The Philadelphia Eagles held their rookie minicamp this weekend down at the NovaCare Complex. The players that participated in the rookie minicamp were the Eagles five draft picks, 11 undrafted rookie free agents, five players with some NFL experience and 29 players on a tryout basis. Since rookie minicamp has ended, the Eagles have already made some roster changes due to the performance of some of the players this past weekend.
The Eagles have had some success in previous years when it comes to finding undrafted rookies to contribute to the Eagles success right away. Outside of the Eagles’ five draft picks that participated, four other players have a legitimate chance of making the Eagles opening day 53-man roster. Those players are undrafted LB T.J. Edwards, OL Ryan Bates, OL Iosua Opeta and tryout player OL Johnny Gibson, Jr.
LB T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
The best undrafted rookie that was signed by the Eagles was LB T.J. Edwards. He played his collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. Edwards was projected to be either a fifth or sixth-round draft pick but ended up going undrafted. Over a four-year career at Wisconsin T.J. Edwards recorded 366 tackles, 37.5 tackles for loss, 10 interceptions, and eight sacks. He also recorded one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and 15 pass breakups. Edwards isn’t that great in man coverage, but he is an outstanding zone coverage defender. Good zone coverage skills are something that defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz looks for in his linebackers.
OL Ryan Bates, Penn State
Ryan Bates is an offensive lineman out of Penn State that can play both tackle and guard. Bates had a projection of a 7th rounder to FA rating coming into this year’s draft. He stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs 306 pounds. As a freshman, Bates started at both left guard and transitioned to the tackle spot between his sophomore and junior year at PSU. He started 17 games at left tackle and three at right tackle in those years.
He will be best suited as an interior offensive lineman. According to mockdrafttable.com Bates’ athleticism most closely resembled Isaac Seumalo.
OL Iosua Opeta, Weber State
Iosua Opeta is a 6-foot-4, 301 pound OG out of Weber State. While at the combine he put up 39 reps on the bench press. Opeta put up other impressive athletic measurables while at the combine as well.
He has an uphill battle to make the team going into training camp but stands a good chance because the Eagles lack depth and youthfulness on the offensive line. With Jeff Stoutland as his offensive line coach, Opeta can be molded and coached into an excellent and serviceable offensive guard in the NFL.
OL Johnny Gibson, Jr., Arkansas
Johnny Gibson Jr. was one of the 29 players that got the invite to rookie minicamp. Gibson impressed Doug Pederson and the rest of the coaching staff, and they signed him after rookie minicamp was over. Gibson Jr. is a 6-foot-4, 319-pound OL from Arkansas. Gibson was a walk-on at Arkansas. During the final five games of his redshirt sophomore year, he was named the starter.
He went on to start all 12 games in both his junior and senior seasons. He can play right guard, right tackle, and left tackle. As a senior, he was able to put together a grade of 72.5 in pass blocking. Over his collegiate career, Gibson surrendered just nine sacks in 1,950 snaps, with 1,012 in pass protection.
These four players have the best chance to make the Eagles final 53-man roster due to the Eagles lack of depth and youthfulness at these positions. Bates, Opeta, Gibson, Jr. will be excellent pieces to backup an aging offense line and will have a year to learn behind Jason Peters, Lane Johnson, Brandon Brooks, and Jason Kelce. One of these three could be converted to play center, and the other two will serve as versatile backups.
Edwards is the undrafted rookie that should have the most immediate impact on the team. Edwards can help as the No. 1 or No. 2 backup and a potential 3rd-down linebacker in the type of scheme that Jim Schwartz likes to put out on the field for different scenarios throughout the game. Will the Eagles have three straight years of undrafted rookie success? Only time will tell.