Good morning, Eagles fans. The Eagles held their rookie minicamp last weekend, continue to tinker with the roster, and have their first week of organized team activities beginning on Tuesday. The next few weeks will be busy with Eagles updates, so make sure to follow along on Philly.com.
This is an offseason edition of the Early Birds newsletter, which will come every Wednesday for the next few months. If your friends haven’t subscribed to Early Birds, it’s free to sign up here. I want to know what you think, what we should add, and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm. Thank you for reading.
— Zach Berman
Who are the rookie free agents?
The Eagles officially signed their undrafted rookies before rookie camp last week. With only five draft picks, that group will be in the spotlight more this summer than most offseasons. The Eagles already waived two of them and added one, but here’s what to know about the 14 on the roster:
- RB Josh Adams (Notre Dame) — A Warrington native, Adams was a Heisman Trophy candidate at one point last season, when he rushed for 1,386 yards on 7.3 yards per carry for the Fighting Irish. At 6-foot-2 and 213 pounds, Adams has size and production working in his favor, although it’s a crowded depth chart. He’ll try to follow Corey Clement’s path as a local undrafted running back who earns a roster spot.
- LB Asantay Brown (Western Michigan) — An undersized linebacker at 6-feet and 215 pounds, Brown arrived in college as a wide receiver, moved to safety, and then went to linebacker. The Eagles added Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nate Gerry in recent years, and both of them were safety/linebacker tweener-types. Similarly, Brown will need special teams to be his calling card to make the roster.
- OL Aaron Evans (Central Florida) — A guard in high school who was a three-year starter at tackle in college, the 6-4, 325-pound Evans is expected to play guard in the NFL. He’ll likely need to beat two drafted offensive linemen to make the team.
- DE Danny Ezechukwu (Purdue) — A linebacker at Purdue who recorded five sacks last season, the Eagles list Ezechukwu as a defensive end. Wherever he plays, he’s an edge rusher. He’s 6-2 and 250 pounds, and he’ll need pass rushing and special teams to be what keeps him in the NFL.
- DT Bruce Hector (South Florida) — The Eagles didn’t sign any other rookie defensive tackles and could be looking for more depth there after Tim Jernigan’s injury, so Hector is a player to watch. He’s 6-2 and 296 pounds and had seven sacks last season. Hector fits what the Eagles look for from interior linemen, and the Eagles made him a priority free agent.
- WR Anthony Mahoungou (Purdue) — A 6-3, 210-pound Paris native, Mahoungou has good size for wide receiver. He doesn’t have much production, though, although he came on last season with 34 catches for 570 yards and six scores.
- S Ryan Neal (Southern Illinois) — Neal, who is 6-2 and 192 pounds, played safety and cornerback in college. He started 32 of 45 games and led Southern Illinois with 84 tackles last season. He’s the brother of former Green Bay Packers linebacker Mike Neal.
- DE Joe Ostman (Central Michigan) — At 6-3 and 255 pounds, Ostman’s production jumped out at Central Michigan. He had 14 sacks, 20.5 tackles for a loss, and four forced fumbles in 11 games last season. If he can get to the quarterback in the NFL, he’ll find a job.
- OL Ian Park (Slippery Rock) — Although Park finished his college career at Slippery Rock, he started 16 games at Northwestern — eight at guard and eight at center. So he was a Big Ten player, which makes him different than a typical small-school prospect. Park is 6-4 and 315 pounds with interior line versatility.
- S Jeremy Reaves (South Alabama) — Reaves is one of the undrafted rookies who will garner the most attention. (Jeff McLane wrote about him over the weekend.) Reaves is 5-11 and 190 pounds and was the Sun Belt defensive player of the year last season with 104 tackles. He played cornerback and safety in college and is a big hitter with a ripe opportunity at a roster with an opening at safety.
- S Stephen Roberts (Auburn) — A starter at Auburn deserves attention on an undrafted rookie list. Roberts, 5-11 and 186 pounds with a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, played both safety spots in college. A former four-star recruit who had an off-field issue at Auburn, Roberts must prove his worth on special teams.
- CB Chandon Sullivan (Georgia State) — A four-year starter at Georgia State, Sullivan is 5-11 and 194 pounds with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash. The lack of speed is a challenge to overcome, but there is talent, production, and intelligence for the Eagles to evaluate.
- OL Toby Weathersby (Louisiana State) — Weathersby left LSU early and went undrafted, but he was good enough to start for the Tigers at right tackle. At 6-4 and 317 pounds, Weathersby doesn’t have standout athleticism at the position, but he’s played at the highest level in college football.
