Today was the first day of Eagles mandatory minicamp, and the biggest news is that Evan Mathis is not there since he’s been released. But moving past that, as expected, some new faces were seen with the first team in various drills, suggesting that Chip Kelly is willing to mix it up to allow people to compete.
The three names that stood out among those getting snaps with the first team with Marcus Smith, Andrew Gardner and Jerome Couplin. Neither Smith nor Couplin recorded a tackle for the Eagles last year, and Gardner filled in as a starter for eight games last year when they dealt with injuries on the offensive line. Gardner was just okay, but it seemed like Allen Barbre and Matt Tobin were the front-runners for the two starting guard positions in 2015.
Andrew Gardner working at first team right guard today. Matt Tobin second team. Dennis Kelly second team left tackle. #Eagles.
— Nick Fierro (@NickFierro) June 16, 2015
Marcus Smith and Jerome Couplin both getting reps with the first-team defense today.
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) June 16, 2015
If Tobin has been moved to the second team for the time being, it means there definitely hasn’t been a decision made about who’s going to start at right guard. Barbre seems like he’ll be the starting left guard, but Tobin will have to battle to earn the starting job. Kelly addressed this during the press conference:
Chip: Matt Tobin needs to be more consistent. Good competition w/Gardner, Kelly, Graf.
— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) June 16, 2015
He also praised Barbre a lot, saying he’s been “outstanding.” That’s definitely the kind of endorsement you want, especially this early in the process.
Couplin also seemed to get some first team reps alongside Malcolm Jenkins despite Walter Thurmond getting many of the snaps with the first team during OTAs. My guess is this is nothing against Thurmond, but just a chance for Couplin to show what he can do and possibly allow Thurmond to practice a little at cornerback. Competition is a great thing in this case, and from what I’ve heard from Couplin in past interviews, he’s hungry to prove what he can do.
As for Marcus Smith, he has everything to prove. He was a huge disappointment in everybody’s eyes last year and was criticized rightly for it. Now, it’s time for him to step up. He doesn’t have a shot at winning a starting job with Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham already locked in as the starting outside linebackers, but he could definitely earn some snaps as a backup if he plays well enough in the offseason. I honestly think that if he doesn’t step up this season, he could be released after just two years with the team. No guy who is described as looking like a high school athlete who doesn’t like to hit belongs in the NFL. But, it’s a new year, and I believe he’ll step it up to at least some degree. Getting first team reps is a step in the right direction.
I expect some other guys to get time with the first team in the next two days of minicamp, as Kelly surely wants to find the best players for each position. The wide receiver is one position I’m interested to see what will happen, but it seems like Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff are the top three right now, leaving Nelson Agholor out. This is expected, as Matthews played most of last offseason and preseason with the second or third team, but it seems like Agholor is impressing so far. We’ll see if any developments are made there tomorrow.
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