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July 25, 2017

What they're saying: Eagles may add a CB, The Wentz Show and more

The first day of Eagles training camp is in the books, and even though Monday's practice was for rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans – about 35 players in all – it was a busy day at the NovaCare Complex.

As we'll do every day throughout camp, we'll round up the Eagles news for you all in one place with a daily edition of "What They're Saying." Aside from the obvious Carson Wentz and Doug Pederson storylines, today's WTS includes everything from the cornerbacks to the wide receivers and even Jim [expletive deleted] Schwartz's potty mouth.

We'll get to all that in a minute. But first, a look at our latest Eagles coverage from the first day of training camp (and there was quite a bit of it):

•  Eagles sign Canadian rugby star [Jimmy Kempski]
•  What's the dealwith Jordan Matthews' knee? [Kempski]
 Birds will win 10 games and make the playoffs [Angelo Cataldi]
 Expect a ‘refreshed,’ ‘mature’ Wentz in Year 2 [Rich Hofmann]
•  Eagles training camp practice notes, Day 1 [Kempski]
 LB Jordan Hicks 'limited' with broken bone in hand [Mullin]
•  My 10 favorite Eagles-related MS Paint drawings [Kempski]
•  Another Cowboy is reportedly in trouble with the law [Mullin]
•  5 best training camp battles to watch this summer [Kempski]

Now, here's what they're saying:

Cornerback concerns are real

Ed Kracz | The Intelligencer

As Ed Kracz pointed out in his piece, the Eagles have just one cornerback (injury-prone Patrick Robinson), with at least 10 NFL starts under his belt. Robinson has 49 starts, but after that, it’s Ron Brooks with eight of his 53 games played coming as the starter. Of course, there’s also rookie Sidney Jones, but he’s still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon and won’t play much (if at all) this season. 

That leaves Jalen Mills, who appeared in all 16 games (two starts) as a rookie last season, and a pair of fellow second-year CBs, C.J. Smith and Aaron Grymes. In other words, they don’t have much depth – and it’s not like they have a ton of talent at the position to begin with.

The position is similar to the group of young wide receiver the Birds were left with after releasing DeSean Jackson after the 2013 season and then letting Jeremy Maclin go following the 2014 season.

That was a failed experiment. The position group turned out to be too young, with Jordan Matthews stepping in as the “veteran” in 2015 even though he was just 23 at the time and entering only his second year. That could be a reason why Nelson Agholor has floundered. It is most certainly why the Eagles had to go out and address the receiver spot with free agent veterans such as Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith.

Now they seem to be walking the same dangerous line at cornerback.  []

Help Wanted: Qualified NFL cornerback

Zach Berman | The Philadelphia Inquirer

To remedy their cornerback problems, the Birds could look elsewhere. At least that’s what Doug Pederson said on Monday.

“It’s a position we continue to look outside, like we do every position,” Pederson said Monday. “But we’re going to look to try to bring in guys that we can to try to create as much competition at that spot.”

The reason I decided to link to Zach here is because of what he said next. Like Kracz, he likened their current CB corps(es) to a recent group of wide receivers. Only Zach thinks three years in the past to see the similarities:

Consider cornerback in 2017 like wide receiver in 2016. That was a weak position for the team in training camp last summer. The Eagles traded for Dorial Green-Beckham in August and claimed Bryce Treggs off waivers in September. All the ink spent on Rueben Randle, Chris Givens, and even Paul Turner went for naught come Week 1.  []

Welcome to the Carson Wentz Show

Todd Archer | ESPN

In Year 2, it's officially become Wentz's team.

Pederson is keeping the public expectations in check, saying that the coaching staff wants to see "incremental growth" in Wentz's second season. But with a full 16 games under his belt and an upgraded supporting cast, there is at least a hope that Wentz will take some real significant strides forward. 

When it comes to his overall standing in the locker room, he already has.  []

This “W” is more important than wins – for now

David Murphy | The Philadelphia Daily News

I agree with Murph here. When judging Pederson's job performance, we need to take a balanced approach, one that places as much importance on Wentz's development as it does on the team's overall record.

