Taking a peek back at spring practice: who stood out, who did not
Training camp doesn’t begin until July 24, when the Eagles report to the NovaCare Complex, where the first practice will be the following day.
There’s plenty of time to look ahead. Right now, let’s look back at the spring. Specifically, at some players who stood out during OTAs and minicamp and some who did not.
There were plenty of standouts, but these five may have stood out more than others:
Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. These two look primed to take their place as the league’s top tight end duo. Ertz is coming off a monster 116-catch season and Goedert appears poised to up his game, especially in the red zone.
As it was, Goedert (pictured above) ended his rookie season with 33 catches for 334 yards and four touchdowns in the regular season and another two catches for 20 yards and a TD in the postseason. He would have had five in thee regular season if not for a bogus offensive pass interference call (that would have been overturned by replay had it existed in PI form) that negated a 75-yard catch-and-run against Dallas.
Head coach Doug Pederson singled out Goedert for his offseason approach while praising Ertz as well.
“Zach Ertz, this guy is a pro's pro the way he attacks just the off-season,” said the coach. “It's like week nine for him. When I say everything matters with Zach Ertz that's what I'm talking about. Everything matters with him.”
DeSean Jackson. Check his birth certificate. He can’t really be 32 can he? Not with those wheels. If the veteran receiver is true to his word and shows that his maturity level has increased, he’s going to have a big season. Even if he isn’t catching every pass – something he promises won’t bother him if there are games where that doesn’t happen – he’s going to open the field underneath for the running game to flourish while giving tight ends more room to operate.
Of course, staying healthy has always been Jackson’s bugaboo. He hasn’t played all 16 games since his breakout 2013 season when he had 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Jordan Howard. Speaking of the running game, Howard will play a prominent role there, but what I liked this spring was that the Eagles were throwing him the ball out of the backfield. That was a side to Howard’s game the Bears never utilized, and Howard mentioned that during one interview this spring, saying he likes the opportunities the Eagles are giving him that Chicago did not.
My feeling is he’s going to take this job and – pun intended – run and catch with it, because a) the Eagles will let him and b) he is playing for a new contract.
Avonte Maddox. It was discussed with some colleagues on the sidelines as we watched practices that the second-hear defensive back from Pitt could be the best cornerback on the roster. Maddox has become an even more valuable player after being baptized by fire at the safety position last year due to injury.
Those who did not:
Rasul Douglas. The cornerback always seemed to be getting beat deep this spring. Granted, speed isn’t his game. He’s a physical cover man and punishing tackler and tackling is off limits during the spring. He will need to stand out more once the pads come on in training camp. Of course, he could also be a trade chip for a team looking to make him a full-time safety.
Jordan Mailata. OK, it’s only his second year ever playing organized football and he is now learning to play right tackle rather than left, but, still, he looked overmatched against some of the speed the Eagles’ second-team rushers such as Josh Sweat, Shareef Miller, and Daeshon Hall delivered. Even when Mailata was in decent position, it looked like he could’ve been occasionally flagged for holding with an arm bar across players’ throats. I said it when he was drafted in the seventh round last year and I’ll say it again, Mailata may be better served moving to defensive tackle.
Shelton Gibson. The third-year receiver looks bigger and stronger, but he looked like he fought the ball at times trying to catch it this spring. He also was unable to finish mandatory minicamp after an undisclosed injury put him on the sidelines for the final day.
Blake Countess. The safety, who played 37 games the past three seasons with the Rams, was picked up Los Angeles released him in a salary cap move. It’s a wide-open position for the Eagles after Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod, but Countess has to do more to stick around. He was already released by the Eagles once, and that came a few months after they drafted him. It could happen again unless he elevates his play this summer.
Cody Kessler. Nobody realistically gave the backup free agent quarterback a chance to make the roster, but he hasn’t come close to even challenging for a spot. A lot of it has to do with reps – he simply did not get many on the days reporters watched practice. When he did, his throws were not very accurate.