NFL draft: Breaking down Eagles' division rivals


NFL draft: Breaking down Eagles' division rivals

We know how the Eagles' draft picks stack up, so here's a look at the rest of the NFC East:

New York Giants
The Giants surprised a lot of their fans by passing on Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald and Notre Dame OL Zack Martin at No. 12 to select LSU WR Odell Beckham. And while I believe addressing either their offensive or defensive line was their top priority, it's hard to argue with taking a playmaker like Beckham.

The Giants lost Hakeem Nicks to the Colts this offseason, and giving Eli Manning more weapons may help him bounce back after an atrocious 2013 season. On the flip side, this draft was so deep at WR, New York may have been smart to grab either Donald or Martin at No. 12 and wait until the second or third round to load up on offensive weapons.

I loved their second-round selection, Colorado State offensive lineman Weston Richburg. He played center in college but can move out to guard if they need him to in the pros. Richburg was my top center in the draft and should start immediately.

They reached a bit for Syracuse DT Jay Bromley in the third round, but he should be able to contribute immediately as a run-stuffer.

Fourth-rounder Andre Williams, a RB out of Boston College, could be a workhorse in time, but may be a short-yardage back behind Rashad Jennings in the near future. Hard to not like a guy who ran for 2,177 yards in 2013.

The Giants failed to address their hole at tight end, but after the first four came off the board, I didn't see any candidates who would be much of an impact player.

The Giants' draft was solid and hinges on whether Beckham can make a big impact on an offense that often stalled out in 2013.

Washington Redskins
Redskins fans rejoice!

This was the last draft the 'Skins endured under the debilitating 2012 RG3 trade with St. Louis. But just to rub things in, with the picks the Rams got from Washington for the second overall pick in the 2012 draft (obviously used to draft Robert Griffin III), St. Louis was able to select the following players (thanks to some additional wheeling and dealing): DT Michael Brockers, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB Alec Ogletree, WR Stedman Bailey, RB Zac Stacy and OT Greg Robinson. A very nice haul indeed.

With that out of the way, despite not having their first-round pick (would have been second overall), the 'Skins came away with some decent pieces in some needed areas.

In the second round, the 'Skins traded down with the Cowboys from No. 34 (Dallas selected Boise St. defensive end Demarcus Lawrence) to No. 47 (and received Dallas' third-round pick, No. 78) and selected Stanford DE/OLB Trent Murphy. I have always liked Murphy just based on the tenacious play -- the guy just doesn't stop coming, and his 15 sacks in 2013 led the nation. But the more I watched him, the more I didn't think he would be a guy who could get to the QB consistently in the NFL. He's just not that quick off the ball, and most of his sacks were effort sacks.

But with Brian Orakpo most likely leaving next season, Washington's thought process is understandable. I just may have stood pat at 34 and taken Lawrence instead, but Murphy is the kind of player you want to battle with every week and could turn out to be a poor man's Ryan Kerrigan.

In the third round, the 'Skins addressed a porous offensive line by drafting Virginia tackle Morgan Moses (No. 66) and Nebraska guard Spencer Long (No. 78). I thought Moses had first-round talent; he should be able to step in at RT immediately, displacing the inconsistent Tyler Polumbus, and be a backup to LT Trent Williams as well.

Long, who has been injury-prone over the past two seasons, could replace Chris Chester at RG if he's completely healed from an MCL tear he sustained last season. I would have been more impressed if the 'Skins grabbed Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson instead (he went three picks later to the Raiders at No. 81).

The Skins' last pick of consequence, at least in my eyes, was Clemson CB Bashaud Breeland. A tough, stout corner, Breeland adds quality depth to a thin secondary. I thought Breeland could have gone as early as the late second round, so good value there.

The Redskins added good depth and two or three potential starters despite not having a first-round pick. Nothing sexy here, just solid across the board.

Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys disappointed a lot of people by passing on Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel at No. 16. Not only did they pass on perhaps the biggest wild card in the draft, but they also instead made the first-round's most boring pick in Notre Dame OT Zack Martin. But boring doesn't mean bad, and Martin should plug in to Dallas' offensive line either at RT or LG and make them a whole lot better. Jerry Jones actually made a smart decision here.

In the second round, Jones swapped second-round picks and gave up his third-round pick to Washington to select Lawrence at No. 34. I like Lawrence, and with all the top safeties off the board, grabbing one of the rare pass rushers in the draft made sense for them even if it meant paying a steep price.

