Eagles OTA Notebook: 5 takeaways from the opening practice

Eagles nfl week 1
FILE – Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts participates in a drill during the NFL football team’s training camp, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. Hurts had a breakout season in 2022, finishing runnerup to Patrick Mahomes for AP NFL MVP and third behind Justin Jefferson and Mahomes for AP Offensive Player of the Year. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

The first day of OTA workouts is in the books for the Philadelphia Eagles. The sun was shining down at the NovaCare Complex as players and coaches hit the practice field for the first time in the Spring workout window. Here are some takeaways from the opening few hours of practice.

Eagles Rookie corners take center stage

James Bradberry was not present during the opening day of OTA’s which afforded opportunities to rookies Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean in both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 action.

Mitchell burst out of the gates with a PBU on 6’6 wideout and fellow draft mate Johnny Wilson, while DeJean was predictably used in a couple of different spots.

DeJean had spells on the outside and in the nickel today. We expected this would be the case due to his outstanding versatility and the need for Vic Fangio to get a feel on where he’s best going to be suited for that crucial first season in the NFL.

It’s going to be interesting to watch the dynamics of the secondary over the next few months. Can Quinyon Mitchell beat out James Bradberry for a starting role, or will the team insist on being patient with their first-round selection?

Only time will tell, but it’s nice to see both rookies off the mark.

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)

A chance to shine

With OTA’s sitll being classed as voluntary workouts, there were some opportunities across the board for players to shine. Outside of the rookie corners, Isaiah Rodgers, who was recently reinstated from a gambling policy-related suspension, got reps on the outside in place of Kelee Ringo, while Avonte Maddox took snaps at both safety and in the slot.

Maddox joined the team at an interesting time after being allowed to test free agency waters. He should still be more than good enough to land the starting nickel role, but the absence of Sydney Brown early on might well prompt Fangio to trial Maddox at Safety on the odd occasion – an experiment which didn’t always yield the best results in years past.

Elsewhere, we saw Parris Campbell and Joseph Ngata take starting reps in 11-on-11 due to DeVonta Smith’s absence and the recent retirement of Eagles legend DeVante Parker, whose legacy rivals Frank Gore and Myles Jack.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see much from Ainias Smith today, who was reportedly present but not participating. I’m sure it won’t be long until we see him on return duties and working with the rest of the wideouts.

Eagles a.j brown
PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver AJ Brown (11) runs a route during pre-season game between the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles on August 12, 2022 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

A change of heart for Darius Slay

Darius Slay’s 2023 season drew plenty of criticism, but not largely for his efforts on the field. He seemed to adapt a strange habit of talking up his own performances after a gut-wrenching loss, taking to Twitter minutes after a game, and acting in a way that doesn’t typically correlate with being a ‘Captain’.

However, the drafting of Quinyon Mitchell and Cooper DeJean was met with a real sign of strong leadership from the veteran, who was quick to support them and embrace the role of a mentor – one that was echoed in today’s press conference.

It’s genuinely really nice to see. Slay has been one of the better corners in the NFL for a decade now and those rookies can learn a lot from a player as decorated as him. To see Slay really embrace that and want to pass the torch is an encouraging sign.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, right, celebrates a catch with cornerback Darius Slay, center, and head coach Nick Sirianni, left, during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Linebacker competition

Nakobe Dean was not practicing today but was at the NovaCare Complex stretching before it started. This in turn gave linebacker reps to new boys Devin White and Zack Baun, who both looked comfortable on the field according to reports.

Much has been made of the Devin White signing and whether or not the Eagles will be able to get the kind of player who once tore up the league for the Bucs. This is at least a positive sign that he’s embedding himself in early.

I’m personally very high on Zack Baun – a player who rose to prominence on the special teams unit of New Orleans but flashed some real coverage prowess when afforded the opportuntiy. Depth might be light, but it will be interesting to see how the trio stack up by the end of Training Camp.

Saquon Barkley is an Eagle

And finally, would it really be a glimpse into Eagles OTA’s without a first-look at Saquon Barkley in a midnight green jersey?


AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File