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June 06, 2024

Eagles minicamp practice notes: Rookie RB Will Shipley impresses

Will Shipley was a fourth-round pick out of Clemson in this year's draft. He caught 85 passes during his three collegiate seasons with the Tigers.

Eagles NFL
060524WillShipley Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

On Day 2 of minicamp, Will Shipley ran away from defenders as well as guys trying to punch him.

The Philadelphia Eagles completed Day 2 of a mandatory three-day minicamp on Wednesday, and practice was open to the media. As always, we have practice notes.

• As noted in the headline, one of the obvious standouts on the day was rookie RB Will Shipley, who worked quite a bit out of the slot, and who made about a half dozen receptions on the day. I thought his most impressive moment came on a reception deep down the field, after which he turned on the jets and widened the distance between himself and rookie CB Quinyon Mitchell, who was chasing him from behind. Mitchell ran a 4.33 40 at the Combine. Anyway, my takeaway here? Shipley has some wheels.

• I thought Jalen Hurts had a shaky day. On a play in which Shipley was wide open on a wheel route down the left sideline, Hurts instead threw short to A.J. Brown, but was picked by Reed Blankenship. He also missed an open Dallas Goedert on a deep throw down the right sideline, and he was almost picked by Cooper DeJean on a sideline throw to Brown. It looked like Hurts might not have seen DeJean on the play. On the positive side, he did rip a 20-yard throw to Brown over the middle, with good velocity.

Quinyon Mitchell got some time with the 1's, both on the outside and in the slot. After the draft, Howie Roseman said that Mitchell has the versatility to play both outside and in the slot, but his primary position would be outside. 

"For us, the most important thing he focuses on one thing as a rookie," Roseman said. "That's [Vic Fangio's] and his staff's choice, but when we talk about him, we talk about him as an outside corner and kind of working from there. You do watch him and see him play some inside, so he's got that versatility. We'll get him in here and see what he's comfortable doing with our coaches and work from there."

My take is that Mitchell playing some in the slot already is a good sign, in that he has shown that he can handle more on his plate.

Kelee Ringo had a couple of pass breakups after a strong first day of minicamp on Tuesday.

• Rookie UDFA RB Kendall Milton caught a pass in the flat uncovered and then outraced the rest of the defense about 40 yards to the end zone. That was a coverage bust, but Milton still looked good on the play and made the defense pay for a mistake.

John Ross made a bunch of catches, including a one-hander. He was a rookie camp tryout, but has looked like he could legitimately compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Josh Sweat jumped offsides at one point. That was an issue for him last season, as he was called for 6 offsides penalties. Technically, he committed 3 offsides penalties, and 3 neutral zone infractions, but shut up. As a team, the Eagles committed 11 defensive offsides or neutral zone infraction penalties, which means that Sweat had more than half of them.

• The Eagles practiced kickoffs for the first time in front of the media this spring. As you're probably aware, the NFL will have new kickoff rules this season. The following is a good, succinct explanation of the new kickoff rules, which the NFL adopted from the XFL:

Did you watch that tutorial? Cool. Personally, I have some opinions on what teams will try to do from a kickoff coverage perspective. To begin, it's worth noting that nobody can move until the returner catches the kick. As such, kicking popups doesn't make a lot of sense. Why? Well, when you see kickers hit popups they are doing so because they are trying to give the kick coverage team extra time to run down the field. With these new rules, that benefit is eliminated. If nobody can move until the ball is caught, then all the time that the ball spends in the air only benefits the returner, who has a better chance of settling underneath it and catching it cleanly before the return. 

My bet is that kickers will spend a lot of time practicing hitting line drives that touch down in the "landing zone" in between the 20 and the goal line, and try to make it difficult for returners to field kickoffs cleanly, while also trying to put the ball through the end zone on a bounce. Conversely, I think you'll see return units spending a lot of time working on trying to field those low liners to set up returns. That's going to be the name of the game on these returns, in my opinion. Who has kickers that are good at hitting line drives in the landing zone, and who has returners who are good at fielding liners?

On Wednesday, it felt more like an "introduction to the new kickoff rules" session. Jake Elliott and Braden Mann took turns kicking off, and they weren't doing anything fancy. They were just kicking easily fieldable balls to the returners. Interestingly, 10 different players got return reps, with two players back for the return on each kick. They were (in alphabetical order):

  1. WR Parris Campbell
  2. WR Britain Covey
  3. RB Tyrion Davis-Price
  4. RB Kenny Gainwell
  5. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
  6. RB Kendall Milton
  7. RB Lew Nichols
  8. CB Isaiah Rodgers
  9. WR John Ross
  10. RB Will Shipley

The notable omission was Cooper DeJean. If I were to handicap who will be back returning kicks for the Eagles in 2024, I would say Rodgers and Shipley.

• During media availability Brandon Graham was asked a benign question about what it will be like without Fletcher Cox around anymore. Graham's answer took a few turns along the way, and it ended with him criticizing the 2023 defensive coaching staff, lol. The question begins at the 28:00 mark below. Graham was then of course asked follow-up questions.

I'm going to miss BG next year. 

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