The rest of Dallas' draft was a mixed bag. A reach in the fourth round for Iowa LB Anthony Hitchens, who they probably could have gotten much later in the draft, was followed by the acquisition of pick No. 148 from the Lions in exchange for No. 158 and No. 229 so they could select Pitt WR Devin Street.

I think they would have been much better off staying where they were and selecting either Princeton DT Caraun Reid or Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis. Baylor S Ahmad Dixon (No. 248) and Oregon CB Terrance Mitchell (254) in the seventh round could prove to be great depth picks.

The Boys got two nice pieces in the first two rounds in Martin and Lawrence, but with the number of picks they had I would have liked to have seen more guys who can make impacts sooner.

Eagles training camp Day 2 observations: Barnett's inside moves

Eagles training camp Day 2 observations: Barnett's inside moves

It's the middle of summer but the Eagles got plenty of cloud cover and a cool morning for Day 2 of training camp on Tuesday. 

If only they could bottle up this weather and bring it to next week. 

Still just quarterbacks, rookies and select veterans at camp — just 34 players. The 35th would have been new tight end and Canadian rugby star Adam Zaruba, but he wasn't in camp yet. He still needs to get a visa. 

Let's hop into the observations: 

1. Derek Barnett has already shown flashes early in training camp of what made him a first-round pick. The former Tennessee star has had his trademark bend around the edge on display, beating Dillon Gordon on Tuesday. But Barnett needs to develop more. 

On Tuesday, as defensive linemen went up against offensive linemen 1-on-1, D-line coach Chris Wilson stressed the importance of Barnett's creating contact with the offensive lineman sooner. Basically, Wilson didn't want Barnett to rely on his speed and get too wide. 

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Barnett has been working hard on an inside spin move. Barnett was trying it out on Tuesday. It's still a work in progress. 

"Well it all works off of his edge rush and you have to keep guys honest," Schwartz said. "There's a lot of times in college, you can live off of one move. You get to the NFL and guys are going to take away that one move and you're going to have to have that counter to it."

2. Schwartz wouldn't say if he feels confident about his linebacker depth, but that unit did some good things on Day 2. First, Don Cherry, a practice squad player from a year ago, picked off a pass intended for Mack Hollins in 7-on-7s. Sure, the pass from Matt McGloin was a little behind his target, but Cherry made a good play and Schwartz said Cherry is a different player from a year ago. 

A little while later, middle linebacker Joe Walker pulled in an interception of his own after a ball was tipped straight into the air near the goal line. Veteran cornerback Ron Brooks made sure to make fun of rookie corner Randall Goforth for getting out-jumped by a linebacker. 

And Nate Gerry, who has been predominantly working at the outside linebacker spots -- mostly weakside -- got a few reps at the MIKE in the team's nickel package when Walker took a breather. That should help him understand the defense better. 

3. While McGloin threw behind Hollins for that interception, he followed it up with a 20-yard dime to tight end Billy Brown near the left sideline. Walker had tight coverage on the play, but McGloin dropped it in. 

4. Speaking of Brown, there's not much of a chance for him to make the roster. Zach Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton are virtual locks to make the roster and it seems unlikely the team would keep four tight ends. But Brown might have a chance at earning a practice squad position. A converted wide receiver, Brown is a big guy at 6-4, 255 pounds, but has shown some decent hands and good strength throughout the spring and now early in the summer. 

5. Dane Evans has made some good plays early in camp, but he made a bad decision in the first competitive period on Tuesday. He tried to force in a deep ball but went to the side of the field that had a safety. That safety, Tre Sullivan, picked him off over his shoulder.

6. During the spring, we had seen the Eagles trot out their "pony set," which included Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey. But on Tuesday, big back Corey Clement was in the backfield and Pumphrey was used in the slot. So far this offseason, it really seems like that is going to be Pumphrey's role, working as a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot. 

Carson Wentz, when asked, admitted it's sometimes hard to pick up the 5-foot-9, 176-pound Pumphrey when he runs a route. 

"It can be," Wentz said. "Every guy has their pros and cons. It's just like Sproles. Sproles and I were on the same page a lot last year and develop that chemistry and just trust those guys. And I think we're developing that as we speak." 

