Jump to content

In Roob's Observations: A new offensive twist coming to life at Eagles camp


Recommended Posts

In Roob's Observations: A new offensive twist coming to life at Eagles camp

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published July 31, 2023


A new dimension to the Eagles’ offense, a surprising safety with the first defense, Derek Barnett’s future and tons more in our first Eagles Training Camp 10 Observations of the summer.

I still miss Lehigh. I still don’t care about the Kelly Green jerseys. And I still don’t like music playing during practice. But training camp is a blast. I just wish 12,000 fans a day could watch.

1. The biggest thing that’s jumped out the first three days of training camp is how much the Eagles are emphasizing throwing to the backs, mostly D’Andre Swift. This has been a dimension of the Eagles’ offense that’s been missing for a while now. Miles Sanders had a flukey 50-catch season as a rookie but became less and less of a factor in the receiving game the next few years. You have to go back to Darren Sproles in 2016 and really Shady from 2010 through 2014 to find a true two-way threat. But through three practices Swift has shown himself to be a very natural receiver. He leaped Friday to catch an off-target pass from Jalen Hurts, came down and showed great burst racing down the left sideline for big yards, and on Sunday he made a circus one-handed catch in traffic for a 25-yard gain on a wheel route from Hurts. He doesn’t fight the ball. He’s got soft hands and catches the ball smoothly. Imagine an offense with A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert adding a 50-catch running back? Swift is a capable runner – he’s got a 4.6 career average – but his big contribution here is going to be providing Hurts a safe underneath option on 3rd-and-5 or when the pocket breaks down or when teams blitz. Kenny Gainwell has looked very good catching the ball as well – he caught 23 of 29 targets last year – and we know Boston Scott can catch. The Eagles are even throwing to Rashaad Penny, who has 27 career receptions in five years. But so far the emphasis has been on Swift, and I know there’s only one ball to go around but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the 50-to-60 catch range by the time all is said and done. With this o-line, the Eagles should be able to do damage in the screen game as well, something that’s been missing from this offense for a long time.

2. I wouldn’t be discouraged that Kelee Ringo and Sydney Brown are practicing with the 3’s and Jalen Carter with the 2’s. This was the plan all along. Doesn’t mean they’re behind. Just means this is a starting point that allows them to play loose and free and easy and build up their confidence against other young guys as they learn the defense. If they’re not getting reps with the 1’s or 2’s in three weeks, there’ll be reason for concern. Right now, it’s not a big deal.

3. Was interesting and surprising to see safety K’Von Wallace start out practice Friday with the first defense alongside Reed Blankenship. Veteran newcomer Terrell Edmunds worked with the 1’s on Wednesday, and we kind of expected him to stay there. But any notion that the starting job definitely belongs to Edmunds went by the wayside when we saw Wallace getting starter reps, with Edmunds working with Justin Evans and the second group. On Sunday, Edmunds got the bulk of the reps with the 1’s but Wallace again worked in. Doesn’t mean Edmunds won’t be a starter, it just means that spot remains up for grabs. Wallace, a 4th-round pick in 2020, played well in limited snaps last year. He’s started seven games over the years but showed significant growth last fall when he got his opportunities. He's athletic and physical and has boundless confidence. Blankenship is off to a strong start to camp and is a lock to start. The only lock beyond that is that Brown will make the final roster. 

4. It was 25 years ago today that Ray Rhodes and Wade Phillips held a joint press conference in an upstairs meeting room at Lehigh’s University Center prior to Eagles-Bills joint practices at Lehigh. The joint practices were sponsored by cell phone company Metrophone, whose jovial mascot – Flippy, "an anthropomorphic cell phone,” as the Inquirer’s Phil Sheridan described it – kept trying to engage a completely disinterested and miserable Phillips in all sorts of wacky hijinks while Rhodes stood there next to him. It was one of the most awkward, ridiculous and hilarious things I’ve ever seen. Finally, Flippy handed Phillips a bag of Philadelphia-oriented gifts. That's when Rhodes – standing next to Phillips - peeked into the bag and said: "You got everything but a phone.”  

5. Here’s a list of players with 250 catches and a 16.5 average in their first four seasons: Torry Holt, Randy Moss, Jerry Rice and A.J. Brown.

6. Derek Barnett’s restructured contract is a pretty strong indication that the Eagles intend to keep the one-time 1st-round pick on the roster this year. With the restructure, Barnett’s salary went down, but his guaranteed money went up. Why rework his contract like that if they weren’t going to keep him? Barnett has been a huge disappointment as a 1st-round pick, but he’s now seven years into his career, he’s got a modest contract, expectations are tempered, and if you just look at him as a low-paid fourth or fifth pass rusher instead of a 1st-round pick, it makes sense to keep him around. Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, Nolan Smith and Brandon Graham are going to be the Eagles’ primary edge rushers, but if someone gets hurt or is struggling, where are you going to find a better fifth edge than Barnett, who had 6 ½ sacks in 2019 and 5 ½ in 2020 before suffering through a down year in 2021 and missing last year with an ACL. Barnett just turned 27, so he should be in his prime. If anybody can be an inspiration for Barnett it’s Graham, who had even fewer sacks than Barnett in his first five years (21 ½ to 17) but blossomed in his 30s into a top edge rusher. Keeping Barnett around is a shrewd low-risk move by Howie Roseman.

7. There probably isn’t a roster spot for him, but QB-turned-TE Tyree Jackson continues to impress in limited opportunities. Jackson hasn’t been able to stay healthy his first two NFL seasons but for a guy who’s still relatively new to the tight end position, Jackson has shown a real knack for catching the football securely and has demonstrated great body control and an instinctive ability to use his 6-7, 250-pound frame to block out defensive backs. Jackson broke his back in camp in 2021 and missed camp last year with a torn ACL, but he’s healthy now and he’s fun to watch. Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra seem to have the backup TE spots locked up, but Jackson is impressive.

8. Was very encouraging to see Eagles legends Al Wistert and Maxie Baughan both make the cut to 12 Senior Committee Hall of Fame semifinalists on Thursday. Both are clearly deserving of football’s highest honor. Baughan only spent six of his 12 seasons with the Eagles, but Wistert played his entire career here, and if he makes it into the Hall Wistert would become only the fourth Hall of Famer who spent his entire career with the Eagles. The others were his teammates, Chuck Bednarik, Steve Van Buren and Pete Pihos. Those four all played together for one year – on the 1949 NFL Championship team. Interestingly, only five other Hall of Famers spent more than half their career with the Eagles: Harold Carmichael (13 of 14 seasons), Brian Dawkins (13 of 16), Tommy McDonald (7 of 12) and Reggie White (8 of 15). 

9. It hasn’t been a good start for Marcus Mariota, who's made a few nice throws but overall has been surprisingly inconsistent in his first few Eagles practices. Mariota has a funky release, and when he misses he misses badly. He threw one interception Sunday right to a wide-open James Bradberry without a receiver in the area, and those are the kinds of throws that are concerning. Now, maybe someone ran the wrong route, but it was a quick throw, there wasn't a receiver anywhere near Bradberry, and Mariota never should have thrown the ball. New team, new offense, new coaches, new teammates, so you definitely give him some time. But through three practices, he hasn’t been good.

10. Jalen Hurts Aphorism of the Day: "The goals change, but the standards don’t.”


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...