… any evaluation of Pederson requires a two-pronged approach. Wins and losses matter, as do time management and fourth-down decisions. But Pederson’s most important duty is still the development of Wentz. There are a lot of potential outcomes in which the quarterback improves but the Eagles do not win. That’s a preferable scenario to the inverse, provided the Lombardi Trophy is the goal.  []

Why did the Eagles release DGB?

Zach Berman | The Philadelphia Inquirer

When asked why the team recently released wideout Dorial Green-Beckham, Pederson pointed to offseason additions and a desire to keep “developing our younger guys.”

Those are both valid reasons. Glad I got to the bottom of that.

[Ron Howard narrator voice] “He didn’t.”

Naturally, the second-year coach isn’t going to badmouth a player on his way out the door. But we know the real reason he’s gone. He just wasn’t very good, which is why the Eagles went added Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith, and it’s why they prefer to focus on developing young guys, including rookies Mack Hollins and Shelton Gibson.

“With the additions of some of the young guys picked up this spring, we just felt like it was in his interest and our best interest to let him find another suitor and keep developing our younger guys in that role,” Pederson said.

That’s a polite way of explaining why the Eagles released the underachieving wide receiver. Green-Beckham has been available for a month and has not been signed, even though the 2015 second-round pick offers a tantalizing size-speed combination and was a contributor for the Tennessee Titans and Eagles during his first two seasons.  []

What they're seeing ... 

Since pretty much everybody does some form of practice observations or notes – you can read Jimmy Kempski’s here – I figured it wouldn’t hurt to link to a bunch of them all in one place. I plucked one random observation from each, but you’ll have to click over to find out what else they saw at camp each day. 

•  Dave Zangaro, CSN Philly: If it sounds like a practice with 34 players might lack some excitement and enthusiasm, well, you're kind of right. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wasn't sleeping. He was plenty vocal in the team's first practice. He's already in mid-season form. 

•  Turron Davenport, TheEaglesWire/USAToday: Greg Ward made the play of the day during a goal line red zone period. He ran a corner route and Nick Foles put the ball up for him to get it right before he came out of his break. Ward jumped up and made a one-handed catch for the touchdown. 

•  Zach Berman, Wentz’s best pass during 7-on-7s was dropped – cue the skipping record. Receiver Mack Hollins beat cornerback Mitchell White on a deep post. He had him by a step. And Wentz tossed a laser about 45 yards downfield that hit Hollins in stride. But the rookie saw the ball bounce off his fingertips. “It was a perfect ball,” he said. “I knew I should have had that.” After he jogged back to the offensive side of the field, Hollins dropped to the ground and did punishment push-ups...

•  Brandon Lee Gowton, Bleeding Green Nation: Aside from that one drop, Hollins had a really good day. He beat Rasul Douglas on a comeback for a tough, contested catch along the sideline. The Gloveless Wonder also made another contested catch in the red zone with Nathan Gerry draped all over him. Some big receivers don’t play to their size (see: DGB). Hollins seems like a guy who doesn’t mind getting physical.

•  Eliot Shorr-Parks, On Monday, however, in pads, it is hard to see why scouts were concerned about his size. Barnett looks considerably bigger than defensive end Brandon Graham, a player he was compared to coming out of Tennessee. If Barnett fails, it doesn't seem like his size is going to be the reason why. 

•  Aaron Kasinitz, [Rookie WR Shelton] Gibson’s habit of dropping passes during spring practices followed the fifth-round rookie wide receiver into training camp. He muffed at least one throw in position drills and 7-on-7 competition. 

•  Fran Duffy, We got a chance to see most of the rookies this spring, but undrafted free agent offensive lineman Tyler Orlosky was not one of them because of a sprained knee he suffered during the Rookie Camp. The center from West Virginia did not look like your typical undrafted rookie. I’m excited to see Orlosky once the pads go on and we see more drills between the two sets of linemen down in the trenches. 

•  Chris McPherson, 7. It's great to see the ball in running back Donnel Pumphrey's hands, but it will be interesting to see what happens when the defenders can hit. Pumphrey caught a dumpoff screen from quarterback Matt McGloin and linebacker Don Cherry was right at the perfect spot to meet the rookie running back. 

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin

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