Eagles Wake-Up Call: How the Rookies Fit
When the Eagles drafted Isaac Seumalo, they made it clear the third-round pick would immediately join the battle for the starting left guard job. But because the graduation rule doesn’t allow a player to take part in team activities until their school’s academic year is complete, Seumalo won’t rejoin the Eagles on the field until July.
The Oregon State product, who participated in the three-day rookie minicamp, will be sidelined until training camp, which could hurt his chances to beat out teammates like Allen Barbre, Stefen Wisniewski and Andrew Gardner.
“It sucks, but I’m going to make it a positive and work my butt off,” Seumalo said. “Whatever playbook access I have, I’ll obsess over it and deal with the hand I’m dealt and do my best.”
Josh Andrews also attended Oregon State, where he started on the offensive line with Seumalo for two seasons. Andrews doesn’t think his college teammate will be hurt much by the rule, referencing how Seumalo can take the drills back with him that he learned in camp the last few days.
The next offensive lineman the Eagles drafted, tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, is also getting some snaps at guard. However, Vaitai said at the start of camp on Friday that he’s never played guard before, and that one of the biggest transitions from TCU to Philadelphia is lining up in a two-point stance. He also mentioned Lane Johnson and Dennis Kelly as the two offensive linemen who have taken him under their wing.
Running back Wendell Smallwood, the Eagles’ other fifth-round pick, identified the much larger playbook as one of the biggest adjustments to the NFL. Smallwood has been leaning on Kenjon Barner for advice, and said playing close to home — he hails from Wilmington, Del. — has been beneficial for him.
“It’s more relaxing being so close and not being uptight,” Smallwood said. “(Duce Staley) stresses that to all the backs: ‘Just relax; you’re not going to get it in one day. It’s going to take a while.’ That definitely helped me.”
On the defensive side of the ball, seventh-round selection Joe Walker said the Eagles have him at MIKE linebacker so far. Sixth-round pick Blake Countess, meanwhile, is playing every position in the secondary. Countess initially thought he’d go undrafted once his season at Auburn ended, but as the draft process progressed, his agent became more optimistic about his chances of being selected.
“There may have been question marks about how strong or fast I am based on the film, but then you go out there in the pre-draft drills and they have to take another look at the film,” Countess said. “I think I helped myself with the pre-draft process, but I also had a lot of tape. Not only can I play everything in the secondary, but there’s film of me doing it. Those were the two big things.”
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Sam Bradford’s and Fletcher Cox’s demands may work hand in hand, writes the Inquirer’s Bob Ford.
How the Cox situation is resolved will tell a lot about where the Eagles will choose to put their resources. The scheme used by Schwartz has largely been end-oriented at the line, and while any coach would love to have someone create havoc in the middle like Cox, the fact that Curry, who has been a third-down platoon guy, got $23 million guaranteed indicates where the emphasis lies.
If the Eagles have decided that modern defense is really just an ends and cornerbacks game, it’s possible the Cox negotiations could drag beyond the voluntary portion of the show. Someone will have to play tackle next to Bennie Logan, of course, and the Eagles are pretty thin there, with Beau Allen and free- agent signee Mike Martin as the backups. Still, it’s a long way to September, and the team can afford to be patient.
There is a scenario in which the guy whose holdout just ended and the guy whose holdout continues each play a role in both of them getting what they want. After June 1, if the Eagles were to trade Bradford, his $11 million signing bonus would be split over the 2016 and 2017 salary caps, rather than lumped into the 2016 cap.
CSN Philly’s John Gonzalez wonders whether it matters if Bradford gets along with Carson Wentz.
The rookie said he hasn’t talked to the incumbent competition yet. He hasn’t reached out to Bradford, and Bradford hasn’t reached out to him. No worries, Wentz said. He’s aware that the palace intrigue with Bradford has become a serious topic of conversation in town, but Wentz didn’t seem too concerned about it. Or, if he is, he didn’t let on, which was precisely the right way to play it. When he was asked what kind of relationship, if any, he anticipates having with Bradford, Wentz said he thinks it “will be great” and “really competitive.” He used that last word, or variations of it, quite a bit: compete, competitive, competition, etc. Somewhere, Bradford no doubt recoiled and hissed.
“Personally, I don’t think there will be a lot of tension,” Wentz continued. “People might make it out to be. But I think the coaches and everyone will be on the same page. And I think it will be a good working relationship.”
One of them is handling the situation like a professional. The other guy talks on Tuesday. Ultimately, Wentz said, it’s “out of my control.” And so it is. And so it continues.
Tim takes a look at Alex McCalister, one of the Eagles’ seventh-round picks with potential character concerns.