- WR Tim Wilson (East Stroudsburg) — A local product (Radnor) who earned a contract after trying out during rookie camp, Wilson now gets a chance as a wide receiver and returner. He’s 5-9 and 170 pounds and comes from a small school, so the odds are long. But he already earned a spot on the 90-man roster.
Thoughts on Matt Jones, LaRoy Reynolds
Since last week’s Early Birds, the Eagles have added two veterans. Here are some quick thoughts:
- Matt Jones signs a two-year contract: Two years ago, Matt Jones entered his second NFL season as the starting running back for the Washington Redskins. If you play fantasy football, you remember he was considered a sleeper that year. You also know the rest — Jones was injured after seven games and lost his starting job. He hasn’t found his footing in the NFL since. Jones has talent, as seen when he rushed for 135 yards against the Eagles in October 2016. He’s also a big back at 6-2 and 239 pounds. But NFL teams weren’t interested in him last year when he was on Indianapolis’ practice squad. The Eagles’ top three running backs are set in stone, barring injury: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, and Darren Sproles. Jones will need to compete with Donnel Pumphrey, Wendell Smallwood, and Josh Adams for the No. 4 (or No. 5) running back spot. It will be an uphill climb, but it won’t be impossible.
- LaRoy Reynolds joins the Eagles: Reynolds, 27, is a linebacker who has played five seasons for three teams in the NFL. Although Reynolds has started seven career games, this move was made with special teams in mind. Reynolds’ niche in the NFL has come on special teams. The Eagles made it an offseason priority to improve that unit. Reynolds averaged 17 special teams snaps per game last season. He can help as a depth linebacker, but if he’s on the team in 2018, it will be because of what he provides to Dave Fipp.
What you need to know about the Eagles
- What does Jeremy Reaves have in common with Brian Dawkins? You’ll need to read Jeff McLane‘s story to find out.
- Billy Brown is fourth on the depth chart at tight end. The Eagles will likely keep three tight ends. Can Brown earn a job? That was the question Les Bowen explored.
- Josh Sweat didn’t have the college career he wanted. The Eagles’ scheme might be what he needed all along. Bowen dug deeper on the rookie defensive end.
- Dallas Goedert and Carson Wentz were college rivals. Now, they’re teammates. Bowen has more.
- If you want a timetable for Wentz’s recovery, it wasn’t coming from Doug Pederson. All the coach said was that the Eagles will not rush their starting quarterback.
- If you missed the Philly.com Eagles chat on Tuesday, read the transcript to find out what was on the minds of fans.
From the mailbag
@ZBerm is Sidney Jones going to a immediate contributor this year?
— Black (@Black_SinS) May 16, 2018
Yes, I think Sidney Jones will be on the 46-man roster in Week 1 and contribute. I don’t know whether he’ll be a Day 1 starter, but I think he finds a way onto the field. Jones has so much talent. He has a year in the system, too. I need to see how he looks running this spring and summer, but he’ll be 18 months removed from the injury by Week 1. The Eagles are bullish on him. It’s not hyperbole to say Jones can eventually become the Eagles’ No. 1 cornerback, and it could happen sooner rather than later.
When will the Eagles retire #12 for Randall and #9 for Foles?
— Derrick Donnelly (@DerrickDonnelly) May 16, 2018
The Eagles haven’t officially retired Randall Cunningham’s number, but they haven’t given that number out, either. Nobody has worn No. 12 since Cunningham left. Maybe one day the Eagles will need to give it out, but let’s consider it unofficially retired at this point.
As for Nick Foles, I’m not sure he gets his number retired. You could argue a Super Bowl MVP deserves that honor, but that would be a tough precedent to set. It’s easier to retire a single-digit number because only quarterbacks, kickers, and punters are eligible to wear them, so fewer of those numbers are needed. But I don’t have an answer for you on this one. After all, he’s still playing. His story is not yet finished.
One a scale of 1-10, what’s your likelihood of these players being here this time next year?:
— Brandon D Banks. (@ReggaeBass4me) May 16, 2018
Do you mean on the 90-man roster next season? I don’t think Adam Zaruba has a long-term future with the team, so I’d put him around 2. I haven’t seen Jordan Mailata play in a game yet, so it’s hard for me to make a long-term judgment with him. But I think the Eagles will try to develop him on the active roster or practice squad, so I’d say 8. As for Donnel Pumphrey and Wendell Smallwood, it all depends how they look this summer. I’ll put a 6 for Pumphrey and a 4 for Smallwood. But if Smallwood looks rejuvenated this summer, my answer will be different.