Training camp is over, the roster has been cut to 53 and the regular season opener in New England is rapidly approaching.
It’s an exciting time for the Eagles.
Before we get into the first game week of the 2023 NFL season, let’s clean out the notebook with some interesting nuggets:
Welcome, Albert O
The Eagles made a trade on cut-down day, acquiring tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (Oak-woo-aye-boo-nom) from the Broncos for a 2025 late-round pick swap.
Okwuegbunam said the Broncos were honest and transparent with him throughout the trade process. The Broncos told him they were moving on but that there was a chance he could be traded before officially being waived. And that’s what happened.
“It’s a fresh start, you know what I mean?” Okwuegbunam said. “I’m really excited about the opportunity. I’m going to come in here and work my butt off.”
The Broncos drafted Okwuegbunam in the fourth round back in 2020 but his career never really took off. He clearly has freakish physical traits but it’s worth noting that Broncos new head coach and noted offensive mind Sean Payton decided to move on from Albert O. But Okwuegbunam finished off his Broncos career with a bang.
In the preseason finale — a 41-0 win over the Rams — Okwuegbunam caught 7 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.
“Going into that game, it was a really big game for me,” he said. “The position I was in, in Denver, just to prove myself going into that fourth year with them. I went out there, had a big game and I was really proud of myself for that. Ultimately, that led to me being here.”
During his career, Okwuegbunam has been known as a pass-catching tight end who isn’t going to give you much as a blocker. He understands that label but thinks he has “definitely” improved as a blocker.
And after playing exactly zero special teams snaps in his first three years in the NFL, Okwuegbunam played five snaps on special teams this summer and said he thinks he can add to his game.
But it’s clear the pass-catching upside is why the Eagles brought Albert O to town. He’s going to be in the playbook for the next week and might be inactive to start the season. But eventually, maybe we’ll see why the Eagles were so eager to add him.
Trusting Kenny G
One of the most intriguing storylines heading into the 2023 season is how the running back rotation will be split up. The Eagles added Rashaad Penny in free agency and traded for D’Andre Swift during the draft.
But don’t forget about Kenny Gainwell. Because the one thing we’ve learned about Gainwell over the last year is that Nick Sirianni trusts him in key situations. When the 2-minute or 4-minute offense is on the field, Gainwell is on the field.
“They’re trusting me to know what I have to do, know the down and distance, know where you gotta get to on the field,” Gainwell said. “Know that it’s 4 minutes, stay in bounds — 2 minutes, get out of bounds to save time. They’re trusting me on that and I’m taking advantage of it.”
When asked about that situational work, Gainwell said he gets to show his football character. Those moments are for smart players and he considers himself to be a smart player.
It’s a role he really enjoys.
“Oh man, we can win games with that role,” Gainwell said. “It comes down to those big plays. Big plays happen in those small times. Nobody else realizes that, that they happen in. I’m just taking advantage of it.”
The difference in Jordan Davis
What’s the biggest difference for Jordan Davis as he prepares to enter Year 2 of his NFL career.
“I would say hand placement has been something that I’ve really been working on,” Davis answered. “Something that I’ve really honed in on, especially in the Browns-Indy week. Just making sure that I see on my film, my hands be slipping. But at the end of the day, hand placement and just driving back, knock back, solves about 95% of the problems.”
Hand placement is something that Eagles’ defensive line coach Tracy Rocker always stresses. And it’s something Davis has been working on a ton.
Davis said the two guys he studies most when it comes to hand placement are Aaron Donald and Chris Jones, two of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.
“That’s like the main two guys that stuck out,” he said. “Not saying that they’re 100% all the time but when they are, you can really feel it.”
Reliving the glory days
During wide receiver drills, Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson is one of the guys who throws passes. Johnson, 36, was once the starting quarterback at Utah about 15 years ago. And he was really good. You might even remember Johnson from the cover of NCAA Football 10.
“I think he’s just trying to relive in the past a little bit, playing quarterback,” A.J. Brown said jokingly. “He enjoys throwing us the ball, talking to us.”
But then Brown realized what Johnson gets out of watching those drills from the perspective of the quarterback.
“And also, I do think he’s probably gauging, what are we doing in the moment,” Brown said. “How well a person does this and does that. And so he’s probably coming up with a game plan in his mind. So I think that’s probably smart of him.”