The voluntary portion of the Eagles’ offseason program wrapped up Friday afternoon.
Come next week, everything is mandatory.
That means Fletcher Cox and Darren Sproles can be fined if they don’t report, although head coach Doug Pederson expects them to (see story). While the timing of practice will be different next week, the structure of practice won’t change much from OTAs.
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Here are 10 observations from the final OTA practice, which was forced inside the bubble because of rain:
1. We’ll start with the quarterbacks because everyone wants to know about the quarterbacks.
Sam Bradford: Just before practice started, Pederson praised Bradford, saying Bradford is “having an outstanding offseason right now.” Pederson named Bradford the starter long ago, but said the veteran has actually separated himself with his play on the field too.
Well, things didn’t get off to a hot start for Bradford in Friday’s 7-on-7 portion. Within a span of a few minutes, he had three pretty bad passes. The first came on a deep ball to Josh Huff down the right sideline. The second was on a slant by Nelson Agholor — the ball was thrown high, but Agholor made a great catch. The third was on a slant to Chris Givens – just way too out in front. But after that, Bradford did settle in and have a better day.
Chase Daniel: No, Daniel doesn’t have the arm strength of the other two quarterbacks, but he can still get the ball where it needs to be. I’m not sure how much arm strength he really lacks vs. the perception because the other two quarterbacks can really sling it. An up and down day for Daniel, he had a couple bad tosses, but then hit Huff on a beautiful deep ball. Overall, Daniel had a very good day, probably better than the other two, a certain rarity.
Carson Wentz: Not the best day for the rook. I’m not sure if it was entirely his fault, though. There were a couple plays where he and the intended receiver weren’t on the same page. On those, it’s tough to say who’s at fault.
2. The first-team offensive line – Jason Peters, Allen Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson – stayed intact Friday, but the second team looked a little different. Malcolm Bunche – for reasons unknown – wasn’t at practice, so Stefen Wisniewski operated at left guard and Josh Andrews filled in for him at second team center.
Why does this matter? Well, Wisniewski clearly wants the opportunity to win the starting left guard job (see story), but has been primarily playing center in camp.
“I see him probably more as a guard right now, you know, with the opportunity to be a backup center,” Pederson said.
3. The Eagles are giving tight end Chris Pantale a real look at playing fullback. Through the few weeks of OTAs, he’s actually gotten more significant snaps at fullback than third-string tight end Trey Burton. What does that mean? Well, it seems Pederson will definitely be utilizing a lead blocker in his offense and maybe it’s possible the team elects to keep four tight ends this season if one of them (Pantale?) will take the role of a fullback. We’ll know more when the pads come out in training camp, but it’s something to keep to keep an eye on.
4. On Tuesday, Wentz got the best of his college teammate from North Dakota State C.J. Smith (see story). Not the case Friday. During 11-on-11s, Smith broke up a deep pass from Wentz to Marcus Johnson. Shortly after that, on one where Wentz and his receiver had a miscommunication, Smith got an interception by catching a ball over his shoulder downfield.
5. If Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews and Leodis McKelvin ever have to field punts that hit off a roof in a dome stadium, they’ll be ready. The trio waited downfield as punt after punt off Donnie Jones’ foot ricocheted off the ceiling of the practice bubble.
6. The Eagles used some interesting formations Friday as a part of their scout team work to get ready for the Browns in Week 1. First, Dennis Kelly lined up as an extra tackle left of the left tackle in a goal line formation. The offense ran to that side. Then, the Eagles lined up with three on the line, trips to both sides with a lineman in each, and a running back and quarterback in the backfield for screen plays. And then, Kelly lined up in the slot.
“It’s funny, Chip (Kelly) had stuff like that the first couple years,” Kelly said. “We practiced it but it was a little flashback.”
Kelly said he played tight end in high school and would welcome a chance for the team’s own offense to run plays like that during the season. He jokingly said he’ll push for a play that includes a pass to him.
“It’s fun out there,” Matt Tobin said. “You’re running around and you don’t really know what you’re doing, but you’re having fun.”
Tobin said most playbooks include different formations like that, but it doesn’t mean they’ll get used.
7. McKelvin is a fun player to watch at practice, mainly for his intensity. On one play, he had tight coverage on Huff and clearly interfered with him. Huff made an outstanding catch despite the pass interference and McKelvin wasn’t happy. The veteran corner rose to his feet, repeatedly shouting an expletive – you know the one.
8. The play of the day goes to linebacker Najee Goode. Goode filled in for Jordan Hicks as the first-team MIKE on Friday. (Hicks has been out with a quad spasm, but will return in a limited fashion next week.) On the play, Bradford threw a laser across the middle that was intended for Zach Ertz. But Goode dropped into coverage and plucked it out of the air. It’s likely Bradford never saw him.
9. The Eagles got Givens some first-team reps opposite Nelson Agholor when the team was in 12 personnel (two tight ends). While it’s important to remember these practices are happening in shorts and no pads, Givens has been performing very well.
“Chris has been one of those guys that added depth at the spot,” Pederson said. “I like his speed and athleticism. He's a veteran player who obviously has played in several games and has that experience there.”
10. Something interesting: Jordan Matthews took a third-team rep at the outside receiver position. No, Matthews is obviously not a third-teamer but any extra reps outside will be helpful. Matthews has the ability to play inside or outside, but under Kelly, he was predominantly a slot receiver – and a really good one. Pederson on Friday said Matthews has been good outside, but is better inside because he knows how to use his body in space.
“Our receivers, in this offense, are going to have to know multiple spots,” Pederson said. “They are going to have to know an outside spot and an inside spot because we move them around so much by formation.”
Last year, Jeremy Maclin was Kansas City’s best receiver and he lined up primarily in the slot.
Stupid Observation of the Day: Speaking of the Chiefs, Pederson started off his Friday press conference with injuries, a throwback to the 14 years Andy Reid was the coach in Philadelphia. Now, Pederson just has to learn to clear his throat.