Eagles OTA Notebook: Pederson Cracks the Door at QB?
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - If Eagles head coach Doug Pederson cracked the door open to a quarterback competition before the team's on-field OTA session Friday, Sam Bradford did his best to try to slam it shut again with his sharpest session to date.
Toiling inside the practice bubble at the NovaCare Complex on a raining Friday afternoon, for the first time Bradford looked like the clear leader of the pack as both backup Chase Daniel and prized rookie Carson Wentz struggled at times throwing the football.
Before things even got started, however, Pederson cause a bit of a stir with a contradiction that's familiar is every NFL city but one, fans and plenty of media members can't digest in Philadelphia -- the fact that there are clear starters but the coaching staff also wants to foster competition come training camp in late July.
"It's still a competition," Pederson said when asked about his coordinators straying off message and at least intimating that Wentz could win the job.
"Listen, I brought guys in here at all positions for competition. That's what makes you better. Iron sharpens iron. ...Competition is great. It helped me as a quarterback. I look at what Sam's done and he's taken this thing and run with it. It's unbelievable what he's done. I'm so excited about the direction he's going, and the stuff that he's doing on the field right now are the things that I expected and what I saw at the end of the season last year from Sam Bradford."
And that was before Bradford hit the practice field with a crispness we haven't seen in the previous three OTA practice sessions open to the media.
The veteran was able to develop a nice chemistry with both Josh Huff, who easily had his best effort of the spring, and Nelson Agholor, who continues to impress and show serious improvement.
On one play, Bradford deftly placed the football in the soft spot of a cover-2 zone down the right sideline, finding Huff as he raced past Leodis McKelvin and before Malcolm Jenkins could get over the top to help.
"I feel like Sam is doing exactly what I've expected of him and what he's expected to do," Pederson said. "He's having an outstanding offseason right now. These OTAs have been great for him.
"I think Chase is right there as the backup right now and he's pushing and challenging Sam from the aspect of not only on-the-field stuff, but in the classroom, as well. And Carson is learning. Carson has been doing very well. Each day he's taken a step in the right direction and you know, it's a great room. The room has a lot of great conversation, a lot of great dialogue, bouncing ideas, coming to me with ideas about plays and situations. It's been everything I've expected."
With OTAs officially wrapping up today and the mandatory minicamp set for next week, the status quo remains in effect with the depth chart reading Bradford, Daniel and Wentz in that order.
"My message has always been, ‘Don't look over your shoulder, look forward,’ and that's what (Sam has) done," the coach said. "He's embraced it."
OTA NEWS AND NOTES:
*Both Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles have sat out all the voluntary OTAs but Pederson expects each to be back when the mandatory stuff starts on Tuesday of next week.
"I think deep down they are going to be here," the coach said. "There's no indication [that they won’t be here], you know, that conversation hasn't been talked about yet. So it's a mandatory situation. It's the only mandatory aspect of the entire offseason program, so I, as the head football coach, expect both of those guys to be back and be a part of their team and be back in the locker room. I think it's important that they are both here."
Cox, of course, is wrangling for a long-term extension while there have been conflicting reports on Sproles and whether he wants a reworked deal or was jut intent on spending more time with his family in San Diego.
"I have not (spoken to either)," Pederson said. "Of course with Darren, Duce [running backs coach Duce Staley] has a great relationship with him and they have stayed in touch pretty much the entire offseason, you know, just kind of keeping Darren in the loop of what we are doing offensively and on special teams, but again, we expect him to be here. Then on Fletcher's side, I know that Howie [Eagles Executive Vice President of Football Operations Howie Roseman] has been in touch with his agent throughout the whole process. Again, he's another one that I expect to be in town on Monday."
*Pederson confirmed that cornerbacks JaCorey Shepherd and Nolan Carroll have both been cleared for team activities next week at minicamp. That's a big step for each and Carroll figures to be in the conversation for the starting RC position. For the second straight practice, Ron Brooks opened up opposite McKelvin in the base defense with Brooks moving to the slot in nickel and Eric Rowe taking his place on the outside.
*Wide receiver Rueben Randle is also expected back from gall bladder surgery in a limited fashion for the minicamp.
*Nagging injuries continue to be a problem for middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, who missed team drills with a quad spasm. Veteran Najee Goode replaced Hicks with the first team and had the play of the day, a brilliant interception of Bradford as the quarterback tried a quick pass to Zach Ertz down the seam. Rookie Joe Walker was the backup mike linebacker.
*In team drills McKelvin was visibly upset on one play after losing in a 50-50 ball with Huff.
*Third-string DE Steven Means tipped a Wentz pass as he rolled out in the flat near his own end zone and Walker intercepted the pass for what would have been a defensive TD. Wentz's college teammate, cornerback C.J. Smith. also intercepted the signal caller when T.J. Graham broke off a go route and there was a miscommunication between he and Wentz.
*There was a funky formations today during scout team work with offensive linemen Dennis Kelly and Matt Tobin lining out wide before resetting on a screen play. It was done to mimic the Cleveland Browns, who play the Eagles in Week 1. Kelly was also playing left tackle at one point on an unbalanced line deep in the red zone outside of Jason Peters.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen