Eagles OTAs observations: Our first look at the 2023 squad
The Eagles continued their Organized Team Activities on Thursday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.
This was the second of six total OTA sessions but it was the first open for reporters to watch. There will be another one next week.
So its time for practice observations!
1. The Eagles had strong attendance for this OTA practice but a few veterans were missing: DeVonta Smith, Lane Johnson, Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Derek Barnett and Josiah Scott among them. Remember, the Eagles entire offseason is completely voluntary. Theyre one of two teams without a mandatory minicamp; the other is the Bengals.
In addition to the players not at practice, the Eagles had three players who were spectators, presumably because of injury: CB Avonte Maddox, DT Marlon Tuipulotu and WR Tyrie Cleveland.
2. As always, dont read too much into OTA observations but we at least got a chance to see a little bit of the depth chart on Thursday from 7-on-7s:
No surprise but Nakobe Dean lined up as the starting MIKE linebacker and Nicholas Morrow was at the WILL.
Cam Jurgens was at right guard with the first team. Hes a second-year player battling for that job against rookie Tyler Steen. Jurgens will be given every opportunity to win that position.
James Bradberry was at practice but didnt participate in 7-on-7s, so it was Greedy Williams and then Josh Jobe getting snaps with the first team opposite Darius Slay. Rookie Kelee Ringo worked with the second team at outside cornerback.
The Eagles first-team safeties on Thursday were Reed Blankenship and Terrell Edmunds. Rookie Sydney Brown was with the second team. Its obviously very early but thats where things are beginning in spring.
Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott got the first first-team reps at running back, while Rashaad Penny and DAndre Swift worked in after that. Wouldnt read too much into that now but its a storyline to watch in training camp.
3. A few interesting cross-training items:
Third-year cornerback Zech McPhearson got run with the first-team at nickel cornerback with Maddox not practicing. McPhearson has been the primary backup at outside cornerback during his first two years in the NFL but it makes sense to cross-train him inside. Maddox missed significant time last season and Scott struggled at times replacing him. McPhearson might have more of an opportunity to play if he can play inside and outside.
It looked like second-year player Kyron Johnson got some work at off-ball linebacker. With a stacked group of edge players in front of him, this is something to keep in mind when putting together 53-man roster projections.
4. Young linebacker Christian Elliss made the defensive play of the day. He drifted back into coverage and made a leaping interception on a pass from Marcus Mariota. Elliss has played in seven games over the last two years with the Eagles but mostly on special teams. With a lack of depth at the linebacker spot, Elliss could get some serious run in training camp.
5. Quez Watkins was with the first team on Thursday and started off practice with a nice catch on middle-of-the-field pass from Jalen Hurts, who hit him over the outstretched arms of Darius Slay. The Eagles will probably give Watkins every opportunity to earn the WR3 job after a disappointing 2022 season.
6. Hurts had some ups and downs on Thursday but thats obviously not a concern at all in the spring. Slay broke up a pass to A.J. Brown on a back-shoulder ball. Brown tried to fool Slay with his late hands but Slay read it perfectly to break up the pass. Slay also broke up an under-thrown pass to Dallas Goedert a bit later. The veteran cornerback looked like he was in midseason form.
7. Speaking of Goedert, he had a tremendous finger-tip grab in the middle of the field on a pass rifled by Hurts. It looked like Hurts just locked in on Goedert, threw it where only Goedert could catch it and Goedert made the most of it.
Veteran tight end Dan Arnold also had an impressive catch. Itll be interesting to see if he can legitimately earn a roster spot in training camp.
8. During the special teams portion of practice, Nick Sirianni stood next to Jake Elliott and chatted as they watched Arryn Siposs and rookie Ty Zentner punt. In our first glimpse as the punter battle, give a clear W to Siposs. His punts were more consistent. Long way to go here, though.
9. Swift has caught 156 passes in his three-year NFL career and it looked like it on Thursday. Hes just very smooth out of the backfield.
10. We mentioned that Dean was with the first team as the MIKE linebacker but after practice, Morrow confirmed that Dean has the green dot. Dean will be the defensive signal caller in 2023. Thats a huge responsibility but he looked the part in 7-on-7s Thursday.
Stupid Observation of the Day: Its weird to see Mariota in an Eagles uniform. And hes also bigger than I expected. Mariota is listed at 6-4, 223 pounds and he looks it. He also made a nice pass on the move Thursday.
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