Eagles’ Rookies Get to Work
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Doug Pederson had a simple message to the 46 players assembled for the start of the Eagles' rookie camp on Friday.
"My message last night to the rookies was I played 14 years and I was an undrafted free agent," the coach said. "So, stick to it. Work hard. Show us what you can do here, and great things are going to happen."
That's to-be-determined of course but the first look at the 2017 Eagles came underneath an overcast sky in South Philadelphia on an unseasonably cool May day featuring a scaled-down mixture of draft picks, undrafted free agents, one-year "veterans," and tryout players.
Most of the news came before practice where Pederson addressed a number of issues, including the potential holdout of Brandon Graham and the injury timetable of second-round pick Sidney Jones, who continues to recover from a torn Achilles suffered during his pro day.
The coach demurred a bit on his second-team All-Pro defensive end, who had been in Philadelphia for the opening of offseason work but has since returned to Detroit.
"Listen, I love Brandon, and obviously he and I have a great relationship," Pederson said. "He's been here. As you guys know, this is a voluntary off-season program, so a lot of this is out of my hands. But he's a guy that is valuable to the football team and I'm not worried about him at all."
When pressed if Graham would be back for the first phase of on-field OTAs for the veterans, Pederson couldn't offer much clarity.
"He and I have had conversations as I do with a lot of the players. Again, the expectation is would I like him here? Yeah. [Are these practices] voluntary? [Yeah]," the coach explained. "I got it. And that's the hardest part as a coach is when you're working on that type of schedule, it's hard. But at the same time, he's a guy that is a veteran player, understands his role, understands his assignment, and [we] expect big things from him this season."
As for Jones, Pederson continued to claim that the Eagles will be very cautious with the talented Washington cornerback, a player who likely would have been selected in the first round had he not suffered the injury.
"The medical staff is happy with where he's at. But at the same time, we're not going to put any kind of timetable on him," Pederson said. "We're going to do right by him and make sure he's 100 percent before we stick him out there on the field."
As for the on-field work, the media was only permitted to watch during individual drills but it was the first look at first-round pick Derek Barnett and the other draft choices.
Barnett received some hands-on coaching during individual special-teams drills. Used to rushing the passer, the former Tennessee star has to become more well-rounded in the NFL and Dave Fipp was teaching up blocking technique in the return game.
Lengthy fourth-round pick Mack Hollins, meanwhile, showed off his impressive athleticism and the 5-foot-8 1/2, 176-pound Donnel Pumphrey got an extensive look as a punt returner.
Undrafted free agent Greg Ward, the former quarterback at Houston turned receiver, had the play of the day in the open part of practice making a diving catch of a poor Mike Groh pass that the new receivers coach raved about.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen