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June 01, 2023

Five things to watch at Eagles OTAs

From the first look at Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith alongside Eagles vets to the health of Rashaad Penny and D'Andre Swift, what to watch for as OTAs get underway...

Philadelphia Eagles OTAs kicked off earlier this week, and on Thursday Philly media will have a chance to watch practice. To be clear, OTAs aren't typically as spirited as training camp practices in August, as players are basically just trying to get their football sea legs back a bit, and coaches are trying to cover some basics. Still, I started thinking about what I'd try to focus on, so I might as well just type up those thoughts and share them with y'all as well.

1) The new guys

Duh. This will be our first opportunity to see guys like Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and the rest of the Eagles' rookie draft class playing alongside the vets. You can look at heights and weights and arm lengths and 40 times on paper all day, but there's something to be said for getting eyeballs on players, in person, with veteran NFL players.

  1. Does Carter look like he's in shape after concerns about his stamina during the pre-draft process? 
  2. Smith is an undersized edge rusher, but does he look out of place, size-wise, among the other guys in the trenches? 
  3. Where is Tyler Steen lining up, and can he be a threat to Cam Jurgens for the starting RG spot? 
  4. Who is getting first-team reps at safety, and is Sydney Brown part of that mix? 
  5. How is Kelee Ringo interacting with the veteran corners ahead of him on the depth chart? 
  6. Will Tanner McKee be a legitimate threat to make the roster and grow into a No. 2 down the road, or is he just the next Clayton Thorson?
  7. Where is Moro Ojomo lining up? Could he have an inside-outside role?

We won't get answers to all of those questions in one OTA practice, of course, but this will be our first look in sorting that out.

2) The other new guys

The Eagles signed a bunch of free agents to cheap, one-year deals this offseason, and if three or four of them make positive contributions and help support an already great roster, then the Eagles will be thrilled. We're of course talking about guys like QB Marcus Mariota, S Terrell Edmunds, LB Nicholas Morrow, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, DT Kentavius Street, CB Greedy Williams, S Justin Evans, and others.

But the two players I'm most curious to see in person are RBs D'Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny, a pair of backs who have had durability issues throughout their careers to date (Penny more so than Swift), but whose talents are obvious when they have been healthy. Both players have a chance to be special in the Eagles' offense, but injury luck will factor in.

3) Is anyone recovering from a surgery that we didn't know about?

When the season ends each year, sometimes there are players who have surgeries to fix injuries that they played with throughout the season. Lane Johnson, for example, had surgery to repair the torn adductor that he heroically played through during the playoffs last year. But sometimes there are guys who had surgeries that don't become public, and they're usually flushed out this time of year after we do head counts to see who is missing — or not participating — at practice. 

4) Sean Desai, and his new defense (and Nakobe Dean, too)

The basics of the Eagles' scheme under Desai aren't expected to be wildly different from the last two years under Jonathan Gannon, but we'll get our first look at how they line up. In my opinion, it will be more interesting to get a first look at what kind of field general Desai is. 

We will also perhaps get our first look at who is wearing the "green dot" helmet (AKA the guy who relays the play calls from Desai to the rest of the team) in the Eagles' defense. Last year, that was T.J. Edwards, who is now in Chicago. The expectation is that Nakobe Dean will be that guy in 2023, and it will be interesting to see how Dean evolves in what is expected to be a much bigger role this season.

5) The punters!

Earlier this month, we laid our five camp battles to watch. Spoiler:

  1. RG: Cam Jurgens vs. Tyler Steen
  2. S: Terrell Edmunds vs. Reed Blankenship vs. Sydney Brown
  3. Slot receiver: Quez Watkins vs. Olamide Zaccheaus
  4. QB3: Tanner McKee vs. Ian Book
  5. P: Arryn Siposs vs. Ty Zentner

Please give me some punts to watch, Eagles. I don't ask much of you. You can give me this. Thank you in advance.

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