Bulls and Bears at Eagles’ OTAs
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles closed out 10 scheduled OTA practices on Friday by skipping the final one.
Instead coach Doug Pederson decided to go with a team-building exercise and took his players on a paintball trip.
Take that Jason Peters, Donnie Jones and Marcus Smith, veterans who decided to skip this voluntary portion of the offseason.
Of the players who were on the field during the four sessions open to the media, here are the five players who stood out (in stock market terms, the bulls) and those who struggled (the bears).
WR Nelson Agholor - Taking advantage of the knee tendinitis that shut down Jordan Matthews for two of the three weeks of OTAs, Agholor got a ton of first-team reps in the slot and looked like he belonged with starters Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith. The former first-round pick seems to be playing with more confidence now that he's out of the spotlight and he closed out OTAs on Thursday by splitting safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod down the middle and catching a bomb from Carson Wentz, which ignited his peers on the sidelines.
DE Derek Barnett - Barnett made Lane Johnson resemble at a turnstile on Thursday and has consistently shown the knack to get the edge with an impressive bend. Johnson, who has been playing left tackle in Peters' absence, was a little cranky when discussing just how good Barnett was on Thursday, saying "wait until the pads are on."
CB Jalen Mills - Mills is the Eagles' top cornerback, which is a scary proposition unless you saw just how confident he was this spring. The second-year corner really excelled in red-zone opportunities where his lack of long speed is off the table. Mills has been starting at left corner and moving inside when Jim Schwartz goes to his nickel defense and the LSU product is a strong candidate for the Eagles' most improved player if he keeps this up.
RB Donnel Pumphrey - The Eagles really like Pumphrey's skill set and spent of a lot of the OTA sessions getting him the football as a receiver in the slot, even unveiling a pony formation where Darren Sproles and the rookie are on the field at the same time. Pumphrey is electric in space and really undressed Mills on Thursday. If he's able to hold up to the pounding he's going to take at his size, he's going to lap Wendell Smallwood quickly.
CB Rasul Douglas - The Eagled need Douglas to play immediately because of their lack of depth at cornerback and so far, so good. Douglas started OTAs as the third cornerback, who would come in on the outside when the Eagles go to the nickel. By Thursday he was the starter at right cornerback opposite Mills and his length and ball skills are noticeable.
QB Carson Wentz - Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but Wentz has not looked sharp throwing the football this spring and was especially bad in a poor-weather practice last week. His much-talked about mechanics are clearly behind backup Nick Foles and he still is holding the football far too long on a number of occasions. USA Today's Turron Davenport, a frequent Sports Bash guest, told me Wentz is simply not trusting what he sees.
WR Shelton Gibson - Gibson has been the slowest starter of the rookies and is lacking confidence as the drops pile up. Gibson was given a limited route tree at West Virginia and is struggling to pick up the advanced playbook he has at the NFL level. Receivers coach Mike Groh has stopped on numerous occasions to correct Gibson's technique.
CB Patrick Robinson - Robinson is really the only veteran presence the Eagles have at cornerback and the team was hoping it struck gold with a low-risk, high-reward signing but the former Saints' first-round pick is losing ground to a rookie in Douglas.
WR Jordan Matthews - It's nothing about Matthews' play because he's been sidelined for most of the OTAs with the knee issues but Pederson prefers receivers who can move around and Matthews has been defined as a slot receiver at this point. Meanwhile, his time on the sidelines has allowed other receivers to catch the eye of the coaching staff.
RB Wendell Smallwood - Before the Eagles' signed LeGarrette Blount, Smallwood was being penciled in as the de facto starter. Well, get out the eraser because he's looked like the team's fourth back this spring.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen