Philadelphia started Phase 3 on Tuesday and Thursday’s session will be the first open to reporters. One more practice next week will be observed and the final day before the Eagles scatter across the country will be June 8 before reconvening in late July for training camp.
The CBA permits the Eagles to have 10 OTA practices and three days of mandatory minicamp so the organization is leaving 40% of its OTA allotment on the table and have not had any mandatory spring work in the Nick Sirianni era. The Eagles are one of only two teams, along with the Cincinnati Bengals, that eschew mandatory work.
Some of the highlights on Thursday will be the expected competitions and the younger players expected to handle bigger roles, most notable second-year linebacker Nakobe Dean.
Dean is expected to take over as the on-field leader for new defensive coordinator Sean Desai. The LB position as a whole will also be monitored with free-agent signing Nicholas Morrow trying to hold off unproven options like Christian Elliss and Shaun Bradley.
“Just trying to learn, getting comfortable with all the guys that’s out there with you,” Dean said earlier this month. “… It’s great that we go through OTAs and get that comfortability with each other.
“I learned a lot from (last year’s starters T.J. Edwards and Kyzir White) who were in front of me. You kind of learn different thought processes of defense from where I came from in college, and where they came from. “I learned everything from little techniques to little things on how the league runs, how offenses in the league run. You just learn it throughout the season, definitely with the long season we had last year.”
Lacking depth at LB Desai could even unveil a three-safety look in obvious passing situations with second-year player Reed Blankenship, free-agent pick Terrell Edmunds, and rookie Sydney Brown in the mix as the presumptive replacements for the departed C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps.
On the offensive side, the names in the hopper to take over for 1,269-yard runner Miles Sanders, who is now in Carolina, are talented veteran pickups Rashaad Penny and D’Andre Swift, as well as the returning Kenny Gainwell, who opened some eyes in the postseason.
The play-calling duties shift from Shane Steichen to Brian Johnson on the offense and the latter will get his first opportunity to put his unique stamp on a very talented unit that has a much smaller turnover than the defense with only Sanders and right guard Isaac Seumalo exiting. Second-year player Cam Jurgens will try to hold off third-round rookie Tyler Steen at RG with veteran Jack Driscoll serving as solid insurance.
Embattled punter Arryn Siposs will also have to deal with in-house competition for the first time in the form of rookie Ty Zenter, a Kansas State product who could make some noise if he shows any consistency.
The top story, however, will almost surely be No. 9 overall pick Jalen Carter and his conditioning after a poor pro day when the former Georgia star was unable to finish some drills. Numerous team sources have tried to ease concerns over negative perceptions of Carter but the high-profile rookie will surely be under an intense microscope.
When asked about Carter at rookie minicamp in early May head coach Nick Sirianni said that no one was ready to play football at that point nor should they be expected to.