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Early Impressions Positive For Rookie Eagles

A three-day Rookie Minicamp completed over the weekend, the work is just beginning for the Eagles Rookie Class of 2018. They remain at the NovaCare Complex, working on the field with veterans, ahead of next week’s start to the Organized Team Activities, where the players are permitted to stay at the NovaCare Complex for six hours a day, three days a week. For the fourth day, players are permitted to stay at the NovaCare Complex for four hours, as they have been for the Phase 1 and Phase 2 portion of the offseason. All workouts are voluntary.

Head coach Doug Pederson offered some first impressions of his first two draft picks, tight end Dallas Goedert and cornerback Avonte Maddox, based on the past weekend.

On Goedert, Pederson said: “Physically, a big guy at 256-plus pounds. When you first see him running around the field you think, ‘OK, athletic.’ You’re kind of putting him in the Zach Ertz mold. He’s a big, thick guy who has a willingness to block which is kind of what we needed and what we wanted in Dallas. He’s going to be a great addition. I’m excited, as he continues to develop this spring and on into Training Camp, to watch his growth. He’ll be a great addition to Zach Ertz.’

On Maddox, Pederson said: “Avonte Maddox is as advertised. Not a real big guy, but he’ll challenge you. He’s physical. He’s got great ball skills. He moves around extremely well. He’s a sharp guy. The kid has picked up things … just being able to make calls and see him process the information on defense, he’s another one who is going to be a big addition.”

A great story emerged from the camp when the Eagles signed wide receiver Tim Wilson, a tryout player from nearby Radnor (Pennsylvania) High School and East Stroudsburg University, to a contract. Wilson, a longshot of longshot, takes the next step. For Pederson, Wilson embodies the very message the head coach delivered when he gathered the players for their opening meeting at the NovaCare Complex: It’s all about opportunity, Pederson told the group, recalling his own long road to the NFL as an undrafted free agent who played in NFL Europe before finally making it to the league and staying for 14 seasons.

“I told them that anything is possible. Come to work every day and do your job,” Pederson said. “And that’s exactly what he (Wilson) did. He flashed for us during the Rookie Minicamp and really did some nice things not only as a receiver but potentially as a returner. He gives us some depth at that slot receiver position, where is where he will primarily play. He deserved an opportunity to come to Training Camp. I’m looking forward to watching him work some more.”

Howie Roseman delivered the news to Wilson after the final practice and, Pederson said, Wilson was “excited. He was elated.”

One step down. Many, many, many more steps to go for Wilson.

  • There hasn’t been a lot said about the special teams, outside of new punter Cameron Johnston, but the Eagles have some changes in the offing. Johnson will get an extended opportunity to replace Donnie Jones as the team’s punter and holder on field goals, but there is much more to consider. The Eagles lost Trey Burton, Najee Goode, and Jaylen Watkins in free agency. Brent Celek is no longer on the roster. Bryan Braman is an unrestricted free agent. There is always going to be change on special teams, but the Eagles lost some key players, Burton notably. That’s why signing someone like Corey Nelson early in free agency and LaRoy Reynolds late in free agency is worth remembering as September nears. Dave Fipp needs to know who is core special teams players are and as the roster gets sorted out and narrowed to 53 players, it’s something to think about. Kamu Grugier-Hill is one of the leaders of the special teams pack and there is going to be quite a bit of competition.
  • Carson Wentz won’t throw in the spring OTAs, as expected. That means that Nick Foles and, particularly, Nate Sudfeld will benefit from extra reps. The Eagles really want to see Sudfeld now that he’s been with the team long enough to have an excellent grasp on the scheme. His play against Dallas in last year’s regular-season finale – Sudfeld completed 19 of 23 passes for 134 yards – was encouraging, and now the Eagles want to see his next step. Joe Callahan, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, will be the third quarterback.
  • On the latest Eagles Live Podcast, Pederson digs deep into what the relationship of Carson Wentz and Nick Foles means to the rest of the locker room. Very telling stuff. Take a listen ...
  • No depth chart yet, but, boy, is the running back position crowded with Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood, Donnel Pumphrey, and new addition, Matt Jones. If competition brings out the best in players, this is a very good situation for the Eagles.
  • Long way to go for Maddox, but as you read above he had a good first weekend and could get an initial look in the slot at cornerback. And that means what for the rest of the cornerback group? Can you keep Maddox, Jalen Mills, Sidney Jones, Ronald Darby, and Rasul Douglas and give them all reps? What about a group of young veterans also in the mix (De’Vante Bausby, for example) who are fighting for roster spots? There aren’t a lot of teams with depth at cornerback. The Eagles, early in this offseason, appear to be in promising shape here.
  • And finally, speaking of roster depth, the Eagles are going to have some fun sorting through the offensive line behind the projected starting five of Jason Peters, Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, and Lane Johnson. Halapoulivaait Vaitai, Isaac Seumalo, and Chance Warmack return. Matt Pryor and Jordan Mailata are the rookie draft picks. You just know that offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is going to develop one of the “unknown” players on the roster. This is going to be fun. Honestly, this may very well be the deepest roster, on paper anyway, the Eagles have had in many, many seasons at this point in the offseason. “Iron sharpens iron,” Pederson said about the roster competition.

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