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June 14, 2019

Eagles 'stock up / stock down' after spring practices

Philadelphia Eagles spring practices are now in the rear view mirror, so let's take a look at the players who helped themselves, and the ones who took a tumble.

Stock up: Offense

QB Carson Wentz: Before spring practices even began, there were questions about whether Wentz would participate, and how much. Well, not only was he was a full participant, but he signed a long contract extension off the field, and looked a whole lot like the player he was at this time in 2017 on it. He's back*.

WR DeSean Jackson: In case you haven't read any practice reports, one of the more obvious takeaways from spring practices is that Jackson is still very fast, and he has quickly developed rapport with Wentz. 

WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside: I've seen my share of rookie wide receivers in my time covering the Eagles, and I would put Arcega-Whiteside alongside Jordan Matthews as the most active in terms of making plays in practice. Matthews, if you'll recall, had a stat line of 67-872-8 his rookie season. Arcega-Whiteside likely won't put up those kinds of numbers as he has too many established, talented vets ahead of him, but he has already shown that he belongs, and has more upside than JMatt, especially in the red zone,

TE Dallas Goedert: If Goedert were on a team that didn't already have Zach Ertz on the roster, I'd be saying that he'd have a chance to be a top five-to-10 type of tight end in the NFL, this year. Goedert showed in his rookie season that he had no notable weaknesses in his game. In his second season, he's better at all the things he was already good at. He's going to be a problem for opposing defenses.

• OT/OG Halapoulivaati Vaitai: At the conclusion of draft weekend, Vaitai's stock was down, seeing as the team drafted Andre Dillard to be the heir apparent to Jason Peters. However, with an over-abundance of depth at offensive tackle, a new opportunity opened for Vaitai at RG, where (I think) he got every single snap with the first team throughout the spring, at least in all the media-attended practices. If Vaitai can hold down the fort at RG until Brandon Brooks can return, having experience at LT, RT, and now RG will make him an even more appealing player to teams around the league in free agency next offseason.

Stock up: Defense

DE Josh Sweat: Before we praise Sweat's play, we should make two important disclaimers:

  1. There are no pads, so evaluating offensive and defensive line play is somewhat pointless.
  2. Sweat was mostly working against Jordan Mailata, who is learning a new position at RT, as well as some second- and third-team tomato cans.

That said, Sweat has shown an unmistakable burst, and is clearly the front-runner for the fourth DE spot. 

LB Kamu Grugier-Hill: He'd be my starter alongside Nigel Bradham if the season started today. Grugier-Hill has worked to turn his body into that of a pro linebacker, and he has maintained his athleticism. Last year, he played 31.7 percent of the defensive snaps. He'll have a bigger role in 2019. Book it. 

CB Avonte Maddox: There's an argument to be made that Maddox is the best corner on the team, and it will be interesting to see what role he plays in 2019. My best guess? He starts, never comes off the field, and plays in the slot in nickel. That's a whole lot of responsibility, and Maddox seems ready for it.

CB Ronald Darby: He's been on the field with his teammates during warmups, and has been able to run around while continuing to rehab his ACL tear of a year ago. His progress is promising, and he could be ready for Week 1.

The specialists, I guess: Jake Elliott, Cameron Johnston, and Rick Lovato all have no competition.

Stock down: Offense

QB Clayton Thorson: I hate to pick on a rookie quarterback right out of the shoot, but Thorson has struggled early. That is normal, however, there haven't been many flashes where you would go, "Ah, OK, I see it." Thorson will have a month and a half to further digest the playbook before training camp opens.

RB Miles Sanders: A lot of people say "OTAs don't matter." Well, they do for rookies, and Sanders missed the entirety of spring practices with a hamstring injury. 

iOL Stefen Wisniewski and OG/OT Matt Pryor: We'll lump these these two guys together, since they're both playing on the second-team OL, while Vaitai, a converted tackle, gets all the first-team RG reps.

Stock down: Defense

LB Zach Brown: When Brown signed with the Eagles this offseason, I sort of penciled him in as a starting LB. To date, I can't recall seeing Brown making any plays in any of the media-attended practices. He'll need to do more in training camp.

LB Paul Worrilow: Linebackers coach Ken Flajole was lobbed a softball question about Worrilow's progress returning from a torn ACL, and while Flajole praised Worrliow's work effort, he also sort of went out of his way to note that Worrilow missed some time because his knee flared up. In my view, Worrilow is going to have to be significantly better than his competition to make the team, or else the Eagles are just going to keep the healthier player.

CB Sidney Jones: Jones actually had a decent spring, as he provided close coverage, but even in shells and shorts, it's obvious that he is often over-matched physically. Maddox is clearly the better player at this time, and there's a strong argument to be made that Rasul Douglas is as well. Depending on the health of Darby and Jalen Mills, it's not crazy to think the Eagles would be open to moving Jones to a team that is (a) in need of some help at corner, and (b) willing to be patient as Jones develops in the weight room.

CB Jalen Mills: Not only did Mills not participate in spring practices, he didn't even work off to the side with other injured teammates while practice was going on. The team -- and Mills -- have not been forthcoming about Mills' foot injury, so his availability for training camp is unknown. The bet here is that he won't be ready when the team reports on July 24th.

*and not just in pog form.

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