Eagles Rookie Minicamp: The new kids on the block are raring to go

Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell poses on the red carpet ahead of the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Philadelphia Eagles have received rave reviews for what many NFL pundits are calling “spectacular value” in the 2024 draft. Howie Roseman manipulated the board, trading up to fill immediate needs and trading back to stockpile future picks, like Houdini escaping the straight jacket.

Eagles rookie minicamp is here

The new class reported for Eagles’ rookie minicamp on Friday, May 3 to greet the media and speak their intentions for the year. One early star of the show was Vic Fangio’s favorite rookie Jalyx Hunt, a converted safety from Houston Christian who possesses the burst and power to morph into the franchise’s next great edge rusher … and, perhaps, the team’s most bubbly personality.

Lingering questions answered … yes, he received the playbook; no, he didn’t mean any disrespect with his “big pimpin'” comment. Hunt was simply excited, allowing his free-flowing vernacular to come out in spurts.

“It’s how I normally talk. I was really excited at the moment,” Hunt told reporters. “That’s not how I handle business situations per se … had a little slip up, but that’s how I normally am.”

Hunt will wear No. 58 on the field — the number once made famous by Eagles great Trent Cole — and plans to pick at the brain of everyone in the defensive line room, none more than returning legend Brandon Graham. He’s ready to soak everything up like a sponge.

“I’m ready to pick his brain. I’m ready to ask questions [in that room] until they tell me to shut up,” Hunt said. “For him, anything he is willing to teach me I’m willing to learn and then, you know, for him to go 15 years in the league is no small feat so even things outside of football, like how he carries himself as a person and then what he does off the field to make sure that he’s ready to play on the field for 15 years are things I’d like to learn as well.”

Iron Sharpens Iron: Clemson Connection

Will Shipley and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. were teammates at Clemson where they often clashed on the field during “drills and skills.” Don’t panic, that’s a good thing. Shipley was always trying to run through Trotter while Trotter was trying to knock Shipley’s pads off. They pushed each other to be great.

FILE – Clemson linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr. (54) reacts during an NCAA college football game against North Carolina Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. wears his dad’s No. 54, plays the same position and celebrates sacks and big tackles with the same signature axe swing. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman, File)

“Iron sharpens iron, that’s exactly what it is,” Shipley told reporters. “When we came in and we both knew what we wanted to do as freshmen at Clemson — let’s get on the field, play, compete for a national championship, and just go be our best. And, with that, with him being a linebacker and me being a running back, we butted heads a little bit, a lot.”

Trotter agreed with his college teammate about “iron sharpening iron,” a lesson he first learned growing up under the roof of a four-time Pro Bowler for the Eagles at linebacker. The team shared an emotional video of father and son on draft night, then revealed that Jeremiah Jr. will wear his father’s famed No. 54.

“Very excited [to wear that number],” Jeremiah Jr. said. “Wore it my whole life, and wore it because my dad wore it while he was here, and very excited that it was available and they decided to give me that number so gonna wear it with pride and be the best player I can.”

Not only that, the Trotter family will once again be together off the field.

“I’ll probably just live at home, not too far from the facility, to save money,” Trotter said.

The Offensive Line Gets Reinforcements

Meanwhile, the Eagles added reinforcements to their vaunted offensive line late in the draft after grabbing Michigan guard Trevor Keegan in Round 5 and North Carolina State center Dylan McMahon in Round 6. Both players are considered developmental projects, ripe full of potential, aka the freshman class at the prestigious Stoutland University.

Here are their first impressions of the professor …

“He’s awesome. He’s got a ton of fire inside him and I love that in an offensive line coach, and just the knowledge that he brings to the game,” McMahon said of Jeff Stoutland. “I’ve already learned so much through Zoom calls and now in-person meetings I’ve had with him, just the amount of knowledge he’s brought out and made my game better just over the first few days I’ve met with him.”

PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 21: Philadelphia Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland prior to the National Football League game between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire)

“He’s awesome,” Keegan said. “The energy and the passion he has for his players. He’s going to get on you but he’s going to love you harder. I’ve seen that already and the guys that he’s developed I’m just excited to get to work with him.”

Keegan and Lane Johnson share the same agent so there’s a natural mentor there. The former team captain at Michigan can play multiple positions on the interior of the offensive line including center if needed. “I’m comfortable anywhere on the interior three,” Keegan said. “I’m actually ambidextrous so it’s not that hard … but anywhere they put me, I’m going to work my tail off to do the best I can.”

McMahon has been drawing early comparisons to Jason Kelce due to their similar builds and the way they use leverages to make up for their smallish size. Fortuitously, and not at all coincidental (wink, wink), Kelce was in the weight room the other day when McMahon went in to meet Howie Roseman. Surreal would be an understatement. Let’s say that meeting was akin to Barack Obama meeting Abraham Lincoln.

“That was a pretty crazy moment because I’ve watched him since I was little,” McMahon said of meeting Kelce. “He’s the best center to ever do it, and just to meet him and have him around in this building, to be able to pick his brain every once in awhile would just be an amazing experience.”

What did Kelce tell McMahon?

“He looked at me and said, ‘undersized center,’ and then we talked football,” McMahon said. “He said to make sure you’re in the weight room. With the frame of your body, there’s places to put good weight on. He wished me good luck … it was pretty surreal meeting him and he hopes to be able to help me out in any ways he can.”

McMahon nervously swapped phone numbers with the Eagles legend, adding that he’s going to try not to pester Kelce too much — although he won’t make the mistake of wasting free access to one of the greatest resources in the building.

“I don’t want to bug him. I would do it every day if I could but he’s got his own stuff going around,” McMahon said. “He luckily gave me his number so if I ever have a question or anything I might just hit him up and if he doesn’t reply, because I know he has a lot of stuff going on, then hopefully he will eventually … but as much as I can without bugging him, for sure.”

Don’t Forget the New Wide Receivers

The Eagles made no secret about their lack of depth at the receiver position this offseason. They signed Parris Campbell and DeVante Parker in free agency, then invested two late draft picks — Ainias Smith in Round 5, Johnny Wilson in Round 6 — for what they hope can turn into longer-term insurance policies. The battle for the starting slot job at training camp should be fun.

Smith, a burner who played running back for a handful of games at Texas A&M, is recovering from a stress fracture in his left shin which caused him to miss workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine. The injury isn’t expected to sideline him, although the Eagles are being extra cautious with a player they feel could be extra dangerous out of the backfield, in the slot, and on kick returns.

“They’ve been trying to take me slow, not trying to rush me back or anything,” Smith said. “But right now I feel pretty smooth. Recovery’s been going really well so I’m just excited to get out there.”

Wilson, the tallest receiver in the 2024 draft class at almost 6-foot-7, could be thrown into goal-line packages and counted on for easy touchdowns. Admittedly, he’s unstoppable in the red zone.

When asked for his favorite end zone rout, Wilson said: “Fade.” How can the defense stop him? “If I drop it,” he said.

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio