Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Wright time and place?  

Eagles camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Wright time and place?  

After spending his first two years in the NFL with two different teams, veteran defensive tackle Gabe Wright is hoping he's found a home with the Eagles

If nothing else, he's more ready for his opportunity now. 

"My mentality is a little different," Wright said this week. "I didn't really know how to be a pro then. I'll admit to that."

The Lions took Wright in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Auburn. As a rookie, he played in seven games and started one, but the Lions cut him before the 2016 season. Wright spent last season with the Browns, playing in five games as he split time between the active roster and the practice squad. The Browns cut him in May, and the Eagles signed him a few weeks later. 

The number of roster spots on the defensive line is tight, but Wright has been steadily more impressive as camp moves on. He's happy to be back in an attacking 4-3 defense. 

"I tell my wife this all the time: Some people just have it when they get in, the Aaron Donalds of the world," Wright said. "Some people always have it. Then there are those who take a little time, maybe even bounce around a little. Sooner or later, stuff just clicks. A new environment can help that, new surroundings."

Wright said it helps to have other examples of players who didn't thrive upon their arrival to the NFL. He specifically mentioned former No. 1 pick Jadeveon Clowney, who had his career slowed down by injuries until last season when he became a Pro Bowler. 

While Wright admits he's "nowhere near arrived," he at least thinks he's on the right track. He credits some veterans he's played with over the last two years for helping him learn to be a pro. 

As far as those lessons go, one came from former Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp. When the two played together in Detroit, Tapp taught the rookie to use the cold tub after every practice. Wright still does it. Another lesson was that one bad day of practice can wipe out three good days — consistency is key. 

Wright is just hoping to finally stick with a team.   

"I hope so," he said. "That's how I'm looking at it. They say don't put all your eggs in one basket, but this is everything for me. I'm just happy for the opportunity." 

Splitting time in the slot? 
Since Jordan Matthews joined the Eagles as a rookie in 2014, he's been the Eagles' slot receiver. Things don't seem quite that clear and easy anymore. 

After Monday's practice, offensive coordinator Frank Reich certainly made it seem like Matthews is in a competition with Nelson Agholor to earn playing time from the slot receiver position in 2017. 

"Every spot is up for competition," Reich said. "The way we kind of roll things is we're always looking for guys who make plays. So Nelson has had a real strong spring and camp. So the way we do it is it's kind of by play. Sometimes we'll switch guys up. We'll see what a defense does from a coverage standpoint, and then we want to attack that coverage."

The questions about the slot position have come up recently since NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said he expected Agholor to be the Eagles' slot receiver and didn't know what that meant for Matthews. 

The Eagles' receiving corps is much different now than it has been for the last few years after adding Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith in the offseason. Reich brought up the extra competition on Monday when asked if things are different with the slot receiver position this season. 

"So, yeah, I think it is a little bit different than last year," Reich said. 

But if Agholor does play in the slot, what does that mean for Matthews? 

"Jordan can play outside," Reich said. "We can be in four receivers and have two slots. We don't want to take our tight ends off the field too much. We have a bunch of different personnel packages, and we'll just continue to mix them up week by week."

Getting a chance
During Monday's practice, right guard Brandon Brooks left early with an ankle issue and was replaced by offseason acquisition Chance Warmack. 

It's notable that Warmack was the next guy up and not Stefen Wisniewski, who signed a three-year deal to stay in Philly this offseason. 

"You know, I think Chance has gotten better every week," Reich said. "[He has] really embraced what we do and how we do it. Obviously, being reunited with [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland] has been a good thing. A great room — it's a great culture in that room. So he's very tough. Physical. Strong hands, very good run blocker. So those are the things you see in his game."

Warmack was the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft but has never quite lived up to that status. His hope in joining the Eagles was that his college position coach would be able to help him rediscover that magic. 

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

Ronald Darby has potential to change how frequent Eagles blitz

The Eagles blitzed early and often during their second exhibition game against the Bills last week, and unlike much of what we see in preseason, it actually could be a sign of what’s to come.

No NFL defense used a standard four-man pass rush with greater frequency than the Eagles in 2016 at 79.3 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders Almanac. (Conversely, the team that rushed four the fewest was the Jets at 49.2 percent.) This has long been the philosophy of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who prefers to generate pressure from the front four without drawing on help from linebackers and defensive backs.

