Expect for there to be a few more bodies floating around the NovaCare Complex in the coming days.
What a difference a year makes. Last season, all anyone following the Philadelphia Eagles could talk about was the second-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, quarterback Carson Wentz. Fast forward, and the term “rookie” will never be used in relation to his name again. This year it’s about other positions. We may be talking about some of the same things we were talking about a season ago (wide receiver, cornerback and running back), but pieces have been added to satisfy those needs and everyone is excited.
Some of the newest members of the fraternity that is the NFL report to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday for a night meeting. Then, on-field activities will run from Friday to Sunday. Members of the media are allowed to attend practice on Friday to watch and observe.
Here are five things we’ll be paying attention to once some of the newest Eagles take the field:
1. How well Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins perform
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This one’s obvious. At this point, it’s no reason to talk about the futility this team experienced from the skill positions in 2016. All of a sudden, there appears to be what Eagles correspondent Dave Spadaro called a “logjam” at the position. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith join the team via free agency, giving the Eagles legitimate first and second options for Wentz in the passing game. Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins were both added via the draft, and this will be our first opportunity to see both in an NFL setting.
2. Mack Hollins and Donnel Pumphrey on special teams
Hollins is a big dude, but Donnel Pumphrey is not. It’s believed that both will be used in relief once games start counting, and with their skill sets, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll both get a look on special teams. Could we be looking at a couple of return aces or valuable contributors for what’s become one of the Eagles’ biggest weapons (their special teams unit)?
3. How does Nathan Gerry handle the transition from safety to linebacker?
Mychal Kendricks‘ future with the team is still up in the air, and there’s no real depth for the Eagles at linebacker. That being said, there may be a bit of a spotlight on Nathan Gerry as we get closer to the kickoff of the 2017 season as he may be on the field a lot sooner than any of us are expecting.
4. Does Rasul Douglas have what it takes to start right away?
At this point, we’ve all resigned ourselves to the fact that this will be a redshirt season for rookie cornerback Sidney Jones. Patrick Robinson has been added, but we’re still not certain about Jalen Mills or any of the other Eagles corners. Expect to see and hear a lot from Rasul Douglas over the coming months starting this weekend.
5. Will Elijah Qualls warrant his sixth-round selection?
Being selected in the sixth round can be tough. Sometimes you get a real gem, but most times, teams are really trying to tie up some loose ends. Often, the guys selected this late don’t make the roster. Elijah Qualls fills a need for the Eagles defensive line, and he gives the team depth. With the recent injury to Beau Allen, he may be asked to step up early. Will he be ready? We should all hope so.
Bonus: We can’t forget about Corey Clement.
There are always some disappointments and surprises during this time of the year, and Eagles fans are hoping Corey Clement is the latter. His presence gives Eagles fans hope that this team has at least one ball carrier that can pound the ball between the tackles (even if he isn’t expected to carry the ball 20 to 25 times).