A Time for the Rookies
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Friday was a time for the Eagles' rookies and Doug Pederson set the tone for that rather quickly during his pre-practice press briefing when asked about the health of his star quarterback Carson Wentz.
"How does that pertain to rookie minicamp," the coach shot back at a reporter who asked if Wentz would be ready for on-field OTAs in two weeks. "...It's about the rookies that are in this weekend."
Pederson did say Wentz, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his back which cut short his 2018 campaign, had been working in Phase 2 of OTAs, which encompasses some throwing and conditioning but no actual team drills. It remains to be seen how cautious Philadelphia is with its starting quarterback during the spring, however, and the next hint will come on May 21 when those on-field OTAs begin.
“I’m not going to get too specific or detailed,’’ Pederson said. “He’s been working. We’re encouraged by his progress and where he’s at. Just looking forward to the next two weeks with him before OTAs begin."
The QBs running the show Friday were rookie fifth-round pick Clayton Thorson and former AAF signal caller Luis Perez.
Five draft picks, 11 undrafted players, and a handful of first-year options like Howie Roseman-favorite Joe Ostman were joined on the field by 29 hopefuls getting tryouts, a group which included Philadelphia natives Claudy Mathieu, a defensive end out of Notre Dame College in Ohio, and receiver Delane Hart-Johnson out of New Mexico.
"A lot of guys these last couple weekends, have been a part of, at least two rookie minicamps and I think it's a great way to guys that were not drafted but yet on your board to get them in here this weekend and really, really watch them," Pederson said. "Get them in the meetings with their position coaches and then watch them watch them run around for these next three days and you never know."
History says an undrafted player will help the Eagles at some point during the 2019 season.
"You know we have found in my past that there's a guy or two that end up making your roster for training camp and that's what you're hoping to get out of this weekend," the coach surmised.
The microscope, however, is on the draft picks, which include first-round left tackle Andre Dillard, as well as second-round selections Miles Sanders and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
Pederson mentioned how the Eagles backup offensive linemen would be cross-trained to test their versatility but Dillard, the heir-apparent to Jason Peters at LT is a little different.
"Andre's different," Pederson acknowledged. "We're trying to get his feet wet. Just get him getting moving around."
The luxury of having proven veterans like Peters and Alshon Jeffery allows the Eagles plenty of time to refine top-tier prospects like Dillard and Arcega-Whiteside.
"It's positive, you know they can see the veteran number one and what I like about that is, they see how the veteran player works, how he attacks the day, how he approaches the meetings, how he attacks the walk through," Pederson acknowledged. "Really set the standard for how the other player needs to come into our organization and really find our culture that what we've established, what our players have established.
"And then obviously to see him. See that veteran player on film. You know to watch all these cut-ups and watch Alshon or as a quarterback to watch Carson, how they handle game situations and I think it's so valuable just to see the veteran player from a young player to embrace that."
Time as also on Thorson's side, who arrives in Philadelphia as a developmental player behind Wentz and Backup Nate Sudfeld.
"There's a lot of things we can do within the structure of the offseason rules," Pederson said when discussing Thorson and Perez. "How they command the huddle. I mean so you see that confidence. How well they spit out the verbiage the terminology, how will they pick that up. I mean, there's going to be mistakes. I mean that's just part of this weekend but we try to throw different concepts out and see how well they can they can handle that. Kind of sort of introduce them to what it's like."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen