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What They’re Saying: 7 Eagles OTAs Observations

These past two weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles engaged in the first set of full-team offseason workouts, known as Organized Team Activities (OTAs). Several of these practices were open to the media, and a few local reporters did fantastic jobs covering them and providing insightful commentary.

While the players were without pads and wearing shorts, something can always be gleaned from Chip Kelly practices. Here are 7 common/interesting observations from the reporting pack:

1. Alex Henery > Murderleg

One of the oft-criticized members of last year’s Eagles team was kicker Alex Henery, who made only eight out of twelve kicks (66%) from 40+ yards out and struggled with distance on kickoffs. Eagles fans were, as one can imagine, excited when the team signed UDFA Carey Spear, nicknamed “Murderleg,” who made 35 out of 43 kicks in his last two seasons at Vanderbilt and has a knack for big hits.

So far in OTAs, however, Henery has outperformed Spear, and it has not really been that close. As both Jimmy Kempski (Philly.com) and Brandon Gowton (BGN) pointed out in their Tuesday practice notes, Henery went 5-for-5 on field goals while Spear was only 4-for-5.

Kempski noted that “Henery was also far better on kickoffs,” with Jeff Mclane (The Inquirer) adding, “On kickoffs, Henery was stronger and more consistent.” Gowton mentioned that Spear even shanked one out of bounds.

2. Nicky Montana Looks Great

Foles with the Eagles’ newest QB, Mark Sanchez (photo: Philly.com)

Third-year quarterback Nick Foles obviously has a lot to live up to after last year’s 27 touchdown, 2 interception campaign, but by all accounts he is looking as good as ever.

Several writers mentioned Foles’ beautiful downfield pass to Jeremy Maclin for a long gain on Tuesday. Sheil Kapadia (Birds 24/7) gave the best account, writing, “Foles delivers the ball of the day. He fakes a handoff and rolls to his right. On the run, he delivers a beauty to Maclin down the right sideline. Williams has good coverage, but the throw is perfect.” Several also noted a beautiful 20-yard completion to Arrelious Benn.

Overall, the consensus among the media is that Foles seems to have a very solid grasp of the offense and has kept his mechanics and arm sharp. Dave Spadaro (philadelphiaeagles.com) said, “Foles has really looked sharp, and he remains as unflappable a young man as I’ve seen in these halls for many, many years.”

3. Plethora of Kick Returners

A few Eagles got a chance to field kick returns, a role Chip Kelly has still yet to fill. Both McLane and Gowton wrote that Nolan Carroll, Josh Huff, Damaris Johnson, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Brandon Boykin, and Jordan Matthews got reps returning kicks.

While Sproles appears to be best-suited to return punts, McLane and fellow Inquirer writer Zach Berman believe Josh Huff will be the guy returning kicks come Week 1. Gowton also noted that it will likely come down to Sproles or Huff.

4. Kendricks Sees Role Expanded

In a recent column, McLane wrote about inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks calling plays and setting the first-team defense during OTAs, traditionally veteran DeMeco Ryans’ role. It will be interesting to monitor how Chip Kelly handles the defensive play-calling duties, and what it means for the team’s linebacking future. Perhaps the Eagles are planning for a future after Ryans, or maybe they just want Kendricks to be ready in case Ryans goes down with an injury. Whatever the case is, Kendricks is entering his third season in the NFL, and an expanded role will perhaps serve to galvanize him into putting it all together like we’ve seen him do in spurts before.

5. Bennie Logan Put On Weight for NT Role

Bennie Logan, whom the Eagles drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft, will never be Haloti Ngata. He’s just not that type of nose tackle. He did, however, put on a few extra pounds this offseason, and looks bigger than last year at 317 pounds.

Sparado writes, “Bennie Logan is up to about 317 pounds and looks beastly. He’s got the heft to anchor inside at nose tackle, and with a year of development he’s got a chance to make this young defensive front even better than it was a year ago.”

Billy Davis seems to really like Logan as the team’s 3-4 NT, valuing his mobility and athleticism rather than his size. Getting bigger, however, will still help him fight off blocks and get to the next level, which will allow him to use that athleticism to make game-changing plays in the backfield.

6. Blake Annen: Early Practice Squad Candidate

Both Kempski and Gowton pointed out undrafted free agent tight end Blake Annen this week, and not for a good reason. They mentioned him dropping a few passes in each of the last two practices open to the media.

McLane, however, focused on his size and blocking, both of which he noted as stellar. The Eagles already have three NFL-ready tight ends in Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and James Casey, but given how much Chip Kelly values blocking at the position, Annen could find his way onto the practice squad in anticipation of a future with the team, which McLane duly noted. He still has time to work on his receiving, and if he can sure that up, he could find his way onto an NFL roster at some point next season.

7. The Jordan Matthews Hype Train Has Left the Station

Matthews addresses the media following a practice (photo: Philly.com)

Not a single bad thing was said about rookie wideout Jordan Matthews. At one point, Nick Foles even said, “I love him.”

Kempski and Gowton both agree he looked like the best receiver on the team at OTAs, while putting into context by saying that veterans do not usually take June practices as seriously as younger guys. Still, he found great rapport with Mark Sanchez in 7-on-7/11-on-11 drills and made numerous noteworthy catches. Most importantly, however, he impressed all with his attitude and work ethic, which bode very well for the future.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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