Eagles OTA Recap: 4 key updates from Thursday’s practice including a key sleeper to watch

Nick Sirianni eagles
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni speaks with an official during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Philadelphia Eagles took to the NovaCare Complex one more time prior to the start of mandatory minicamp next week. With this being the second practice open to the media, here’s a recap of key observations with some analysis sprinkled in.

Isaiah Rodgers gunning for a roster spot

The Eagles had a huge offseason when it came to adding big names to their roster, but Isaiah Rodgers is a player who intrigued many. The former Colts cornerback was suspended last year after violating the NFL’s gambling policy, resulting in his release from the team. Philadelphia snapped him up last year and after being reinstated, he’s now making his case to be kept on the 53-man roster.

Rodgers presents plenty of upside to Philadelphia as a dependable backup boundary corner with special teams upside. He’s drawn rave reviews in both OTA practices where media were present so it will be interesting to see how he fares when Training Camp begins later this Summer.

The Eagles have a real logjam of young talent at corner but that could soon change if someone like James Bradberry departs between now and the start of camp. Whatever happens, I’d be shocked if Rodgers isn’t at least in the mix for a rotational role by the time preseason rolls around.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Wilson, left, catches a touchdown pass in front of Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Kelee Ringo (22) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

John Ross makes his case

Another reclamation project is speedy WR John Ross. The former first-round pick who blazingly became the fastest man in NFL combine history once upon a time retired not too long ago, but tried out for the Eagles during rookie minicamp.

With DeVante Parker’s retirement leaving a potential opening for Ross to slip into, the former Washington wideout wasted no time in reminding people just how dangerous he can be.

It’s only one drill, but you can see how much quicker he looks in comparison to those who ran it just moments before him. Ross spoke with the media after practice and stated that he feels he’s in more control of his speed now, which enables him to be a more consistent receiver.

The Eagles bid goodbye to Quez Watkins this offseason and while Ainias Smith will provide a burst out of the slot, having a wideout with the kind of explosiveness Ross possesses is always valuable. If he continues to turn heads during the offseason, a roster spot will inevitably become more likely.

Defensive shape

It’s still early days as far as the new-look Eagles defense goes. Vic Fangio is very much dialling in his scheme and likely trying out all kinds of lineups to see what works best and who excels in which spot. With Darius Slay and James Bradberry both absent, the defensive coordinator was able to take a closer look at a few of the players who will likely be key cogs in the secondary for years to come.

Ravi Punn, right, of Baynes + Baker, adjusts the collar on Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell during a final suit fitting for the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 25, 2024 in Detroit. (AP Photo/Mike Householder)

This is the second practice in a row we’ve heard that Avonte Maddox is playing Safety. Although that is probably correlated with Gardner-Johnson’s absence, it’s worth noting. He did of course spend some time there a few years ago for the Eagles, and while it didn’t really work out, a new scheme might lend itself more to Avonte’s skillset, even if it’s just for an emergency situation.

2nd-round pick Cooper DeJean continues to draw looks at corner which is worth noting. The Eagles are clearly trying to avoid overloading their prized rookie, who is likely a better fit at Safety, but has more experience on the outside. It makes sense to be patient with his development and allow him to find his footing at the NFL level where he’s most comfortable.

An Eagles sleeper to watch

One of my favorite signings of the offseason was Zack Baun. An underrated linebacker poached from the clutches of the Saints, Baun is a proficient special teamer with a scary-athletic profile who displays great processing of the game on tape. It hasn’t taken him long to display those traits in Philadelphia.

The Eagles’ linebacker picture is murky at best, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baun playing a key role in Fangio’s defense as an off-ball linebacker who plays within himself and rarely makes a mistake when it comes to reading the play and positioning himself appropriately.

AP Photo/Matt Slocum