The Philadelphia Eagles step into the next phase of 2019 preparations this week, rookie minicamp kicking off on Friday. This is more of an induction for the rookies prior to joining the team for full offseason workout program activities shortly after, but it is still very important. Here’s everything you need to know.
The Draft class
This is the first time that the Eagles and the media will get to see this year’s draft class in action. From first-round pick Andre Dillard, right down to project quarterback Clayton Thorson, the five players selected by the team should all be in attendance over the weekend, dipping their toes into NFL waters for the first time.
The Eagles improved their odds to 14/1, of returning to the Super Bowl after a strong drafting, but now we get to see these players hit the NovaCare Complex and take those first steps down what could be a very exciting path. but now we get to see these players hit the NovaCare Complex and take those first steps down what could be a very exciting path.
Now while there won’t be any major storylines to watch here aside from maybe where Arcega-Whiteside lines up to begin with (can he play the slot?), fans will be salivating at the chance to see this year’s rookies in action.
One under-the-radar storyline to note will be how Shareef Miller fares. After producing yesterday’s film room, it’s safe to say that Miller is a very raw prospect.
He doesn’t have a vast array of pass-rushing moves and relies on his speed to win the snap. It will be very interesting to see how newly promoted DL coach, Phillip Daniels, takes to Miller. Will he be very vocal in a lot of one-to-one settings? It’s a nice way to see what the tone will be heading into OTA’s and beyond.
The Undrafted free agents
While the Eagles haven’t officially announced their undrafted haul just yet (mainly because the team continue to make roster moves that see some of those signed, then released again), this is always exciting. The team clearly view UDFA’s as far more than just offseason placeholders. From Trey Burton, to Corey Clement, Tre Sullivan, Josh Adams, Bruce Hector, Destiny Vaeso, and even the preseason heroes like Paul Turner, the Birds’ always seem to find some truly hidden gems in their UDFA pickings.
Many of whom are often the difference between a roster that’s on the edge of contending and one that surges into the playoffs with a full head of steam.
This year carries much of the same promise. One of the players reported to sign with the Eagles is former Wisconsin linebacker, T.J Edwards. It’s surprising that Edwards wasn’t drafted, especially given his level of production. With 112 tackles as a senior, he finished his career with four-years of 80+ stops. In his last two years, he combined for 22.5 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 7 picks and 16 pass breakups? Edwards has a real shot at making the final 53-man roster and he isn’t the only one.
Two more Penn State products, OG Ryan Bates, and WR DeAndre Thompkins both stand out as players who could sneak onto the final 53 as players who fill depth need, while cornerback Jamalcolm Liggins opened up on his journey to the NFL and how it’s only just beginning in an interview with me earlier this week.
Wyoming Running back, Nico Evans, is another name to watch. His average of 132 yards per game on the ground ranked third in this year’s draft class and he has the compact, burstful game that the would fit the Eagles perfectly. With 1,325 yards as a senior along with 8 touchdowns, it’s safe to say Evans has the numbers to back up what you see on tape.
Obviously, Minicamp is important for the undrafted free agents, who will see this as their first opportunity to steal the spotlight and set themselves apart from what’s going to be both a highly competitive and cramped offseason battle. If you can make a strong first impression before going OTA’s, it sets up well for getting snaps in with the two’s and maybe even the one’s as the program wears on.
A willing attitude, strong effort and eyebrow-raising reps from the undrafted crop all become things to look forward to. This year’s undrafted crop may carry more weight than most, given that the Eagles only walked out of draft weekend with five rookies. Cheaper, long-term contracts are favorable for a team who will be up against the cap space for years to come. But can these players stand out enough to earn such a deal?
Rookie minicamp invites
The Eagles are also slated to invite around 20 players to tryout for the team over the course of the weekend. Again, this list hasn’t been made officially public yet and there are bound to be more players added between now and Friday. But for many of these players, it’s a chance to audition for a bigger-picture role.
The roster may be full now, but injuries can transform the entire course of a season. Players invited to minicamps have often had previous contact with the teams and in some cases have even been contacted with the potential to be drafted in the seventh round before the round opened.
Teams want players they’re familiar with and if a freak injury takes a player out of action, knowing these players are on speed-dial, are familiar with the coaching staff, scheme, and teammates is often a luxury that many struggle to find. Even if those working out don’t catch onto the 90-man roster to begin with, there’s a good chance that some of those names will continue to re-emerge as the year progresses.
What to expect
Make no mistake, this isn’t training camp, it isn’t OTA’s. But it’s an important walkthrough for the drafted rookies and a chance for those who went undrafted to shine in front of coaches who value finding hidden gems.
In terms of players to watch, Linebackers T.J Edwards and Stanford’s Joey Alfieri will be battling for supremacy in a position that is now flooded with depth after the Zach Brown signing. An early leg-up here could be vital.