10 Observations From Eagles OTAs: Derek Barnett Shines Vs. Lane Johnson

The Eagles were back on the practice field for another OTA practice open to the media Thursday and in a strange turn of events, it actually wasn't raining. 

Friday marks the last day of OTAs. 

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Next week, the mandatory minicamp begins. Head coach Doug Pederson said he expects all of his players - including Marcus Smith, who has been MIA - to be back with the team next week. 

Here are 10 observations from Thursday: 

1. We'll start off with the guys who weren't there. Jordan Matthews (knee) is still being held out (see story). Nick Foles was missing; we know his pregnant wife was nearing her due date. LeGarrette Blount, who was sick Monday, was still not there Thursday. Mychal Kendricks, who was limited with a hamstring injury last week, has not been at either open practice this week. 

Smith, Donnie Jones and Jason Peters have missed all of the team's OTA practices. 

2. Toward the end of the team portion of practice, rookie first-round pick Derek Barnett really began to shine. On consecutive plays, he beat Lane Johnson, who has been playing left tackle. When the Eagles drafted Barnett, Joe Douglas raved about the draft pick's "ankle flexion." That was on display Thursday; when Barnett gets so low to the ground without losing speed, it's tough to get hands on him. 

Now, it's still just June and these practices are non-padded, which means no hitting. The pads won't go on until training camp, but so far, so good for Barnett. 

3. Timmy Jernigan, who hadn't practiced since spraining his ankle Monday, was back on the field Thursday. In fact, he skipped onto the practice field at the start. A little later, he beat Isaac Seumalo for a sack during the team portion of practice. 

4. While Seumalo began OTAs as the Eagles' starting left guard, it was important to know then that old veteran Allen Barbre had a calf injury and was limited. Now, the two have been rotating at the position and Barbre actually started the practice as the starter. We might have a real position battle on our hands. 

Late in the practice, Halapoulivaati Vaitai collided with Brandon Brooks and was seemingly hobbled by what looked like a back or hip injury. He came out a play later. Although the injury didn't look serious, it did give us an idea of the depth chart at tackle because Matt Tobin was the next guy in. 

5. This spring, the Eagles have been using a lot of bunch formations, rub routes and short crosses. That's different from last year but it makes a lot of sense. With Darren Sproles, Donnel Pumphrey and some other shifty players, getting them some free space should work. On short crosses, the deep receiver was actually instructed to reach out to touch the short receiver to make sure they were close enough. 

6. The offensive play of the day came from 2017 OTA MVP Nelson Agholor. (I know, I know.) On Thursday, he beat double coverage and caught a 50-yard bomb from Carson Wentz over his shoulder for a touchdown between Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. And Dorial Green-Beckham actually made a great sideline catch and toe-tapped his way for a big gain. He hasn't been good this spring, but this was a great play. 

Overall, though, the defense won the day. They won way more battles than the offense, especially in the red zone. Good day for the guys in white jerseys. 

7. Patrick Robinson made a really nice play 1-on-1 against Alshon Jeffery on a ball that was a tad underthrown by Wentz. At the end of the play, Jeffery became the defender and dropped Robinson to the ground. 

Robinson might have been a little shaken up on the play because he didn't rejoin practice (he didn't leave the field either). Once Robinson exited, the nickel package included Jenkins in the slot. Normally, the nickel so far has included Robinson and Rasul Douglas outside, with Mills in the slot. It looks like the second option is kind of like what the Eagles did last year when they brought Jenkins in as the nickel corner and put Jaylen Watkins back at safety. It's important to note that Ron Brooks isn't yet back to being a full practice participant after his injury in 2016. 

8. We almost had a fight! Jason Kelce was fired up and had some not-so-nice words with new DT Gabe Wright. Kelce walked back to the sideline shouting some expletives. A little fire from the veteran.  

9. The Eagles don't have a fullback on the roster and it looks like they're going to keep it that way, which means getting other guys to fill that lead-blocker role. "Right now, it's just kind of by committee," Pederson said. 

On Thursday, the Eagles motioned Trey Burton from the line into the backfield as a fullback. It seems like he's the guy they really want in that role because they don't have to put him out there just for that. But can he really be the guy there? We'll see. 

10. Shelton Gibson continues to have a rough spring, dropping several more passes Thursday. During the individual portion, he was the last player to go and dropped an easy ball. He was visibly frustrated. New receivers coach Mike Groh yelled, "Get another one! That's why we practice this." 

Even on days when the team hasn't had a ton of energy, Groh brings it. He might be a big upgrade as a coach from Greg Lewis, who was fired after last season. 

Stupid Observation of the Day
Caleb Sturgis isn't bad at fielding punts. Actually, he's pretty good. When the rest of the team is on one field practicing, the specialists are on another field. Punter Cameron Johnston was booming punts and Sturgis had no trouble tracking and fielding them. It probably comes from all the practice he gets in those situations. Call Sturgis the super-duper emergency punt returner.

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