Ten takeaways from day one of Eagles Mandatory Minicamp

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The Eagles began their Mandatory Minicamp today at the NovaCare Complex, with the sun beating down on the team who were fully together for the first time since the end of last season. While there were some who missed OTA’s, Mandatory Minicamp is the last chance to impress coaches before Training Camp at the end of July, so there is certainly weight to these spring practices. So, here’s the best of what has been observed during today’s action.

 

Absentees:
As always, it’s easier to start with who didn’t practice. Jason Peters, Donnie Jones and Marcus Smith (more on that shortly) all returned to the NovaCare complex today. The only two players to miss practice were Nick Foles, who is expecting the birth of his child, and the injured Ryan Mathews. Sidney Jones and Elijah Qualls were also present for the first time since being drafted by the Eagles.

In terms of practice itself, Jordan Matthews was still absent due to knee tendinitis. Mychal Kendricks returned to action after missing some time last week, while Joe Walker and Ron Brooks were kept out of team drills.

 

Marcus Smith returns:
Working with the third-string Defense, Marcus Smith finally made his return after a strange holdout that was once again described as “voluntary”. It’s interesting that Smith has been inserted into the thick of the action and forced to scrap for survival with what is in essence the “scout team” as Training Camp looms, but his performance on the field was even more interesting.

Maybe this was a bizarre fire that needed lighting, but it’s early days and there is an extremely tall Mountain for the former first round pick to climb after doing anything but helping his chances of earning one more shot in the last few weeks.

 

 

Wentz heats up:
It hasn’t been the mo st consistent offseason for Carson Wentz so far, but today showed he is trending in the right direction. Although the “wobble” is still present, the young signal-caller launched a couple of deep dimes to both Marcus Johnson and Bryce Treggs today.

It’s great to see that Wentz is finding his stride and that the touch on the deep pass is only growing stronger, but the main thing here is that he’s comfortable utilizing the different skillsets of such a diverse group of receivers. It’s all well and good throwing to the same two wideouts over and over again, as that’s who he will be targeting during the regular season, but by showing he can still lead wideouts with his eyes and trust in their ability to make plays is a really encouraging sign. It’s a lack of chemistry early on that arguably hurt Nelson Agholor in Sam Bradford’s lone season in Philadelphia, and by spreading the ball around early, the Eagles are making sure that Wentz is comfortable regardless of who’s on the other end.

 

Brook(s) it!
Terrence Brooks turned heads toward the end of last season when he joined the Eagles and picked off a stray Eli Manning pass to seal a win against the Giants. Well today, the Safety again caught some attention.

As things stand, Jaylen Watkins is the Eagles backup Safety, but don’t be too sure that his role is signed, sealed, and delivered. Watkins was only bought back on a tender and if Brooks does continue to shine, Training Camp could be shaping up to house yet another intense duel.

 

The Green Goblin steals the show:
Last year’s offseason hero was easily rookie cornerback, Jalen Mills. It’s been a slightly quieter campaign for the Green Goblin so far…or at least it was. Today saw Mills burst into the spotlight as he made play after play.

The journey of Jalen Mills from seventh round pick to starting corner is one worth noting, but it’s only just beginning. The sophomore corner has an extremely high ceiling, but as Doug Pederson noted earlier today, it’s all about experience and development at this stage.

“It’s a great play. Great play. He’s learning. He’s getting better. Obviously last year was a valuable experience for him to play as often and as much as he did. For him to make those types of plays, it’s exciting to see. We’ve just got to continue that now, not only this week, but into the season.”

 

Carshon Jeffwentz?
Okay so it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good as “Ertzford”, but I needed some kind of bromantic name for this segment right? (Any suggestions left below would be appreciated!) But the newly signed wideout seems to really be striking a chord with the young franchise quarterback.

Jeffery was reported to have gone up and made a play on a ball that sailed earlier today, and it’s not the first time this has happened, nor will it be the last. Wentz has an outside target who is simply a 50/50-ball monster and will always make an effort to help his quarterback out of sticky situations, turning nothings into somethings…and that’s everything Carson Wentz needed as he heads into a crucial stage in his development.

 

More Sleepers emerge:
From Marcus Johnson and Bryce Treggs catching touchdown passes, to the return of Steven Means (I won’t overuse that pun again this year, I promise), it seems as though competition is really bringing the best out of the Eagles underdogs.

Not forgetting Aaron Grymes who again turned some heads, Training Camp and preseason could be some of the most enthralling offseason months that the Eagles have experienced in recent franchise history.

 

Defense still runs the show, but Offense sparked
The narrative of the offseason so far has been that the pass rush has simply ran rampant. While that may have been the case once again today, with Jalen Mills even getting in on the action on a CB blitz, the Offense began to show signs of life.

The experimentation in the backfield with Pumphrey and Sproles is beyond encouraging, just as hearing that a number of different wideouts, some unexpected, are making big plays. It’s that kind of momentum that simply bodes well for an offense that was in need of a click.

 

Pump up the jam:
While Wentz may have been struggling to get his passes to the 5’8 running back, Donnel Pumphrey is already proving to be a crucial cog in the Eagles Offense.

The Eagles seem to love using Pumphrey all across the field. From the slot, to Jet-sweeps and lining up in the backfield alongside Darren Sproles, it’s all about “cooking with the ingredients” as Doug Pederson put it just last week. Each practice seems to invoke a little more experimentation when it comes to seeing just how versatile Pumphrey really is, and so far, so good!

 

Anything you can do, I can do better:
So this is easily my favorite aspect of today’s practice. We all know by now just how “cheeky” (I’m British, forgive me) Wentz can be with his hard counts. Catching Defenses off-guard and drawing offsides has become a strength, much as it has for Andrew Luck. Only this time, Simba bit back.

Two leaders, two units and a whole lot of excitement. Being able to organize your team is one strength, calling audibles and adjusting to them is another one entirely…but a skill that both young stars seem to be embracing.

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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