Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

AP Images

Eagles sign Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to be tight end

The Eagles didn't just look north of the border for their newest player. They looked to a completely different sport. 

On Monday afternoon, the Birds signed undrafted free agent and Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba to a three-year contract, although the length of the contract is standard. 

Zaruba, a 26-year-old Vancouver native, had a tryout before being signed, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson confirmed earlier on Monday. 

Listed at 6-5, 265 pounds, Zaruba is the Eagles' biggest tight end, even bigger than Brent Celek (6-4, 255). While the Eagles have three tight end spots locked up — Celek, Zach Ertz and Trey Burton — Zaruba will likely need to shine on offense and as a special teamer if he has any chance to make the team. 

While this isn't Zaruba's first time playing football, it is his first time playing football in a while. His last competitive football game came in high school, according to TheProvince

Zaruba redshirted as a football player in his freshman year at college and then never played after that, becoming a full-time member of the Canadian national rugby team by 2014. 

He's apparently made a name for himself in the rugby world. Here are some highlights, including an impressive one-handed grab: 

It likely won't be an easy transition from rugby to American football, but the Eagles were probably impressed by Zaruba's athleticism. On June 29, he posted a video to his Instagram account claiming he ran a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash while weighting 260 pounds. To put that into perspective, that time would have ranked second among all tight end competitors at this year's combine and would have been faster than the time put up by 19th overall pick O.J. Howard. 

Zaruba isn't the first rugby player to attempt the conversion to the NFL. The most famous example is Patriots' special teamer Nate Ebner. The U.S. rugby player has played for the Patriots since 2012 and was a second-team All-Pro in 2016. 

After signing Zaruba, the Eagles' roster is full at 90 men.

Eagles training camp Day 1 observations: At least some of the team is here

Eagles training camp Day 1 observations: At least some of the team is here

The Eagles took the field for the first time for training camp Monday morning. 

At least some of the Eagles. 

Quarterbacks, rookies and select veterans had their first practice at the NovaCare Complex. That meant 34 players were on the field, creating a media-to-player ratio of about 2 to 1. 

The rest of the Eagles won't report for camp until Wednesday afternoon and the first full-team practice of camp isn't until Thursday morning. And even that's just a light 10-10-10 practice. 

No surprise: Carson Wentz was the first player on the field Monday. He arrived at 8:31 a.m. for the 8:50 practice. 

With so few players, there weren't many observations to choose from, but we were still able to piece together a list of 10. Here they are: 

1. Among the few select veterans on the field were cornerback Ron Brooks and linebacker Joe Walker, who are both coming back from significant injuries. 

Brooks was the Eagles' slot cornerback in 2016 before suffering a ruptured quad tendon in October. He played a lot before the injury and when he went down, Malcolm Jenkins was forced into the slot. 

"He's right there in the mix," head coach Doug Pederson said about Brooks. "He's obviously our nickel defender, nickel corner."

Walker, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and missed his entire rookie year. He was the Eagles' backup middle linebacker before the injury and could play a big role as a reserve in 2017. 

Both players participated in 7-on-7 drills. Brooks has a sleeve on his right leg, but Walker wore no kind of support. The team did not do any 11-on-11 drills Monday. 

2. The first true completed pass of training camp (against the defense) was from Wentz to second-year receiver Marcus Johnson, who was on the practice squad in 2016. Johnson is a name to watch as training camp rolls on. With a year of experience under his belt, Johnson had a really solid spring. 

3. Draft pick Shelton Gibson changed his number from 80 to 18 (DGB's old number) but didn't find better results Monday. He dropped several passes, which was a problem for him during OTAs and minicamp. Pederson said he's not concerned about Gibson's drops but did admit the young WR isn't where the team or Gibson himself wants him to be. 

4. Beau Allen is on the Active/Non-football Injury list, but the big defensive tackle was on a side field working out as he recovers from a torn pec he suffered in the spring. Pederson wouldn't put any kind of timetable for his return. Allen was tossing around a heavy-looking medicine ball up and down the unlined field. 

5. Mack Hollins, the wideout from North Carolina, dropped a deep pass early in the day but recovered to have a really good practice. He still isn't wearing receiver gloves, for those wondering. 

6. Hollins isn't wearing gloves, but Sidney Jones (Achilles) is. The injured cornerback was just a spectator on Monday but decided to wear some gloves anyway. The Eagles are clearly trying to keep him involved with the team and his fellow defensive backs even while he can't be on the field working. 

7. The play of the day came from undrafted receiver Greg Ward out of Houston. The former quarterback leaped up over former CFL All-Star Mitchell White to pull in a one-handed grab in the end zone on a pass from Nick Foles. Ward also changed his number from 4 to 89 for training camp. 

