“We have an understanding of their athletic ability and how they run, change direction and things like that,” Kelly said. “But there are still a lot of things to be evaluated when you put the pads on. It’s still a physical game. A lot of guys look great in shorts and T‑shirts, then they disappear when you put the pads on. So we have an evaluation in terms of athletic ability, how fast some guys are, their ability to change direction and things like that. But until we get the pads on, we can’t tell.”
And that’s just fine with Arrelious Benn.
The Eagles acquired the 6-2, 220-pound wide receiver for his physicality and versatility. After three disappointing seasons in Tampa, the 24-year-old now has an opportunity to follow through on the potential he showed at the high school and college levels.
“[I'm] in a great place, as far as retaining the offense and getting down all the little things I need to do,” Benn said. “There’s still some things I need to clean up and get better with, dealing with a new system, but overall, I feel pretty good.”
Like the rest of the Eagles’ wide receivers, Benn lined up in a variety of spots this spring. Once training camp starts and the pads come on, chance are he’ll distinguish himself as the best blocking wide receiver on the roster (All-22 breakdown here).
“I know every position because you could be lined up anywhere,” Benn said. “It’s not just on the outside or the inside, you could be anywhere.”
Benn has several other factors going for him too. Kelly gave Howie Roseman specific traits he was looking for at each position. And the personnel staff obviously identified those traits in Benn. While he didn’t live up to expectations in Tampa, Benn still averaged 6.6 yards after the catch in 2011, which ranked 11th in the league according to Pro Football Focus.
After dealing with injuries during his first three seasons, he feels fortunate to have a fresh start with Kelly.
“He’s a guy that genuinely cares about players,” Benn said. “He cares about how we are, how we train, the type of food we put in our bodies and basically, just wants everybody to be great no matter who you are.
“I’m blessed to be playing here. I’m blessed to be playing for him and this organization.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Matt Barkley signed his rookie deal Thursday.
T-Mac addresses the “team unity” question in his Twitter Mailbag.
The Eagles released some details for fans who want to attend training camp.
According to a report, Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin was on the Eagles’ radar when they were looking for a new head coach.
McManus catches up with Evan Mathis.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com offers five Eagles observations:
The lack of pads makes it next to impossible to judge the development of the offensive line and running game, but noticeable was the number of quick screens and hitch passes that the offense worked on at practice. Perhaps this is Kelly’s remedy for the two-deep defenses the Eagles have seen ad nauseam since DeSean Jackson’s prolific 2009 season. Hit ’em with the short stuff, force ’em to bring the safeties in, then hit ’em deep. Should be a big season for Jackson and Jeremy Maclin if the offense functions the way Kelly envisions it. Oh, and by the way, the two-tight end formation talk wasn’t hyperbole. There were plenty of two-tight end formations at camp.
Tommy Lawlor takes a look at special teams in his column for PhiladelphiaEagles.com:
Too often, I would see Eagles blockers being shoved backward on returns when I would go back and study the tape. I would then watch a punt or kickoff and see players getting blocked. This is simply unacceptable. You can’t demand that your kickers be perfect or returners be fast, but you can sure as heck expect the blocking/coverage units to be tough and physical. That is the foundation of all special teams.
Fipp must find players who want to run downfield and kick some butt. What I saw last year simply can’t happen again. Players must understand that special teams are not optional. This is a critical part of the game. You play well or else we’ll find someone who will.
We’ll look at three things we’ve learned about the Eagles’ defense this spring.