The Eagles kick off week two of their OTA program today and much like last week, there’s plenty to be keeping an eye on. Here are the five things that fans should be watching out for as the birds take to the practice field.
Will Fletcher Cox return?
The star of the Eagles Defense is still yet to show up at the NovaCare Complex this offseason in a contract related holdout. The question is, when exactly will Cox return to work? As the rest of the team are focusing on learning Schwartz’s system and preparing for the upcoming season, Cox is intent on making a statement. If his absence continues through June’s mandatory 3-day camp however, the Eagles can fine Cox $76,580..so will he endure the fine or return to work between now and then to help his team move forward?
A competition in the backfield?
It’s presumed that Ryan Mathews will be the man leading the Eagles backfield in 2016, but how the supporting cast lines up is wildly up for debate. I published an article on how Kenjon Barner could be in line for a much bigger role in 2016 but will we see any evidence of this in OTA’s?
Fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood is the name on everybody’s lips after an impressive showing last week..can he continue to make an impact as the Eagles sink their teeth deeper into their OTA program?
Darren Sproles was another name absent last week due to personal reasons. Every day he misses however, guys like Barner and Smallwood are capitalizing on immensely as the reps immediately fall to them. Sproles shut down reports that began to circulate last week that implied he was holding out over wanting a long term contract..but is this the week we see him return? If it isn’t, by the time he gets back there could be a fiery competition at running back.
Around the outside:
Jordan Matthews has been projected to move to the outside for quite some time now and in week one of OTA’s, he displayed a lot of comfort and suitability. The rest of the corps is a little unstable however. Josh Huff didn’t look like a man on top form and as I predicted at the start of the month, Trey Burton began to see reps as a wide receiver.
The position is brimming with potential, but that isn’t without uncertainty. The competition at WR is about as intense as it gets, with numerous roster spots being contested. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles receivers line up during week two of OTA’s and if guys like Hunter Sharp or Cayleb Jones could spring a few surprises.
Participation levels of Jordan Hicks:
One of the brightest talents on the Eagles Defense was limited in the opening week of OTA’s, but fans were relieved to find out the reason had nothing to do with the injury sustained against the Cowboys.
Jordan Hicks didn't go today because of tightness in his legs. His shoulder didn't keep him out. #Eagles
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) May 17, 2016
If Hicks participates in team activities this week, it will imply his injury has fully cleared and that Simba is ready to get back to work and dominate under Jim Schwartz..if it hasn’t, perhaps it’s more serious than first anticipated.
Denzel Rice stole the show in the one session that the media were allowed to watch last week, forcing two fumbles and intercepting a Carson Wentz pass. The undrafted underdog of last season continues to turn heads as he heads into his Sophomore season..which is impressive considering the overhaul that the unit endured during the offseason.
With Rowe, McKelvin, Brooks, Carroll, Shepherd among others looking to cement their roles on the roster or at least seek leverage heading into training camp, Rice may have raised the bar. “Good performances” won’t cut it if there are players lower on the depth chart stealing all the attention. It will be an exhilarating battle to watch so keep an eye out for a few more surprises from the Eagles secondary this week.
Photo credit: WINSLOW TOWNSON- AP