7. Hollins and Rasul Douglas had some good battles on Day 2, both coming out victorious on different occasions. Douglas has continued to show his toughness at the line. He's not afraid to use his size and jam. It'll be interesting to see how that works once the veterans come to camp. And it will be even more interesting to see how that works when Doug Pederson brings referees to camp. 

8. The Eagles' secondary spent time in the red zone working in man coverage and then spent time in zone. When the offense used some bunch formations, the corners got a little tripped up in man, as expected. While these practices aren't good for a lot of things, this is an area where the secondary can get better. Douglas was beaten by Marcus Johnson for a touchdown on one of those plays. 

9. While Sidney Jones isn't close to practicing yet, he's staying as involved as he can. He spends every moment of practice with the defensive backs and really seems locked in. At times, he mimics a backpedal and the shoulder motions of cutting. He's not allowed to actually back pedal or cut yet, but he's getting the mental reps on the field. 

10. If you've been expecting a ton of Wentz observations, they'll come later in the week when the entire team reports. For now, his reps have been limited as Nick Foles, McGloin and Evans take most of the snaps. Basically, the team is getting those guys reps now because once real training camp starts, it's the Wentz Show. 

Stupid observation of the day: Without a long-snapper or their emergency long-snapper (Celek) in camp, Mack Hollins spent some time long-snapping the ball to punter Cameron Johnston. Hollins actually did it pretty well. 

Shelton Gibson needs to boost his confidence to boost his play

Shelton Gibson needs to boost his confidence to boost his play

There's no need to sugarcoat or pretend things have gone perfectly. 

They haven't. 

Through the first couple months of Shelton Gibson's NFL career, there have been more bad days than good, more dropped passes than impressive plays, more reasons for the coaching staff to wonder than to be encouraged. 

"He's coming along," head coach Doug Pederson said bluntly about Gibson on Monday after practice. "He's by no means where he wants to be or where we want him to be, but he's learning our system."

Gibson, for his part, agreed with that assessment. He didn't try to hide from his struggles. 

After a mostly lackluster spring, Gibson started his training camp on Monday morning with a few more drops during practice. 

"It's just confidence," Gibson said about his dropped passes. "It's the only thing it is. Everything is about confidence. You go out there and know your plays, you're going to be confident." 

Gibson thinks learning his plays and getting extra reps will help him to get over the hump.

"This game is about how you can bounce back," he said in mid-June. 

At that time, it looked like Gibson was ready to bounce back. After a mostly disappointing spring, the last two days of the mandatory minicamp were a different story for the rookie fifth-round receiver. It seemed like he was turning a corner, not dropping as many passes and starting to make some plays. 

And while it seems like the long layoff between minicamp and training camp, after seemingly turning a corner, might have been tough for Gibson, he claimed it wasn't. In fact, getting a chance to go home to Ohio built his confidence up even more. 

"You know, you go back home, you're that guy," Gibson said. "When you come back here, you step back to reality."

Reality was a little harsh to him on Monday. But the good news is, there's plenty of time left in training camp. Plenty of time for him to master a playbook that's significantly different and more complex than the one he had at West Virginia. And plenty of time for him to start making plays. 

While Gibson has struggled since entering the NFL, his fellow rookie wideout Mack Hollins, who was drafted the round before Gibson, hasn't. In fact, Hollins has been pretty impressive so far. 

"We all have days where we drop balls," Hollins said. "You drop one and you drop another and then it's like nothing's working for you. Having teammates that just turn their backs, walk away and don't say anything, it doesn't make it any better. It doesn't matter if you're a rookie or a vet, being a good teammate is saying, 'Hey, you're good. You got it. You're here for a reason. 

"'Shelton, you got drafted for a reason. It's not like they just flipped a coin and said let's go to this name. You're here for a reason, because you can catch the ball and play well as a receiver.' Just encouraging him like that. The same way I would want it from him if I was having a bad day."

Aside from getting a chance to go home over the last month, Gibson also got a chance to join some of his fellow receivers in North Dakota for team workouts and bonding with quarterback Carson Wentz. 

The trip was beneficial in terms of Gibson's on-field progress, but also allowed him to become closer to some of his teammates and enjoy some new life experiences. 

Gibson tried a bison burger (it was good), ate seafood for the first time (he liked that even more) and attempted water sports on a lake.  

"I can't paddle board," Gibson said. "I suck at it."

But he thinks he can play receiver. And he has a couple weeks left of training camp to prove it to his coaches.