BEREA, Ohio — Why joint practices with the Browns were so valuable, an intriguing group of second-year defensive players who've improved dramatically and some thoughts about K’Von Wallace.
It’s a Northeastern Ohio edition of 10 random Eagles training camp observations!
1. Watching every Eagles practice over the last three weeks, one thing that really strikes you is what a remarkable job Howie Roseman has done the last few years replenishing the roster through the draft with young talent.
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We all know there have been some spectacular misses, and we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on them.
But think about this: Since 2018, the Eagles have drafted Jordan Mailata, Landon Dickerson, Cam Jurgens, DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins, Jalen Hurts, Dallas Goedert, Miles Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, Avonte Maddox, Nakobe Dean, Josh Sweat, Jordan Davis and Milton Williams.
That’s an elite nucleus right there.
And that doesn’t include free agents (James Bradberry, Haason Reddick), trades (A.J. Brown, Darius Slay) and waiver claims (Marcus Epps).
Howie has drafted nine guys in the first three rounds the last three years, and Jalen Reagor looks like the only misfire. Obviously a terrible one. But overall? That’s a heck of a hit rate. Roseman has turned over the roster, and he’s done it while missing the playoffs just once since the Super Bowl season. Impressive stuff.
2. I feel like these last two days of joint practices have been particularly valuable for the Eagles because unlike last year’s sessions with the Patriots and Jets, the Eagles did not come out and dominate. I thought the Eagles won both days by a slim margin, but it was close. And that’s what this team needed.
They need to be challenged. They need to understand where they have to get better. They need to see how other teams are going to attack them. You get a lot more out of these sort of sessions when both teams are making plays against each other. The Browns have some talent, especially on defense. It felt like both teams were getting better, and that’s the whole idea.
3. One of the most impressive things about Eagles-Browns practices was that no fights broke out. Not one. That’s rare for this sort of thing. Both days were hot, the practices were physical and chippy, there was tons of trash talking, so all the elements were there for a few skirmishes to break out. Plus, anytime Derek Barnett is in the neighborhood, fights are possible.
Coaches always warn players not to fight in joint practices, but they don’t always listen. You’ve got 180 angry dudes in pads, so it’s not surprising. When guys in helmets fight, nothing good can happen. They don’t benefit anyone and can cause pretty serious injuries.
But what was great about the last couple days is that both teams took it right up to the edge but never crossed it. And it resulted in a couple very engaging and competitive practices. Both teams got better and nobody got hurt, and that’s the best possible outcome.
4. You’re probably getting sick of me talking about Davis, but this dude is ridiculous. Watching him in 1-on-1’s is a trip. He’s virtually unstoppable.
Davis had one rep Friday where he bull rushed Browns guard Hjalte Froholdt so brutally it looked like Froholdt was on ice skates. Davis and Froholdt met up again a few snaps later, and Davis faked a bull rush, then unleashed a spin move on the poor dude. Froholdt had no chance and sulked back to where the other Browns o-linemen were standing as Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham screamed and hooted and hollered in delight.
And Froholdt is a third-year pro who was a fourth-round pick a few years ago, not some undrafted rookie. Davis is going to be a problem.
5. There’s this group of unheralded second-year defensive guys who have really been showing up at practice and they all had a big couple days against the Browns. Defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu and edge rusher Tarron Jackson were sixth-round picks last year, SAM linebacker Patrick Johnson was a seventh-round pick and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson came into the league undrafted. That whole group has been impressive and shown tremendous growth over last year. You could also put cornerback Zech McPhearson in that group, although he was a fourth-round pick so he was a little higher profile coming into the NFL.
When training camp started, I’m not sure Tuipulotu, Jackson, Johnson or Wilson was on anybody’s roster radar, but they’ve all raised their games significantly in year two and they’ve all made plays in particular over the last couple weeks. Jackson in particular was all over the field against the Browns.
I don’t know what roles these guys will have or what their roster chances are at this point, but you have to feel a lot better about the Eagles’ defensive depth now than a few weeks ago.
6. We probably don’t talk enough about Isaac Seumalo, but for a guy who’s not only coming off a very serious foot injury that required surgery but also changing positions, he’s been really solid this summer. That’s a lot to deal with, and the key for Seumalo is that he embraced getting bumped from left guard to right guard to accommodate Dickerson. There was no resentment, no bitterness. If moving to right guard is going to help the team, then let’s do it. Love his attitude.
7. Smith’s body control is ridiculous. The way he twists and contorts his body — in traffic — to get himself into position to make a catch is so impressive. His ability to make catches along the sideline while being challenged reminds me of — and I probably shouldn’t go here but I’m going to do it anyway — but it reminds me of Mike Quick, who was master of the contested sideline snag. It’s a unique skill, and Smith is as good as anybody doing it that we’ve seen in a long time.
8. I’m starting to think Wallace might be the Eagles’ second-best safety. I don’t see any way Anthony Harris isn’t the starter opposite Epps, but I just see more activity from Wallace. Harris is steady, smart, knows the defense and is generally in the right place, but he just doesn’t make plays. Wallace is still learning, but he’s had a pretty good last couple weeks.
Gannon, who had Harris in Minnesota, trusts Harris, and I guess he’s not quite there with Wallace yet. But I would work Wallace into some packages and go with some sort of three-man rotation, like Gannon did last year when he worked Epps in with Harris and Rodney McLeod. Harris is 30 and only here on a one-year deal, so it makes sense to find out as much as you can about Wallace and get him as much playing time as possible because he might have a much bigger role next year.
9. If Hurts completes one more 13-yard pass per game than last year and plays all 17 games and nothing else changes, here’s what his passing numbers would look like: 65 percent accuracy, 3,784 yards, 92.0 passer rating. Is Brown worth one 13-yard completion per game more than Reagor? We all know the answer to that.
10. My favorite play of training camp so far is Dickerson’s mammoth wipeout block of blitzing Browns linebacker Jacob Phillips Thursday. He just demolished him. If you didn’t see it, you heard it, because the sound of Dickerson’s pads crushing into Phillips could be heard in Dayton. The entire Eagles sideline went bananas as Boston Scott scooted through the hole for a big gain. This time last year, Dickerson hadn’t even started practicing yet. Now he looks like a Pro Bowler.
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