With OTAs and mini-camp in the rear-view mirror, the Eagles 90-man roster is set. Check out the photos ...
This is the final week for the 2015 offseason, if you consider any season "off" in the NFL, and the Eagles are gearing up for three days of training at the NovaCare Complex, with an important agenda ahead.
These training sessions won't be much different, if at all, from the 10 Organized Team Activities sessions the team held in the last few weeks. Helmets, shells and shorts. No tackling. Contact very, very minimal. Lots of teaching. It's the final send-off as the coaches emphasize their teaching points with the players and hope the players retain what they've learned when Training Camp begins on August 2.
What to expect from Tuesday to Thursday of this week? There are some things to watch. Everything to watch, honestly ...
WHAT IS SAM BRADFORD'S NEXT STEP?
The new Eagles quarterback participated in some 7-on-7 drills in the OTAs and the Eagles are pleased with the progress he is making. There is no word on if Sam Bradford will ramp up his on-field activity this week, so we'll keep our eyes open for that.
What we know about Bradford is that he seems ideal for the role here. He makes fast decisions and gets the ball out quickly and accurately. He is intelligent. He has an outstanding arm, good vision and he gets the offense. His skill set fits here very nicely.
Of course, he's also wearing a red jersey, and defenses aren't touching him. The pass rush avoids him. Everything about Bradford's assimilation into the Eagles' way has been encouraging as he eyes Training Camp and a "next big step" in what he's able to do on the field. There is no timetable, just a lot of positive feelings about how he's done to date and where he'll be in August and beyond.
IS THE OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH CHART ESTABLISHED?
First of all, there is no depth chart. The coaching staff has made that very clear. The players are maximizing their on-field reps and improving every day. We know, though, that the offensive line has had some significant changes and that there are some questions about the guard spots and about depth.
The Eagles trust offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland a great deal. He's one of the best in the business. He has some young talent to work with here, and he has Allen Barbre as a leading candidate to start at left guard. This is going to be a group that has excellent competition in Training Camp, particularly at the guard spots.
WALTER THURMOND AT SAFETY? REALLY?
Yes, and the Eagles are extremely pleased with the way Walter Thurmond has stepped into the role alongside Malcolm Jenkins. It's only the spring and the defense can't yet hit, but Thurmond has established himself as a strong, strong candidate to earn substantial playing time at the position.
Earl Wolff needs to get on the field and stay there. The Eagles need some other players to step up and challenge Thurmond and to provide quality depth behind Jenkins. We won't know a lot about this until the pads go on and the preseason games begin.
HOW IS LB MARCUS SMITH COMING ALONG?
Last year's first-round draft pick has been limited this spring because of an injury, so the hope is that he can increase his activity this week. Marcus Smith worked hard in the offseason to build strength and get up to speed in the defense. Can he help off the edge in the pass-rush game? The Eagles could use some depth behind Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham? They've got Travis Long, Bryan Braman and Brad Jones working there, and Smith has an opportunity.
There is a sense of urgency here, right? Doesn't Smith have to show that he can be counted on and trusted in certain packages? This is a big week for Smith.
WHAT IS THE PICTURE ALONG WITH BRADFORD AT QUARTERBACK?
Mark Sanchez is taking a lot of reps and has had a strong spring. Tim Tebow is coming along with his consistency after signing a couple of months ago. Matt Barkley seems to be throwing the football with a lot more velocity and accuracy this spring.
The Eagles are going to have some competition in Training Camp and in the preseason. It's going to be a lot of fun. Barkley and Tebow appear to be competing for the No. 3 job. May the best man win. We probably won't learn a lot about the situation this week, but it's a nice setup to what's ahead in August as the Eagles get the roster from 90 players to 53 in time to play Atlanta on September 14.
AND THE ROOKIE CLASS? WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THEM?
Again, it's all very good stuff so far. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor is really smooth and confident and he plays fast. Eric Rowe is gaining a lot of reps at the cornerback position. JaCorey Shephard is someone to keep an eye on there, too, particularly as he becomes more comfortable as the nickel corner. Jordan Hicks at inside linebacker and Randall Evans at cornerback are making good progress, as is seventh-round Brian Mihalik, a looooong and tall defensive end.
Their heads may be spinning a bit given the new pace of life and the information they are being fed, but the rookies are digging in. So far, so good here. Once the pads go on the read will be more realistic, but the rookies are living up to the team's expectations so far.
It's a big week for them from a mental standpoint. They will continue to be fed a lot of information and they will process it quickly. The key will be retaining so much when the team gathers again for Training Camp.