The Eagles open the gates to the NovaCare Complex once more when Mandatory Minicamp kicks off tomorrow and as always, there is plenty to watch out for. Here are five things to keep in mind when inhaling all of the sights and sounds from the offseason workouts over the next few days.
The band is back together….probably
As we all know by now, the veterans of the Philadelphia Eagles typically don’t all report to OTA’s. Lane Johnson and Jason Peters took the month of May off, while DeSean Jackson and Nelson Agholor were given a rest day during the last practice open to the media. This will be the first time we’ve seen the entire first-team working together since the end of last season.
Even Malcolm Jenkins, who may or may not still in pursuit of a pay-rise, is scheduled to show up, according to numerous reports.
Not only that, but those affected by injury are slowly staring to work their way back. Ronald Darby joined Mack Hollins, Corey Clement, and Josh Adams, last week, rehabbing away from the heart of the action. Perhaps their participation level increases as the practice intensity ramps up.
It will be a good opportunity to see the band back together (mostly, Brandon Brooks and a few others still recovering from injuries, aside) and see how some of the new additions fit into the shape of the starting units.
On that note, two men who have maybe lost some ground this offseason are Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills. While recovering from injuries sustained last offseason, Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones have been filling in as starters, with Avonte Maddox also getting plenty of exposure with the first-team.
The cornerback competition is one that is going to rage all offseason long, but Jones, Maddox, and Dogulas have all had a very strong start to the proceedings, making the most out of their first-team reps. Not that Ronald Darby is realistically going to be displaced, but it is a possibility that Jalen Mills has a couple of players breathing down his neck to try and snatch that CB2 role.
As the two continue to recover from injury, it’ll be interesting to keep tabs on the corners, their form, and who steals the show. Darby is anticipated to return to action a little sooner, spending last week working with trainers in the distance. We may see him return in full capacity this week.
Miles Sanders to make his debut?
One man yet to make his offseason debut is rookie running back Miles Sanders. The second-round pick has been working his way back from a ‘lower-body injury’ and although his first practice comes with plenty of anticipation, we’re yet to see him in action. Penn State’s Head Coach attended one of last week’s OTA workouts, but wasn’t able to see his former pupil put through his paces at the NFL level. That hasn’t stopped Eagles RB coach Duce Staley from showering his new shiny toy in praise.
“We’re not playing for a while.” Doug Pederson said last week. “He’s engaged in meetings, he’s engaged out at practice, watching and a part of that. But right now, I just want to be cautious with him.”
Maybe Mandatory Minicamp will grant fans their first glimpse at the local kid who was picked with the same draft selection once used on LeSean McCoy.
In the meantime, Wendell Smallwood has been drawing praise. Corey Clement and Boston Scott are two more names to watch in this depth chart shuffle as the battle for RB4 shapes up.
Talking of the RB4 battle, there are plenty of underdogs to watch this offseason. Whether it’s UDFA CB Jay Liggins, DT Hassan Ridgeway, or the infamous Halapoulivaati Vaitai, there are plenty of names to take notes on, especially as the veterans filter back into the first unit. Could we see somebody like Shelton Gibson really step out into the spotlight and snatch some attention? Only time will tell.
One of the big offseason focuses for the Eagles has been the cross-training of offensive linemen. Halapoulivaati Vaitai has started taking reps at guard and with Brandon Brooks recovering from his Achilles injury, this opens a huge door. Stefen Wisniewski is the lineman who would likely fill the starting void, but both players are essentially in a ‘prove-it’ situation. If Vaitai can prove that he can transition inside, this could be huge for securing his place on the depth chart, especially with Dillard and Mailata firmly entrenched. How is that development going? Pederson was impressed last week, but we’ll get another look starting tomorrow.
But it doesn’t end there.
Versatility in the defensive backfield is almost becoming a necessity in this defense and there’s every chance that it plays a major role this offseason. Avonte Maddox has that very trait in buckets for instance, and with Malcolm Jenkins now back in the picture after skipping OTA’s, it’ll be interesting to see how the secondary moves around. Will Maddox take first-team slot reps over Sidney Jones if Darby returns? There are a lot of question marks and even more combinations of DB’s to field, making this a really fun area to watch.
Cross-training is reflected on the defensive front as well. As we all know, the Eagles also lost both Chris Long and Michael Bennett this offseason, and the depth at defensive end is going to be tested this offseason. We know that DT Malik Jackson can line up in the 5-tech spot, but will we see names like Josh Sweat, or Joe Ostman, take a bump inside throughout the Spring, as the Eagles experiment with a versatile and powerful positional group. Don’t be surprised to see some interesting formations and names pop up over the next week or so.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports