The Curtain Rises on the 2017 Eagles
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The curtain came up on the 2017 Philadelphia Eagles for the first time Tuesday as coach Doug Pederson ran his team through a two-hour OTA practice at the NovaCare Complex.
Here's what we observed:
THE DEPTH CHART: Carson Wentz went through the paces with his new weapons as both veteran receivers Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith were inserted with the first team from the get go as was recently signed running back LeGarrette Blount. The two proven commodities Wentz had from his rookie season rounded out the skill-position group, slot WR Jordan Matthews and tight end Zach Ertz.
Without Jason Peters stationed at left tackle, Lane Johnson was flipped and the OL from left to right was Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
For the defense, Brandon Graham was at left end and Vinny Curry on the right although the two also switched sides on occasion. Second-year man Destiny Vaeao replaced the absent Fletcher Con next to Tim Jernigan on the inside.
The linebackers and safeties were status quo -- Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks at LB and Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod on the back end. The starting corners were Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson.
In the nickel, rookie Rasul Douglas came in on the outside with Mills moving to the slot while Curry kicked to the inside as a rusher with either Chris Long or first-round pick Derek Barnett entering opposite Graham.
Nelson Agholor and Dorial Green-Beckham were the second-team receivers with rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson working in from there. On the offensive line, it was Dillon Gordon, Chance Warmack, Stefen Wisniewski, Josh Andrews and Matt Tobin from left to right with the twos.
Long and Barnett were the second-team DEs with Justin Hamilton and Winston Craig inside. The LBs were Najee Goode, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Don Cherry while the CBs were C.J. Smith and Douglas and the safeties were Jaylen Watkins and Terrence Brooks.
INJURIES: Backup MLB Joe Walker, who is returning from a torn ACL, participated in individual drills but not in any team action while corner Ron Brooks (quad tendon) also sat out. Versatile offensive lineman Allen Barbre was also limited with a calf issue and rookie undrafted OC Tyler Orlosky is out for up to two months after tweaking an MCL in rookie camp.
Nose tackle Beau Allen remains out with his torn pec the rookies from Washington, DT Elijah Qualls and injured CB Sidney Jones were absent because UW is on the quarters system so both are back at school.
DE Marcus Smith, meanwhile, was a no-show with no explanation.
FOOTWORK: Doug Pederson talked about Wentz working on his mechanics and footwork during the offseason and it showed up in drills when the lanky quarterback rolled right on a waggle and threw a strike to Jeffery deep down the middle of the field. It was against air but still impressive and encouraging to see.
"It's subtle," Pederson said of the changes. "That's the thing. We're going to see it as coaches. You may not see it as a spectator watching the game. It's just pointing his toe, it's getting him on his target line, things that we talk about each and every day that [quarterbacks] coach [John] DeFilippo does a good job with. And those are the things we continue to work on."
THE NEW RECEIVERS: The first two offensive plays in 11-on-11s were consecutive bubble screens, one to Jeffrey and the other to Smith.
THE OLD RECEIVERS: Agholor had a new look, taking lucky No. 13 with 17 now in Jeffery's hands and the embattled former first-round pick actually had a nice day, looking crisp with his routes and catching the football cleanly. Conversely, Dorial Green-Beckham struggled, mistiming a jump ball against Patrick Robinson and also having difficulty with (wide receivers coach) Mike Groh's flag drill.
"Nelson's attitude has been great," Pederson said of his embattled receiver. "He's worked extremely hard this offseason. The addition of Mike Groh has really sort of lit a fire with Nelson a little bit, and then the addition with Alshon and Torrey and bringing these guys in. As I've said all along, competition, man, sharpens you. And that's what I've seen from Nelson. He's done a great job already this spring."
WHAT-THE-OTA? You can tell it's time to experiment because at times Pederson and Frank Reich had diminutive RBs Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together, with Sproles in teh backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's an interesting wrinkle and one to keep an eye on.
HYBRID: We've talked about the Eagles cross-training Byron Marshall at both RB and WR as well as moving rookie Nate Gerry from his college position of safety to linebacker but the hybrid sighting of the day was Gordon, who was playing second-team LT behind Johnson. A former tight end at LSU, the bulky 320-pounder was back at his old college position on a couple of occasions during drills, however.
IMPRESSED: Johnson was impressed with Barnett, saying the rookie showed impressive bend as a pass rusher around the edge.
KELCE AND KENDRICKS: Despite the constant trade rumors both Kelce and Kendricks remain starters on this team and, at least for now, it's business as usual for those two.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen