Comparing Jalen Hurts' passing stats before and after halftime, whether Tyree Jackson has a chance at making the 53-man roster and a Josh Sweat prediction.
That's just a taste of what's in store for you in today's Roob's 10 Random Training Camp Observations.
1. It’s so funny to me when people who are still desperate to find a way to criticize Jalen Hurts use his low passing yard total from 2022 to supposedly demonstrate that he’s not a big-time passer. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Hurts threw for 247 yards per game last year, 13th-highest in the league. But here’s what people don’t realize. He didn’t need to throw in the second half of most games because the Eagles were usually up big and their running attack was unstoppable. The Eagles led eight games by double digits at halftime and led seven by 15 or more points after three quarters. Why throw? The Eagles were fantastic at running the ball, running clock and finishing games. Here’s what I find really interesting: Hurts actually had the 3rd-most passing yards in the NFL last year before halftime with 2,498, behind only Patrick Mahomes (2,832) and Justin Herbert (2,590). He averaged 20 pass attempts per game before halftime, 6th-highest among all QBs. But after halftime, Hurts didn’t need to throw that much and his numbers reflect it: He averaged 11 pass attempts (24th-most in the league) and 80 passing yards (22nd-most in the league). So 67 percent of his passing yards came before halftime. But his passer rating – 103.8 in the first half (5th-highest), wasn’t far off in the second half at 98.0 (6th-highest). In all, the Eagles in the first half last year ran 40 percent of the time and threw 60 percent. In the second half, they ran 57 percent of the time and threw 43 percent. If the Eagles threw as much in the second half as the first, Hurts would have had nearly 5,000 passing yards and 28 TD passes.
2. I’m not so sure Tyree Jackson isn’t ahead of Grant Calcaterra for that third tight end spot. Jackson is finally healthy and really looks like a tight end now and not a quarterback converting to tight end. He knows how to use his giant frame to carve out space against defenders, and he’s caught the ball extremely well this summer. I’m not sure he’s a great blocker, but he’s a big, strong, tough guy who is going to at least get in people's way and give an honest effort as a blocker. Calcaterra may have an edge as a draft pick last year, and the Eagles tend to give deference to their draft picks. But Jackson has at the very least worked his way into the conversation.
3. Right from Day 1, Greedy Williams just didn’t have it. Williams came here with a decent resume – 39 games and 21 starts, a couple interceptions two years ago, one-time 2nd-round pick of the Browns. But although he was given the opportunity to compete for that third outside corner spot, he never asserted himself into the mix. He just didn’t make plays. Looked a step slow, a step tentative, a step uncertain. It can be hard for some guys coming to a new team in a new city and learning a new scheme and going out and making plays. Williams just never showed that he deserved to be in that competition with Josh Jobe, Eli Ricks, Kelee Ringo and Mekhi Garner. Jobe pretty quickly demonstrated that he was at the top of the heap, and Ricks, Ringo and Garner have all taken turns making plays. Obviously, Ringo isn’t going anywhere as a rookie 4th-round pick, so there was just no reason to keep Williams around. It was a surprisingly non-competitive camp for Williams. You expected a lot more from a guy who was the 46th player taken in the 2019 draft.
4. I know a lot of people want to keep Joseph Ngata on the 53 instead of Britain Covey and have someone else return punts – maybe Olamide Zaccheus. And Ngata has had a strong camp and has more upside as a receiver than Covey. But your fifth WR probably won’t get on the field on offense barring a series of injury disasters. So that guy has to contribute on special teams. Ngata didn’t play special teams in the preseason opener vs. the Ravens and then played six snaps against the Browns. Covey is a better punt returner than he gets credit for. He finished his rookie year with a 9.3 average, which is about average (8.9 was NFL average in 2022). But from Week 5 on, Covey averaged 11.1, which was 7th-highest (minimum one return per team game). And then the 35-yarder in the Super Bowl. Including the postseason, he averaged 11.7 the last 15 games of the season. Covey is too valuable to release. Now, he has been out since suffering a hamstring injury on Aug. 10, although he looks close to returning. But if he’s not back at practice next week, then that’s a problem. But if he’s healthy, he’s on the 53.
5. Every time I see Josh Sweat take a rep, I’m telling you, I see 17 sacks. Sweat has increased his sack total every year of his career – none as a rookie in 2019, then 4.0, 6.0, 7.5 and 11 last year. Doesn’t mean he’s going to keep increasing forever, but I see a guy who has really figured things out, understands so well how to use his speed and first step and is bigger and stronger than he’s ever been. Sweat has looked better than ever at training camp, and he’s going to be surrounded by so many other d-line studs that if offenses don’t account for him, he’s going to make them pay. That’s a lot of sacks, but I really think he’s that good.
