It just seems like the Eagles are sipping piña coladas while every other NFL team is busy with three weeks of organized team activities followed by mandatory minicamps.
The Eagles and Bengals are the only teams to hold two weeks of OTA and no mandatory minicamp. Teams are allowed a maximum of 10 days of OTA. The Eagles will only have six.
The Eagles will hold their first spring training on Tuesday, with sessions to follow Thursday and Friday, and three more sessions next week. Then they will take a break until the start of training camp in late July.
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Last year, the Eagles followed a similar pattern. They had two weeks of spring training, then skipped the mandatory minicamp. It is therefore possible that some players will skip the entire spring schedule if they wish.
The reason, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, is health.
“Everything we do is going to be thought out with the health and safety of the players in mind first,” Sirianni said.
“(Last year) we felt like we were able to get what we needed to accomplish those weeks that we had last year.”
But this week’s OTAs and next have a goal for the Eagles ahead of their seven-week hiatus until the start of training camp in late July. Here is an overview of the four most important things to watch out for:
1. The growth of Jalen Hurts
No, these spring workouts won’t be a true indication of whether Hurts is worthy of becoming the franchise’s quarterback beyond this season. But this will be our first look at Hurts since the playoff loss in January.
After that match, Hurts was seen in a walking boot. And shortly after, he was operated.
Hurts spent much of the offseason working with coaches in various states across the country, including Tom House in California. The Eagles’ intention is to become more of a passing team after switching to a mostly run-based offense midway through the season.
The Eagles traded wide receiver AJ Brown to help achieve that goal. But Hurts needs to improve on his 61.3% completion percentage from last season, as well as his decision making.
In fairness to Hurts, that percentage was better than the 52% in his rookie year, when he replaced Carson Wentz for the final 4½ games of the season. But there’s still plenty of room for growth for a QB who turns 24 in August.
We should start to see if that off-season work has paid off.
2. Cox, Kelce as mentors
Since practices are voluntary, it’s unclear if defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and center Jason Kelce will be in attendance.
But two of the greatest Eagles in their respective positions could play their final seasons in Philadelphia. And the Eagles drafted their two eventual successors by taking defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round and center Cam Jurgens in the second.
Davis, in particular, could reduce Cox’s playing time this season, making Cox’s situation particularly intriguing. The Eagles released Cox in March rather than guarantee his $18 million salary for 2022 with more guaranteed years to follow. The Eagles then re-signed Cox a few days later to a one-year deal worth $14 million.
Cox, 31, has not met the media since the end of the season. But Cox’s game has declined in recent years. And Davis, who is 6-foot-6 and 341 pounds, ran 4.78 in the 40-yard dash.
“He’s a big, explosive, violent man who can win one-on-one,” defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon said of Davis.
As for Kelce, 34, he considered retiring in each of the past four offseasons before returning. Kelce is still one of the best centers in the NFL. But he helped scout Jurgens ahead of the draft and gave him a strong endorsement.
So the way Cox and Kelce handle their mentoring roles could allow their replacements to be ready sooner. It starts in OTAs.
3. What Brown can do for the Eagles
In Brown and DeVonta Smith, the Eagles have their best pair of wides since the early years of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin a decade ago.
While Brown may be new to the Eagles, he’s not new to Hurts. The two have been close friends since high school and they often train together in the offseason.
Brown, of course, will keep opponents from focusing on Smith, who as a rookie set the team receiving record with 916 yards. But Brown’s presence will also help Quez Watkins, who received 647 yards last year.
“Honestly, I loved it,” Watkins said of Brown’s acquisition. “He’s an extra guy in the room, an extra threat in the room. So for us it’s just going to be dynamic.”
But it will take reps for Brown and the other receivers, as well as Hurts, to build the chemistry. It starts this week. UPDATE FOR PRINT
4. Security in figures?
Essentially, the Eagles traded cornerback Steven Nelson and safety Rodney McLeod, who both left as free agents, for cornerback James Bradberry and safety Marcus Epps.
At cornerback, Bradberry, who was released by the Giants earlier this month, is an upgrade.
When it comes to security, Epps doesn’t have nearly the experience that McLeod has had. But last season, Epps worked with McLeod and returning starter Anthony Harris. The problem is that there isn’t much experience behind Epps and Harris.
That means K’Von Wallace, the Eagles’ 2020 fourth-round picks Andre Chacere and Jared Mayden have to show they can play a part if called. The three have a combined four NFL starts.
“Everything I look for in a safety, all of these guys in this room have those qualities,” Gannon said.
Then, more specifically about Epps, Gannon added: “Like any young player, a guy who hasn’t started full time, it’s just consistency. He played at a high level the times he’s played for us, and you have to be able to do that over the long haul, snap after snap.
“Really excited to see him play this year.”
Contact Martin Frank at [email protected] Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: Eagles Scenarios in OTAs, Featuring New Roles for Jason Kelce, Fletcher Cox