The Eagles held their second practice of training camp Friday. Here are some of the highlights and my observations from Day 2 (and here’s my report from Day 1):
1. Not long after practice started it became apparent that cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc was missing. He didn’t noticeably injure himself during the first day of camp, so there was some speculation on social media that the Eagles may have been in the process of trading him. The team does have some positions that could be addressed, but a trade this early into camp didn’t pass the smell test. Nevertheless, LeBlanc did in fact injure himself Thursday and wasn’t on the field because he was still undergoing tests, a team source said. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz confirmed that the cornerback was sidelined by an unspecified injury.
2. LeBlanc’s absence offers the opportunity to assess the cornerback position after the spring and the first two days of camp. Injuries to Jalen Mills (foot) and Ronald Darby (knee), the incumbent outside starters the last two years, have given Avonte Maddox, Rasul Douglas, and Sidney Jones plenty of opportunity to steal one or both of those jobs. Douglas has consistently been on the outside with the first team, while Maddox and Jones have shuffled back and forth between the outside and slot. Jones provided probably the best defensive play of the day when he thwarted a Carson Wentz pass to receiver Marken Michel. Jones may not have gotten a fingertip on the ball, but his coverage was tight and Marken couldn’t reel in a pass that hit his outstretched hands.
LeBlanc had been playing primarily inside. A midseason pickup, the journeyman was pressed into duty last season after multiple injuries and showed weekly improvement in Schwartz’s scheme. I don’t know if he can crack the top three at corner, but LeBlanc should have a spot on the roster. Yes, the Eagles have some depth, and maybe he could be moved if there is an injury during camp, but as last season showed, you can’t have enough cornerbacks.
3. Practice was longer and more competitive than Day 1, but the Eagles spent a large portion of the workout on individual drills, play installation and scout work. Doug Pederson told me after practice that he had made some minor adjustments to the schedule, but that he’ll gradually build up the intensity over the next week. The Eagles wore only shells the first two days, but the pads will come out Saturday before an off day. Pederson can afford to go a little easier than he had in his first two seasons because the Eagles are a veteran squad. Injuries are a part of summer football, but he wants to get his squad to the finish line without losing key pieces. Safety Blake Countess (injury unknown) joined LeBLanc on the injury list. There weren’t any changes in terms of participation for the Eagles’ returning injured.
4. Wentz continued to impress during 7-on-7 and team drills. By my count, he completed his first eight passes and finished 10 of 12 overall. During 7 on 7s, he looked off the safety and hit receiver Alshon Jeffery as he slanted inside Douglas on his first throw. He dumped to running back Darren Sproles in the flat. He found receiver Mack Hollins on a short dig. He fired a laser to a leaping DeSean Jackson on a seam route. He dropped a pass over a zone-dropping linebacker that tight end Zach Ertz had to pull in with one hand. And he hooked up with running back Josh Adams underneath.
During 11 on 11s, he checked down to tight end Dallas Goedert. He failed to hook up with Michel. And, on what could be labeled his only true misfire, he lofted a fade well over Jackson’s head. Wentz did everything else right. His hard count got linebacker Zach Brown to show blitz. He identified man coverage vs. his outside receiver. And he threw the correct type of pass with the safety well out of range. But he his touch was off on the throw. Wentz completed his day with completions to Hollins and Sproles.
5. Nate Sudfeld had a strong session, in my opinion. The backup quarterback’s understanding of the offense and his reading of defenses have grown. It was evident on back-to-back connections with tight end Richard Rodgers. On each throw, Sudfeld ran through his progressions, and each time, he found the correct matchup – Rodgers pitted against a linebacker and open over the middle. He would later check out of a call and hit Rodgers near the sideline. Sudfeld may not have the luxury of throwing to Ertz or Goedert as much as Wentz, but he likes his big targets. Sudfeld also got Brown to jump offsides with his hard count.
6. The Eagles have four receivers guaranteed to make the roster: Jeffery, Jackson, Nelson Agholor and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Hollins should have the inside track on a fifth spot, but if the Eagles keep six, there are several candidates. Shelton Gibson gets the first mention because he’s been on the team, but he could be in trouble. He was down to a just a few special team snaps by the end of last season. Michel and Charles Johnson have stood out among the lesser-known names. Johnson has the most experience. Michel has some upside. Johnson (6-foot-2, 215 pounds) has more size than Michel (5-11, 190). Carlton Agudosi had the catch of the day when he snagged a Cody Kessler back shoulder pass over cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon. Agudosi has good height (6-6, 220) and is slated to become the flavor of camp among fans thirsty for a long receiver.
7. And a few leftovers … Rookie quarterback Clayton Thorson took only a few reps during team drills. He scrambled out of bounds on his first snap and had what appeared to be a miscommunication with Agudosi and threw the ball out of bounds. … Jake Elliott booted a handful of field goals at the start of practice, but I was asleep at the wheel and missed the first few. He was wide right and down the middle on the last two, which were around 45-yardish. I did get to ask Elliott about Mick Jagger’s shout out during the Rolling Stones concert at the Linc the other day. Newsflash: He thought it was cool. It’s Jagger’s 76th birthday, by the way. I’m not too blind to see …