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What did you miss at Thursday's OTA practice? Here are 6 observations

John Ross
John Ross

Thursday marked the second OTA session that was open to the media. The Eagles have their final voluntary OTA practice Friday before a three-day mandatory minicamp next week from Tuesday through Thursday before breaking for the summer.

Here are six observations from practice:

1. There was a new addition to practice on Thursday and it had nothing to do with any players. The Eagles had a giant video monitor set up on the sideline that provided replays for the coaches and players. Talk about getting immediate feedback. – Chris McPherson

2. So much of the spring is about player development, whether it's second- or third-year players looking to make a jump up in the pecking order on the depth chart or rookies looking to establish themselves. Per usual, the Eagles have a lot of players with interesting developmental arcs over with the offensive line, and a handful of those players drew praise during individual drills. Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland first had the group working on different run concepts as they practiced "surfacing" blocks with their teammates. These are drills that the players do every day to hone in on their timing and aiming points in the run game.

As Coach Stoutland has told me in the past, "it's like synchronized swimming," and all of the work the players go through here pays dividends in the fall. Afterwards, the players worked on different pass sets in pass protection. Stoutland used some of the vets such as Jordan Mailata and Landon Dickerson as examples for younger players to learn from. Darian Kinnard, who the team signed to a futures contract after the season, sixth-round pick Dylan McMahon, and rookie undrafted free agent Jason Poe all had really good flashes over the course of individual drills. – Fran Duffy

3. This is a time for mixing and matching personnel in order to get a sense of which players have chemistry with one another and the off-ball linebacker position is one to expect plenty of this through Training Camp with several new additions who are all expected to contribute. Nakobe Dean, the green dot (player who wears the headset and relays calls from the sideline), participated in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills with the first unit working alongside both Zack Baun and Devin White. Baun hauled in a tip-drill interception during a 7-on-7 drill. Another rehab update, safety Sydney Brown continues to make his way back from the late-season knee injury suffered in Week 18 against the Giants. He watches from the perspective of a deep, deep safety in the end zone, mentally taking in the action. – Chris McPherson

4. Multiple tight ends flashed at practice on Thursday. Grant Calcaterra had an outstanding catch down the seam from Kenny Pickett early on and pulled in another nice grab on a contested crossing route later. Calcaterra has looked good through the two open practices that we've seen, but he hasn't been the only one to flash. Albert Okwuegbunam made a great attempt on a back-shoulder throw late in practice, arguably getting both feet in-bounds along the near sideline on Pickett's final throw of the afternoon. E.J. Jenkins made a tremendous catch late in practice that raised applause from teammates on Thursday. This tight end group will be one to watch this summer. – Fran Duffy

5. This was our first opportunity to witness wide receiver John Ross, the former top-10 pick who participated in the Rookie Minicamp on a tryout basis and was signed after DeVante Parker retired. He caught a ball in traffic over the middle from quarterback Kenny Pickett and found himself on another rep wide open over the middle of the field, but the pass was behind him and incomplete. He told reporters after practice that he wants to show that he still has that speed that netted him in 2017 the fastest 40-yard dash in Scouting Combine history of 4.22 seconds, which was recently broken by Xavier Worthy. Ross said that he was "thankful" to be in a position where he was able to hold the record for seven years. "Records are meant to be broken," he added as he congratulated Worthy. – Chris McPherson

6. A great story to follow will be that of undrafted rookie Shon Stephens, who pulled in an interception of quarterback Tanner McKee to close practice. Stephens (5-9, 180 pounds) participated in the Rookie Minicamp on a tryout basis before earning a spot on the 90-man roster. The Ferris State product jumped an in-breaking route and got his teammates fired up in the end zone afterwards. – Fran Duffy

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