Eagles training camp observations: A physical first few practices


The Eagles held a shorter practice on Friday morning, lasting just about 1 hour and 10 minutes, but I was still able to find plenty of observations to write about.

With several veterans enjoying a day off, Nick Sirianni wasn’t pleased with the sloppiness level so a little after halfway through the session, he gathered the entire team together and asked them to tighten things up.

It seemed to work.

The Eagles have one more day of practice on Saturday evening before an off day Sunday.

Here are several observations from Day 3:

1. A few housekeeping items:

• Brandon Brooks suffered a hamstring injury on Thursday but the Eagles apparently don’t think it’s too serious. He’s listed by the team as day-to-day.

• Travis Fulgham (lower body) returned to practice on Friday after missing Thursday’s session.

• Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) remains week-to-week.

• The three players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list — Alex Singleton, Andrew Adams, Matt Leo — are still out. As are Rodney McLeod (PUP/ACL), Le’Raven Clark (PUP/Achilles) and Landon Dickerson (NFI/ACL).

• The two newcomers, signed yesterday, were at practice. Safety Obi Melifonwu is wearing No. 33 and wide receiver Andre Patton is wearing No. 41.

• The following players were on the field but got a veteran day off: Fletcher Cox, Zach Ertz, Brandon Graham, Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, Ryan Kerrigan, Darius Slay.

2. Some notes on the offensive depth chart:

Without several starters, things looked different.

• Starting OL (left to right): Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Luke Juriga, Matt Pryor, Jack Driscoll. Dillard and Mailata have been rotating the first three days of summer so Mailata will presumably be up first on Saturday.

• The starting receivers were DeVonta Smith and Travis Fulgham outside, with Greg Ward Jr. in the slot. Jalen Reagor (lower body tightness) is still limited and Quez Watkins (non-COVID illness) is still being held out of practice.

• Without Ertz, Dallas Goedert was the top tight end. He was out there with Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders at the other key positions.

3. Defensive depth chart notes:

• Without Graham and Cox, the Eagles DL had Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett at defensive end and Javon Hargrave and T.Y. McGill at defensive tackle. Interesting to see McGill get the nod before third-round pick Milton Williams and veteran Hassan Ridgeway, who both ran with the second team initially.

• The linebackers were Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley in the nickel and we saw some Genard Avery in base. Interestingly, Eric Wilson was with the second team for the second straight day and T.J. Edwards was getting some third-team reps.

• The secondary featured Anthony Harris and K’Von Wallace at safety with Steve Nelson and Michael Jacquet starting outside. Avonte Maddox was the nickel corner. It looked like Craig James got some outside corner reps with the ones too.

4. The first few days of Eagles practice this year have been notably physical. Teams typically like to ramp up the work — and the Eagles are — but these have been very lively practices to begin a camp. There are rules in the CBA to govern how practices should be run and the Eagles are operating up to the line. On one hand, it’s good to see the physicality, on the other, the Eagles might want to clean it up just a tad to avoid any unnecessary injuries. There have been a few too many guys on the ground early in these practices without full pads and without live (tackle to the ground) periods. This is the time of year where coaches yell “stay off the ground!” dozens of times per practice.

On Friday, I watched corner Steve Nelson run over Boston Scott and also get handsy with DeVonta Smith on a route; for that last one, Nelson was flagged. And Derek Barnett is never shy about mixing it up with offensive linemen and getting in an extra shove. No fights or skirmishes yet, but it feels like only a matter of time.

Overall, it’s a good thing to see this physicality and I’m sure Mr. Competition, Nick Sirianni, loves it too. There’s no doubt these guys are competing.

“I think it brings a good culture to the team,” veteran Anthony Harris said, showing off his scraped knuckles.

Aside from the physicality of these practices, the other things that stands out to me is the pace. There’s not a lot of standing around. The Eagles are going from drill to drill and maximizing their time. Sure, two of these first three practices have lasted 1 hour and 15 minutes or shorter, but they’re getting a lot of work in. It’s not quite back to the Chip Kelly days — that was a frantic pace — but these practices are definitely run faster than the ones under Doug Pederson.

