They are at the finishing line for the post-draft camps, at a moment when, for a very short period of time, they can gather themselves and consider all that has happened since late April. The heralded Rookie Class of 2009, so dubbed by the analysts after the Eagles plunged into the draft with full force and emerged with eight players they hope can be part of things in a very positive way around here for many years to come, pauses to catch its collective breath as the last of the Organized Team Activities passes.
Oh, there is more to come between now and training camp. The rookies will stick around beyond the OTAs and will get more "in their playbook," as been their favorite phrase since the draft, but the on-field, full-team evaluation ceases until Midnight Green invades the wonderful Lehigh Valley beginning on July 26.
So what do we know about the kids? Well, there is no doubt that they have all made great strides since that first post-draft camp. Back then, receivers Jeremy Maclin and Brandon Gibson and Cornelius Ingram had no idea where they were supposed to be, or at what tempo they were supposed to perform. Running back LeSean McCoy had grey concepts rattling around his mind, and the rest was pure football instincts.
The offensive linemen were broken down to ground zero and built back up learning the technique Juan Castillo demands. The defensive rookies were given sketches of the scheme and then told to follow the leadership from the veterans.
Well, the rookies have stepped up. They've impressed enough that the Eagles are absolutely counting on contributions from at least the offensive headliners -- Maclin as a receiver and return man, McCoy has a backup to Brian Westbrook and Ingram as part of the team's two-tight end set. Gibson has opened eyes with his fine hands and routes, and now he will have to show that he can separate when the pads go on. The other skills are apparent.
The remainder of the draft class needs to make its impact in training camp, and we'll monitor that group at that time.
For now, speculation is fun. Maclin looks like he has the high-end talent to be something pretty darn fantastic, but he isn't close to reaching the ceiling. McCoy has caught the ball well, has run well, but there are no pads on and things change very quickly when that happens. Ingram has been spectacular running routes and catching passes. Can he block? We'll find out when the pads go on, but, boy, the rest sure looks outstanding.
You want to know if the draft picks are going to play, don't you? We all do. It's too early to tell, but the spring practices have provided a forum for the draft picks to show they can process and retain information, and that they can get on the field and show just how athletic they are. All three of those picks pass that snuff test. Gibson is intriguing, for sure, Macho Harris moves well on defense. The offensive linemen get what Castillo is trying to teach. Moise Fokou has more than a clue what the Eagles need their linebackers to do.
And, yeah, it looks like the Eagles have more rookies in position to play than they have had in many seasons. Yeah, DeSean Jackson had a terrific season as a rookie and the Eagles have gotten plenty of contributions from rookies over the years, but how many times have you sat there and said that one, two, three of the draft picks (Maclin, McCoy, Ingram) were going to be high on the depth chart.
These camps have been all about the rookies and the newest Eagles. It has been a great, great three weeks, first with rookies and selected veterans and then with the whole team. The Eagles look really promising, very talented, and approaching the work with the right attitude.
The rookies? Good group so far. We may see some of these youngsters step right in and right on the field. So far, the kids have been alright, and everyone is excited as they take a temporary respite from the 1,000-mph life of the NFL.