ESPN and NFL Insiders reporter Adam Caplan said Thursday that former Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg will work out with the Philadelphia Eagles next week. Caplan also said that Hackenberg worked out with Dallas Cowboys quarterback coach Wade Wilson privately on Wednesday.
Hackenberg impressed with his speed at the NFL Combine in February — the 6-foot-4, 223-pounder ran a 4.78-second 40-yard dash, one of the top times — but not so much with his arm; yet at Penn State’s Pro Day a few weeks ago he threw extremely well and was lauded by his personal coach, Jordan Palmer, as “about to trend upward.”
The 21-year-old Hackenberg is undoubtedly meeting with different teams’ personnel throughout the rest of the month through his agent, Rich Rosa, in preparation for this year’s NFL Draft at the end of April.
The Eagles are in the process of rebuilding much of their own staff after the not-so-graceful departure of Chip Kelly (seven of 16 total assistants remained on staff along with the hiring of Doug Pederson) and recently re-signed quarterback Sam Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal with $22 million guaranteed.
Hackenberg isn’t the only quarterback to reportedly schedule workouts with the team, of course. Paxton Lynch (Memphis), Jared Goff (Cal), Carson Wentz (North Dakota State) and Kevin Hogan (Stanford) have also been said by various NFL reporters (all documented by Birds 24/7) to have scheduled/be in the process of scheduling private sessions with the organization.
Offensive line begins to take shape
Meanwhile, back at the Lasch practice fields, Penn State football held spring practice No. 7 on Wednesday — which means, by the timetable head coach James Franklin laid out last week, the spring segment of new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system has been installed and the team is working out kinks and getting in reps.
While the skill positions will be the most exciting aspect of Moorhead’s spread to watch, the trenches need the most work after allowing 103 sacks on Hackenberg in three years and a 2015 average of three sacks per game (39 total in 13 games).
Left tackle seems to still be a work very much in progress. Franklin said during winter workouts that Paris Palmer, JuCo transfer thrown into the mix last year despite clearly not being ready for the job, has gone from benching 185 when he first got to Penn State to putting up 385, so while his strength has certainly improved, his skill remains to be seen.
Ryan Bates, a redshirt freshman, will likely compete with the more experienced Brendan Mahon for an interior lineman spot.
Redshirt freshman Sterling Jenkins was also praised by Franklin as “night and day” since he arrived on campus in 2015. At 6-foot-8 and 329 pounds, Jenkins certainly has the size to compete for a spot.
The head coach has also lauded the spring performance of Andrew Nelson, who has all but solidified his spot at right tackle while Bates is broaching the gap to start at guard. Redshirt senior Brian Gaia has also made the full switch to center and, according to Franklin, spent a lot of time working on his snaps in the offseason.
“Gaia has looked good at center,” Franklin told reporters on Wednesday. “You kind of look at his skill set. He’s a bit undersized but he’s an experienced player, he’s a smart guy, he’s a leader and he’s willing to make the calls and communicate.”
Reid-ing the offense
Corner John Reid had his first post-practice interview with reporters on Wednesday. The 5-foot-10, 188-pounder saw time in all of Penn State’s games last season as a true freshman and started in two.
“It’s a tribute to the people that I’m around (that I was ready to start so early),” he said. “The older guys on the team, you know, they’re all very welcoming and were able to answer all of my questions, I asked a lot of questions.
“I think I’ve gotten a lot better. In high school, the game is a lot more simple. The reads of the quarterbacks, you know, they usually have one read and if it doesn’t go to that read they’re running. So now, you know, you’re playing against great quarterbacks, you know, we played against Hackenberg, right, so you got to imagine he’s squeezing the ball into such tight windows (that) your technique has to be on point.”
The sophomore said he also has gained about five pounds and shaved a tenth of a second off of his 40-yard dash. It’s highly possibly Reid and Haley will continue to rotate time on the field this fall.
Reid said the depth at corner is solid — and he’s not wrong. Junior Grant Haley started most games last season and speedy Amani Oruwariye has two years of experience on Reid, plus five more athletes and former running back Nick Scott, who made the switch this offseason and will continue to contribute on special teams.
“It’s not easy at all, transitioning from running back to corner — usually you see receiver to corner,” said Reid. “(Nick is) very coachable, he works very, very hard. So he’s picking up things a lot faster than someone normally would, just because of his personality…His work ethic is great.”
Note: Player and coach audio courtesy of CDT sports reporter John McGonigal and Penn State Athletics.