Eagles training camp observations: Defense wins on hottest day


The Eagles moved up practice an hour on Thursday to avoid the heat.

I guess it worked?

But it was still a steamy day in South Philadelphia for the Eagles’ longest practice so far of the summer. The Eagles went just over 1 hour and 45 minutes in full pads on Thursday morning. Players have a day off on Friday.

To the observations:

1. As always, we start with a few housekeeping notes:

• The Eagles’ injury report continues to grow. Here’s who didn’t practice on Thursday: Grant Calcaterra (hamstring), Mac McCain (knee), Greg Ward (toe), Jordan Mailata (concussion), Andre Dillard (concussion), DeVonta Smith (groin).

Mailata and Dillard suffered their concussions during Tuesday’s practice, but head coach Nick Sirianni wasn’t exactly sure when. Without the top two left tackles, veteran Le’Raven Clark worked with the first team and Kayode Awosika worked with the twos and threes.

Smith’s groin injury doesn’t seem to be serious. He was a spectator on Thursday. Word is that Smith felt some soreness/tightness in his groin and the Eagles are playing it safe.

• Zach Pascal (illness) missed the first five days of training camp after dealing with a nasty case of food poisoning. He was a limited participant.

• TE J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and WR Deon Cain both took trips to the medical tent and then left practice early.

2. The Eagles’ offense struggled some on Thursday. Whenever this happens, you have to figure out whether they were bad or the defense was good. Obviously, there’s always a little bit of both. But on this day, I’d give a tip of the cap to the defense.

The pass rush looked dominant at times and there were also several coverage sacks or wasted plays. There were plays during team drills when Jalen Hurts had some time and bought more but no one got open and he either had to take off or the play was whistled dead. There were plays that went nowhere even in 7-on7s without pass rush.

“I think when you’re in training camp, there are going to be ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball,” Sirianni said. “In fact, that’s what you want. You want there to be ebbs and flows on both sides of the ball. You don’t want one side to dominate the other side. So you’re going to look for those. There’s no doubt we have good balance on both sides of the football. Defense is presenting challenges, both with the looks and then with the players we have.”

As good as the defense was on Thursday, Hurts did not turn the football over. Sometimes in a practice like this, you’ll see the quarterback get frustrated with the tight coverage and the lack of plays and start trying some passes he normally wouldn’t. That didn’t happen today.

3. T.J. Edwards had a diving PBU during team drills and another that was nearly an interception during 7-on-7s. He also stuck Noah Togiai on a route and threw him to the ground after a catch.

I could make a strong case that Edwards been the best Eagle over the first six days of training camp.

4. Some notes from 1-on-1 drills between receivers and defensive backs:

• Britain Covey ran a couple impressive routes against nickel cornerback Josiah Scott to gain some separation.

• Avonte Maddox is having a very good training camp and had a couple pass breakups working against Quez Watkins. The two of them have had their battles this summer. But it’s impressive watching Maddox mirror him inside. Those 1-on-1s are tough for DBs, but Maddox was very good today.

• Good rep from Jalen Reagor, who beat James Bradberry outside.

• Smart play from Kary Vincent Jr. against Watkins. Watkins leaped to catch a ball in the end zone but Vincent wisely pushed him so he landed out of bounds.

• Nice high-point catch from John Hightower in the end zone over Tay Gowan.

5. A.J. Brown is getting a ton of targets in this training camp and is showing how well he can use his body to box out defenders. On Thursday, the Eagles got him in the slot a little bit. He’ll predominantly be used on the outside this season, but he can be a matchup problem inside too.

During on 7-on-7 rep, Hurts threw the ball behind Brown, but it probably had to be there to avoid defenders. Brown was able to contort his body in the middle of the field and make the grab.

There was another rep when Hurts hit Brown over the middle. Third practice in a row we’ve seen one of these passes hit.

6. During 7-on-7s, the Eagles’ OL vs. DL 1-on-1 drills were taking place on the other field. I was mostly watching 7-on-7s today but positioned myself in an area where I at least saw a few 1-on-1s.

• Jordan Davis got a win against Jason Kelce today, getting around the veteran.

• Brandon Graham used a bullrush to push Jack Driscoll back into the quarterback’s lap. Driscoll is a good player but Graham beats up on him sometimes in practice. Even in Year 13, BG doesn’t take plays off.

• Milton Williams is a forgotten guy on this defensive line, but he had one impressive 1-on-1 rep today, getting through the guard.

7. I noticed nickel cornerback Josiah Scott getting a few reps at safety on Thursday. He worked next to K’Von Wallace during an 11-on-11 period with the second-team defense playing the first-team offense. Scott is a 5-foot-9, 185-pound defensive back who is considered by many to be a nickel-only defender. But if he can show off some versatility, adding to his special teams ability, he might be able to make the team.

8. On one toss play, Miles Sanders took the ball right and we watched Haason Reddick track him down. Reddick’s No. 1 priority in this defense will be to rush the passer, but his athleticism and versatility will be seen on plays like this too. Not many pass rushers are chasing down Sanders and getting to him.

9. Rookie receiver Covey made a few impressive plays. He had that 1-on-1 rep against Scott that went for a TD. And he caught a touchdown a little later in team drills off the arm of Reid Sinnett. Covey shook Vincent on that rep.

10. The Eagles punted on Thursday. That’s something they haven’t done a ton of during camp. Arryn Siposs didn’t have a very good 2021 season but he’s the only punter in camp. According to ProFootballFocus, his average hang time in 2021 was 4.25 seconds. I tracked his hang time on his punts Thursday. I missed the first one; my apologies. But here were the rest: 4.52, 4.26, 4.51, 4.59, 4.39, 4.13, 4.51. Solid day for him.

The punt returners on Thursday: Kenny Gainwell, Reagor, Watkins, Covey. Interesting to see Gainwell with this group. He returned eight kicks last season but no punts.

Stupid Observation of the Day: It was super hot on Thursday, but that didn’t stop Reddick from rocking a hoodie.

To be clear, though, this hoodie doesn’t have sleeves.

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