Eagles Training Camp opens today with the Birds rookies getting things started at the Nova Care Complex. I think they will be practicing inside today because the field is going to be very wet from the overnight rain.
This will be an extremely important time for the team’s first-year players because they’ll be trying to get a deeper understanding of the offensive and defensive systems which they’ll be playing in when the preseason games start.
Rookie camp gives the coaches some time to focus on teaching the youngsters. They get repetitions in practice and that allows the coaches to get an idea of where they are at in the process.
All the quarterbacks will be there which means veterans Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel will be taking part in the workouts this week. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz will be getting his reps and it will be an important time for him as he gets more comfortable in Doug Pederson’s West Coast offense. Wentz will start off the season at third string and that will make it difficult for him to get on the field, unless Bradford plays poorly or gets injured.
With Wentz on the bench, I think the rookie on the offensive side of the ball that will contribute the most in his first year is fifth round pick, West Virginia running back Wendell Smallwood. He’s got great hands and speed, plus he does a very, good job of running routes out of the backfield. Peterson’s West Coast offense considers a short pass to a running back, part of the running game. Smallwood could get plenty of opportunity in a backfield with an injury-prone Ryan Mathews and an aging Darren Sproles. Kenyon Barner is the other running back in the group and he’s still unproven. I could see Smallwood touching the football 5 to 10 times a game.
On the defensive side of the ball, seventh round draft pick cornerback Jalen Mills has a chance of playing this year. Mills was solid at the cornerback position during OTA’s. He has great quickness and is fundamentally sound.
I expect former Bills corner Leodis McKelvin and Nolan Carroll to be the starters at the cornerback position, but Mills will get some playing time. Ron Brooks is likely to be nickel back for the Birds because he and McKelvin played for defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz a couple years ago in Buffalo.
I expect Mills to be a backup, but he will get on the field when the Birds play “Dime”, so he should get some consistent playing time.
The Eagles third round draft pick guard Isaac Seumalo will be trying to catch up with the rest of the offensive line when he works out this morning.
Both Smallwood and Mills were drafted later than they should have been because each had a brush with the legal system. Smallwood was accused of being involved in witness intimidation in a murder case in Wilmington, Delaware and Mills was accused of beating up a girlfriend.