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What I Think I Know About The Eagles
June 15, 2017 08:17 PM | Dave Spadaro


Here's what we learned in the spring of 2017 with an Eagles team that set out its blueprint following a 7-9 2016 season and then did everything possible to stick to it. It's hard to believe, of course, that the Eagles had wide receiver Alshon Jeffery or running back LeGarrette Blount in that blueprint, but sometimes you've just gotta be flexible, right?

Are the Eagles a better team? It sure looks like it on paper and based on a series of Organized Team Activity practices and a three-day mandatory minicamp, but the spring can often present an illusion, one way or the other.

We'll know so much more when the pads go on and the action is live. Until then, some thoughts on the State of the Team ...

> Entering the three-day minicamp, Jeffery was targeted 29 times in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. He had only a pair of passes that would be considered "drops" and another diving effort that he got his hands on and didn't catch. He securely caught every pass thrown his way in the three-day camp. Yes, he makes a difference. Yes, he's outstanding. "He's been great," quarterback Carson Wentz said. "His catch radius is unbelievable. So having a guy like that that you know, if he is covered, you're confident that you're on the same page, you can just give him a chance. He's been great and having that big body out there is a help."

> Safety Malcolm Jenkins calls linebacker Nigel Bradham "the enforcer" and Bradham certainly brings a physical presence to the defense. In his second season as an Eagle, Bradham expects to have a huge impact at the strongside position. "It's a lot different now because we have so many guys who know the defense. I notice a big difference," Bradham said. "I think we have made a lot of strides this spring."

> It appeared that cornerback Aaron Grymes was seeing more reps in the slot as the nickel cornerback and that his ballhawking skills were being noticed. The cornerback spots are still very much open for competition. Grymes should be in the mix in the preseason.

> Running backs coach Duce Staley said the other day that second-year man Wendell Smallwood is the "most improved" player he's worked with in the spring and it's obvious that Smallwood is playing with more confidence and ease. "I feel totally different from last year," Smallwood said. "I know the offense. I know where I'm supposed to be. Yeah, I have a lot of confidence."

> Let's see where wide receiver Nelson Agholor goes from here. He had a much-improved spring, playing faster football and catching the ball more consistently. Will he be an impact player for the Eagles this season? We'll see. Agholor, truthfully, doesn't really have a roster spot guaranteed, but he has played very well in the spring.

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> Wide receiver Jordan Matthews has been sidelined for much of the spring with a knee injury, but he says he will be ready for Training Camp "for sure." The Eagles are way, way, way more talented at wide receiver than they were a season ago.

> Linebacker Nathan Gerry made a couple of really good plays on the football on Thursday, and Najee Goode has been around the football throughout the spring as the Eagles look for depth at linebacker. Still not sure who backs up Jordan Hicks at middle linebacker. Joe Walker should be able to go full speed at Training Camp, so he's going to be a strong candidate for the job.

> The Eagles sustained no significant injuries in the summer and should head into Training Camp in very good shape. There is no word on the status of defensive tackle Beau Allen (pectoral) and when he might return. Cornerback Ron Brooks was limited in the spring but should have a more active role and perhaps full clearance at the start of camp. Cornerback Sidney Jones, of course, remains sidelined as he recovers from his torn Achilles tendon.

> It may not be fair, or accurate, to put Donnel Pumphrey in the "running back" room, because he's going to line up all over the formation. Pumphrey came on after a sluggish start catching the football. It's still going to be really interesting seeing him when the pads go on, but he does have superlative quickness. At 180 pounds, can he hold up in the NFL?

> Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are the starters at safety, but how does the depth line up behind them? Terrance Brooks stated his case with a good spring. Jaylen Watkins is in the mix, along with Chris Maragos. "It's tough to say until the pads go on," safeties coach Tim Hauck said. "That's when you can really tell. We're kind of limited until the pads go on."

> How was Wentz in the spring? By his admission, still a work in progress. "You're never a finished product," he said. As for the offense, Wentz was critical, but encouraged. "I think it's been OK. I don't think it's been quite where we want to be. We've got some new pieces around. Just trying to get on the same page," Wentz said. "We've done some really good things offensively. We still have a long way to go at the same time. I like where we're headed, for sure."

> Rookie Report: The next step for defensive end Derek Barnett is to do it with the pads on. He looked great off the snap of the football in the spring and he's relentless. Cornerback Rasul Douglas had some terrific moments and he had some rookie moments. I think it will be tough for Pumphrey to get on the field this year, but he's got abliity, that is easy to see. Mack Hollins was more consistent catching the football than was Shelton Gibson as the rookie receivers look to make it.

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