6. Watching Jason Kelce’s admitted cheap shot at the joint practice with the Colts Tuesday, it was impossible not to think about why Kelce – a slam-dunk Hall of Famer - wasn’t drafted until the sixth round of the 2011 draft. On the New Heights podcast last spring, Kelce asked Howie Roseman why he fell so far in the draft, and Roseman said it was a combination of his weight – he was 280 pounds at the Combine – and his temper: “I think it was (weight) plus the combination of intense anger that you wanted to beat the bleep out of everyone within five miles from you at the time. (That) was at least the reputation. … I do remember in the draft room, (scouts) were going, ‘I’m just telling you, he might fight half the team.’” Kelce’s response: “I had a bad reputation coming out of Cincinnati. You guys do your research. All of this is accurate.”
7. Dallas Goedert averaged 10.2 yards per target last year. Only two NFL wide receivers with 50 or more catches averaged more yards per target last year – Jaylen Waddle (11.6) and A.J. Brown (10.3).
8. There was a point about a week or so into training camp where I really wondered whether Olamide Zaccheaus would make the roster. Zaccheaus was struggling catching the football, and what was really surprising was the lack of connection he had with Marcus Mariota, his quarterback with the Falcons last year. But something clicked and Zaccheaus has looked really good lately. One thing that’s helped is Quez Watkins’ hamstring injury. Watkins has been out since he got hurt on Aug. 10, and that’s given Zaccheaus a chance at a generous helping of 1st-team reps in the slot, and any receiver is going to look better out there with Jalen Hurts instead of Mariota. But it’s more than that. He just looks like he’s settling in and growing comfortable playing in a new offense with new coaches and new teammates. I don’t know if Zaccheaus will match the 533 receiving yards he had last year considering the other weapons the Eagles have. But the Eagles have to feel much better about where he is than they did a few weeks ago.
9. I wonder if Eli Ricks has done enough to make the 53. Rick is one of those guys who hasn’t flashed that much in practice but as we all saw made big plays in the preseason games. Pro Football Focus has Ricks as the 2nd-highest-rated corner in the entire NFL this preseason, with a grade of 89.6 – behind only the Packers’ William Hooper. Ricks' 90.2 coverage grade is 3rd-highest. We know the Eagles are keeping Darius Slay, James Bradberry, Avonte Maddox, Josh Jobe and Kelee Ringo. Mario Goodrich seems to have the team made as the backup slot. That’s six corners. Seven is a lot, and Ricks most likely wouldn’t get claimed – but he might. Remember, this kid was once considered a 1st- or 2nd-round pick, and Howie might have stolen one here. Not sure the Eagles want to risk losing him.
10. It’s an outrage that the Pro Football Hall of Fame Seniors Committee did not include former Eagles stars Al Wistert or Maxie Baughan among the three finalists for selection into the Hall’s Class of 2024. Both are richly deserving of football’s highest honor. But one former Eagle did make the cut. That’s Art Powell, the Eagles’ 11th-round draft pick in 1959. Powell began his career as a safety and had three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles as a rookie with the Eagles and also led the Eastern Conference with a 27.1 kick return average – still 2nd-highest in franchise history by a rookie (behind Josh Huff’s 29.6 in 2014). But the Eagles released him – according to an article in the Aug. 27, 1960, Philadelphia Daily News because of “the Eagles’ growing confidence in their two rookie defensive backs, Jim Niemann and Bobby Jackson.” Jackson started four games in his one season with the Eagles, and Niemann never played in the NFL. And Powell went on to catch 479 passes for 8,046 yards and 81 touchdowns for the Titans, Raiders, Bills and Vikings. He’s one of only five players in history with 8,000 yards, 80 touchdowns and a 16.5 average and the only player with 8,000 yards, three INTs and a 27.0 kick return average. The Eagles gave up on him after 12 games and one season, and he’s now on the brink of becoming a Hall of Famer. If Powell gets in, his 12 games in an Eagles uniform would be the 3rd-fewest of any Hall of Famer. James Lofton played in nine games for the Eagles in 1993 and Art Monk in three games in 1995. Monk, Lofton and Richard Dent are the only Hall of Famers who spent just one season with the Eagles.