This weekend, the Eagles coaches get to see the newest players take part in practice for the first time during the Rookie Camp. It's a chance to see the players that the Eagles studied and researched for over a year get acclimated to their new surroundings. On Friday, following the first Rookie Camp practice, eight of the rookies held press conferences - the seven draft picks and free agent defensive end
Last Thursday, linebacker Marcus Smith II was selected as the Eagles' first-round pick. On Saturday, Smith graduated from the University of Louisville with his degree in communications. Smith is now back in Philadelphia ready to ply his trade and show why he was tabbed with the 26th overall pick.
"I do feel like I have some things to prove," Smith said. "I know a lot of fans want to figure out why the Eagles picked me, but I feel like I can become a great player and become the player Coach (Chip) Kelly would want me to be."
The AAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013, Smith was second in the nation with 14.5 sacks. He's in the embryonic stage of becoming an all-around linebacker. Smith acknowledged that his "head was spinning" with all of the information that the coaches were throwing at him this week leading up to the Rookie Camp. Fellow linebacker Trent Cole, who is entering his 10th NFL season, had some advice for the rookie.
"Trent Cole just told me my hair's going to be on fire right now, everything's going to be coming at you," Smith recalled. "It's like, you're going to make mistakes. Just try to learn from them and keep moving forward, don't ever get down on yourself and just move on to the next play."
“I just wanted to get it done as soon as possible,” Huff said. “I didn’t want that to be a distraction for the team. I just wanted to come in and do what I had to do on the field and help my teammates in any way possible.”
Huff is quite familiar with many of the tenets of the Eagles organization from his time at Oregon, but he made no secret of his excitement for the opportunity ahead.
“I love Philly. Just being here for the short amount of time I’ve been here, I love Philly,” he said. “I love everything that’s going on with this organization and where Coach Kelly is taking them. He has a great setup for us and he’s doing an excellent job with installing the rookies and putting us on training wheels, as I would say.”
Each and every day of practice is crucial for the rookies, but this weekend is especially imperative for fifth-round draft pick safety Ed Reynolds.
Due to the NCAA Graduation Rule, Reynolds is allowed to participate in this weekend's Rookie Camp, but must return to Stanford until graduation which is on June 15. Reynolds will miss all of the Organized Team Activities, but return for the team's mandatory mini-camp which is the final three days of practice prior to the start of Training Camp from June 17-19.
“I’ll be able to have the playbook with me and get those mental reps now and while I’m away from the team. The physical reps I can do right now and get as many as I can just because it’s muscle memory, going out there and making sure I’m doing my assignment, aligning correctly and just going out there and playing football," Reynolds said.
"All of our meetings are pretty much podcasted on our iPads, so I just have to make sure I stay up with that and also being able to have any questions answered by them. Then, physically, just making sure I stay in shape and continue to work on my (defensive back) stuff to make sure that when I come back, I’m not too far behind."
Reynolds is the only draft pick who is impacted by the NCAA graduation rule. He does have one advantage on his side. His father, Ed, was an NFL linebacker for 10 seasons. Following his playing career, he worked in the league office.
“He just told me to be a professional," Reynolds said of the advice that he got from his dad. "This game is something special, it doesn’t last forever, so just go out every day and pick something that you need to work on, focus in on it and make sure that you carry yourself in a way that you’re a professional out there because it’s your livelihood.”
The elder Reynolds, who played for the Patriots and the Giants, thrived despite not being selected in the NFL Draft.
"I’ve definitely seen some film. It’s funny being able to watch him. I grew up seeing him one way and then watching him as a football player. I didn’t think he was all that athletic, but he was pretty good," the younger Reynolds said. "I knew I had to get it from somewhere. Now, inside linebackers, you don’t see guys who are 6-5, 240, hardly anywhere. That’s how he was, he was nard-nosed and being able to be around some of his older teammates and them telling me stories about him playing and Training Camps. He was an undrafted free agent who had to go make a team and he did so, then ended up leading the team in tackles for a couple years when he was with the Patriots. I’m just taking that work ethic that he had and trying to carry that in my game, as well.”
But why had Allen been crossing his fingers to become an Eagle? Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro (who tried to recruit Allen to Oregon when Allen was in high school) was a major factor, as was the organization of Allen’s pre-draft visit to the NovaCare Complex.
“I thought it was really, really well-organized,” said Allen, who added that he visited about eight teams leading up to the draft. “Some places I went, it wasn’t like that. But I got a schedule. Some places I went it wasn’t like that. I got a schedule and it was really well organized. I met with basically everybody. It was a little more formal of an interview process than I’d had with different teams. I think it went well or else I wouldn’t be here.
“I guess the thing that comes to mind is I sat in a meeting room with the whole defensive staff and they put on a cut-up of me and just said, ‘Explain what you’ve been taught on each and every play.’ I think it was a little more ... it wasn’t as relaxed as some of the other interviews maybe that I went on. It was good. It was a little stressful.”