5. While Sirianni might have been upset about some sloppiness, it looks like the Eagles had some fun opening up the playbook a little bit on Friday. After watching the same offense for five years, it’s refreshing to see some new looks. A lot of the pre-snap motions and misdirections that Sirianni’s offense has are a lot of fun. There were a couple times on Friday where I briefly struggled to follow the ball; that’s the goal. Although, I’m admittedly easier to trick than an NFL linebacker.

I don’t know how good Jalen Hurts will be but I do think he’s going to be fun to watch in this offense. Because of his running ability and all these misdirections, this offense has the potential to keep defenses on their heels. It’s going to be enjoyable to see this offense come together over the next few weeks.

On Friday, we saw some nice runs from a few different backs and from Hurts on keepers. Heck, even Joe Flacco kept the ball once on a misdirection as Hassan Ridgeway chased from behind; although, I don’t like his chances of getting to the edge in a real game.

6. Hurts hasn’t been perfect so far and he wasn’t perfect on Friday, missing a few throws he ought to make, but he had some laser throws into tight windows too. And I think he's gotten better with each day in this camp.

The Eagles did a lot of red zone work on Friday and one of Hurts’ nicest throws was a perfect rocket over the outstretched arms of Davion Taylor to Dallas Goedert in the end zone. He threaded that one. Hurts had another great pass to Jason Croom in the end zone.

Hurts also connected with DeVonta Smith on a touchdown in the front left corner of the end zone. Smith was able to create just enough separation for Hurts to fire the ball in there.

Of course, all those plays happened after we’re allowed to take videos so here’s one of Hurts to Goedert from earlier in practice:

7. Joe Flacco hasn’t wowed early on but I did think he had two of the best throws of the day on Friday. One came in the red zone when he looked off a defender and hit rookie receiver Jhamon Ausbon in the end zone for a touchdown. Later on, after red zone drills were over, Flacco threw an impressive pass across his body to a streaking Michael Walker down the field.

While we’re talking about backup quarterbacks, it’s fair to say that third-stringer Nick Mullens has looked pretty good. At 6-1, he definitely looks short, especially next to Flacco, but he’s made some nice plays three days in. It makes such a big difference to have a capable third-string quarterback in camp. There are some years where the third-string reps are almost completely devalued because of bad QB play. That’s certainly not the case this year. Heck, you could easily argue that Mullens has looked better than Flacco in the early going this year. I would.

8. One of Hurts’ best throws from Friday actually ended up being incomplete. Hurts threw a perfect back-shoulder pass to Sanders in the end zone, but Sanders couldn’t hold onto the ball as he hit the ground and it fell incomplete. It would have been a tough catch, but it’s probably one Sanders should make. Drops were a problem for Sanders last season but he’s been working hard to correct those issues.

He was on the JUGs machine early on Friday:

9. In those red zone drills, rookie corner Zech McPhearson made an impressive break on a pass from Flacco — don’t think Flacco saw him — and nearly picked him off in the end zone. But he couldn’t hold on. After the play, he let out a scream and was visibly upset with himself.

That isn’t the first dropped interception we’ve seen in the first three days. In fact, I can thing a few notable ones. This one from McPhearson and ones K’Von Wallace and T.J. Edwards. Jonathan Gannon has been stressing turnovers and the defensive players have clearly been taught to make sure they try to strip the football after securing tackles. But another way to get turnovers is to pick off passes and when a guy gets a chance, he can’t let it slip through his fingers … literally.

10. Still no pads, so take this one with a grain of salt, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen from the backup running backs so far this camp. I wrote about Kerryon Johnson on Thursday but Jordan Howard has also had several nice runs and even Jason Huntley has shown of brief glimpses of his speed. A fun battle might be brewing there.

Stupid Observation of the Day: There were several number changes this offseason but the one that’s really tripping me up is Isaac Seumalo moving from 73 to 56. Because Seumalo is missing the start of camp with hamstring injury. But when I see the new No. 73 out there (rookie Harry Crider) I keep briefly doing a double take.

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