As NFL rookie camps concluded over the weekend, we now look ahead to the next item on the NFL’s offseason agenda. The penultimate of offseason workout events, the first Offseason Team Activites, or OTA’s, kicked off Monday morning and had a new, distinctive, feel compared to the mini-camps run by Andy Reid for over a decade. The players took the field at the NovaCare complex in South Philadelphia to the sounds of Chip Kelly’s playlist, including such gems as “Turn Me On” by David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, “Hero” by Nas, and “Good Feeling” by Flo-Rida. While the self-proclaimed “Harajuku Barbie’s” vocalization may seem out of place, the players seem to like it; especially star running back LeSean McCoy who appeared energized and as active as any other player as the first mini-camp of 2013 progressed. The importance of rookie camp, which took place over the weekend, and the OTA’s cannot be undervalued. Just ask Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll about the importance of the rookie on field meet and greet. A season ago, Seattle found their soulmate-apparent in rookie QB Russell Wilson, their fourth round pick from a season ago. Wilson was expected to sit for a year, and was only slated to receive under 20% of snaps at last year’s camp; yet by the end of his tryout Wilson was slated to be in open competition with Matt Flynn, and we all know how that played out. Wilson was a front runner for rookie of the year, led the Seahawks to a wild-card berth and finished with the 8th best QBR in football. Flynn could be carrying Tyler Wilson’s gym-bag come training camp. While the majority of OTA’s can feel like singles night at the local community center, much can be learned about the incoming crop of rookies during these in depth face-times.
Perhaps the most compelling storyline coming out of Eagles’ mini-camp is the starting front seven on defense featuring Isaac Sopoaga, Fletcher Cox, DeMeco Ryans, Connor Barwin, Trent Cole, Mychal Kendricks, and Cedric Thornton. Six of the seven were projected starters, but surprisingly it is Thornton at defensive end instead of Brandon Graham. Graham spent his time with the second team defense learning a role as an outside linebacker within a 3-4. Evidently Eagles defensive coordinator Billy Davis does not see Trent Cole as an interior lineman, but as a pure edge rusher who will complement established OLB Connor Barwin. As for Thornton, the 6’4” former Mulerider of DII Southern Arkansas University weighs over 300lbs and will provide excellent athleticism and burst rushing ability to an already athletic defensive line. Trent Cole also saw reps with the 3rd team defense at DE, so his role is anything but set in the defense, and could be determined by Brandon Graham’s ability to play OLB.
Other surprises on defense included Kenny Phillips’ role as second free safety, which may have been due to questions regarding the health of his surgically repaired knee. Phillips will be a starter when healthy, and was replaced by Nate Allen at FS.
As for the offense, the first shake-up occurred in the wide receiving corps where Arrelious Benn saw time with the first team’s offense as an exterior receiver. Kelly could be moving Benn outside to make room for Jeremy Maclin or DeSean Jackson in the slot. Either Maclin or Jackson would become a deadly weapon as a third receiver due to their tremendous speed. Another speedster in the Eagles’ offense, Michael Vick, saw more 1st team reps than his opponent for the starting QB job, Nick Foles.
Missing from camp were TE Zach Ertz and CB Jordan Poyer, the Eagles’ second and seventh round picks respectively. Neither have signed a contract with Philadelphia and as Chip Kelly said, there is no telling how the time missed will affect the rookies. On a more positive note, Matt Barkley has been early to every day of mini-camp, and has drawn respect from Kelly. Though we do not know the certainties of Kelly’s projected game-plan, the OTA’s will go a long way towards determining the Eagles starting 11 for the upcoming season. Regardless, Chip Kelly’s playlist is giving Eagles’ fans a ‘Good Feeling’.Tags: arrelious Benn, Chip Kelly, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Kenny Phillips, Lane Johnson, LeSean McCoy, Matt Barkley, Michael Vick, OTA's, Pete Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles, Russell Wilson, Trent Cole