Eagles Rookie Elijah Qualls Returns for Minicamp, Tries to Catch Up | NBC 10 Philadelphia

Eagles Rookie Elijah Qualls Returns for Minicamp, Tries to Catch Up

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    Eagles Rookie Elijah Qualls Returns for Minicamp, Tries to Catch Up
    CSNPhilly.com
    Eagles rookie Elijah Qualls returns for minicamp, tries to catch up

    As Elijah Qualls stepped on the field Tuesday in the blistering mid-morning heat, the young rookie defensive tackle admittedly didn't know what the heck was going on. 

    Forced to miss the Eagles' OTAs this spring because of an antiquated and silly rule that prohibits players from schools on quarters systems from being with their NFL teams until after graduation, the sixth-rounder from Washington estimated he didn't know 70 percent of what was going on Tuesday. 

    So he was learning on the fly.

    "I honestly didn't know much of what I was doing," Qualls said after practice on Tuesday. "If you don't even know your job, but you go out 100 percent, you can control effort and everything like that. That's just what I planned on doing. 

    "If I can think of the play and understand what my job was before the play, I went and did it. If I couldn't, I did the best I could on trying to do my job and then just got upfield, going 100 percent, trying to make a play, [being] a football player." 

    The first time Qualls, 22, heard about the rule for schools on the quarters system, he didn't realize how much time he would miss. Qualls, who left school after his junior year, was at the rookie minicamp after the draft, but wasn't allowed back until this week's mandatory minicamp. That's a month away. 

    Along with Qualls, fellow Washington product and second-round pick Sidney Jones was also forced to stay away during OTAs while he rehabs from a torn Achilles that will keep him out for at least the start of the 2017 season. 

    While Jones used FaceTime to keep in contact with Cory Undlin during his time away, Qualls got phone calls from defensive line coach Chris Wilson to help keep him updated. But Wilson had OTAs to help run and players in the building to coach, so the phone calls weren't a daily occurrence. 

    And while Qualls had an iPad to watch practice from OTAs, he was just able to watch and wasn't able to have the coach explain the concept of the play and the adjustments. He just had to take it without guidance. 

    But Qualls said learning playbooks and catching up won't be a problem for him. He'll just need to put in the extra work. 

    Tuesday, though, wasn't easy. 

    "It was a little bit of a struggle," Qualls said. "I felt like I was a little bit behind some of the people. But it was exciting, man. Happy to get out here, get in practice with the vets and everything like that."

    During his first practice with the entire team, Qualls said veteran Pro Bowler Fletcher Cox offered him tips and guidance on the plays, and rules when he could. 

    "A little crash course," Qualls called it. 

    "He's a very, very explosive kid from what I saw when he first got out there," Cox said. "When we first got out there, I know it's his first day and he got thrown a curveball, so he didn't have a chance to go to meetings and my message to him was to watch the guy in front of him. 

    "I told him if I get a play, nine times out of 10, when his rep goes, he'll get the same play. Watch the guys in front of him and he'll just learn it."

    Qualls was the 214th pick in the draft this spring, but he thinks he should have gone much higher. The Eagles are hoping he's right. 

    At 6-1, 321, Qualls is still learning to play on the defensive line. Before college, he was his high school's primary running back at 265 pounds. There weren't many volunteers to tackle him from opposing teams.  

    During his time away from the building, Qualls spent about a month working out 1-on-1 with pass-rush guru Chuck Smith, who also works with Derek Barnett and Marcus Smith on the Eagles, as well as players like Von Miller and Aaron Donald. 

    During the pre-draft period, Qualls' pass-rush ability was questioned, but the young pro said the time with Smith was huge as he continues to learn how to play defensive line. It was the first time he ever had 1-on-1 instruction like that. 

    "I don't have as much time on the defensive line as some people do," Qualls said. 

    He's been trying to catch up for a while. So maybe a month away won't be a big problem after all.