Moments before Nick Sirianni’s first practice as the Eagles’ head coach, he found DeVonta Smith on his way to the stretching line for a quick conversation.
After the stretching was done, Sirianni trailed Smith over to position drills as well, watching the first-round wideout lead the receiver drills on the first day of rookie minicamp at the NovaCare Complex on Friday. The team’s rookie class only flew in for this weekend’s practice sessions a few days ago, but the team’s most anticipated draft pick has quickly made an impression on Sirianni.
“As advertised, he catches everything,” Sirianni said. “That ball touches his hands, he catches it. He’s really long. I think you guys saw that, right? He’s got long arms, and he’s got a big catch radius.”
Friday was the first chance Sirianni had to work with Smith, whom the Eagles selected with the 10th pick in last month’s NFL draft, trading up two spots to do so. Smith had 117 catches for 1,856 yards and 23 receiving touchdowns in a Heisman Trophy-winning season with Alabama last year.
One of Smith’s best traits as a prospect was his route-running ability. Even though he was the third receiver taken in the draft, many draft evaluators considered him the best route runner in the class. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Smith will have to continue winning with his routes against bigger, physical corners if he’s to have success in the league.
“That’s something you have to take pride in,” Smith said on Wednesday. “Getting open, running routes the right way, releasing off press coverage and things like that. You have to take pride in that, and that’s what I do.”
Sirianni’s first chance to see Smith run routes up close at the Eagles’ facility left him even more confident than he was after his film study before the draft.
“You’ve got a really good idea, right, of what you have, and then when you get him on the field, then you just be like, ‘Man, we can do this and we could do that,’” Sirianni said. “Maybe he can do this, that maybe we didn’t think he could do. You know, it just showed his length. He showed his unbelievable hands, and he showed -- I just thought he showed excellent, excellent ability to change directions at the top of the route. Even better than what I saw on tape, to be 100% honest with you.
“So again, a lot of things that I expected, because we spent a lot of time watching him, all his catches the last couple years, but it was great to see him in person,” Sirianni added. “He’s got a lot of talent to him, and look forward to working with him.”
Tuipulotu sidelined for minicamp
Fifth-round rookie defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu was sidelined during Friday’s practice session and isn’t expected to participate in on-field drills during this weekend’s minicamp. The indication is that Tuipulotu tweaked a hamstring injury before the draft and the team chose to be cautious.
The former Southern California standout reportedly dealt with a hamstring injury in March but ran at the Trojans’ pro day in April.
Eagles trying out former second-rounder
The Eagles have defensive back Obi Melifonwu in minicamp this weekend as one of their five tryouts.
The 27-year-old was the Raiders’ second-round pick in 2017 but has struggled to make an impact in the league. He finished last season on the San Francisco 49ers’ practice squad. Listed at 6-4, 224 pounds, he played safety in college and at his previous stops in the NFL, but the Eagles have him listed as a cornerback.
Melifonwu’s brother, Ifeatu, was taken by the Detroit Lions in the third round of last month’s draft after playing cornerback at Syracuse.
The team is also trying out former Temple safety Benny Walls, Virginia linebacker Zane Zandier, former Tampa Bay tackle Caleb Benenoch, and tackle Casey Tucker, who was with the Eagles in training camp last year and ended the season on the practice squad.