Good morning, everyone. Well, now that the draft finally is history, the next order of business will be the schedule release on May 12. After that comes the Eagles’ rookie minicamp the weekend of May 15 at the NovaCare Complex.
The practice schedule and format for the minicamp haven’t been released yet, but the players are expected to arrive next Wednesday or Thursday. The players attending the camp will include the team’s nine draft picks, the undrafted free agents the team has signed, and several more unsigned players invited to the camp on a tryout basis.
Voluntary OTAs usually follow the rookie minicamp, but the players union has encouraged its members not to attend them, presumably because of the pandemic, but also because the union has decided they’re no longer necessary. Players on more than half of the league’s teams, including the Eagles, already have issued statements through the NFLPA that they will not be attending OTAs. The rest of the teams are expect to follow suit.
Each team will hold a mandatory minicamp sometime between May 24 and June 18. All players must attend that or they will be fined. The Eagles have not yet announced the date of their mandatory minicamp or when training camp will open. The date for the opening of training camp will be announced once the league announces the preseason schedule, which is expected to be at the same time as the regular-season schedule.
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Nowhere to go but up for the Eagles offense
The Eagles offense was absolutely dreadful last season for a lot of reasons, including an injury-ravaged offensive line that used an NFL-record 14 starting combinations, a quarterback who led the league in interceptions and a wide receiver corps that combined for just 14 touchdown passes and a 56.6 catch rate.
The Eagles finished 26th in scoring (20.9 points per game), 28th in passing yards (207.9), 28th in third-down success rate (37.3) and 24th in touchdown passes (22) and gave up the league’s most sacks (65).
That’s the bad news. The good news is that injury-ravaged offensive line is all better, at least for the moment, and once again appears to be one of the best units in the league.
They’ve also added a difference-making wide receiver in first-round pick DeVonta Smith.
These things are really good news for Jalen Hurts, who is expected to be the team’s starting quarterback this season.
Hurts, the team’s 2020 second-round draft pick, had his ups and downs in the four season-ending starts he made after Carson Wentz was benched. He led the Eagles to a surprising win over the New Orleans Saints in his first start, throwing for just 167 yards, but rushing for 106 yards on 18 carries. He completed just 52% of his passes as a rookie, threw just two more touchdowns (6) than interceptions (4) and finished with a 77.6 passer rating.
It’s impossible to draw any long-term conclusions from Hurts’ small body of work last season, particularly given the circumstances in which it came.
That’s the purpose of this season: To find out if he can be the long-term answer at quarterback or whether they need to go look for one next year.
“The jury is still out in my head because I just haven’t seen enough of him,” Mike Quick, the Eagles’ longtime radio analyst and five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, said. “I saw a lot of good stuff. And I saw areas that need improvement. But there’s just no way you can assess a quarterback in this league, or really any position, from that small of a sample.”
One of owner Jeffrey Lurie’s instructions this offseason to general manager Howie Roseman and new head coach Nick Sirianni was to prioritize Hurts’ chances for success in 2021 so that they can get an accurate read on him.
They have done that. Sirianni hired a quarterbacks coach, former University of Florida offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, who has known Hurts since he was four years old. Roseman selected Smith, who played at Alabama with Hurts, in the first round, giving him a wideout with whom he should have instant chemistry.
With right guard Brandon Brooks and right tackle Lane Johnson both back from injury, with left tackle Jordan Mailata having pocketed 10 games of starting experience last year, Hurts will have more than adequate protection this season.
“I think this could be a really good offense,” NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger said. “But Jalen needs to improve.
“You can’t read the rush and play quarterback in this league. That’s what he was doing when he got the chance to play late last season. You just can’t pull the ball down and run with it like you’re back at Alabama or Oklahoma. That’s why he got beat out [at Alabama].
“You’ve got to stand in the pocket and make your reads. You’ve got to throw it. You’ve got to extend the field, and you’ve got be ready to throw. If he can’t do that, then [Joe] Flacco will be replacing him.”
What you need to know about the Eagles
The Inquirer’s Eagles Fab Four bring out the thumbs to assess the second-round selection of talented but injury-prone offensive lineman Landon Dickerson.
That difference of opinion between Roseman and Tom Donahoe? The GM says it was over a defensive tackle not a cornerback, reports Les Bowen.
Brian Baldinger thinks the Eagles made all the right moves in drafting Smith and Dickerson.
Mike Sielski takes us behind the dream journey of tight end Kyle Pitts and his dad. The Archbishop Wood grad became the highest drafted tight end in history last week.
From the mailbag
Have odds increased that Ertz gets a new contract after a down year and still being on the team post-draft? Is the team banking on forcing his hand and playing this year? — Frank Laranko (@timeforfl) on Twitter
Thanks for the question, Frank. You’re one of many asking about Zach Ertz’s status after the draft came and went without the Pro Bowl tight end being traded.
I don’t think it’s increased the chances at all of him being with the Eagles in 2021. I think that ship has sailed. Nobody has been willing to give the Eagles much for him because a) he’s coming off the worst year of his career; b) he turned 30 in November; c) he’s got one year left on his contract and can become a free agent after the season; and d) they think the Eagles probably will release him after June 1 anyway when they will be able to save about $3 million on his cap hit.
Roseman was asked three times after the draft about Ertz’s status.
“Zach’s a really good player and a really good person,” Roseman said. “And he’s under contract with the Eagles.” A little later, he said, “You just want to be fair. You just want to find outcomes that not necessarily are great for the team and not good for the player, but just fair. Just stuff that everyone can kind of feel like, you know what, this works for everyone.”