opportunity to compete in camp. And so obviously where he’s at and where we are with some of the health issues that we have has given him an opportunity to show what he has and compete a little bit. I’m excited to see him in these upcoming games to really be able to evaluate against, obviously, another opponent.
5. Other impressive rookies on offense
A lot is already expected on incoming rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who has been compared to Zach Ertz since well before the 2018 NFL Draft. With both big-bodied, soft-handed guys playing in tandem, the Eagles offense should have a lot of two- and three-tight end packages at the ready.
MIKE GROH: Dallas is really smart. He’s mature. Really doesn’t say boo. He speaks when spoken to. He’s in there taking notes. You saw him show up and make some plays down the field today, which was encouraging.
Additionally, the Eagles’ OC mentioned rookie guard Matt Pryor has already impressed, and even earned some snaps with the ones during training camp.
MIKE GROH: I think Stout [Eagles offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland] has been really impressed and pleased with where he is with his progress. I think he can cross-train both inside and out at tackle. Love his size. Obviously, he’s got good foot quickness, and another guy that brings his lunch pail to work every day. He’s quiet. He’s smart. He’s picking it up. He can articulate the offense when asked questions. So, really pleased where he is the after three days.
The team is back in action on Tuesday, and we’ll see how some of these young guys develop, and how some of the new veterans assimilate.