8. Brooks made a really solid play Monday while working from his slot position. He broke up a pass intended for Ward in the end zone. The ball fluttered in the air and Gibson was almost able to make a diving catch. But it fell incomplete. 

9. At one point there was some confusion with the linebackers in 7-on-7. It seemed like Nate Gerry and Don Cherry were out of sorts a little bit, but they got it corrected. A little later, Cherry had trouble covering Donnel Pumphrey, which shouldn't be a surprise. Pumphrey is going to be a tough assignment for any linebacker. 

10. If it sounds like a practice with 34 players might lack some excitement and enthusiasm, well, you're kind of right. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wasn't sleeping. He was plenty vocal in the team's first practice. He's already in mid-season form. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: With so few players, it's hard to get too competitive. During offensive drills, Foles needed to take some handoffs from the other quarterbacks. And tight ends coach Justin Peele has just one player in camp right now: Billy Brown from Shepherd. Brown is going to get some 1-on-1 training for the next couple days. 

10 Eagles to watch during 2017 training camp

10 Eagles to watch during 2017 training camp

The Eagles kick off their 2017 training camp this week for a season with higher expectations than a year ago. 

A big reason for that is because Carson Wentz is entering his second season after an up-and-down, yet promising, rookie campaign. We're not going to list him as a player to watch because we're all going to watch him anyway. 

Another big reason for optimism is plenty of newcomers. Many of them are listed. 

Here are 10 players to watch during Eagles training camp 2017: 

Nelson Agholor 
We mentioned the newcomers, but let's start with a guy who has been here for a couple of disappointing seasons. Agholor will probably never live up to his draft status, but now it's just about making him a decent NFL player. This spring, he was the best receiver on the field, which was undeniable as it was infuriating to fans. Because it just hasn't translated into games and until it does, no one will care much. But it's worth watching to see if he can continue his impressive offseason. Maybe this year, with a reduced role, he won't be a headcase. 

Derek Barnett
The first-round pick showed some impressive signs during the spring, especially when he beat Lane Johnson a few times 1-on-1. But now the pads go on and the real football begins. Barnett has a real chance to not just earn playing time but also earn a starting job during this training camp. 

Ron Brooks/Joe Walker
We cheated a little here by lumping these two together, but it kind of makes sense. Both are coming back from serious injuries, which is why we need to see what they can do. Walker tore his ACL during the preseason a year ago. Before he did, he was set to be the team's backup middle linebacker. It wasn't until his injury that the Eagles went out and signed Stephen Tulloch. And Brooks was playing OK as the Eagles' slot cornerback before his ruptured quad tendon in October. Jim Schwartz seems to really like him, but many folks have seemingly forgotten about Brooks this offseason. 

Timmy Jernigan
Of all the newcomers, Jernigan might be the most overlooked, but could also make the biggest impact. He's here with just one year left on his contract but will get a chance to put up some serious numbers while playing next to Fletcher Cox on the interior line. 

LeGarrette Blount
Blount reportedly has language written into his contract that gives him bonuses based on staying under 250 pounds. Even if he's under 250, Blount is still a big back, about 20 pounds heavier than rookie Corey Clement. Blount is up there in age and had a huge workload for the Patriots last season. How much does he have left? 

Rasul Douglas 
Of all the Eagles' rookies, Douglas might need to have the most immediate impact. The third-round pick might be thrust into a major role this season just because of the lack of talent at the cornerback position. He was impressive in the spring but is bound to have ups and downs as a rookie. 

Alshon Jeffery 
The Eagles actually have a real No. 1 receiver. Jeffery made some spectacular catches during the spring, but he and Wentz need to build their rapport, which they had extra time to do when the receivers went to North Dakota. We'll see how far along he and Wentz are soon enough. 

Donnel Pumphrey
It's pretty shocking to see how small Pumphrey looks without pads, especially standing next to Blount. How will the Eagles use the tiny running back? Will he be more of a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot? And can his body really hold up in the NFL? 

Isaac Seumalo 
Yeah, we're telling you an interior offensive lineman is a guy to watch. Seumalo has a real chance to beat out Allen Barbre for the starting left guard position. Either way, Seumalo figures into the Eagles' plans for the future as a guard or as the center who eventually takes over for Jason Kelce. 

Mack Hollins
Of the rookie receivers, Hollins was clearly more impressive this spring. I became convinced Hollins can play football in shorts and a helmet. Now, we'll get to see how he does when the pads go on. With his size/speed combo, he's certainly an intriguing prospect.