Some random thoughts and idle rumblings with Training Camp right around the corner …
- Everything changes when the pads go on, as we all know, and one position that knows that maybe more than any other is the cornerback spot. With everything that has gone on in this offseason with the league’s pass interference rules, it only adds to the anticipation of how the game is going to change. With the Eagles and an extremely competitive and interesting big picture at cornerback, well, this may very well be the position to watch in camp. There may not be such a thing as a “shutdown” cornerback in the league these days, but the Eagles have some real talent in that room. We’ll see how quickly Ronald Darby (knee) and Jalen Mills (foot) return to action, and those will be key players to watch when the Eagles take the practice field on July 25, and in the meantime players like Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox and Cre’Von LeBlanc are going to eat up all the practice reps they can handle.
- I know I’m looking ahead but the regular season isn’t very far away and the Eagles open with Washington at Lincoln Financial Field. The Redskins have high hopes for running back Derrius Guice, a second-year player who missed his rookie campaign with a knee injury. He’s now reportedly dealing with a hamstring injury, so that’s something to monitor as Training Camp nears. And the Jets will be without tight end Chris Herndon for the Week 5 game against the Eagles. Herndon has been suspended by the NFL for four games (New York has a Week 4 bye) and his loss is significant. Herndon caught 39 passes for 502 yards and four touchdowns last year and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the NFL’s 12th-best tight end who generated a 110.3 passer rating on balls thrown his way.
- Offensive tackle Lane Johnson is always looking for ways to take his game to another level, so he's participating, along with four dozen other NFL linemen including teammate Brandon Brooks, in an Offensive Line Masterminds Conference in Texas, run by Johnson's line coach at Oklahoma, Duke Manyweather.
“Hey, we’re talking it all,” Johnson told ESPN via Pro Football Talk. “We’re talking about the O-line life in general, which not a whole lot of people really know about. We had a lot of people there in the room, a lot of pro guys, a lot of college guys, and really we’re just talking ball. We’re talking technique. We’re talking what should we do against this opponent? Training and then really everything. It was really just to get all the guys in one room and really just talk ball, something that’s never really happened. It was a good day today, a really good day ... Really, I think the whole message behind here is to try to be the best player you can.”
Fran Duffy is in Frisco, Texas for the summit and will have more from Johnson and Brooks in the days ahead.
- ESPN’s Bill Barnwell ranked the Eagles’ offensive arsenal as the NFL’s fourth best, understanding that the depth here is the key to the success. Here is what Barnwell wrote:
“I don't think anybody is deeper at the skill positions across the board than Doug Pederson's team. If you took away their best player at each position, you could still roll out a starting five of Miles Sanders, Nelson Agholor, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Dallas Goedert. You would probably prefer that to the Jags' starters. Down the stretch last season, the Eagles started Josh Adams and then Wendell Smallwood at running back; it's not clear whether either back will make the active roster. No team has this sort of depth.
“Outside of Zach Ertz, though, it's fair to wonder whether there's the sort of top-level talent we're seeing from the other teams in this top 10. Alshon Jeffery hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2014, though he did make it through the full 16-game season in 2017 with a torn labrum. Jeffery is unquestionably tough and has been a brutally tough out in the playoffs but he also hasn't hit 850 receiving yards in a season in four years. The running back rotation has plenty of interesting options, but there's no guarantee that Miles Sanders steps in and hits the ground running as a rookie back. The sum adds up to more than the individual parts here.”
Sounds pretty spot on to me.
- What is going on at the NovaCare Complex during this time of the year? Not much, at least from a football perspective. The players and coaches and personnel staff are still away on vacation. They won’t return until just a day or two before practices begin. The building has some renovations happening – as usual for this time of the year – and the Training Camp setup is well underway. In a matter of a couple of weeks, though, the NovaCare Complex is going to be buzzing.
- Finally, a thought of what positions are going to make for the most difficult roster decisions when it comes time to reduce to 53 players. These things generally work out in a fairly straight forward manner through the course of camp and the preseason games, but the Eagles are going to have very, very tough calls to make at cornerback, along the defensive line, and at running back. And don’t sleep on the wide receiver position here. Yeah, you can basically say that DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside are pretty strong candidates to make the 53, right? After that, it gets cloudy, as third-year players Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins will battle with a veteran like Charles Johnson and some younger prospects for a fifth and perhaps sixth roster spot at wide receiver. Should be fun. Can’t wait. Enjoy the quiet now, because we’ve got all kinds of Eagles fun ahead.