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6 things we learned from Eagles' rookie camp, including DeVonta Smith's presence and Sirianni's style


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The Eagles' three-day rookie minicamp was just like any other in that a large group of drafted players, undrafted free agents and some tryout players were eager and willing to learn.

So there was first-round draft pick DeVonta Smith, the wide receiver, talking with head coach Nick Sirianni just before warmups, going over drills, expectations and so forth, a scene that no doubt played out at rookie minicamps around the NFL.

And yet, it was so different.

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This was Sirianni's first time as a head coach at any level, and the acclimation process for him and the new players is crucial to his success.

The Eagles, after all, are transitioning from a veteran-laden team three years removed from the Super Bowl into one that will have 29 draft picks from 2020-2022. These players are expected to eventually form the nucleus of the team in the coming seasons.

Here, then, are six things we learned about Sirianni and the new-look Eagles:

1. It's Sirianni's show

The media was allowed to watch only the first 25 minutes or so of practice, which included warmups and individual drills. So with only 26 players on hand, there wasn't going to be much scrimmaging.

But the first thing you noticed was an attention to detail. Even in simple stretching exercises, a strength coach would explain each drill and what it's supposed to accomplish.

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The same happened in the positional drills, where an assistant coach would explain the drill before it began.

All of it is for a reason.

"They've heard me talk about fundamentals and technique a million times," Sirianni said. "It's one of those things where I'm not going to stop, either. I'm going to be a relentless pit bull about fundamentals and technique." 

2. 'The Slim Reaper' shines

Of course, all eyes are on Smith, the first-round pick for whom the Eagles traded up two spots, past the Giants, in order to draft him at No. 10 overall.

Smith weighed just 166 pounds when he was measured in Indianapolis last month, which explains his moniker from college, "The Slim Reaper." Already, his presence loomed large over the other rookies on hand.

In one drill, a coach explained the technique required. Smith, listening intently, ran it perfectly.

"You gotta be disciplined with what you do," Smith said. "Discipline brings you a long way."

Added Sirianni: "DeVonta is kind of a lead by example guy. He just seems determined at all times, and he just really can't wait for the information to get to him and can't wait to get better. I think that's contagious, and I know that's contagious."

The Eagles need it to be with a young wide receiver corps that includes Jalen Reagor, the first-round pick from last year who struggled in his rookie season.

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3. Time is of the essence

Obviously, the more practice opportunities, the better for a new coach trying to teach a new system.

But that likely won't happen for the Eagles.

Like a majority of teams, the Eagles players issued a statement through the NFL Players Association saying they plan to stay away from the three weeks of organized team activities, which are voluntary.

The first week of OTAs begins on May 25. 

The NFLPA found that injuries were reduced last season after the OTAs were canceled last spring because of the pandemic. Meetings were held virtually instead. The extra regular-season game this season only made extra rest even more important to the players.

That means going forward, Sirianni might have the players on the field for only the three-day mandatory minicamp from June 8-10 before training camp begins in late July. Players can be fined for missing the mandatory minicamp, but not the OTAs.

"We take every single day that we get with them on the field as definitely a true blessing to get out there, to work, because it is a process," Sirianni said. "So any day we miss is obviously something that you don't want to happen."But it's really just ... make the days that we have really count, and get everything we can."

4. Dickerson's progress

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the entire minicamp was seeing second-round pick Landon Dickerson, a center, on the field taking part in the warmups and individual drills.

Dickerson had ACL surgery last December, the latest in a line of major injuries during his college career that included surgery on his other knee and two ankle injuries. That helps explain why Dickerson dropped to the second round of the draft.

Dickerson had a sleeve on his knee, an encouraging sign that he could be ready for training camp or the start of the season. Neither Dickerson nor Sirianni would put a timetable on a return.

"For him this weekend, it's just being involved in the walkthroughs, learning the offense," Sirianni said. "So a lot of the goals we just talked about with everybody else, obviously he can't do them at the same speed."

Dickerson won't be rushed back. The Eagles still have established veterans Jason Kelce at center, Brandon Brooks at right guard and Isaac Seumalo at left guard. 

5. An undrafted player to watch

Trevon Grimes played wide receiver next to tight end Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney at Florida. Pitts was picked fourth overall by the Atlanta Falcons and Toney 20th overall by the Giants.

Grimes, a big receiver at 6-4, 218 pounds, was undrafted.

But he had 38 catches for 515 yards last season. And Eagles quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson is very familiar with him, having held the same position at Florida before the Eagles hired him in February.

"Being able to play with such high-tier players has taught me maturity and the mental game," Grimes said. "Knowing you might not get the ball, but you have to make your name and your presence felt on the field somewhere else.

"I felt that translated well to the NFL because playing here, you have DeVonta Smith, (Jalen) Reagor, all those receivers. There’s only one ball, so how would make your name felt on the field without the ball?"

6. Ertz's future still in doubt

The possibility of tight end Zach Ertz returning to the Eagles continues to be a topic of discussion, even though the Eagles are still expected to either trade or release him.

Sirianni said he has talked with Ertz, who's second in team history in receptions, but wouldn't reveal what was said.

"Let's just be honest, of course, Zach is a great football player," Sirianni said. "He's shown that he's a great football player for a very long time. Man, he's made a ton of plays."

But don't mistake that for Sirianni expecting to have Ertz on the team because Sirianni did not say that.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.