Eagles OTAs observations: Our first glimpse of the 2024 squad

Eagles OTAs observations: Our first glimpse of the 2024 squad originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Organized Team Activities are underway at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia.

Which means we got to watch some football on Wednesday!

While the Eagles actually began their OTAs on Monday, Wednesday was their second practice of the spring but the first open to reporters. It lasted 1 hour and 10 minutes. They still have four more OTA practices scheduled this spring: May 23, May 28, May 30-31 and will have a mandatory minicamp from June 4-6. One of those days next week will be open to reporters as well.

But for now, here are 10 observations from Wednesday’s practice:

1. As a reminder, OTAs are voluntary. The Eagles had good attendance on Wednesday but a few notable players were not on the field: James Bradberry, Josh Sweat, Lane Johnson, DeVonta Smith, Kelee Ringo, C.J. Uzomah and Jake Elliott.

2. The Eagles have a few guys coming back from injuries who were either not participating or not full participants:

• Safety Sydney Brown, who tore his ACL late in his rookie season, was not practicing. He began the session on a side field with trainers and looked good running. During practice, he was going through mental reps about 40 yards deep with a safety view of the defense. He was really into it.

• Linebacker Nakobe Dean was in uniform but not participating in 7-on-7 drills. He is coming back from a 2023 season that included a season-ending foot injury.

• Rookie receiver Ainias Smith was in uniform but not participating fully. He didn’t do 7-on-7s and was watching with the group of punt returners. He has a stress fracture that was discovered at the Combine.

Eli Ricks seemed to suffer or aggravate an injury early in practice and his day was done early. Also, Zech McPhearson did not participate in 7-on-7s as he comes back from an Achilles injury from last summer.

3. While we should really take everything we see at OTAs with a grain of salt, it does give us a starting point for the depth chart, even though some players are missing.

But here are some offensive depth chart notes:

• Without Johnson, Mekhi Becton was the top right tackle. The first OL was (from left to right): Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens, Tyler Steen, Becton.

• Second OL: Fred Johnson, Darian Kinnard, Brett Toth, Matt Hennessy, Anim Dankwah

• Third OL: Laekin Vakalahi, Trevor Keegan, Dylan McMahon, Jason Poe, Gottlieb Ayedze

• Without DeVonta Smith, the Eagles’ top receivers were A.J. Brown, Parris Campbell and Joseph Ngata.

4. Here are some defensive depth chart notes:

• Without Dean in team drills, the Eagles top linebackers were Devin White and Zack Baun. It’s worth noting that Baun getting off-ball reps. He was with that group in position drills too.

• The second pairing of LBs was Oren Burks and Ben VanSumeren. The third pairing was Jeremiah Trotter Jr. and Brandon Smith.

• Without Bradberry, Ringo and Ricks, the Eagles had Isaiah Rodgers working as the top RCB across the field from Darius Slay. Rodgers missed all of last season because of a suspension from the NFL. The top safeties were C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Reed Blankenship. The top nickel was Avonte Maddox, who also filled in as a third-team safety.

Cooper DeJean got some reps as a nickel with the second-team defense and outside cornerback with the third team. Quinyon Mitchell and Josh Jobe were the second-team boundary cornerbacks.

• DeJean also got reps as a punt returner. He and Britain Covey handled those duties with Smith and Brown watching with the group.

5. We got our first glimpse of Saquon Barkley in an Eagles uniform and he looked pretty good taking handoffs from Jalen Hurts. It’s fun to watch a guy that big move that well up close.

In addition to his work in the backfield, we also saw Barkley line up in the slot on one rep with Kenny Gainwell in the backfield. Barkley has caught 288 passes in his NFL career and has had at least 40 catches in five of six NFL seasons.

6. There were already some hints that the Eagles’ offense will look slightly different with Kellen Moore on board as an offensive coordinator. The Eagles’ offense looked much less static on Wednesday.

They used some trips and bunch formations instead of just going with their standard 2x2. And there was some motion too. There was one play where Brown was put in motion out of the slot and the pass went quickly to Gainwell in the other flat. Sometimes motion can be used to gather information but sometimes it can put stress on a defense too. Brown is going to attract plenty of eyes and the Eagles can certainly use that to their advantage.

7. Saw some good early signs from the first-round pick. Quinyon Mitchell had a nice pass breakup on the penultimate rep of the practice on a ball to fellow rookie Johnny Wilson. As you’d expect from his college experience, Mitchell looks comfortable in off coverage.

There was another play where big receiver Jacob Harris got a step on Mitchell but dropped the deep ball. On that play, Mitchell got his feet tangled but it was still an encouraging rep because he was able to find the ball with ease and was about to flip his hips and recover before getting tripped up.

8. Offensive play of the day: Third-string QB Tanner McKee laced a beautiful seam ball to a streaking TE E.J. Jenkins, who caught it in stride over Trotter in the middle of the field.

Defensive play of the day: Devin White made a nice play to break up a pass to Barkley down the left sideline on a wheel route. Seeing a bigger (modern day) linebacker with that kind of straight-line speed is impressive. Of course, White’s raw athleticism has never really been in question. It’s the other parts of his game that made him available for the Eagles in free agency.

9. Without Smith (and after the retirement of DeVante Parker), Campbell was running with the first team. And because Brown got some snaps inside, we got to see Campbell play outside receiver too. He had some fun battles with Rodgers on the outside.

Campbell saw plenty of targets in his second OTA practice with the Eagles. He’s also built differently than I expected. Because of his speed, I almost expected a slender, Quez Watkins-like build. But Campbell looks thicker than that, especially in his lower body.

10. The last play of practice was a Kenny Pickett back-shoulder laser to Gainwell in the front left corner of the end zone. The defense said there was no way that Gainwell, who might have stepped out, was able to reestablish himself before the catch. But without refs on the field, both sides can feel like they won that rep.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Mekhi Becton is enormous. You already knew this but seeing him stand next to Jordan Mailata really hammered that home. It has to be weird for both of them to be next to guys who are about the same size. Becton is listed at 6-7, 363 pounds; Mailata is listed at 6-8, 365.

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