Five Questions to Ponder From Eagles OTA’s
With the Eagles holding their first of 10 organized team activities starting yesterday and ending on June 9. With Doug Pederson talking to the media on Tuesday, below are five questions surrounding the team after hearing his presser:
1. What will the offensive line look like?
Many thought the Eagles would move on from Jason Kelce, and maybe even Jason Peters, but both look like they will be on the field for the Eagles opener to help open up the running game and protect Carson Wentz.
As it looks right now, the Eagles will have one of the top right tackles in the league, Lane Johnson, playing next to a very good Brandon Brooks at right guard. Jason Kelce has been getting all the reps with the first team and Pederson made it pretty clear that Kelce was here to stay.
"Right now going forward Jason is the guy," Pederson explained. "Then we will continue to work Wiz [Stefen Wisniewski] along with Isaac [Seumalo]; try to get Isaac some snaps, too. Again, just as we evaluate, and that's kind of what we're doing now through OTAs is evaluating our guys … But Kelce will definitely get the majority of the reps."
Is Isaac Seumalo or Allen Barbre going to be at left guard? Pederson made it sound as if that decision was all ready made.
Yeah, right now, [we are] going to work [G] Isaac Seumalo in there," Pederson said. "Let him get an opportunity to work in the rotation with that first unit."
That would be the biggest change to the line, that also will include Peters at left tackle. However, Pederson sounded like he liked the idea of having Barbre, come off-the-bench and fill in at multiple positions, despite an internal belief that his best position was left guard.
"Listen, Allen is a guy that, as you guys know, [is] one of the those versatile offensive linemen that can play guard and tackle," explained Pederson. "When we get Allen back, too, we want to work him not only at guard, but also at tackle."
But the depth should be good with Barbre, former first round pick Chance Warmack, Wisniewski and Halapoulivaati Vaitai all having starting experience waiting in the wings.
2. Are they really this confident in their wide receivers?
This offseason was a clear indication that the 2016 wide receiving core simply wasn't good enough. The Eagles allowed two veterans, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to walk, and nothing meaningful was done to replace them. Over the past two season, drops, poor routes, and the inability to get open has lead to substantial problems for the passing Eagles game. There is no shortage of talent now with Alshon Jeffery, and Torrey Smith added in free agency, and Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson through the draft.
No matter how the likes of Dorial Green-Beckham, Paul Turner, Bryce Treggs and Nelson Agholor look practicing in shorts over the next few weeks, it would seem pretty inconceivable that any of them have a impact on the 2017 season.
Of that group Agholor has the best chance of sticking around and making the team, due to the fact it will cost more to cut him than keep him. Pederson sounded like Agholor is benefiting from more competition and a new voice in new wide receiver coach Mike Groh.
"Listen, Nelson's attitude has been great," Pederson stated. "He's worked extremely hard this offseason. The addition of [wide receivers coach] Mike Groh has really sort of lit a fire with Nelson a little bit, and then the addition with [WRs] Alshon [Jeffery] and Torrey [Smith] 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."
3. How will new running back LeGarrette Blount be used?
A one-year, deal might sound like the Eagles aren't making a huge commitment to their new running back, but make no mistake about it - he is the man in the Eagles backfield.
"It's hard to put a number on the actual carries because we don't play a game for quite some time," explained Pederson. "But in LeGarrette's defense, he's coming in trying to learn our offense. I want to get him out there as often as I can, get him working with [QB] Carson [Wentz] as often as I can, along with [RBs] Wendell [Smallwood], Darren [Sproles] – keep working that combination."
So the thought here is that Blount will be the main ball carrier on with guys like Sproles and Pumphrey being used in the passing game. His greatest strengths in New England were the ability to get the tough, short yards, and find the endzone - something Eagles running backs have been dreadful at the past few seasons.
4. Who steps into starting roles along the defensive line?
The Eagles have plenty of young options up front, but they will be replacing two starters in Bennie Logan and Connor Barwin. Timmy Jernigan should step in Logan's place, but the battle for Barwin's playing time seems to be up-in-the-air. Free agent additions Chris Long, first-round pick Derek Barnett, along with Vinny Curry will be vying for the starting right-end job previously held by Barwin.
Much like the wideouts, guys like former first-round pick Marcus Smith and Steven Means saw some action a year ago, but neither are expected to make much of an impact this season.
One name to keep an eye on is sixth-round pick Elijah Qualls. The defensive tackle should get a good look with Beau Allen hurt, and Fletcher Cox missing this portion of OTA's.
5. Will Rasul Douglas push for starting spot?
The Eagles made no secret about wanting to add to their secondary on draft day, taking Washington cornerback Sidney Jones in the second round and West Virginia corner Rasul Douglas in the third-round. With Jones out the most of, if not the entire season, means Douglas will be counted on to help the Eagles leaky secondary.
"You're going to see [CB] Jalen [Mills] out there," Pederson said. "You're going to see [CB] Patrick Robinson out there. Those are the guys that we've brought in, Patrick this year and Jalen last year, to be those guys. They'll be the ones working with that first unit."
While Pederson said the second-year man Mills and Robinson, a free agent addition, are the starters right now, the Eagles need someone to emerge with Douglas appearing to be the most logical candidate on paper.
Another guy to keep an eye on will be last year slot man Ron Brooks, who is coming off a major injury and could be considered a long-shot to make the team. Who will fill his slot role, if he can't return to form will be a big thing to watch starting with these OTA's.