It raised a red flag when defensive tackle Jalen Carter showed up to his pro day in mid-March nine pounds lighter than he was at the Combine and struggled to finish center drills.
Has Carter appeared to Eagles rookie camp in better shape?
He said he did.
“Oh yeah, sure,” he came in the first round on Friday. “I made sure that my conditioning level was much higher.”
Was she really? It’s pretty hard to tell from very light training as the Eagles kicked off rookie camp on Friday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex.
When asked about Carter’s level of conditioning, Eagles coach Nick Siriani instead spoke of the entire rookie group. He said none of them have conditions to play a game now and that’s not what this camp is about.
“I think what you’ll see when we get out there is we’re trying to get everyone back into shape, into playing football,” Siriani said. “These guys have been in hotels, they’ve done (draft) 30 visits, they’ve been prepping for the pro days, they’ve been prepping for the combine. So to say any of them are in really good football shape and ready to play a game tomorrow, I’d say that’s inaccurate.” .None of those guys.”
This may be true.
But none of these other guys have publicly bombed their daily pro workout a month and a half ago.
“It was just me,” Carter said the night he was drafted, when asked about his performance at Georgia’s pro day. “I felt conditioned but I guess I wasn’t, and that was just me. I should have been more or less conditioned before pro day.”
Of course, you can explain the weight gain and poor performance by remembering that Carter was arrested about two weeks prior to that pro day, and ultimately pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts related to a fatal crash in January. It was a turbulent and stressful period in his life.
News of Carter’s impending arrest broke while he was in Indianapolis at the Combine, so the only time he worked with a large audience was during the rough draft process on his pro day. And it didn’t go well.
For what it’s worth, Siriani said he’s not worried about conditioning Carter. When asked about his anxiety level on Friday, the Eagles coach replied, “Nothing.”
But that would be something worth watching during the early part of Carter’s career. The Eagles are very invested in getting Carter with the #9 overall pick and they’re going to keep him at a high level.
“I told them straight… We obviously went over our rules, right, our team’s rules,” said Siriani. And one of those team rules is you have to be on time and another one of those rules is the weight you’re supposed to be. And those things are non-negotiable for me, and they know that and we’re just going to maintain that standard as we go.
“But yeah, I feel like he wants to be the best professional he can be, not all over the place — again, I don’t know exactly. I have no idea what each program is supposed to weigh a person, or the right, or sometimes, programs, Even within the NFL they don’t track or track it, but they don’t say, ‘You have to weigh this amount.’ We do.
“So that’s new here. We’re going to move him to where he’s supposed to play, and I have no doubt he’ll do whatever he needs to be to be the player he needs to be.”
Carter, at 22, is one of the best overall prospects in this year’s draft class, and the Eagles know he might not have been available this late if not for some off-the-field concerns and maturity. But the Eagles did their homework and were comfortable enough to take Carter.
The reward can definitely be worth the risk. Since Carter has a legitimate All-Pro cap in the NFL and in Philly, he’ll learn the way from veteran teammates like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and others.
The veterans will return to the building starting Monday after rookie camp concludes, but the entire team won’t train together until May 30, when the volunteer OTA begins.
Friday’s practice was too light by its design, but Sirianni offered this about Carter:
“It looks good,” Siriani said. “He was looking good out there today. But, like I said, today wasn’t about seeing who was ready to adapt because, quite frankly, none of them are.”
When training camp starts in late July or August, these rookies better be in shape. Especially Carter. All eyes will be on him.
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