Eagles Wake-Up Call: What We’re Watching At Mini-Camp

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles open a three-day mini-camp today at the NovaCare Complex.

These will be the final practice sessions of the spring. The players will then get more than a month off before the start of training camp in late July. Keeping that in mind, here are three things we’ll be keeping an eye on.




1. Depth chart tweaks

I know, I know. There's no real depth chart in the spring. But we do get a sense of how some players are fitting in, and coaches still yell for the ones, twos and so on when setting up drills.

The rookies, specifically, are worth keeping an eye on. Jordan Matthews, for example, has not been running with the first team, but he's still the favorite to win the slot job. If Matthews is showing a good grasp of the offense, perhaps he'll start to mix in and build some chemistry with Nick Foles.

And then there's the backup QB battle. Mark Sanchez has been getting the second-team reps, while Matt Barkley has been running with the threes. Chip Kelly was adamant last week that we shouldn't read anything into the arrangement, but perhaps just to prove his point, he'll bump Barkley up for a few drills.

Once camp is over, we'll release what we think the depth chart looks like going into training camp on Birds 24/7.

2. Ed Reynolds

There will be a new face in attendance this week: fifth-round pick Ed Reynolds. The Stanford safety was prohibited from participating in OTAs because of NCAA guidelines. He was in contact with coaches and working out on his own for the last several weeks. But now he'll finally get a chance to step onto the field.

Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen have been the first-team safeties so far, with Earl Wolff and Chris Maragos running with the twos. When Allen was sick last week, Wolff got bumped up. Chances are Reynolds will start out with the third team this week.

Jenkins has one starting spot locked down, but the other one is up for grabs. Kelly praised Reynolds' football IQ when the Eagles drafted him, but he'll have a lot of ground to make up if he wants to earn playing time as a rookie. That process begins this week.

3. Darren Sproles' role

The coaching staff, and Kelly in particular, has been adamant in stating that Sproles will be an effective ball-carrier.

When the Eagles acquired Sproles from the Saints this offseason, many (including yours truly) believed that he would have more of an impact in the passing game than the run game. But so far, Sproles has been used exclusively as the No. 2 running back behind LeSean McCoy. He hasn't practiced at all in the slot during the sessions open to the media.

Sproles is another guy Kelly has praised for his football IQ. At some point, we're going to see him moved around a bit more. That's when we'll get a better idea of how he fits and how many touches he might get. Perhaps some hints will be revealed this week.

WHAT YOU MISSED

"We can do more position swapping." Defensive coordinator Billy Davis sheds light on Marcus Smith's role.

"We're a team that likes having bigger receivers." Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell talks DeSean Jackson and state of the position.

Our All-22 resource page compiles previous pieces on Kelly's offense.

T-Mac on Zach Ertz's role going into Year 2.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING

Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com on Matthews:

In the same vein, comparisons between Jordan Matthews and T.O. -- or any top-flight wideout -- are a wee bit overboard. Matthews is doing a nice job catching passes and seems like a hardworking, determined guy, but I’d be real careful about sky-high expectations for the kid in Year 1. Two AFC scouts told me Matthews struggled at the Senior Bowl against press coverage, which isn’t a big deal since he wasn’t among the first seven receivers drafted and wasn’t a first-round pick. But it should reinforce the adage that judgments begin when the pads come out, not in shorts.

Tommy Lawlor of Iggles Blitz offers his take on how Foles can improve:

Foles needs to be quicker with his reads on some plays. He needs to be more accurate downfield. He needs to make some better reads. There were some open guys that Foles never saw. No repeats of the first Dallas game. I still have nightmares about how awful Foles was that day.

There is no QB competition this year. Foles can develop chemistry with the key players on offense. He’ll get a ton of reps. Foles has a good set-up. This is a great opportunity for him. However, this is also the first time in his life he’s ever had to deal with significant expectations. I don’t anticipate that pressure affecting him in a negative way, but it certainly can happen.

COMING UP

We'll have wall-to-wall coverage of this week's mini-camp.

