Eagles analysis

Eagles minicamp observations: Rookie uses pterodactyl frame for a catch

The 6-foot-6 Wilson was drafted out of Florida State

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The Eagles wrapped up their mandatory minicamp on Thursday with a 50-minute session that had some definite last-day-of-school vibes.

The practice began with some red zone work and ended with coaches doing box drills and running gassers to the delight of their laughing players.

With minicamp now over, the players will break until late July when they report back for training camp. 

Here are 10 observations from today’s practice:

1. As always, we’ll start with the housekeeping items:

• Landon Dickerson was missing for all three days of the minicamp but was an excused absence. LB Oren Burks was missing today.

• James Bradberry was supposed to be working as a safety during this camp but he suffered an injury on Day 1 and didn’t practice again after that. He was a spectator again on Thursday.

• S Sydney Brown (ACL) continues to rehab. He worked on a side field and intently watched practice all three days.

• CB Zech McPhearson wasn’t on the field but he got a little peek of practice from the edge of the Eagles’ weight room. McPhearson is coming back from a torn Achilles last year and it’s probably not a great sign that he missed time this week.

• OG Trevor Keegan and WR Jacob Harris missed practice again with unknown injuries and TE Albert Okwuegbunam joined them on the sideline today.

2. Some depth chart notes:

• Without Dickerson, free agent pickup Mekhi Becton again worked with the first-team offense at left guard. He doesn’t look out of place.

• Second-team OL (L-R): Anim Dankwah, Darian Kinnard, Brett Toth, Matt Hennessy, Fred Johnson

• Third-team OL (L-R): Laekin Vakalahi, Max Scharping, Dylan McMahon, Jason Poe, Gottlieb Ayedze

• The Eagles began the day with Isaiah Rodgers as the RCB opposite Darius Slay. But we also saw Kelee Ringo get first-team reps too. And Quinyon Mitchell also got some work late in 11-on-11s with the first-team.

• Avonte Maddox got most of the work with the first-team as the nickel but Trevor Hall got a couple snaps.

• The top linebackers are still Devin White and Zack Baun. Without Burks in attendance, Ben VanSumeren was bumped up to second team with Nakobe Dean. Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Brandon Smith were with the third team.

3. After Thursday’s practice, quarterback Jalen Hurts said that about 95% of the offense under new coordinator Kellen Moore is new. That might explain some of the up-and-down play we’ve seen from him over the last three days.

It’s certainly nothing to panic about in early June but it’s fair to say that Hurts hasn’t been his sharpest during this minicamp and that continued on Thursday. The Eagles began the practice with some 7-on-7 work in the red zone and his best pass went to Dallas Goedert on a touchdown. 

In 11-on-11s later in practice, Hurts failed to connect with Goedert on a deep pass; the two of them didn’t seem to be on the same page. And then he followed it up with a pass that was off the mark for C.J. Uzomah. He also took a “sack” from Josh Sweat before completing his final pass on a short route to DeVonta Smith.

There has been a noticeable lack of deep passes from Hurts in this camp, which might just be a product of what he and the offense wanted to work on this spring. Or it could be that the defense is playing well right now in coverage. Or it could be a combination of those things and the newness of the offense in general. Those deep balls to his receivers in 1-on-1 situations have been a staple for Hurts and I wouldn’t worry about them disappearing in 2024.

4. The best catch on Thursday came from rookie sixth-round receiver Johnny Wilson, who used his pterodactyl 84 1/2-inch wingspan to catch a ball over Rodgers, who seemed to get a fingertip on the ball. Wilson (6-6, 228) was able to maintain his concentration and double-catch it after the tip.

Wilson certainly has a unique body type for a receiver in the NFL and because of that his movements are unique as well. But I thought he had a decent few days of practice.

5. There was a cool moment on the sideline while most of the team was going through special teams drills. For several minutes, A.J. Brown and Saquon Barkley went over details of their routes and breaks together as Smith sat near them watching. It’s a reminder that Barkley is listed as a running back but has the ability to not just catch the ball out of the backfield but to occasionally line up as a receiver in the offense too.

6. Keep an eye on E.J. Jenkins. The first-year tight end has made some noteworthy catches and did it again today late in a competitive period with the third-team offense. Jenkins is unlikely to make the Eagles’ 53-man roster but looks more like a receiver than a tight end with some of these catches. He could be a fun player to watch this summer.

7. The punt returners went in this order today: Cooper DeJean, Rodgers, Britain Covey, Ainias Smith.

Smith was a really good return man at Texas A&M but the fifth-round pick hasn’t looked very smooth fielding punts this spring. He has seemingly had some trouble tracking the ball and fighting it into his hand. The first one he fielded today hit him in the shoulder and even though he was able to make the catch, it wasn’t clean.

8. Another day, another DeJean pass breakup. This time he was able to break up a Tanner McKee throw to Shaquan Davis. The ball was a little behind Davis but give credit to DeJean, who didn’t hesitate and jumped it.

9. Kenny Pickett had a few good-looking passes today, including a back-shoulder ball to Joseph Ngata in the end zone in 11-on-11s. Pickett seems comfortable with those back shoulders and this was a nice grab by Ngata, who was an undrafted rookie last season.

10. We don’t talk much about the Eagles’ defensive line during these practices because this is basically a passing camp. But today, Sweat had a “sack” on Hurts during 11-on-11s. Pass rush is one of the biggest question marks on this team after the departure of Haason Reddick and Fletcher Cox. But if the Eagles’ secondary is better this season (and it ought to be) then that can really be a boost. There might be some more coverage sacks in 2024.

Stupid Observation of the Day: In the early portion of practice, the Eagles’ quarterbacks didn’t have helmets. Hurts wore a skully cap, while Pickett and Will Grier opted for baseball caps. Power move from McKee to opt for a bucket hat.

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