May 21, 2019
Philadelphia Eagles OTAs kicked off on Tuesday, marking the first time the Birds have practiced as a team since before their divisional round playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Here's what we saw:
• The story of the day, of course, is that Carson Wentz is fully healthy, and is not being held back in any way in practice by Doug Pederson. And hey, he's not even wearing a knee brace anymore!
Carson Wentz, sans knee brace... pic.twitter.com/qp3bo8W8Ye— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) May 21, 2019
Wentz's highlight of the day came on a deep post corner route to Zach Ertz. Dime.
• OTAs are voluntary, but the big non-injury absence was Malcolm Jenkins, who has always attended OTAs. It is likely that Jenkins (rightfully) isn't thrilled with his contract, as he is underpaid relative to his safety peers across the league. Jenkins deserves either a new contract, or a bump in pay, in my opinion, and I believe he'll get one or the other. As for missing OTAs, Jenkins is an 11-year veteran, and one of the smartest players in the NFL. He'll be fine without them.
Other absences (healthy or not) included Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, Alshon Jeffery, Derek Barnett, Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby, Nigel Bradham, Rodney McLeod, Corey Clement, Miles Sanders, Zach Brown, Josh Adams, and Mack Hollins. That's quite a substantial list. We'll sort all of that out soon.
• The first practice of the season is always good for getting a first look at the depth chart during team drills. The quarterbacks were (1) Carson Wentz, (2) Nate Sudfeld, (3) Cody Kessler, and (4) Clayton Thorson. We'll skip the skill position players because they cycle in and out so much.
Here's the offensive line:
• Obviously, Peters will start at LT, and Johnson will start at RT. For our "real" depth chart (as we see it), go here.
• It's interesting that the Eagles had Halapoulivaati Vaitai working out with the first team at RG, though it makes sense considering the Eagles' extreme depth at offensive tackle. Vaitai is in the final year of his rookie deal, and is already comfortable playing both tackle spots. As such, makes sense to cross-train him at guard for short-term gains, while also not having to care about potentially stunting long-term growth at his original position since he'll likely leave in free agency next year anyway.
• Jordan Mailata played exclusively at LT left year, at least in the portions of practices open to the media. He got first-team RT reps with Peters and Johnson out. He could be used as a swing tackle, an important role that will open up in 2020 when Andre Dillard moves into the starting lineup, and Vaitai (likely) moves on to another team. The Eagles are smart to add right tackle training to his regimen.
• Stefen Wisniewski also got reps at RG, and the feeling here is that he will start there if Brooks isn't ready for the start of the season. Matt Pryor also got reps at RT, like he did last year.
The defense looked like this:
• Again, when guys return to the lineup, the depth chart won't look like that. That's just what the Eagles rolled out today.
• If you're concerned about Barnett missing the first OTA practice, I wouldn't worry about it. Alshon Jeffery's time frame for recovery from his torn rotator cuff was around seven months. We're at about seven months for Barnett. There's no need to put him on the field until he fully regains his strength in that shoulder. The guess here is that you won't see him until training camp.
• To be determined how long it will take Mills and Darby to get back out on the field. Until they do, it's a great opportunity for Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas to get plenty of first-team reps.
• Cody Kessler isn't threatening Sudfeld for the No. 2 QB job. Back in 2016, Wentz and Kessler both competed at the Senior Bowl, and both played for the North team. I wrote this about them at the time.
You can see a noticeable difference in arm strength between Wentz and the other North team quarterbacks, particularly Cody Kessler of USC. You'll see Wentz drill one in to a receiver, and then on the next rep, you're almost willing the ball to get there faster from Kessler. It's reminiscent of watching Matt Barkley following Michael Vick in training camp reps, although maybe not to that extreme.
It was just as I remembered on Tuesday. He threw an ugly lollipop pick to Avonte Maddox.
• The player of the day, in my view, was Dallas Goedert. He made a great catch on the sideline in which he not only kept his feet in on the catch, but kept his balance, stayed in bounds and ran down the field for a score.
There was also a play in which Wentz fired to Ertz on a quick slant, but he collided with both Jones and Maddox, and the ball popped up in the air. Goedert won the jump ball snatching it out of the air, then reaching over the goal line for the TD.
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