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  • Aussie Eagle

    There’s no way that Chip doesn’t design plays to make use of Sproles’ route running and RAC ability.. probably doesn’t want to show his hand until the games matter

    • JosephR2225

      Excited to see what he can do on that mesh concept + wheel route package Sheil broke down recently.

      • Addicted2MAmula

        Sheeeeesh

        • KathleenKennettiel

          my classmate’s
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          last month her paycheck was $15495 just working on the computer for a few
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          • Clamdigger

            At $67 an hour, it would require 57 hours a week to bring that much in monthly. That’s certainly more than a few hours. Also, no.

    • Kev_H

      It seems to me like one of Kelly’s core tenets is to run a system with interchangeable parts in terms of personnel. If there are special Sproles plays, then you tip your hand every time Sproles is in. From what I’ve seen last year and from what I’ve read and heard from Kelly. It seems the playbook and play design comes first, then they look for guys who they think will have success within that framework. Sproles in the plays that were summarized yesterday looks pretty good to me. I’m not sure special plays for individual guys is consistent with what the Eagles do.

      • Andy124

        It’s a system that thinks players first, then plays, which is brilliant. It doesn’t mean that we’re always going to run a certain play just because it’s worked in the past, but we’re going to take the strength of our players and customize, tailor the system to fit them.

        ~Bill Musgrave on the Eagles offense.

        • daveb81

          I like the quote, but it’s a load of bull. It is system first, find the players to fit that system, then think about players. I’m sure one big reason Kelly took the job was because the offensive personnel fit the system he wanted to run.

          • Kev_H

            Yeah, I could list a dozen quotes from multiple, relevant people that say DeSean Jackson just didn’t fit with what they want to do. That seems to contradict the Musgrave quote at face value.

          • Andy124

            True.

          • myeaglescantwin

            YUP, dual threat players at every skill position.
            Most people still think of the option just as a play Chip runs.
            Chip’s idea of the option is to rotate run or pass with the same personnel any time they line up. That doesn’t exactly mean they the play itself will be a ‘read option’.

            We saw this later in the season. The hurry up, with a good mix of pass and runs with quick hit, no fake, straight ahead running.
            That’s still the option offense

          • Andy124

            Fair enough. Can’t trust everything the coaches say. I imagine the truth, as in all things, lies somewhere in the middle.

        • Kev_H

          I get that, the brilliance of the system is that it can accommodate the strengths of players without redoing everything or drawing up special plays. In a lot of ways it relies on players to make decisions on the field- the ultimate player oriented approach. Like great jazz where there is a solid, basic structure that allows the players to be very creative.

          But I don’t see them leaning on something where it’s “here comes Sproles, now we’ll see the special Sproles plays.” Kelly in his actions and rhetoric seems to want versatile players who are a threat to do everything to spread out the defense and make them cover the whole field. I think that’s why he stressed Sproles is a RB.

          There are enough zone runs, screens, wheel routes etc. already that Sproles will have success at RB. That’s all I’m saying. I have a hard time seeing the system Kelly is using having RB, WR, WR, TE, slot + a special, unique Sproles position or him regularly using a guy at multiple positions. To me, that would just be Andy Reid-style gadgetry and not a sound approach.

          • Andy124

            I didn’t watch much Oregon football, but I always hear about his TAZR gadget players like D’Anthony Thomas.

            On the other hand, he clearly looks for players that fit his system. I would say he want players that fit his system, but if he can’t find them, he’ll change his system as necessary to accomidate the strengths of the players he has on board.

        • Kev_H

          Another example of what I’m trying to say- they were able to seamlessly switch from Vick to Foles within Kelly’s system, even though those guys are completely different players.

          • Andy124

            Yeah, but the playcalling was surely a bit different. Chip will tell you it was the same offense, but that doesn’t mean it was the same play calls.

            Think of Chip’s system as water and the personnel make up the container. The water will take the shape of any container it’s poured in to, but it’s still the same water.

            Deep thoughts, by Jack Handy.

          • RIP illa

            Post of the Week…forget the other days to come!!! And not just for the SNL reference.

    • myeaglescantwin

      seriously
      if other teams don’t prep for a receiving threat out of Sproles, they haven’t been paying attention.

