The Philadelphia Eagles OTAs and Minicamp are over and the players are now taking a break until training camp begins. I, like a lot of others, followed all the Eagles beat writers closely every day that practice was open to the media so I could check up on what was happening and I can now give 10 observations after reading through hundreds of tweets. Huge thank you to Bleeding Green Nation as they had a page that posted all beat writers tweets in that made it a lot easier to follow. Remember all practices were non contact and played without pads but these practices are still important so if you missed what happened I will try to summarize the most important points below.
1) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles continues to impress: Despite throwing a few interceptions, reporters seemed very impressed by Nick Foles‘ general play throughout. During accuracy tests Foles always seemed to score the highest and I don’t think there was a single practice where the media weren’t raving about at least one of Foles’ throws. I think Foles will continue to progress and I can’t wait to see him next year.
2) Darren Sproles was rarely used in the slot: When the Eagles signed running back Darren Sproles I envisioned him playing a lot of snaps in the slot but this was not the case in practice. Head coach Chip Kelly seemed to shoot down the idea of Sproles as a receiver in press conferences by saying Sproles is a great running back and will be used primarily out of the backfield. After drafting wide receiver Jordan Matthews to play in the slot and because tight end Zach Ertz can also play in the slot; Sproles may find himself rarely used in the slot next season.
3) Nolan Carroll has been great: Newly signed Eagles cornerback Nolan Carroll has really impressed a number of reporters who watched him; I was impressed by Carroll when I watched some of his tape from last year and I really believe he will be one of the Eagles starting cornerbacks by week 1. Carroll is a great press corner and during non contact drills cornerbacks aren’t allowed to press; this means that Carroll has impressed despite not being able to press which is really impressive.
4) Jeremy Maclin is back to full strength: Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin missed all of last season with a torn ACL but he appears to be back to full strength already. He appeared to be very fluid in and out of his breaks and was not limited by his knee at all. Foles said in a press conference that his “gut feeling” is Maclin is better than he’s been previously. There is a lot of pressure on Maclin after the release of DeSean Jackson and I’m expecting a really big year out of him.
5) Backup QB is a problem: I don’t honestly believe there is an open competition for backup quarterback, I believe free agent signing Mark Sanchez will be the Eagles backup quarterback unless her performs extremely poorly. He has taken the majority of second team reps in practice and I think Kelly signed him to be the Eagles backup next season after losing Michael Vick. Reporters haven’t been impressed with Sanchez however, he has struggled with his accuracy and appears to be very inconsistent. I am worried that if Foles has to miss any game time next year, the Eagles offense may struggle with Sanchez at quarterback.
6) Nate Allen has the advantage over Earl Wolff: Eagles safetys Nate Allen and Earl Wolff will be competing over the summer for the starting position alongside Malcolm Jenkins. Nate Allen has been taking the majority of the first team reps in practice and unless Earl Wolff performs extremely well in preseason I can see Allen starting the season as the starter with Wolff getting a smaller number of snaps. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis spoke highly of Allen a number of times last season and they decided to bring him back rather than hand the job to Wolff. I still have hopes Allen can become a great safety and was really impressed by his progression last year.
7) Matt Barkley is competing for a roster spot: Eagles quarterback Matt Barkley reportedly did not play particularly well and questions continue to arise about his arm strength. Quarterback GJ Kinne did not set practice alight but many Eagles reporters were impressed by his arm strength and he is by far the most mobile of the Eagles quarterbacks. If Chip Kelly is not impressed by Barkleys progression, Kinne’s athleticism and arm strength may give him a chance to make the roster over Barkley who has limited athleticism. Ideally, neither quarterback will see the field next season but I would not be surprised if Barkley is cut before then.
8) Brandon Boykin continues to shine: Almost every reporter came to the same conclusion during the Eagles practices; cornerback Brandon Boykin looked like the Eagles best cornerback and probably the Eagles best defensive player. He had a high number of pass breakups during the practices and I can’t remember seeing his name come up very often for a negative reason. Boykin does not get the credit he deserves because he only plays in the Eagles nickel package but Boykin is an elite slot cornerback who should only get better and better.
9) The Wide Receiver battle will be fierce: The Eagles have 4 receivers who will all make the roster (Riley Cooper, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff) but the battle for the 5th spot and the 6th if they keep 6 receivers will be fierce. I expect Brad Smith to make the cut as the Eagles 5th receiver as he has taken some first team reps and Chip Kelly has mentioned him a few times as being someone who the Eagles are excited about. However, Jeff Maehl made some nice plays last year and he has a real chance to stick around. Damaris Johnson struggled last year but he showed great promise in his rookie year. Ifeanyi Momah has also looked a lot better than last year in practice and Chip Kelly mentioned him and Will Murphy as receivers who have stood out. The Eagles have no shortage of options but I think it will be Brad Smith and Jeff Maehl who make the final 6.
10) The Eagles offense are moving extremely fast: The Eagles were running plays extremely quickly and according to reports they were running plays quicker than every 10 seconds at times. Chip Kelly has said that because players are now used to the no-huddle approach the offense can move even quicker than last year. Players weren’t used to the no-huddle approach last year so we probably never ran it at the speed that Chip Kelly would have ideally liked. This year there can me no excuses and I am expecting the Eagles to run plays extremely quickly and try to wear the opposing defense down.