Eagles OTAs: Nick Sirianni Throws New Player into Battle for Slot WR

Eagles nick sirianni
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni reacts to a fourth quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Hurts to tight end Dallas Goedert during the second half of an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The most important battle raging at Eagles camp this summer is at slot receiver. With Quez Watkins gone, the odds-on favorite to win the job is Parris Campbell but don’t weigh out a deep field. Head coach Nick Sirianni couldn’t stop gushing about the wealth of talent at the position.

Campbell was running with the first-team offense to start the team’s three-day mandatory minicamp. Flanked by A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, he flashed good route-running and sneaky speed before a long pass from Jalen Hurts was broken up by cornerback Kelee Ringo. The third spot is going to be a tight race, with tight end Grant Calcaterra even seeing snaps there.

“I like the depth. I really like the depth,” Sirianni told reporters on June 4. “As far as the third spot that can look a lot of different ways, right? That can look 12 personnel. That can look 21 personnel. That can look, we don’t have a fullback but two halfbacks, that can look like 11 personnel … Grant Calcaterra has done an unbelievable job. He’s shown toughness, mental toughness, to get better every single day. I noticed that. So he’s a guy that’s in there so I’m pleased with our depth.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) and teammates run the “Tush Push” play on a fourth-down play against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

“[Jacob] Harris has had a good camp. Joe Ngata has had a good camp. Johnny Wilson’s had a good camp. John Ross has had a good camp. Britain Covey’s had a really good camp. It doesn’t have to be a receiver but I’m happy with the depth and I’m really excited about working with some of these guys. I think (Eagles GM) Howie Roseman and his staff have done an unbelievable job of bringing guys in. I’m really excited to work with all of them and they’ve all shown flashes of being really good.”

Lane Johnson Reflects on Eagles’ offensive line ‘Transition’

Lane Johnson returns as one of the last veterans standing after watching Jason Kelce and Fletcher Cox wave goodbye in the offseason. The 34-year-old right tackle confessed to a “huge transition” without them in the locker room, then chirped up about how healthy he is feeling following two surgery-filled campaigns.

“As you get older you try to appreciate the time you have left. I’ve said that in previous seasons,” Johnson told reporters. “It’s been a transition, not seeing him [Kelce] and Fletch [Cox] in the building. We still got BG [Brandon Graham]. But, yeah, definitely a huge transition but my body feels really good. I couldn’t say that a few years ago. I was really worried about some things but I put in a lot of work and I feel really good.”

Johnson still has unfinished business in the NFL, including a responsibility to pay it forward.

“I’m trying to look [as good] as I did when I was 27,” Johnson said. “It’s hard but it’s something that I work on every day. I work with our strength staff, obviously my trainer back home … yeah, just trying to stay the same and stay consistent and my job now is to bring the young pups with me.”

Eagles lane johnson
PHILADELPHIA, PA – SEPTEMBER 22: Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Tackle Lane Johnson (65) celebrates a touchdown in the first half during the game between the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles on September 22, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

On How Eagles’ Newcomer Mekhi Becton Has Looked: “Huge guy, lot of potential, yeah, he’s probably had one of the best offseasons here. He’s played some guard at times, just a big, strong, powerful dude so I think he’s going to help us a lot this year whether he plays tackle or guard. A guy that big that can move that well, we definitely need him out there.”

On Second-Year Player Tyler Steen: “Night and day stronger from where he was last year. He’s put in the work. We have a lot of bodies. And, as you know, OTAs is limited contact so everything’s looking good, footwork, but we really won’t tell until, obviously, training camp and we get the pads on.”

DeVonta Smith Talks More ‘Freedom’ in Eagles’ New Offensive System

No one wanted to blame ex-offensive coordinator Brian Johnson for last year’s slog. His offense looked mired in quicksand at times, although Nick Sirianni jumped on the sword. Nevertheless, Johnson was fired and replaced with former Cowboys prodigy Kellen Moore. According to DeVonta Smith, Moore’s system has “more freedom” for the receivers who are dancing around the field at will.

“We’re doing things that we weren’t allowed to do,” Smith told reporters. “Move guys around and things like that, overall to have a fresh start. Everyone’s always been playing different positions and things like that but moving guys around, allowing guys to go out there and create some 1-on-1 matchups and win how they want to win.”

Don’t mince Smith’s words for criticism. That’s not what he was trying to imply. He elaborated by saying Moore is a proponent of bunch formations which opens everything else up.

“Guys don’t press as much so it kind of confuses the defense and gives you more space and opportunity to do things,” Smith said.

Smith on Watching Peers Receive Bigger Contracts: “You can’t be counting the pockets of others. I’m where I want to be. This is where I wanted to be. And, at the end of the day, it was still life-changing for me. Those guys that have gotten their deals they deserve it … great players and great people, and at the end of the day we’re all blessed.”

Smith on Kellen Moore’s System: “At the end of the day football is football. Everybody runs the same things, just call the things different, so just getting used to the new terminology, really just combining with the old stuff, until the new stuff just sticks to me.”

Avonte Maddox determined to stay healthy, learn Safety spot for the Eagles

When the Eagles released Avonte Maddox in March, it was a move made strictly to save money. The team always had an eye on bringing him back and executed the plan in April when they signed him to a new one-year deal. Now the 28-year-old defensive back will compete at both the nickel cornerback and safety spots as he attempts to make the final 53-man roster.

Eagles avonte maddox
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 01: Philadelphia Eagles Cornerback Avonte Maddox (29) defends a pass to Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Amari Cooper (19) in the second half during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles on November 01, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Maddox, who has played only 13 games over the past two seasons, is determined to reward the Eagles’ good faith by staying healthy. The Eagles’ former fourth-round pick committed himself to getting in shape in the offseason.

“Attacking my body, making sure I come back as healthy as possible,” Maddox told reporters. “And I feel like this year is a great year for me because the past two seasons, with the turf toe, I really didn’t get to participate in OTAs and camp. This year, I was able to go in the offseason and get my body right and be fully healthy and be able to compete in OTAs and camp so I feel good.”

One thing Maddox focused on was building his strength through heavier weight-training. He also transformed his diet and changed his sleep habits. Bed time? It’s 9 p.m. every night.

“Lifting heavier, getting stronger, running more, and doing all the little things that can get the tweaks out of the areas that were weak,” Maddox said. “Eating better, sleeping more … I’m doing all the little things that can save me a little longer and help me out with the injuries.”

Maddox on the Return of CJ Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles defense: “Very talkative. Definitely bringing some hurrah back to the defense. We’re excited to have him back … I’m excited to have him back. It was fun playing with him two years ago, so just having him back out there is fun, hearing his voice.”

AP Photo/Matt Slocum