Earlier this week, I wrote a piece touting Five Things We’ve Learned from NFL OTAs so far.
Now, in the same vein, it’s time for me to turn that attention on the Philadelphia Eagles.
It’s been a wacky offseason in Philadelphia, from Donovan’s dismissal to DeSean’s disappearance to Dick’s debut (meaning new special teams coach Jauron, that is).
The Birds’ OTAs officially ended on Thursday, and there were many pleasant surprises over the course of the last six weeks—with the following five being the biggest, best, or brightest.
The Eagles have taken a Florida Gator in the fifth round of the draft each of the last two years, and both look like great investments so far this summer.
Last year’s selection, TE Cornelius Ingram, has shown great speed in his initial return from the torn ACL that cost him all of his rookie year.
Ingram, who hasn’t played in two seasons because of knee injuries, still needs to work on his pass catching but he certainly looks like he can be a force.
This year’s pick, WR Riley Cooper, definitely doesn’t need any work on his coordination. The 6’3” banger particularly impressed this week, catching almost everything Kevin Kolb sent anywhere near him.
Both Cooper and Hank Baskett had great last sessions, which could make a possible impending choice between them for a roster spot that much harder.
So Marlin Jackson is done for the year, Ellis Hobbs is still recovering from a neck injury, and Asante Samuel is nowhere to be found?
No big deal.
Dimitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson looked good as the starting corners in the final sessions, Macho Harris got plenty of reps at his natural position, and fourth-round pick Trevard Lindley (who Garry Cobb noted as “improving leaps and bounds daily”) has made some ridiculously athletic interceptions.
But the true gems may be at safety.
No. 37 overall pick Nate Allen has been nothing short of outstanding so far; he’s picked up the schemes with aplomb, shows sound understanding of his responsibilities, and is willing to bulk up from his already-imposing 210-pound stature.
Andy Reid and Howie Roseman think he can be a force right away, with the GM telling ESPN’s Matt Mosley that “We didn't take a guy at No. 37 to be on the sideline. We drafted him there so that he could play immediately.”
Beyond Allen, Quintin Demps has looked like a completely different player this year. His mouth, which was the biggest part of his game in 2008 and 2009, seems to have gotten more in tune with the franchise philosophy, and his play on the OTA field has shown flashes of the potential everyone says he’s always had.
The Birds are rumored to be looking for a veteran safety to fill a backup role in Marlin Jackson, but they have to be happy with the ones they’ve got so far.
Both of the Eagles’ top defensive line picks, Brandon Graham and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, have shown tremendous speed so far. How that translates once the pads are on and contact is allowed remains to be seen, but it’s an encouraging sign.
Even more encouraging so far has been Ricky Sapp, who Garry Cobb noted has “serious burst out of his stance.”
The former Clemson star, who played the hybrid “Bandit” position in Death Valley, was thought to be a potential 'tweener but has looked much more comfortable at DE than at LB so far.
If he is officially added to the ranks of Graham, Te’o-Nesheim, Trent Cole, and Darryl Tapp, the Birds are going to be able to send out fresh rushers in the same mold almost every down—which spells havoc for opposing offensive lines.
When Stewart Bradley left OTAs last week with an apparent calf injury, the brain trust held their collective breath inside the NovaCare Complex.
But it turned out to be nothing more than cramps, the first piece of pretty good news for the Birds’ backer corps.
With Bradley out this week, Omar Gaither took most of the snaps at MIKE. Not only did he look completely healed from the Lisfranc sprain that cost him a good chunk of last season, he also looked very comfortable back in the middle.
"My foot is fine," Gaither said. "I can probably go 'full go.' The coaches don't want to rush things so I'm just getting ready for training camp."
On the outside, meanwhile, starting SAM Moise Fokou looks to have greatly improved his coverage skills, seventh-round pick (steal?) Jamar Chaney has been impressive in limited reps at that position, and fellow rookie Keenan Clayton has shown the speed necessary to be great in coverage.
If Clayton can put some more bulk on his small frame, he can be a force as a backup LB…but can also possibly switch to safety if he can’t.
Catchy title, huh?
Sadly it’s true, and the answer depends on who you ask, I guess.
Jackson has been grumbling about his contract in recent weeks, but his non-presence at OTAs seemed to be a bit of a surprise to most of the media.
While the team had no official word on Jackson’s absence Monday, Howie Roseman told ESPN that “Jackson’s had an excellent offseason” and this week’s OTAs were “voluntary.”
Adam Schefter later reported that it wasn’t a contract squabble, but when Kevin Kolb told reporters he had an “inclination” that No. 10 would skip out, that theory once again swung around to probable.
Either way, his absence allowed guys like Cooper and Baskett to shine, and Jeremy Maclin has had an amazing offseason so far as well—with many predicting him to make a huge leap this season, much like Jackson did in his second campaign.
So much like the defense, the Eagles’ receiving corps is likely to be fine with or without their Pro Bowl receiver.