  • Eagles1018

    September is way too far from now

  • Sum

    All the pragmatists are coming out and tempering expectations for Matthews. It makes sense given the history of rookie WR in the NFL.

    But you would be foolish to discount how unique this circumstance is. You have a mature, hard-working WR that is likely going to develop chemistry with his new young QB. He will be on the field a lot on an offense that is very productive. The Eagles lost their most prolific WR this offseason. Their number 1 WR has limited experience with this QB and system because of last seasons ACL injury. And Foles is a very good QB who can certainly get Matthews the ball.

    Of all the highly drafted rookie WRs, only Julio Jones has a comparable situation. I think Matthews goes for about 65 and 900 with 6 scores. But he could easily go for more… Or less than that.

    • aub32

      Jones is a freak of an athlete and he was a starter his rookie season, not the projected slot guy. How is that comparable to Matthews?

      • peteike

        not close per athleticism but because djack is gone and hes coming into a solid system that produces as a rookie makes it comparable.

      • Sum

        Roddy White was a top 5 receiver and had 120 targets guaranteed barring injury. The Eagles have a wide open situation with no one established as the go to WR.

        As for the athleticism, Jones is a freak, sure… But goes more towards his ceiling, not his rookie production. What makes a WR successful in the NFL today is making precise breaks consistently, and running good routes, understanding where the QB will want you to go on option routes, etc…

        Matthews is a very good bet to contribute immediately.

  • Kev_H

    I’m not really sure what the Mosher comment is all about. It was the Senior Bowl, not the Secret Bowl. I think most (or all) of the practices were televised and Matthews looked real good. But as someone who likes to study and breakdown his opponents’ technique, an All-Star game going up against a bunch of different guys probably wasn’t in his wheelhouse. So the “two AFC scouts…Senior Bowl” seems like Mosher trying to give some sort of official credence to temper expectations for Matthews. I’m not buying it. The kid is smart and will figure out what he needs to do.

  • Charliefoxtrot

    I was reading some scouting reports on Matthews saying he has issues in press coverage which echoes what mosher is saying, hope they can coach him up on this.

    • Philly0312

      I’m guessing this is why Chip also is looking to start him in the slot, as press coverage isn’t really an easy thing to do with the WR is off the ball.

  • borntosuffer

    Yes, Foles definitely needs to get rid of the ball a bit quicker on occasion to avoid the sack. But, “He needs to be more accurate downfield.”? I thought Foles was one of the most accurate QB’s downfield?

    • daveb81

      Yeah, as far as accuracy, he’s one of the most accurate downfield passers in the league. Don’t know what he’s talking about there. And he doesn’t miss seeing open receivers any more than any other qb, especially the younger ones. He’ll learn not to hold onto the ball too long, that’s certainly not a major concern.

    • aub32

      There were plays that worked out downfield that weren’t exactly accurate. DJax and Cooper made some pretty big adjustments to catch some of his downfield passes. We often focus too much on the result rather than go back and watch that there are improvements needed there.

      • borntosuffer

        Wonder if there are any stats on that to indicate Foles did that more than, say, Brees? It would be interesting to see. There isn’t any QB that can’t improve in every area. One thing about downfield balls – if you overthrow, no one will catch it. The other thing is that the receiver has the advantage. Certainly with Cooper, we won’t expect a lot of separation downfield and adjusting to catch the ball better be a strength for him. Jackson is hard to overthrow. Foles put the ball where the receiver could catch it very often. Sure, I’d be happier if he hit more of those long throws in stride. But, the bottom line is that it is a testament to the kind of season that Foles had that this is one of his areas for improvement.

  • Eagle Scream

    So a couple scouting reports from the Senior Bowl negate all of the proven success Mathews had playing college ball? I would imagine he saw press coverage many times and just adjusted accordingly. Lots of these “scouting reports” are only relevant if we lived in a vacuum.

  • https://www.skinnypost.com/ GayleSaunders

    Inside zoneoutside zone read or motion hand off out of the slot…I’m gonna enjoy watching defenders trying to even LOCATE the 5’6 Sproles in all of the commotion out of the backfield.