PHILADELPHIA — It’s easy to get excited about spring stars given the right context.
For the Eagles, the context is different from most teams. It’s a veteran team coming out of the Super Bowl, and they’ve only had six practices, otherwise known as organized team activities, when teams were allowed a maximum of 10.
Also, the practice sessions were voluntary and many veterans missed a practice here and there. This gave several players vying for a spot on the roster a chance to get first-team representatives. This gave them a chance to make a good impression ahead of training camp, which begins July 26.
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That is, after all, how three players last year made the 53-man roster as undrafted free agents. That included safety Reed Blankenship, cornerback Josh Jobe and wide receiver/clearance returner Britain Covey.
Blankenship started five games last season when Chauncey Gardner-Johnson went on the injured list. Incredibly, Blankenship ended up playing more snaps than any Eagles rookie last season, and that included first-round pick Jordan Davis.
Blankenship, who hopes to become a full-time starter this season, offered some advice for those hoping to replicate his success:
“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” he said. “But you have to show everyone that you love the game and that you go for it every day. You have to have that mentality that you’re going to make somebody look at you. That was my goal. I just wanted to let anyone know who I was.”
So here’s who stood out for the Eagles this spring:
Elliss spent most of last season on the practice squad until he became a late-season addition to help bolster the special teams unit. Elliss did, remaining on the active roster through the Super Bowl, but he never played linebacker. That could change this season after a strong OTA performance in which he intercepted a pass in each of two practices open to the media. The first was against Marcus Mariota, the second against Jalen Hurts. Nakobe Dean is a virtual lock for one of the starting jobs, but Elliss could find himself in contention for the other with free agent signee Nicholas Morrow, as well as returnees like Shaun Bradley, Kyron Johnson and Davion Taylor .
Joseph Ngata, wide receiver
The top four spots are virtually guaranteed to AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and free agent signee Olamide Zaccheaus. That leaves Ngata, an undrafted free agent from Clemson, in a battle with at least three others for one or two spots. Covey would appear to have the inside track for one of those spots as a punt returner. But Ngata, at 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, has shown good reach and an ability to get 50-50 balls so far. He will have to beat veteran Greg Ward and Olympic hurdler Devon Allen, among others, for a spot.
Of all the Eagles rookies this season, Brown could end up playing the most, especially if he lands a starting job alongside Terrell Edmunds. Blankenship got the first reps in June workouts. But Brown was impressed with his knowledge of the system. And the Eagles didn’t draft him in the third round to sit behind an undrafted guy.
“Just his mindset, his growth mindset that he has to improve,” Eagles defensive backs coach DK McDonald said. “He’s never happy with where he is. Guys with that kind of mindset, they’re always going to work hard to try to improve, and that’s what he does every day. days.”
Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith, defensive linemen
There is little concern about the Eagles’ two first-round picks in the squad. But OTAs were important for Carter and Smith to spend time in the field, learning from veterans and showing they’re ready to compete. Their real test will come during training camp, but Carter and Smith have shown they will be ready.
“I think you just see their athletic ability and the drill work,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “They get a lot of individual work. So you see the things that we saw on tape of what they do well, and the power, their athletic ability, their personalities.”
On two different occasions, Sirianni was asked about running back competition now that the Eagles have added D’Andre Swift and Rashaad Penny to a rotation that also included Boston returnees Scott and Kenny Gainwell. And each time, Sirianni praised Trey Sermon, the 49ers’ 2021 third-round pick they released last summer. Sermon then spent most of last season inactive on game days. Sermon has the benefit of playing with Hurts for one season at Oklahoma before moving to Ohio State. If Sermon is in contention for a spot on the roster this year, it will come at the expense of a veteran.
The Eagles seemed to have targeted long cornerbacks who could run. They drafted Kelee Ringo, who weighs 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, in the fourth round, and signed Garner, who weighs 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, as an undrafted free agent from LSU. Garner had a nice interception last week in practice as he covered Zaccheaus. He also caught Sirianni’s attention for celebrating a little too much as Sirianni told him to slow down. The Eagles, of course, are established with starters Darius Slay and James Bradberry. They also signed Greedy Williams as a free agent, in addition to bringing Jobe back. So Garner has his work cut out, even after moving Zech McPhearson inside for the nickel.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.
This article originally appeared on the Delaware News Journal: These 7 players stood out in Eagles OTAs, including these 2 longshots