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Connecting a Big Theme as Rookie Camp Opens

There is a large number of defensive backs on the roster, but had coach Nick Sirianni said there is a reason for that

PHILADELPHIA – Eleven defensive backs made up a roster of 42 players who trickled into the Eagles’ indoor practice facility to escape the pouring rain of Friday afternoon.

The team’s two-day rookie camp was in session.

It’s wise not to read too much into what’s happening, such was the case with 11 DBs.

Head coach Nick Sirianni was asked afterward if the reason for so many has to do with the unsettled nature of the cornerback position after veteran Darius Slay.

“We know these guys right now are not in football shape,” he said. “This is really a little bit rare. When you bring in a rookie - it’s always our experience in rookie camp, you bring them in and they have been training for the draft, the combine, to run a 40 and for the positions drills a little bit. 

"They are not truly in football shape right now. We have to be very careful about how we manage these guys in practice right now.”

Sirianni added that more defensive backs are needed because, when they do their seven-on-seven reps, the defense requires enough for a two-deep look to be able to rotate players in, so they aren’t running too many plays in a row.

“The volume a little bit speaks to, hey, we have to have enough numbers to be able to execute and to be able to see what guys can do,” he said. “So that's a little bit. Of course, we feel good about the guys in the room that we have right now and some of the guys that are coming in that we've invited into this camp, drafted, free agents, everybody that we brought into the rookie minicamp."

SEE SCENES FROM ROOKIE CAMP

Brent Celek with tight ends at rookie camp
Cam Jurgens (center) with William Dunkle (73), Josh Sills (61) and Kayode Awosika (72) during rookie camp
Carson Strong unleashes a pass at rookie camp
Running backs (left to right) Jerry Howard and Kennedy Brooks during rookie camp
Reed Blankenship at rookie camp

One of those DBs, Alabama’s Josh Jobe, did not participate due to a recent injury, believed to be turf toe. WR Devon Allen, the 27-year-old hurdler was also not in attendance for reasons unknown.

It was the first chance, though, for the Eagles coaches to lay eyes on draft picks Jordan Davis, Cam Jurgens, Nakobe Dean, Kyron Johnson, and Grant Calcaterra.

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“I'm just happy that we're all in there together working again,” said Sirianni. “I'm not going to get into who I thought stood out. We're excited about every guy that's here. No matter if it's a first-round draft pick, second-round draft pick, third-round draft pick, free agent, tryout guys. 

"We are excited to get our eyes on these guys and watch them. That's the first day and they have another day coming up (Saturday) and we just look forward to continuing to evaluate them.”

The players took the field after getting fitted for their equipment, including helmets, which they wore during practice, though they were just in shorts and jerseys.

“It's been really good,” said Calcaterra, the tight end from SMU who was the team’s last pick of the draft, arriving 198th overall and in the sixth round. “It's a lot of information being thrown at us and everything but I'm trying to prepare the best I can and try to get better every day. It's been good so far.

"We got a pretty condensed version (of the playbook) in rookie minicamp just because there is a lot of information but it's great. We did a walk-through earlier…I like how the tight ends are used in the offense doing a lot of different things, so it's been excited to learn it."

That’s really what this is all about – learning, though connecting, one of Sirianni’s core principles, is also a benefit.

“Coming in here, getting my bearings straight,” said Davis, the first-round pick from Georgia. “Getting adjusted to the life. Getting adjusted to Philly. Getting adjusted to the building. Just a lot of adjustments. Moving out of Athens, and making that transition from Athens to Philly and all that stuff.

“It’s not a rough transition, but it’s kind of like really growing on you because up until a week ago, I had no idea where I was going. It comes with time. It’s all part of the process. 

"That’s how I look at it - just learn. Learn everything that I can from teammates, learn everything I can from coaches. Everybody has knowledge in this building. A lot of people have been fortunate to win a world championship that are here in 2017.

“Same thing at Georgia. It takes a champion to know what it takes to win another one.”

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Fan Nation Eagles Today and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglesmaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.