Chris Long still has a dressing stall inside the Eagles locker room. Whether or not the veteran defensive end, who had 6.5 sacks last season, will use it won’t be known probably until sometime this summer, when he will decide to return or retire or try to land with another team.
Pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, a free agent as recently as midweek, signed with the Seahawks.
So the Eagles seem happy – at least for now - with what they have at defensive end, with Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett the starters and Vinny Curry as the primary backup. After that, though, it’s a group of young and unproven guys.
Three players are trying out this weekend as the Eagles opened a three-day rookie camp on Friday. They are Tennessee’s Kendal Vickers (6-3, 295), Notre Dame College’s (OH) Claudy Mathieu (6-6, 250), and Vanderbilt’s Louis Vecchio (6-5, 270).
“This is what I tell our tryout guys,” said head coach Doug Pederson on Friday. “They're not only competing for this team, but there are 31 other teams. A lot of guys the past couple weekends have been a part of at least two rookie minicamps. I think for us it's a great way to - guys that were not drafted but yet on your board - to get them now in here this weekend and really watch them, get them in the meetings, get them with their position coaches, and then watch them run around for these next three days. You never know.”
The other young guys include Shareef Miller, who was drafted in the fourth round and is also in town for the weekend rookie camp, Daeshon Hall, who was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2017, Josh Sweat, a fourth-round pick last year, and Joe Ostman, who was a practice squad standout last year for the Eagles and a player who was mentioned repeatedly by executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman during the offseason when the conversation turned to the defensive line.
On the final night of the NFL Draft Roseman said: “Joe Ostman is a guy that, again, when you look at the transition he's made with his body just in the offseason, I know a lot of the coaching staff is excited to see him in his second year.”
Ostman is in rookie camp, even though he is technically a second-year player, but, because he was on the practice squad, is eligible to participate.
He said he heard some of the things Roseman and even Pederson said about him this offseason.
“Briefly, a little bit,” said Ostman. “I appreciate that because they don’t have to do that. They could easily not mention any of that, so I appreciate that. But I’m just going to continue to work hard and let the rests take care of itself.
“This is my second year now and I do feel a lot more comfortable. I know with that comes a little higher expectation. I have to go out there and make plays. But really all I’m focusing on is working as hard as I can and trying to be as prepared as I can then going out there to play hard and let the rest fall into place.”
Ostman sees the opportunity ahead, with Long still pondering his future and Michael Bennett traded to New England.
“Yeah, I’d say,” he said. “That’s just part of the NFL, there’s a lot of turnover, but whoever is going to be out there, it’s going to be a competition. We’re going to be competing every day. That’s just the way it is at this level. All I can really focus on is putting my best product out there and getting myself as ready as I can be then playing hard.”
Ostman was undersized last year, playing at 250. Not so much this year. He is up to 260, and wants to stay between 258 and 264.
“They (the Eagles) raised my goal weight to seven to 10 pounds after last season,” said Ostman. “I kind of knew that, too, looking around at the guys. They were a little bit bigger than me, so I knew that was something I had to get done in this offseason. That was the main goal, to get bigger, but also without losing any flexibility and speed in the process. I’m still working on it, but I’m happy right now sitting around 260 and I feel good out there.”
Ostman may not have been on the roster last year, but his role during the week was to play the opposing defense’s best player in order to give the Eagles’ first-team offense good looks in preparation for an upcoming game, which meant having to study tape on opponents like the Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald, New Orleans’ Cam Jordan, and Chicago’s Khalil Mack, to name a few.
“It helped me a lot studying those guys throughout the season,” he said. “I was able to see how the best in the game succeed every Sunday, so just kind of helped getting an understanding of what they do and why they do their counter moves and their main moves.
“But also having the guys in our locker room, we probably have the best defensive line in football, in my opinion, learning from guys like Brandon Graham, Derek Barnett, Chris Long, the list goes on and on, was huge for me to be able to learn from those guys. With that being said they were very willing to help. There’s a lot to be said for that, someone with that much success helping young guys. I was thankful for that.”
Ostman could turn out to be one of the reasons the Eagles are happy with what they have at defensive end.