You know you’re struggling for an original Eagles story when it’s the final week of voluntary OTA’s, it’s June, and even the tweets coming out of NovaCare have slowed to a trickle. Monday’s practice was moved inside the bubble to avoid a rainstorm which made a slow news day even slower.
Veteran and rookie players alike are ready to take off for a week. OTA’s have just about served their purpose at this point. The coaching staff knows what they have now in raw materials. They have a feel for how rookies have adjusted to the tempo of the game at a higher level. They have a better sense of how the free agents may grasp the nuances of the Eagles system.
If you take all the reviews and impressions that have come out of OTA’s this Spring, and sort all the raves into a separate pile, the most meaningful performance to me is the emergence of veteran free safety Nate Allen as the healthiest, strongest, fastest and smartest player he’s ever been.
Nate Allen, 6-1, 210, 3rd year out of South Florida… by nearly all accounts of eyewitnesses at OTA’s, Allen is completely rehabbed from his patellar tendon injury suffered two years ago, and is physically and mentally ready to up his game to a higher level. Sometimes we forget Allen was drafted in the 2nd round in 2010 and won a starting job at free safety as a rookie in the NFL. This was no flash in the pan.
You may have your own favorite “Most Valuable” performer nominee from OTA’s. No doubt many rookies impressed in the passing drills. And veteran Darryl Tapp seemed to be on a mission to impress based on the number of defensive highlight tweets he received.
I picked Nate Allen mostly because of how little real information you can actually take away from OTA drills. Lots of guys can shine in drills which feature no hard contact or tackling. But the reports on Allen are overwhelming by implication. If Nate is as physically improved as they say, he is ready to uplift the entire level of safety play across the board for the Eagles. They won’t need to shop around for a free agent or a trade at safety, either. And if Nate Allen at age 25 plays up to his highest capability and stays healthy, the Eagles could be set at FS for a long time.
You could make a similar case for “Value” for cornerback Curtis Marsh, who has also impressed in OTA’s by his physical shape and his enthusiastic attitude. At 6-0 and 194 and with improved quickness by eyewitness accounts, Marsh has a chance to add depth to the Eagles in the secondary and on special teams. Again, here’s a guy we tend to forget was a 3rd-round selection out of Utah State in 2011. You expect long-term value from a pick that high. Marsh is ready to begin to supply that value based on his OTA’s in 2012.
With Rodgers-Cromartie out on Monday, Marsh took all of the first-team and most of the second-team reps, a sign that the Eagles will be using him for much more than special teams duty, to which he was limited as a rookie. Marsh on Monday proclaimed himself ready to start if needed. “Definitely, definitely,” he said. “I feel I can cover anybody.”
Not only that, but he can jam anybody on punt return and can beat anybody as a gunner on punt coverage. “I feel that’s my best asset on special teams, playing the gunner,” Marsh said. “I get to just run by guys and use my speed and fly.”
TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE NOTE:
Fans planning to attend the Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp in July and August at Lehigh University will need to adjust their schedules. The team confirmed on Monday that the main practices (with full pads and full contact) will be held in the afternoons, with only walk-through practices in the morning. Previously, the Eagles had run their training camps with the main practice in the morning, which was much more attended, and the walk-through in the afternoon. The exact schedules and the reasoning behind the switch have not been announced, but it is believed that coach Reid wants to more closely mimic the team’s regular-season practice schedule, in which there’s a morning walk-through with no pads, followed by an afternoon practice in which contact is permitted.