Eagles analysis

Eagles OTAs observations: Ballhawks in the secondary 

Here are 10 observations from the Eagles' OTA practice on Thursday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.

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On Thursday, the Eagles were on the field for OTAs again.

They went through stretching, position drills, 7-on-7s and even 11-on-11s during this session and the secondary shined. The Eagles are scheduled to hold one more OTA practice on Friday. It’ll be their sixth and final voluntary practice this spring.

But next week — on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday — the team will hold its mandatory minicamp. It will be the first time the team will have a mandatory minicamp under Nick Sirianni and all three days will be open to reporters. So that will be exciting.

For now, though, let’s get to 10 observations from today:

1. These OTAs are completely voluntary but the Eagles have had strong attendance. A few veterans — Jake Elliott, Kelee Ringo and C.J. Uzomah — returned from absences the last time reporters were allowed to watch.

Here’s who was missing today: DeVonta Smith, Lane Johnson, Josh Sweat, Darius Slay, C.J. Gardner Johnson, James Bradberry.

The Bradberry absence is the most notable because his future with the team seems in question. If Bradberry is released or traded after June 1, then the dead money would be split over two years instead of one.

2. A few injury notes from today:

•Sydney Brown (ACL) is still not practicing but did watch practice closely. He stands in a super deep safety view of practice and takes mental reps.

• Nakobe Dean (foot) returned to 7-on-7 action after being held out of team drills last week. A good sign.

• Ainias Smith is still working his way back from a stress fracture and Zech McPhearson is working his way back from a torn Achilles. Neither were full participants.

• The last time we watched practice over a week ago, cornerback Eli Ricks got hurt early but he was a full participant this day. Receiver Jacob Harris was a spectator today because of an undisclosed injury. Shame for him because he showed some juice on Wednesday.

3. Some offensive depth chart notes:

• The top OL looked the same without Johnson. From left to right: Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens, Tyler Steen, Mekhi Becton. It’s also worth noting that Matt Hennessy is still the backup right guard.

• Second-team OL: Fred Johnson, Darian Kinnard, Brett Toth, Hennessy, Anim Dankwah

• Without Smith, the Eagles’ top receivers were A.J. Brown, Parris Campbell and Joseph Ngata. Ngata was a UDFA last year and has been here longer than the other guys fighting for roster spots.

4. Some defensive depth chart notes:

• The top cornerbacks today (without Slay and Bradberry) were Isaiah Rodgers, Ringo and Tyler Hall in the slot. Without Gardner-Johnson, the top safeties were Reed Blankenship and Avonte Maddox. Interesting to see Maddox get run with the first team at safety but they are light at that position.

• The top linebackers to start the day were still Devin White and Zack Baun, but Dean did work in there, getting some first and second team reps. He initially took over for Baun but then took over for White later in the practice. The Eagles are mixing and matching a bit.

• The second-team defense had Quinyon Mitchell and Eli Ricks as the outside cornerbacks and Cooper DeJean in the nickel spot. Oren Burks and Ben VanSumeren got most of the second-team LB reps. Mekhi Garner and Tristan McCollum were the second-team safeties. Not long ago, Josh Jobe was the Eagles’ top backup outside cornerback and he’s working with the third-team these days. It’s definitely not a knock on him but it tells you how much talent the Eagles have added at that position.

• In 11-on-11s, the Eagles’ top defensive line was Brandon Graham, Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Milton Williams and Bryce Huff

5. The best defensive plays of the game came from the secondary. A couple of nice interceptions on this day from ballhawking defensive backs:

• On a backed-up play (3rd-and-6 from their own 5-yard line), Jalen Hurts was picked off by Isaiah Rodgers, who took it the other way for a pick-6. Great break on the ball from Rodgers, who has not looked rusty since coming back from a year-long suspension.

• Garner, working as a second-team safety, leaped in the air to pick off an underthrown ball from Kenny Pickett on a deep pass to John Ross. Nice play from Garner but a poor wobbler of a throw from Pickett, who had another ugly pass later.

• Practice ended with an interception from CB Shon Stephens, who earned a spot on the 90-man roster after a tryout at rookie camp. Good story.

• Another big defensive play came from Ringo, who had great coverage deep down the left sideline on Campbell. Ringo stepped in to break up the pass from Hurts. It was a nice play but Ringo was upset he didn’t pick it off and he heard about it from some of his teammates.

• The other interception came from Baun on a tipped ball. The pass was tipped to Baun, who then tipped it up to himself and held on.

6. In the 11-on-11 portion, saw Huff pull off a nice speed move against Mailata. Tough to tell much about linemen in these practices but the speed and quickness with Huff shows up.

7. A couple of tough catches from tight ends fighting at the bottom of the roster:

• E.J. Jenkins rose over Andre’ Sam to pull in a pass from Kenny Pickett. It was the biggest cheer of the day from the offensive sideline. In two practices open to reporters, Jenkins has made two big plays. Either he’s having a good spring or he really likes when we are out there watching.

• A few plays earlier, Albert Okwuegbunam made a nice grab over Oren Burks on the left sideline. The front office clearly likes Albert O and it’ll be interesting to see if he can wrestle away a spot on the 53-man roster.

8. A.J. Brown didn’t make any spectacular catches on Thursday but Hurts threw the ball a ton to him. That’s what we saw last training camp and then Brown had another tremendous season. We also saw him work inside more again on Thursday; keep that in mind when we get to training camp.

9. A couple of notes on the rookie corners:

• Quinyon Mitchell didn’t see much action but he actually got one rep inside. Not sure if we’ll see more of that or if it was just a one-off.

• Cooper DeJean saw reps inside and outside again in this practice and went from the nickel to the boundary on back-to-back plays. He had a PBU on a pass intended for Britain Covey late in the session. Nice break on the ball. DeJean also got one rep with the first team. Our first time seeing a rookie with a starting unit.

10. This was our first glance at John Ross and we saw him get some action. It’s a shame for him that the deep ball from Pickett was so underthrown because I was looking forward to seeing him track it. His best catch came on a ball thrown behind him; nice job from Ross to reach back and snag it.

Stupid Observation of the Day: There’s a new addition to the Eagles’ practice field: A giant monitor with a live stream of practice.

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