Eagles OTA Observations
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Sam Bradford's return and Darren Sproles' future were the main events of the first day of Eagles’ on-field OTA work but there were plenty of other noteworthy developments at the NovaCare Complex as the organization transferred back to a more traditional practice environment under first-year head coach Doug Pederson.
Sproles and Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox were missing in action as they have been during the first two phases of voluntary work, although Pederson expects both veterans back for the mandatory minicamp in June.
Also absent were third-round pick Isaac Seumalo, hybrid Oregon running back/receiver Byron Marshall and defensive tackle Aziz Shittu, who will not be back until training camp because their colleges (Oregon State, Oregon and Stanford) all use the quarters system instead of the more traditional semester setup.
Several other players were limited as they continued rehab from various injuries, including tarting middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was dealing with “tightness” in his legs not the torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2015 season. Also, cornerbacks Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd as well as kicker Cody Parkey were limited to just individual work as they continue to rehab from their '15 injuries. Finally, backup nose tackle Beau Allen missed practice entirely.
Incumbency has its privileges and Allen Barbre is still the Eagles’ starting left guard for now, while Malcolm Bunche and Josh Andrews rotated in with the twos and threes. Seumalo will also be in that mix when he returns while veteran free-agent signee Stefen Wisniewski got his work in as the backup center to Jason Kelce on Tuesday.
“Right now, it is Allen Barbre’s job,” Pederson said. “I think again, that’s something we did through the draft and free agency to shore up that spot. I really like where we’re at. I like the depth at that position now. But, yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he’s our starter.”
From left to right the first team offensive line was Jason Peters, Barbre, Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson. The second team was Matt Tobin, Bunche, Wisniewski, Barrett Jones and Dennis Kelly, while the third team was Andrew Gardner, Andrews, Bruce Johnson, Darrell Greene and "Big V" Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
Stop me if you've heard this before but the Eagles receivers had trouble catching the football at times, although the weather certainly had something to do with that. Former Bills speedster T.J. Graham and Jonathan Krause has the most issues.
As a whole Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Rueben Randle and Josh Huff are going to move around a lot more this season as Pederson is more of a formational play caller who will try to take advantage of potential matchups from week to week. Matthews was particularly excited about his ability to move out of the slot at times when talking after practice.
BARWIN OVER BRANDON
On the other side of the ball, Connor Barwin got the first-team reps at right defensive end ahead of Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry handled the other side with Marcus Smith backing him up. Taylor Hart was inside at the three-technique in place of Cox.
All of Bill Davis' 3-4 outside linebackers have moved to defensive end, including special-teams standout Bryan Braman and Travis Long, who is attempting to return from his latest ACL injury.
With Hicks out of team drills, Najee Goode handled the MIKE duties in the base defense and was one of the two top nickel linebackers, along with Mychal Kendricks. Rookie seventh-round pick Joe Walker rotated in after Goode
At corner Leodis McKelvin handled the all-important left side while Eric Rowe was the right corner with Ron Brooks handling first-team nickel duties. Obviously when Carroll returns to team drills he figures to be in that mix. McKelvin, a former first-round pick, was head and shoulders above any other corner on the field Tuesday.
CARSON MEET DENZEL
Second-year corner Denzel Rice was the first to victimize Carson Wentz, intercepting a ball that would have went for a pick-six during 7-on-7 drills. Rice also got Sam Bradford later in the session as did free-agent safety Rodney McLeod, who looks like the real deal next to Malcolm Jenkins on the back end.
Speaking of safeties, Jaylen Watkins moved to the back end exclusively next to Ed Reynolds on the second team, while Chris Maragos was running with the threes with rookie Blake Countess.
First-year tight end Chris Pantale, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound Boston College product, got the most work as a fullback.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen