Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles OTAs observations: Christian Elliss finishes off strong

Second-year linebacker Christian Elliss shined Thursday in the Eagles' final OTA practice of 2023

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The Eagles wrapped up their spring workout schedule with their sixth and final Organized Team Activity practice on Thursday afternoon.

Thanks to poor air quality from ongoing Canadian wildfires, the Eagles moved their practice inside their bubble at the NovaCare Complex. The bubble has a 60-yard field, which makes it a tight squeeze for a 53-man roster. It was even tighter on Thursday with a 90-man roster. The Eagles still ran plenty of 7-on-7s but no 11-on-11s, which they didn’t run last week anyway.

Without a mandatory minicamp — the Eagles and Bengals are the only two teams without one — the Eagles will now break until they report for training camp in late July.

But here are the final OTA observations of 2023:

1. We’ll start with attendance. As a reminder, the Eagles’ entire spring program is voluntary.

By my count, 17 players did not participate in practice on Thursday. The players who were not there: Darius Slay, Haason Reddick, James Bradberry, Josiah Scott, Nicholas Morrow, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Josh Sweat, A.J. Brown, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson and Devon Allen. Josh Sills was also not in attendance but he remains on the commissioner’s exempt list.

A few players were watching practice in uniform but did not participate: Avonte Maddox, Derek Barnett, Kelee Ringo and Jadon Haselwood. Maddox was really banged up last year and Barnett is coming back from an ACL tear that ended his 2022 season very early. Ringo participated in practice last week when reporters were present but did not today. It’s worth noting that he’s the only rookie who remains unsigned.

Allen has been competing in the hurdles in the Diamond League and there’s an event in Paris on Friday.

DT Marlon Tuipulotu, who ended last season on IR, was practicing. He did not last week.

2. The Eagles had two of their six OTA sessions open to reporters and Christian Elliss shined. The second-year linebacker had an interception in both practices. On Thursday, without Morrow at practice, Elliss was bumped up to the first-team in 7-on-7s next to Nakobe Dean. In this practice, he jumped a route and picked off a Jalen Hurts pass intended for Jack Stoll. Even before that, he knocked down a different pass from Hurts to Stoll.

Don’t sleep on the idea of Elliss pushing for playing time this season. While the Eagles signed Morrow this offseason, it’s not like they really committed to him. Heck, there’s not even any guaranteed money in Morrow’s contract. Elliss also offers the Eagles more size at 6-3, 231 pounds; Morrow is listed at 6-0, 225.

3. The offensive play of the day came right after a different Hurts pass was picked off. This time, DeVonta Smith burned rookie Eli Ricks and safety Reed Blankenship was slow to offer help. It was a beautiful route from Smith and Hurts rewarded him with a perfect go ball for a touchdown of around 30 yards.

4. Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni singled out Quez Watkins as a player who impressed him this spring. In the first OTA practice open to reporters, Watkins started off the session with a big catch. On Thursday, he ran a great route to get open but dropped what would have been an impressive leaping grab. It wouldn’t have been the easiest catch, but it’s one Watkins needs to make.

5. Thursday’s 7-on-7 portion started off with a quick catch from Dallas Goedert, but then Terrell Edmunds made a big play on the next snap. Hurts tried to hit Olamide Zaccheaus on a deep ball but Edmunds drifted over to offer help and knocked the ball away. Edmunds and Blankenship again lined up as the first-team safeties.

6. Even without Slay and Bradberry on Thursday, the Eagles still have Zech McPhearson in the slot. It’s pretty clear they’re serious about McPhearson becoming a nickel cornerback. The outside corners to start Thursday were Greedy Williams and Josh Jobe. (Scott, who is also a nickel, was not in attendance.)

And for the second time, we also saw Kyron Johnson playing off-ball linebacker. While the second-year player out of Kansas is listed as a linebacker, he was an edge rusher as a rookie. The Eagles are giving him an extended look at a new spot this year. It’s worth noting that Johnson did play some off-ball linebacker at Kansas and the Eagles’ new linebackers coach D.J. Eliot was his DC for a time in college.

One other cross-training note: Saw Brett Toth working at center a bit on Thursday. That’s not new but it is a reminder that Toth could potentially be a backup at every spot on the line. When we’re putting together our 53-man roster projections in August, that’s something to keep in mind.

7. Without Kelce on Thursday, we saw Cam Jurgens get reps at center with the first-team line and Tyler Steen was at right guard. With Kelce being 35, expect him to get plenty of days off during training camp, which will be a natural way to get Steen time with the first-team offense at guard next to Johnson.

Other depth chart notes:

• The Eagles’ seven on defense to start: Jobe, McPhearson, Williams, Elliss, Dean, Edmunds, Blankenship

• The second-team defense was Ricks, Mario Goodrich, Mekhi Garner/Kyron Johnson, Davion Taylor, Shaun Bradley, K’Von Wallace and Justin Evans. Rookie safety Sydney Brown worked in after that.

• Boston Scott and Kenny Gainwell split time at running back with the first-team offense.

• The three receivers with the first team (because Brown wasn’t there) were Smith, Watkins and Zaccheaus. Zaccheaus lined up in the slot. Watkins played in the slot for the Eagles last year, but he has played a ton of outside receiver in his career.

8. D’Andre Swift is still a newcomer and is working with the second unit. He did catch a pass from Marcus Mariota out of the slot on Thursday. Swift has caught 156 passes in his three-year career and the idea of lining him up in the slot isn’t a bad one. Of his 393 snaps last season, 20 came in the slot and 31 came out wide, according to ProFootballFocus. He hasn’t worked there a ton in his career but it’s a fun wrinkle.

9. Rookie Mekhi Garner out of LSU made a diving interception on a pass from Hurts intended for Zaccheaus. It was an impressive play from the big corner who looks every bit of the 6-2, 212 pounds the Eagles list him at.

10. After individual drills and before 7-on-7s, Sirianni gathered and addressed the entire team at midfield. It was seemingly a speech about what to do and how to act over the next month or so before training camp. Sirianni told reporters he expects his players to come to camp in shape and to stay out of the news (for the wrong reasons) until they get there.

After that big meeting, Sirianni gathered a group of leaders for another chat. Without so many veterans on Thursday, this group included Jalen Hurts, Jake Elliott, Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Nakobe Dean and Jordan Davis. Howie Roseman, VP of Player Performance Ted Rath, assistant GM Jon Ferrari and VP of Communications Bob Lange circled around.

Stupid Observation of the Day: After being away from football for a while, the first collisions are always jarring to me as a spectator. The pads aren’t even on yet and these are non-padded 7-on-7s, but I couldn’t stop myself from letting out an “ooohhh!” when linebacker Ben VanSumeren and receiver Charleston Rambo collided in the middle of the field.

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