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It's A Way Too Early Look At The Eagles

Posted Jul 28, 2017

They haven’t tackled to the ground. Heck, they haven’t even worn a full uniform – shells and shorts was the look on Friday at the NovaCare Complex. But here goes nothing – and let’s have some fun. It’s OK to be optimistic about the Eagles right now. It’s fine to feel good. The Eagles are, it seems at this point, a much-improved team from the 2016 season. Through the spring to now, here is what I’ve seen ...

They haven’t tackled to the ground. Heck, they haven’t even worn a full uniform – shells and shorts was the look on Friday at the NovaCare Complex. But here goes nothing – and let’s have some fun. It’s OK to be optimistic about the Eagles right now. It’s fine to feel good. The Eagles are, it seems at this point, a much-improved team from the 2016 season. Through the spring to now, here is what I’ve seen ...

  • Carson Wentz is throwing the football with a lot of confidence and he’s looked really sharp. Good arm strength, good timing, and accuracy. There have been a few throws, however, that have been slightly off-target, and twice on Friday Wentz’s receivers still made the catch. Alshon Jeffery reached back for a Wentz throw to make a nice grab and then Torrey Smith leaped high on a slant route and made the catch. Very encouraging to see.
     
  • It’s really early but I think everyone who has watched even a little bit of practice would agree: The Eagles are way, way improved top to bottom at wide receiver. Jeffery adds a dominating player who can go up and catch the football in traffic and who can create space with his body. Smith has explosiveness. He ran a pretty sluggo (slant and go) route and caught a pass on the fingertips from Wentz in the routes on air drill. They both look comfortable in the offense. Jordan Matthews looks like he hasn’t missed a beat after sitting out much of the spring rehabbing his knee injury. Nelson Agholor has had a good first two days of full-team practices.

  • Rookie Mack Hollins looks like he’s going to get a shot at making an instant impact on special teams. He’s lining up as a first-team gunner in coverage.

  • The truth is that I’m not sure there is room for running back Donnel Pumphrey to be active on gamedays, and that may very well be the case, but the Eagles sure are getting their looks at the fourth-round pick in practice. He takes a lot of reps, shows great and natural hands, and is extremely quick. Pumphrey has repped with the first-team offense and he looks like he belongs. Maybe there is a place on gamedays for him, after all.

  • Otherwise, it’s too early to see much about the running backs as far as running the football until the defense can tackle. But I will say this: Wendell Smallwood looks faster and has gotten stronger from last season. I’m thinking really good things about him this year.

  • OK, so it’s just been a very small sample size – exactly one offensive line vs. defensive line drill – but first-round pick Derek Barnett is the real deal. He has burst, he has power, and he’s got some variety in his moves.

  • Let’s talk about the cornerbacks, who are being watched very closely. Great to see Ron Brooks out there taking reps as the starting nickel corner. He looks good. Jalen Mills is playing well and is around the football a lot and, at this point, is joined as a starter by Patrick Robinson, the veteran looking for a long-term fit in his career. Rasul Douglas flashes, for sure. He’s got major upside. C.J. Smith has taken a lot of reps and is positioning himself to push for playing time.

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  • Who is the backup safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod? We’ll see how it goes when the pads are on and the action is live, but Terrence Brooks has been around the football a lot in the early going here. He and Jaylen Watkins, along with Chris Maragos, are important cogs in the defense. The Eagles need to trust their depth behind the starters.

  • Nick Foles is such an upgrade over Chase Daniel, it’s not even close. Foles is bigger and stronger and he has much more range in his arm. Foles is an excellent backup behind Wentz. Should Foles be needed to play, there is every confidence that he can go in and win games.

  • The offense is definitely taking some shots down the field in the early days of camp. “If you’re going to do it in games,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said, “you need to call it in practice. That’s what we’re doing.”

  • Najee Goode was drafted in 2012 by Tampa Bay and joined the Eagles a season later off of waivers. He’s been released prior to Week 1 and then signed later in both 2015 and 2016. All told since being drafted, Goode has experienced nine transactions. He understands not to get too comfortable. But Goode has been one of the revelations since the spring at the linebacker position, even if most are not paying attention. He’s playing outstanding football. Already a strong special teams player, Goode is making the coaching staff feel a lot more secure about the depth at linebacker with his play through the spring and in the early summer.

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