Eagles Rookies Take the Field for the First Time

DeVonta Smith and Landon Dickerson take the spotlight, but so do UDFAs Jamie Newman and Trevon Grimes
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PHILADELPHIA - The curtain went up on the Eagles rookies on Friday afternoon.

Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith was catching passes – and, yes, he proved mortal with one early drop. He looking crisp running routes.

Second-round pick Landon Dickerson was even jogging around and getting work done, perhaps a pleasant surprise considering he is still rehabbing from an ACL tear in December.

Head coach Nick Sirianni said after practice that the interior offensive lineman from Alabama won’t participate in any team drills this weekend but will just do walkthroughs while learning the offense.

“We won’t set a timetable on Landon and his return, but he is working hard," said the coach. "We have a great training staff and great strength staff that are working hard with him to get him ready to go as soon as he is able to.”

Defensive tackle Marlon Tuitupolu did not practice due to tweaking a hamstring a couple of weeks ago while training.

Jamie Newman was the only quarterback among the 26 players who went through practice, with players dressed only in shorts, jerseys, and helmets.

“We set some goals for them,” said Sirianni. “It was really to go out there and compete, was to learn the offense, the defense, and the special teams. Get the basics down. Get one percent better. Connect with their teammates. 

"Then finally, the fifth goal that we set for them was go out there and show us what you guys can do. That was the main message – go out there and show us what you guys can do.

“My message to the coaching staff was, hey, let’s let these guys go out there and show us what they can do. Let’s keep the installs very simple, so they can go out there and exhibit their abilities on the field.”

Newman was one of seven players the Eagles announced has signed contracts as undrafted free agents.

READ MORE: QB1 For the Weekend; Jamie Newman Excited to Get Back to ...

Running alongside Smith was another of the UDFAs. Trevon Grimes looked every bit the big-bodied receiver is supposed to be at 6-4, 223 pounds. 

He said prior to practice on a videoconference call that one of the reasons he chose to sign with the Eagles after going undrafted had to do with Eagles quarterback coach Brian Johnson, who was Grimes’ OC at the University of Florida last year and his QB coach the year before that.

“Being at Florida with coach Johnson was an amazing experience,” said Grimes, who had nine touchdown catches last year while playing with two first-round NFL draft picks in TE Kyle Pitts and WR Kadarius Toney.

“Me and him talked daily at Florida. The relationship hasn’t changed since I’ve been here. I was actually talking to him earlier. Me and his relationship is very tight. That bond was a factor in wanting to come here, be closer with him. It’s worked out well so far.”

Grimes added that, “Coach Johnson knows how to use his players. He puts players in a position to be their best.”

In addition to Newman and Grimes, the Eagles also signed five other undrafted free agents.

They are:

  • WR Jhamon Ausbon, Texas A&M. He is 6-2, 217, and opted out last season. In 2019, he had 66 catches, 872 yards, and five touchdowns.
  • G Kayode Awosika, Buffalo. He is 6-3, 312.
  • DE JaQuan Bailey, Iowa State. He had 25 sacks in five seasons with the Cyclones, despite playing just three games in 2019.
  • C Harry Krider, Indiana. He is 6-3, 307.
  • TE Jack Stoll, Nebraska. He had 61 catches, 657 yards, and six touchdowns in four seasons with the Cornhuskers and is 6-4, 247.

Of the 26 players on hand, five were designated as tryout players.

They are:

  • OT Caleb Benenoch, UCLA. Benenoch was listed on the roster provided by Eagles PR as having five years of experience. He’s 26.
  • CB Obi Melifonwu, Syracuse. He is a former second-round pick of the Raiders in 2017. He is the brother of Ifeatu Melifonwu, a third-round pick of the Detroit Lions this year, also out of Syracuse.
  • OT Casey Tucker, Arizona State. Tucker was in camp with the Eagles last year.
  • S Benny Walls, Temple. He had six interceptions in 37 games over four seasons with the Owls.
  • LB Zane Zandier, Virginia. He is 6-2, 230 and, in 24 games with the Cavaliers, had 187 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks.

The Eagles also signed defensive back Nate Meadors on Friday morning.

Meadors, 24, spent nine games of the 2020 season on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. He was promoted to the active roster for one game but did not play.

At 5-11, 194 pounds, Meadors played at UCLA and signed with the Minnesota Vikings as a rookie free agent in 2019. He didn't make the final roster, but signed to their practice squad and was promoted to the active roster in time to make his NFL debut against the Green Bay Packers in Week 2 before returning back to the practice squad.

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