The Philadelphia Eagles held their final OTA practice — the second of two spring sessions open to media members — on Thursday afternoon and I watched the action unfold inside the bubble at the NovaCare Complex. Let’s get to some observations!
- DISCLAIMER: Before we get started, please remember that the Eagles don’t permit videos/photography after warmups and position drills. So, that’s why you’re not seeing any team drill highlights.
- ATTENDANCE UPDATES: A number of key players were missing from practice. It bears repeating that OTAs are voluntary, so it’s not the biggest deal that they were absent. A.J. Brown attended last week’s practice but wasn’t there today. DeVonta Smith was back after not being around last Thursday.
- INJURY UPDATES: Still no practice for Avonte Maddox, who watched from the sideline. Marlon Tuipulotu was able to participate to some extent after being limited to rehab work last week. Derek Barnett (be honest, did you remember he’s still on the team?) was at practice but did not participate. Still making his way back from his 2022 Week 1 ACL injury.
- JALEN HURTS UPDATE: This wasn’t the best Hurts practice I’ve ever seen. He got picked off twice by two unheralded players (Christian Elliss and undrafted rookie free agent Mekhi Garner) and had another deep shot down the left sideline knocked down. He also had a short target to Greg Ward Jr. broken up by 2022 UDFA signing Mario Goodrich. Hurts slightly overthrew Quez Watkins on another downfield throw. On the bright side, Hurts did have some good connections with DeVonta Smith. It’s impossible to get too troubled by a single OTA practice after what we saw Hurts accomplish last season. But I will say I thought he performed better in OTAs last year than he did in the two practices I watched this year. I expect him to be sharper in training camp.
- If you missed last week’s notes, I wrote the following about Christian Elliss:
The other memorable Mariota moment was when he threw a pass over the middle that didn’t get high enough to not be intercepted nicely by Christian Elliss. Nice play. I’ve mentioned on a couple BGN Radio podcasts that I believe Elliss might have the largest delta on the roster. He could conceivably not even make the roster ... or he could potentially steal a starting off-ball linebacker spot. The most likely outcome, of course, is that he falls between those two options. But I feel like Elliss has more of a chance to play meaningful snaps than most would think. He showed some juice in an incredibly small sample size last year. At the very least, he should be a good special teams contributor. Interesting under-the-radar candidate to monitor.
I bring this up because Elliss stood out again on Thursday. The 24-year-old took first team reps next to Nakobe Dean (not sure if Nicholas Morrow was around) and did his part to flash. Elliss broke up a short Hurts target intended for Jack Stoll and then intercepted Hurts in the middle of the field for a pick six. Elliss displaying athleticism to hang in coverage and instinctual play-making ability is certainly a positive development for the team. He continues to build a case for getting snaps on defense. Pairing the 6’3”, 231-pound Elliss with the 5’11, 231-pound Nakobe Dean could be ideal as opposed to having the 6’0”, 216-pound Morrow next to him instead. Dean and Morrow would make for a relatively small linebacker corps.
- It would’ve been ideal to see Dean flash more than he has to this point. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for him to do that much in training camp and the preseason games. But if it’s another quiet summer for him, that would be disappointing.
- Terrell Edmunds has a reputation for being a solid but unspectacular safety. The veteran safety did make a splash play today by knocking down a Hurts pass to Olamide Zaccheaus to prevent a 40-yard touchdown. I think some might be sleeping on Edmunds; I don’t think he’ll be so easily displaced by Sydney Brown. I’m expecting Edmunds and Reed Blankenship to be the Eagles’ starting safeties this season ... with Brown potentially playing some rotational snaps.
- DeVonta Smith: Still very good. He ran crisp routes and regularly got open at various levels of the field. He fooled UDFA cornerback Eli Ricks on a double move for an easy touchdown at one point.
- This is an especially anecdotal observation but I feel like Marcus Mariota doesn’t have great zip on his throws. Mariota didn’t do much that was noteworthy; the only thing I wrote down was when he overthrew Kenneth Gainwell in the flat.
- Tanner McKee seems to process the field well for a Day 3 rookie. He doesn’t look rattled back there. Nor should he in a 7-on-7 setting ... but that much can’t always be taken for granted. The same couldn’t be said about Carson Strong last year, for example.
- UDFA CB Mekhi Garner notching an interception on Hurts was nice but he got reprimanded by the coaching staff for punting the ball after making the play (obviously would be a penalty in a real game). Offensive players didn’t like that, either.
- Dan Arnold popped once again with a difficult leaping catch. It helped that he was being covered by Kyron Johnson, who is taking reps at off-ball linebacker as opposed to being an edge rusher.
- Adding my own commentary regarding Nick Sirianni’s pre-practice press conference where he hyped up Quez Watkins: it seems like he thinks Quez is a player who stands to benefit from being talked up. By contrast, other players might respond better to being challenged. While I believe the Eagles genuinely like Quez more than most fans do, it’s also true that Sirianni’s comments do nothing to harm Watkins’ trade value.
Jalen Hurts says Quez Watkins is “doing a really good job.” He says Quez is “playing a number of different positions.”— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) June 8, 2023
Added: “He’s hungry. And he’s used everything as fuel. And I’m excited to see the show he puts on this year.”#Eagles
UP NEXT: Summer vacation! Eagles players and coaches are off until training camp begins in late July. We’ll still have daily coverage of the Birds in the meantime here at Bleeding Green Nation.