Eagles OTA preview: 3 things to watch during spring practices

Philadelphia Eagle’s Saquon Barkley talks to the media during a press conference after signing with the NFL football team, Thursday, March 14, 2024, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The wait is almost over. While the regular season is still some months away, the Philadelphia Eagles will begin their OTA practices later this month. This is the first chance that Nick Sirianni and his reshaped coaching staff will have this offseason to usher in his new players and set the tone for the offseason ahead.

Here are 4 things to watch when OTA’s begin at the end of May.

Eagles Rookie watch

Few teams navigated the waters of the NFL Draft as well as the Philadelphia Eagles. Howie Roseman put together another masterclass and the Birds will be welcoming some exciting prospects to the NovaCare Complex at the end of May.

Whether you’re looking forward to watching how Quinyon Mitchell fares against the likes of A.J Brown, or how a sleeper like WR Ainias Smith gets on, the thought of seeing this class suiting up in midnight green for the first time is an exciting one.

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)

Johnny Wilson could be an especially exciting player to watch. The 6’7 wide receiver out of FSU could well be a potential TE convert, but has enough untapped potential in his route-running to potentially evolve into a red-zone option on the outside and a primary backup to the starting duo.

OTA’s are going to provide fans their first real glimpse at the potential stars of tomorrow and while contact and full reps might be limited, buckle up for some saucy catches and footage of drills that is bound to inspire even more hope and confidence when it comes to this draft class.

Versatility is the name of the game for the Eagles

The Eagles have tried to emphasize versatility for a while now, but Brian Johnson’s lacklustre play-calling and Sean Desai’s struggles left a lot to be desired. Kellen Moore and Vic Fangio have replaced last year’s coordinators and both are renowned for their ability to put their players in the best positions possible to succeed.

Whether it’s motion and creativity on offense, or masked coverages and versatility on defense, the Eagles have found the right coaches to squeeze every last drop of juice from a roster that could well embody the term ‘positionless football’ by the time the year ends. That journey starts at OTA’s, so keep an eye on how players like Nolan Smith and Jalyx Hunt are used on defense, and how Saquon Barkley’s arrival opens up the playbook for Kellen Moore.

Saquon eagles

We won’t get a huge insight into specific plays, but we will at least be able to see how confident the coaches are in moving specific players around.

New players, same aim

The 2023 season was one that ultimately fell short of expectations. Despite a red-hot start and some stunning wins the Eagles fell flat before the finish line and were bounced out of the playoffs by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With a revamped coaching staff and some key new cogs in place, it’s imperative that Nick Sirianni is able to set a new tone for this team. We’ve seen ‘Hungry Dogs run faster’ and having a ‘target on their back’ but now we need to see a new mantra.

Losing key leaders in Fletcher Cox and Jason Kelce is bound to have a knock-on effect, but the hope is that emerging leaders like DeVonta Smith & A.J Brown can carry the torch and lead the same way as the greats did before them.

The Eagles have learned the hard way that complacency is their biggest enemy and an inability to get out of their own way will cost them dearly. Very few teams in the NFL have a roster worthy of keeping up on paper, and it’s down to the Head Coach to ensure that the team keeps its foot on the gas when the going gets tough. Again, that all starts later this month when OTA’s open up.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola