5 Players to Consider During Philadelphia Eagles OTA's

5 Players to Consider During Philadelphia Eagles OTA's

NFL teams are heading into a six-week hiatus before training camp kicks off in late July. For the first time under coach Nick Sirianni, the Philadelphia Eagles participated in a mandatory minicamp before taking this break. Sirianni aimed to "get some extra practices in" following the team’s dramatic collapse at the end of the 2023 season. Additionally, the coaching staff used this time to conduct meetings typically held during training camp and handle standard organizational tasks like player physicals. This adjusted schedule provided a clearer view of the team’s offseason progress.

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Here are five observations from mandatory minicamp, focusing on less established players in the 91-man roster.

Kelee Ringo, CB

The Eagles’ decision to feature Ringo with the first-team defense for most of minicamp should be taken with a grain of caution. Darius Slay remains the top cornerback, and the plan to cross-train James Bradberry at safety, though surprising, makes sense given his decline in 2023. It’s common for rookies to start lower on the depth chart.

Nonetheless, Ringo stood out among the veteran cornerbacks. His coverage skills were notably polished, deflecting multiple passes and shadowing A.J. Brown closely enough to earn praise from the Pro Bowl receiver. Ringo also kept pace with the speedy John Ross on a deep sideline throw that fell incomplete.

General manager Howie Roseman traded up to draft Ringo at No. 105 overall in 2023, and Ringo’s combination of size (6-2, 207 pounds) and speed (4.36-second 40-yard dash) is promising. He showcased his speed by chasing down rookie running back Will Shipley on what could have been a breakaway play. If Ringo becomes a reliable cornerback, he could offer a long-term solution, especially with Slay, 33, under contract until 2025. Even if Ringo doesn't start immediately, the new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s system will benefit from a deep secondary. The Eagles’ early draft focus on cornerbacks this year aims to solidify a previously weak secondary, reducing the need for future investments in the position.

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Cooper DeJean, CB

Continuing with cornerbacks, the Eagles are keen on finding roles for DeJean. Known for his playmaking at Iowa, where he had three pick-sixes and a punt return touchdown, DeJean played nickel with the second-team rotation and outside corner with the third team. He was also active in nearly all special teams units, not just as a returner.

On the final minicamp day, DeJean excelled in kickoff practice under the NFL’s new rules, splitting blockers to close on the returner for a non-contact "tackle," earning praise from the coaching staff. There’s a potential 2024 role for DeJean similar to a young Tyrann Mathieu: a versatile nickel defender who also contributes to special teams. Although he dropped a potential interception against Jalen Hurts, prompting veteran safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson to offer some stern words, DeJean has shown a knack for making big plays.

Johnny Wilson, WR

Concerns about Wilson’s route-running and pass-catching persisted through the draft process, leading to his sixth-round selection by the Eagles. However, Wilson impressed during OTAs and minicamp with several outstanding catches in tight coverage. He displayed remarkable agility for his 6-6, 231-pound frame, making a near-sideways snag just above the turf and a leaping touchdown grab over Isaiah Rodgers.

The Eagles boast one of the NFL’s top receiving duos in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, but they need to reduce the drop-off seen last season. While minicamp provides a limited view, if Wilson continues to refine his skills, his size could offer Jalen Hurts a unique target, complementing Brown and Smith effectively.

Zack Baun, LB

Baun struggled to find his place with the New Orleans Saints over four seasons. Upon signing with the Eagles, he expected to primarily play as an edge rusher. However, during minicamp, he found himself as a first-team inside linebacker alongside Devin White. New linebacker coach Bobby King explained that while drills were no-contact, the staff wanted to see Baun’s coverage skills as an inside linebacker. Though Baun needs improvement, he wasn’t a consistent liability.

The Eagles’ linebacker unit was exploited in pass coverage last season, prompting an overhaul. White, a 2019 first-round pick, intercepted a deflected Hurts pass during minicamp. While White is the frontrunner for a starting spot, Baun has a chance to secure the other, especially with Nakobe Dean recovering from Lisfranc surgery after two stints on injured reserve in 2023.

Kenny Pickett, QB

Jalen Hurts is the Eagles’ starter, but the team values a strong backup quarterback. Pickett, the No. 20 pick in 2022, had a rocky start with the Pittsburgh Steelers. A fresh start with a deeper offensive roster could provide stability.

Pickett impressed in five open practices, throwing the only touchdown on the first day of OTAs and connecting with Wilson for a deep touchdown over Isaiah Rodgers. He also hit Ross with a 20-yard pass on the first day of minicamp, exploiting a mismatch against Brandon Graham. The Eagles may benefit from a reliable QB2 in Pickett, while he gets an opportunity to revive his career.

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