As Eagles rookie minicamp comes to a close, it’s time to dissect the brief glimpses we got of our young talent.
A lot can change between now and the beginning of training camp in August, but the opportunity to breakdown some actual on-field play in midnight green is always fun, especially after free agency and the NFL Draft.
Here are four major takeaways from the three-day rookie minicamp this past weekend.
DeVonta Smith is as advertised
The prized possession of the Eagles 2021 draft class, DeVonta Smith looks every bit the part of a top tier rookie wideout.
“As advertised, he catches everything,” Sirianni said of Smith following the first day on the field. “If that ball touches his hands, he’s catching it. He’s really long. He’s got long arms and a big catch radius. He showed length, incredible hands, and excellent ability to change directions at the top of the route. It is even better than on tape, to be 100 percent honest with you. It was great to see him in person.” Sirianni continued to say that Smith’s relentless work ethic is ‘contagious.’
This isn’t a surprise to anyone who’s followed Smith’s collegiate career or paid extra attention to him during the pre-draft process. He’s here to be the game changer on the outside that the Eagles haven’t had since Terrell Owens. That’s a high bar to set for a guy who hasn’t taken an NFL snap, but if there’s anything that’s set in stone as far as Smith is concerned, it’s that he’s always up for the challenge.
Along with being the precise route runner and excellent catcher of the football that we all expected during minicamp, Smith was also ‘as advertised’ in the size department.
If Smith had suffered a few injuries during his college days, or if his outstanding numbers were accumulated in any other conference beside the SEC, then the concerns about his size would be a bit more warranted. But if the size didn’t hinder his play against the best competition in college sports, it won’t hinder him at the NFL level as much as some fans may think.
Landon Dickerson takes the field
The timetable for second round pick Landon Dickerson‘s NFL debut is still unclear, but the fact that he suited up and took part in walkthroughs this past weekend is a sign that he’s further along in the recovery process than some may have expected.
Dickerson tore his ACL in December of last year, causing him to miss the rest of his final collegiate season — although he did suit up and play one snap during Alabama’s blowout victory over OSU in the National Championship game.
“For him this weekend, it’s just the walkthroughs,” Sirianni said of Dickerson. “Being involved in the walkthroughs, learning the offense, so a lot of the goals we just talked about with everybody else, obviously, he can’t do them at the same speed.”
Despite Dickerson not going through drills at full speed, there’s something to be said for his speedy recovery that allowed him to even participate in walkthroughs. As long as he doesn’t re-aggravate his knee, all signs are pointing towards Dickerson being ready to go at full speed during training camp.
UDFA Trevon Grimes impresses
Among all the undrafted free agents the Eagles brought in this offseason, the one fans seem the most excited about is former Florida wideout Trevon Grimes. And according to Sirianni, he didn’t disappoint during his rookie minicamp session.
“The one thing that really is hard to teach and you can’t teach is that speed, and you can’t teach size,” Sirianni said when giving his first impressions on Grimes and fellow undrafted rookie, Jhamon Ausbon out of Texas A&M. “You got out there today and they are, they’re impressive. They have impressive statures about them. Obviously, we knew that about them and we knew their heights and weights. We knew them up close. We’ve seen them up close. And yeah, they have that size.”
Grimes will be fighting for playing time at the X position once training camp rolls around. As it stands right now, it appears that’ll be the wide receiver position with the most competition. DeVonta Smith is primed to slot in as the Z receiver, while reports indicate that Jalen Reagor could shift into the slot this season to better utilize his quickness and big play ability.
Aside from Grimes and Ausbon, the other two Eagles who will likely be fighting for that starting spot are Travis Fulgham and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. I imagine that the competition will ultimately come down to Grimes and Fulgham.
Eagles bring in an intriguing former second round pick for a tryout
While rookie minicamp is mostly dedicated to introducing the rookies into the NFL world, it’s also a time where teams can give tryouts to free agents still looking for a home. Among the veterans the Eagles decided to tryout this weekend was former second round pick Obi Melifonwu. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you heard his brother, Ifeatu Melifonwu, get drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions just a few weeks ago.
The eldest of the Melifonwu siblings, Obi has all the tools to be a solid defensive back in the NFL, but a knee injury derailed his rookie campaign, and he’s been unable to shake the injury bug ever since.
Standing at 6’3”, 224 pounds, his frame may a bit more conducive to a safety role, but the Eagles brought him as a cornerback, which is interesting. It may be an indication into the style of defense Jonathan Gannon will employ this season.
We’ve speculated that he’ll like run a cover 2, press-man scheme in a 4-3 base front. Having Melifonwu slide down to corner makes sense if that’s the route Gannon is going to take — his bigger body and physical nature gives him an edge in press situations, and his skill set fits into a zone scheme as well.
There’s playing time to be had at the cornerback position. Melifonwu has as good a chance as any corner on this roster to snag that No. 2 corner spot opposite of Darius Slay. If Melifonwu can manage to stay healthy, he’ll at the very least be a solid depth piece for the Eagles secondary.