Schwartz also may have been more hesitant to blitz than usual last season out of fear a weak secondary would not be able to hold up in coverage. Now that the Eagles acquired cornerback Ronald Darby in a trade, the defense may have the freedom to send additional pressure.

“A lot of times, your blitz really depends on how well your corners are going,” Schwartz said Monday after practice (see 10 observations). “The more help you're getting in the corners, obviously, the less guys that you can use to blitz, so they certainly both go hand in hand.”

The Bills game almost certainly does not represent a fundamental shift in Schwartz’s strategy. The Eagles are not expected to go from blitzing the least in the league to sending extra rushers on every other play.

It’s only preseason — a time when coaches are evaluating everything.

“We didn't scheme up, we used more of our scheme,” Schwartz said. “Everything that we ran in that game, we had run 50 times in training camp. It was all sort of base stuff, but there were some different things we were looking at.”

So nothing to see here, right? Maybe, but if nothing else, this goes to show Schwartz is working from a larger playbook than it might have seemed in '16, when the Eagles rigidly sent four rushers down after down.

Having a potential shutdown cornerback in Darby, or at least a competent tandem along with Jalen Mills, could provide the Eagles' defense with the flexibility it sorely lacked last season. It may merely be a matter of getting Darby up to speed in the system, considering his arrival was less than two weeks ago.

“He's pretty close,” Schwartz said. “There are some situations that don't come up very often where he's still maybe a step slow when a safety makes a call, but everything is installed.

“He has it. It's just a matter of repping it enough times that he feels comfortable with it, and we're still a work in progress there.”

Darby impressed in his Eagles debut last Thursday, recording one interception and letting another go through his fingertips (see story). However, the third-year defensive back is coming off of a down season in Buffalo, so it’s not necessarily a given he’ll continue producing at a high level.

In order for Schwartz to feel comfortable with getting creative, Darby must continue to demonstrate not only his individual ability, but that he’s also able to work in concert with the rest of the secondary.

“There is something with a corner and safety communication,” Schwartz said. “The safety is making calls, there’s a lot of moving parts — motion can change a technique the corner makes, and anticipating that motion, and sort of being one step ahead — so it certainly would help a corner to have that.”

Since his arrival, Darby has already changed the complexion of the defense, putting another playmaker in the secondary. The Eagles are making some tweaks to his technique — he’s working with legendary safety Brian Dawkins, and catching balls from the JUGS machine in the hopes of converting more pass breakups into picks.

And if Darby turns out to be everything the Eagles hope, he may even allow the Eagles' defense to get after the quarterback a bit more.

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

Eagles trade Matt Tobin to Seahawks

The Eagles have traded another backup offensive lineman.

This time, Howie Roseman sent veteran guard/tackle Matt Tobin and a 2018 seventh-round pick to Seattle in exchange for the Seahawks' 2018 fifth-round pick.

The move saves the Eagles $850,000 in cap room. The Eagles had $12.2 million coming into Monday, according to NFLPA records.

Tobin, 27, joined the Eagles in 2013 and played in 42 games, with 21 starts, over the last four seasons. In 2015, he started 13 games at right guard.

The move to trade Tobin comes just a little less than a month after the Eagles dealt Allen Barbre to Denver for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2019. (They were planning on releasing Barbre before the Broncos called.) Both Tobin and Barbre were versatile backups who could play guard and tackle for the Eagles.

Last summer, the Eagles traded another backup offensive lineman, Dennis Kelly, to Tennessee for Dorial Green-Beckham, who didn't even make it to training camp with the Eagles this year.

Because Jason Peters missed the second preseason game last Thursday for personal reasons, Lane Johnson started at left tackle. And because Halapoulivaati Vaitai missed the game with a knee injury, Tobin actually started at right tackle. Perhaps Seattle saw enough in that game to think he can help them this season.

Meanwhile, the two trades in the last month probably speak to the Eagles' confidence in their depth along the offensive line. They still have Stefen Wisniewski, Chance Warmack and Dallas Thomas as their top backups inside and Vaitai and Dillon Gordon as their top backups at tackle.