Winners and Losers During the Eagles’ Offseason
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - The Eagles offseason work has quickly slipped into the shadow of bigger stories, namely the sexual-assault allegations hanging over second-year wide receiver Nelson Agholor, and the massive six-year contract extension signed by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox earlier this week.
That said, the six weeks of downtime between Philadelphia's mandatory minicamp and the opening of training camp is a good time to look back at the players who had the best offseasons and those who took a step back as Doug Pederson and Co. installed their respective systems on both sides of the football.
Here's the five players that stood out during the offseason work and the five that will have some catching up to do when things kick off for real in late July:
5. - Chris Pantale, TE/FB - When the Eagles used a fullback in the offseason, it was Pantale in the backfield as the lead blocker but that didn't stop the Boston College product from moving around the formation as a traditional y-back or in-line tight end, as well as an h-back or movement tight end.
On occasion Pantale even took on the Zach Ertz role as the detached tight end acting like a glorified receiver in the slot, making him the Swiss Army Knife of the group as he attempts to find a spot on the 53-man roster.
“That’s my goal. To be as versatile as possible and play as many (roles as possible),” Pantale told 973espn.com. “Backup y and then split out and play that h-back type of role and then play that fullback to show I’m willing to mix it up a little bit. I’ve been just trying to learn as much as I can.”
4. - Rodney McLeod, S - McLeod stood out as the Eagles' single-high safety, showing impressive range in coverage and as much as a physical presence as you can show without pads. The big-money, free-agent signing is shaping up as a prudent signing and he and Malcolm Jenkins should provide Jim Schwartz with one of the best safety tandems in the league.
3. - Jalen Mills, CB - As a seventh-round pick Mills started out with the third team at cornerback and by the second week of on-field work the former LSU star was seeing some reps with the first team. Things slowed a bit from there and Mills ended the offseason running with the second team once Nolan Carroll was cleared for team work. That said, it's clear the rookie opened some eyes and if he continues to play the same way with the pads on, the Eagles may have gotten a late-round steal.
2. - Allen Barbre, LG - Expected to be perhaps the team’s most competitive position battle, left guard might not be as in flux as first thought, at least according to the head coach.
“Right now it is Allen Barbre’s job, and I think again that’s something we did through the draft and a little bit of free agency is to kind of shore up that spot,” Pederson said. “I really like where we’re at. I like the depth at that position right now. But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he’s our starter.”
That could change when Isaac Seumalo is back for training camp but the third-round pick has an uphill battle after missing all of the offseason on-field work due to Oregon State's quarters system.
1. - Leodis McKelvin, CB - McKelvin entered the offseason as a likely starter at corner if healthy but he separated himself from the rest of the group in a big way becoming the no-doubt-about-it No. 1 outside option in Schwartz's defense.
"Leodis has probably been the guy that's really stood out the most to me,” Pederson said. “He's a guy that it seems like he's making plays quite a bit, knocking PBUs (pass breakups) and getting his hands on balls and doing the things that you expect from a veteran corner."
5. - Nelson Agholor, WR - From a physical standpoint Agholor was actually much improved for most of the offseason work, seeming more comfortable in his skin and showing more consistency catching the football. But, he threw all that progress away by jetting to the strip club the minute that the Eagles shut things down for summer vacation.
"Things are going to happen," Pederson told NJ Advance Media at Monday at the annual Ron Jaworski Celebrity Golf Challenge at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club. "They do have six weeks [off]. They're grown men and they need to make smart decisions. We all learn from our choices and our decision that we make in life. There's always a consequence for every decision we make in life."
4. - Brandon Graham, DE - When Schwartz arrived and brought the 4-3 back to Philadelphia, the assumption was that Graham would slip in as the starting right defensive end but the new staff clearly has more confidence in Connor Barwin right now and Graham is shaping up as the rotational third end that will spell both Barwin and Vinny Curry on the left side.
3. - Jordan Hicks, MLB - Hicks certainly didn't play poorly but he was in and out of the lineup with various leg issues in the spring, including a quad spasm. When you look at his injury history dating back to the University of Texas, it's legitimate to question whether Hicks will be able to stay on the field for all 16 games as the staring mike linebacker.
2. - Taylor Hart, DT - With Cox absent for all the voluntary stuff Hart got the first opportunity to get extra looks at under tackle but quickly lost ground to free-agent Mike Martin. A natural 3-4, two-gap player Hart just looks like a poor fit for what Schwartz's wants up front and the Oregon product is going to have a difficult time making the final 53.
1. - Eric Rowe, CB - Rowe entered the offseason as the cornerback most likely to be a starter and now that we are through the offseason, the second-year player has clearly fallen behind McKelvin, Ron Brooks and Carroll with Mills nipping at his heels. He was also the most likely the get an expletive thrown at him by the always colorful Schwartz and DBs coach Cory Undlin.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen