Eagles OTAs: Nick Sirianni shines a light on the growth of key players

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Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Sirianni shouts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Voluntary workouts are almost completed across the NFL so this is the last time the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to be all together until the start of training camp at the end of July.

While there is little to take away from voluntary workouts where the team has historically not used this period as massively taxing on a veteran roster, there are still plenty of notes coming from the Novacare complex on the final day of workouts.

The Standouts

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) carries the ball against Washington Commanders safety Bobby McCain (20) during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

As always, head coach Nick Sirianni had no problem specifically naming players who have stood out throughout this period both on and off the field. The first name brought up by the coach was none other than his slot receiver.

“I have no problem singling one guy out who I think has been phenomenal…Quez Watkins…No one in this building said it, but I can sense it on him, like “Oh some people think I stink?” That’s how he’s attacked every day, and every practice,” Sirianni explained.

To say this incoming training camp is massive for Watkins would be an understatement. The former sixth-round receiver is in the final year of his rookie contract and is expected to compete for snaps along with recently signed Olimade Zaccheaus. Watkins totaled just over 350 yards receiving last year but struggled to make impact plays. His fumble at home against Washington and his drop in Super Bowl LVII were key plays that turned the tide in losses.

Heading into 2023 though, it appears Watkins has come in refreshed and ready to show that last season’s down year was not the norm for him.

He wasn’t the only player that Sirianni shouted out though. Fresh off of being the second-highest-paid player in NFL history, Jalen Hurts is back at quarterback and he appears to look even better than last year’s All-Pro season.

“Jalen is maybe the most coachable person I’ve ever been around in my life,” Siirianni said while also announcing that the quarterback’s accuracy and decision-making have improved.

If the Eagles are going to return to the Super Bowl in 2023-24, they’ll need their franchise quarterback to be even better against the toughest schedule in football.

Close the book on DeAndre Hopkins

FILE – Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) against the Denver Broncos of an NFL football game Sunday, December 18, 2022, in Denver. The Arizona Cardinals released five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Hopkins in a salary cap move Friday, May 26, 2023, after they failed to find a trading partner in the offseason. (AP Photo/Bart Young, File)

It does not appear that the Eagles will be in on the DeAndre Hopkins sweepstakes over the next few weeks. While the “never say never” approach has helped the Eagles over the years, Sirianni was more than complimentary on his current group of receivers.

“I love the room that we have. Howie is always looking to improve…but I am very pleased with that room,” Sirianni stated.

Hopkins was recently released by the Arizona Cardinals and is able to sign with any team of his choosing. The three-time first-team All-Pro is entering his 11th NFL season and has totaled over 11,000 yards receiving on both the Cardinals and Texans.

While some contenders like the Chiefs, Bills, and Browns have been rumored to be on the lookout for Hopkin’s services, it doesn’t appear the Eagles will be.

The message going into camp

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni gestures as he answers questions during a news conference at the end of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Landover, Md. Eagles won 24-8. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The next time fans and analysts will see the Eagles on the practice field will be at the start of training camp. While OTAs are usually the time to get the athletes in shape, the focus for Sirianni and his coaching staff is to make sure the rest of the players are ready for the grueling months ahead as the defending conference champions.

“Come back in the best shape of your life” Sirianni stated bluntly. Philadelphia’s head coach also told his players to stay off the news to better prepare for training camp and get rid of distractions.

It’ll be up to the leadership group the players currently have to make sure everyone stays in line, but the Eagles appear locked and loaded for the start of training camp.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum