Eagles Training Camp

In Roob's Observations: How much better has Hurts gotten after historic season?

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Why is Nolan Smith going to quickly become a fan favorite? Where does Kenny Gainwell fit in a crowded backfield? How has Jalen Hurts gotten even better?

So many questions, and we've got some answers in today’s Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Training Camp Observations.

1. It’s only four practices, but Jalen Hurts really does look better than ever, and that’s saying a lot. He’s taken his mastery of the offense and his ability to process and diagnose coverages and deliver the ball quickly and accurately to yet another level, and he was at a pretty high level to begin with. Hurts is facing last year’s No. 1 NFL pass defense on a daily basis and he just isn’t missing. When one of his passes hits the ground it’s literally shocking. Hurts is in Year 4 with Dallas Goedert, Year 3 with DeVonta Smith and Year 2 with A.J. Brown, and his chemistry with those guys just keeps growing. He's clearly ahead of where he was this time last year. Hurts spoke after last season about how even after a Pro Bowl season and a record-setting Super Bowl, his approach to the offseason would stay exactly the same, with non-stop work and an obsession with improvement. I wondered after last season's historic performance how much room was really left for him to improve, and we might not see the leaps and bounds we saw from 2021 to 2022 but there’s no question in my mind the Jalen Hurts we see in 2023 will be better than what we saw in 2022. He’s been dazzling.

2. This seems to be an especially strong second group of wide receivers, meaning the guys behind DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Quez Watkins and Olamide Zaccheaus. We’ve seen Tyrie Cleveland, Deon Cain, Jadon Haselwood and even punt returner Britain Covey all make plays in the passing game, but the most productive in that group so far has been Joseph Ngata, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound undrafted rookie from Clemson. We’ve seen Nick Sirianni bark at Ngata a couple times – once in OTAs, once since camp started – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The head coach isn’t going to single out a player if he doesn’t think he has a chance to be a contributor. Ngata has shown an ability to use his big frame to carve out space against defenders, he’s caught the ball well and he’s made a couple eye-opening highlight catches the first few days of camp. The question with Ngata is his speed. He ran 4.54 at the Combine, which is why he went undrafted. Some guys can make up for a lack of elite speed with size, intelligence, precise routes, body control and hands. Ngata is off to a promising start in that regard.

3. I’m intrigued by Moro Ojomo, the 21-year-old seventh-rounder out of Texas. Ojomo is a 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive lineman, and while he doesn’t really have a natural position – he played both end and tackle at Texas - he’s an intriguing prospect because he’s so big and strong and has the type of work ethic the Eagles love. They believe if someone has the tools and the work habits, they'll find him a position. Okomo is definitely a guy to keep an eye on in joint practices and the preseason games, where he'll play a ton. The Eagles are so deep on the defensive line it won’t be easy for him to make the 53, but the veterans speak highly of the kid because of the way he’s come in and kept his head down and worked since he got here. Long shot but at worst a practice squadder who can red-shirt this year and keep learning.

4. It’s really a shame the Eagles don’t allow practice to be videotaped because every Eagles fan deserves to see the majestic 45-yard Jalen Hurts TD to A.J. Brown down the left sideline at practice on Tuesday. It was an absolute work of art. James Bradberry had perfect coverage on Brown, but Hurts just put the ball where only Brown could get it, and Brown did the rest. This is next-level stuff, and Hurts and Brown have been putting on a show since camp began. Bradberry has been exceptional so far, and Sirianni does so much 1’s vs. 1’s that he and Brown have battled a lot, and those reps have been a highlight of camp. They're only going to keep making each other better.

5. Nolan Smith on how he’s fitting into the defensive line room: “I'm like the B.G. of the group, so I'm always smiling, I’m always laughing, trying to get guys going. And I tell them, ‘Man, we have the most perfect job in the world. We get to come out here, play football and fly around, hit m-----f------. So there ain't nothing better than that.'” If he can play, Eagles fans are going to absolutely love this guy.

6. I’ve been surprised how many people on social media think the Eagles are going to cut Kenny Gainwell and keep D’Andre Swift, Rashaad Penny and Boston Scott and maybe Trey Sermon. Keep in mind, Gainwell is the youngest back on the team at 24, he’s the only back under contract beyond 2023, he’s never been hurt, he’s a very good rusher (4.6 career average) and productive receiver (68 catches, 526 yards), all while playing less than 30 percent of the snaps over the last two years. How many players in NFL history have had 700 rushing yards, 500 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in their first two seasons on fewer than 300 touches? Gainwell. Just Gainwell. And he did it on 223 touches. Is he going to be a 20-carry guy? Nope. But he's going to be a big part of this offense, and there’s a 0 percent chance the Eagles will cut him.

7. The only Eagles with 30 sacks in a two-year period are Reggie White (31 in 1985-86, 39 in 1986-87, 39 in 1987-88) and Clyde Simmons (32 in 1991 and 1992). Haason Reddick needs 14 to reach 30 over a two-year period.

8. One of the big storylines of camp is how much the Eagles are throwing to the backs this summer, and even the one back who has no history of catching the ball – Rashaad Penny – has looked fine coming out of the backfield in the passing game. Penny has just 27 career receptions and is one of only 14 NFL backs in the last 50 years with 300 or more carries and fewer than 30 receptions. “I think I can do a lot (in the passing game),” Penny said this week. “I didn’t do it a lot in my career or in college, but I’ve always been comfortable catching the ball. To see this many route trees for a running back is honestly kind of cool because I never got to experience something like this, for us to be in empty a lot and showcase our ability to catch the ball and being like a receiver.” The Eagles just keep adding weapons. It’s nuts.

9. Not surprisingly, that right guard competition Sirianni told us about hasn’t happened. Cam Jurgens is the right guard and will be the opening-day right guard. He’s gotten every first-team rep, and it’s nothing against Tyler Steen, he hasn't done anything wrong, but Jurgens has been here for a year, he’s been at practice and in meetings with Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson for a year, he spent last season picking Isaac Seumalo’s brain, and he hasn’t done anything to open the door for Steen, the rookie third-round pick from Alabama (via Vanderbilt). I’m guessing Kelce will get Thursday off – Wednesday and Thursday are the first back-to-back practices of camp – and we’ll see Jurgens at center and Steen at right guard. Steen’s day will come. Probably soon. But this year is about Jurgens at right guard and Steen backing him up.

10. Sometimes you can just tell a team likes a young player and is trying to find a reason to keep him around. Cornerback Mario Goodrich seems to fit into that category. The Eagles kept Goodrich on the practice squad all last year – he was a game-day elevation once but didn’t play – and on Monday, with Avonte Maddox’s reps limited by that toe injury, we saw Goodrich work in with the first defense as a slot corner. Zech McPhearson has the early lead to be the backup slot, and Josiah Scott is also in the mix, but Goodrich is an interesting addition to that competition. We’ve also seen Goodrich on a bunch of special teams. None of this guarantees anything, but it does tell you the Eagles are giving Goodrich a lot of opportunities to prove he belongs.

Subscribe to Eagle Eye anywhere you get your podcasts: 
Apple Podcasts | YouTube Music | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | RSSWatch on YouTube

Contact Us