As the Eagles “brought it up” for one final time in the 2018 spring, they did so with great energy and confidence looking forward to A) The ring ceremony on Thursday night at which, of course, those from the team last season will receive their Super Bowl rings and B) Five-plus weeks of rest and recovery with Training Camp the next step.
What kind of spring was it? One man went down – linebacker Paul Worrilow suffered a torn ACL and is lost for the season – but otherwise, the Eagles escaped without any further damage. As head coach Doug Pederson said many times, the spring was about giving as many practice reps as possible to the young Eagles and the new Eagles, and also to bring along those from the 2017 Super Bowl championship team and make sure their bodies recovered the right way.
On the field, the Eagles made great strides understanding the schemes and practicing with high tempo and tight precision. The level of competition was really very, very high. This is a good, very good, football team making the turn for Training Camp. Here are some takeaways from a spring of Eagles practices and preparation for the 2018 season …
- First, quarterback Carson Wentz. He looked far beyond anyone I’ve ever seen six-plus months after major knee surgery. All of the hours that he’s put into rehab, the endless dedication to recover, have paid off. He’s mobile and he’s planting that left foot and he’s letting his passes rip. Wentz progressed to the point where he took reps in 7-on-7 drills. The next step is 11-on-11 practices, and it is with this that there is no timetable. As I’ve said before, Wentz is going to get to 90 percent recovered by August. Then it’s going to inch forward. How quickly does Wentz reach that “fully cleared” point and step on the field with no restrictions? That’s the unknown. He will remain in Philadelphia between now and the July 25 reporting date for Training Camp, and continue his rehabilitation.
- The clear-cut surprise player in the spring was cornerback De’Vante Bausby, whom the Eagles scouted last summer and adeptly added him to the practice squad after he was released by the Chiefs. Bausby showed up every day in the spring and had his hands on the football a lot. He’s absolutely in the mix for the nickel cornerback job. Bausby is an example of excellent scouting by the pro department last summer and of development with the help of the coaching staff once he got here. Every spot on the 90-man roster and the practice squad matters. If Bausby is, indeed, the real deal, then imagine how that enhances the dynamic of an already young and talented cornerback group.
- In a league that just doesn’t have enough pass rushers and cornerbacks, the Eagles have both. This is a great thing to know. The challenge with the defensive line will be twofold: One, get everyone healthy and two, work to manage the age of some of the players and get the rotation going. The players are going to have to understand that they need to share reps to keep them fresh for the long season and, hopefully, long postseason.
- Cameron Johnston was impressive at times in these spring practices, and there were other times when he wasn’t as consistent as he needs to be. My sense says that Johnston will get the reps in Training Camp. The Eagles think he’s come a long way. But they’re also keeping their eyes open. They need a punter who is consistent with his distance, hang time, and directional kicking, not to mention his holding. It is far from a sure thing that Johnston will be the punter this year. He has to bring it every day in the summer.
- Nate Sudfeld looked the part at quarterback this spring. He was poised, much more confident in this knowledge of the offense, and he’s got a good, live arm. The feeling within the Eagles is that Sudfeld has a chance to develop into a starting-caliber quarterback in this league. Again, if that happens, what a find by the pro scouting department and what a terrific job of development by the coaching staff.
- Let’s say the Eagles keep four running backs for 2018. You can book Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement onto the roster. Darren Sproles, too, assuming he recovers all the way from his knee injury. Who is No. 4? Matt Jones has the size. Wendell Smallwood has the explosiveness. Donnel Pumphrey was a fourth-round draft pick only last season. This is going to be great competition. Josh Adams, the undrafted player from Notre Dame who could make a push, hasn’t practiced all spring with a foot injury. He’s going to have a very tough time catching up when he’s healthy. He is a classic developmental-type of player.
- How much progress has seventh-round draft pick Jordan Mailata made? Tons. But he still doesn’t know how to play football, and certainly not at this level. A story that was told to me: Someone asked offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland about Mailata and how he’s come along, to which Stoutland replied: “Start speaking Chinese. Right now. That’s what it’s like for Jordan to come in here and play football.”
- If I were to guess, and I am, Kamu Grugier-Hill is the leader in the clubhouse for the WILL linebacker spot, with Corey Nelson and Nathan Gerry right behind him. Someone needs to emerge when the pads go on and Training Camp practices are live.
- This group of wide receivers is the deepest I’ve seen in all my years here. There will be some legitimate tough calls for the 53-man roster. Alshon Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins are in. The rest? Jumbled up and competing. Do the Eagles keep five or six wide receivers on the 53-man roster?
- Can’t tell you much about the safety spots, because the pads haven’t yet gone on. Let’s evaluate then. Still, the possibility of the Eagles re-signing veteran Corey Graham has been talked about. We’ll see if it happens. There is quality veteran safety depth on the streets right now.
- Top to bottom, this is the most talented Eagles spring roster I’ve seen. And that’s a wrap. A very strong spring ends, with Training Camp and some fierce competition to follow.