1. We had a DeSean Jackson sighting. The veteran wide receiver has practiced most days, and even when taking an over-30 day off, he’s been present. But the 33-year-old looked like the 23-year-old Jackson, or at least some semblance of his younger, healthier self during Thursday’s workout. On one of the first plays of team drills, Jackson ran a deep post past cornerback Darius Slay. There was no safety help over top and the quarterback found his receiver for what had to be a 40-yard touchdown.
Wentz looked to Jackson often. He overthrew him a few plays later, but a nicely executed misdirection screen produced big yards as the receiver darted upfield behind center Jason Kelce and other blockers. A few plays later, Jackson was wide open on a dig route and went vertical for a pass that was a touch high. Slay had payback a period later, though, when he ran step for step with Jackson on a go route and batted away a Wentz floater. Jackson would later find another hole in the zone for a 15-yard catch over the middle.
2. The secondary is essentially set. While there had been talk from defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz about competition at three spots, the six main spots have essentially had the same personnel throughout camp. Sidney Jones, with his lower body injury, didn’t help his chances of supplanting Avonte Maddox at one outside cornerback spot opposite Slay. But Maddox’s grip on the position has been steadfast. His pre-team-drill handshake with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox all but solidifies the job for him in these eyes.
Jalen Mills has done little to suggest that he could lose the starting safety spot opposite Rodney McLeod. Nickell Robey-Coleman has clearly secured his role as the slot corner ahead of Cre’Von LeBlanc. And Will Parks has been the dime defensive back throughout. The group has fared well over the last 10 practices, although the Eagles’ seemingly improved receiver group has given them handfuls.
3. Rookie John Hightower had perhaps the catch of the day when quarterback Nate Sudfeld found him matched up opposite cornerback Craig James in man coverage. Sudfeld tossed a jump ball and Hightower – aided by a slight push off -- won the ball from James for a touchdown. Receiver Jalen Reagor caught a touchdown himself – from Wentz -- when he got behind cornerback Trevor Williams.
Deontay Burnett continued to make a case for the 53-man roster. Wentz threw him a jump ball, as well, and Burnett held on vs. LeBlanc. The former undrafted player ripped his helmet off in excitement. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside wasn’t as dynamic as he was the day prior, but he had several grabs. Greg Ward has been his typical reliable self, and he got to flash his former quarterback arm when he connected with Arcega-Whiteside on an option pass.
4. The big injury news of the day, of course, was that Andre Dillard left early with a biceps injury that will require season-ending surgery. Defensive end Genard Avery’s injury on Wednesday wasn’t as serious as feared. The Eagles labeled it “lower body” and day-to-day, as they did defensive end Joe Ostman’s injury. Right guard/soon-to-be left tackle Jason Peters didn’t participate in team drills on a maintenance day.
Tackle Jordan Mailata (upper body) and safety Marcus Epps (lower body) returned to practice. Jones didn’t participate in team drills. Running back Miles Sanders (lower body), tackle Lane Johnson (upper body), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (pec strain), and defensive ends Derek Barnett (lower body) and Vinny Curry (lower body) were still out. Sanders wasn’t suited up, but he caught some passes during individual drills.
5. Matt Pryor’s been playing almost exclusively at tackle, but he’ll be back at guard following Dillard’s injury. Always a standout in one-on-one drills, he was a wall vs. a bullish Brandon Graham. Pryor also manhandled defensive end Shareef Miller. I’ve been intrigued by the Casey Toohill-Prince Tega Wanogho standoffs. Toohill had won the bulk the last week, but Tega Wanogho was strong today. The rookie tackle also stood up end Josh Sweat.
Mailata has had his struggles this camp, but he was stout vs. a Matt Leo bull rush in one-on-ones. He appeared to have one of his better days overall just by the lack of yelling in his direction from O-line coach Jeff Stoutland.
6. Wentz typically owns seven-on-seven drills and Thursday’s drills offered an opportunity to showcase why he’s the starter (duh) over Sudfeld and rookie Jalen Hurts. His arm strength just gives him the ability to make tight window throws the other two can’t. And it’s not like Sudfeld and Hurt can’t spin in, or that they won’t improve their accuracy, especially the latter.
Wentz completed a pass to Jackson in the Cover 2 turkey hole for a touchdown. And he threaded the needle to tight end Dallas Goedert over the middle vs. zone coverage. Most of Sudfeld’s and Hurts’ throws were of the check-down nature, not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that.
7. That being said, Wentz has been shaky on some downfield throws to open receivers. The ball tends to float high in those situations. No quarterback is perfect, and camp is the place to make those mistakes, but if Wentz wants to be more accurate, he’ll need to complete most of those passes in the regular season. Aside from the Jackson miss, he overcooked passes to tight end Zach Ertz and Arcega-Whitside.
Wentz wasn’t exactly getting much help from his offensive line during one set. Graham pressure forced the quarterback to heave back-to-back passes away. And on a screen to running back Elijah Holyfield, Cox read the play and batted the pass away.
8. T.J. Edwards continued to split first-team linebacker reps with Duke Riley. He knifed into the backfield and touched Ward down on a thwarted end around. Linebacker Alex Singleton notched his own tackle for loss when he stopped Michael Warren in the backfield. Holyfield had a rush into the secondary that was finished off with a stiff arm to defensive back Michael Jacquet. Running back Boston Scott ping-ponged into a hole and got north quickly. Ertz one-handed a Wentz pass thrown behind him. Cornerback Rasul Douglas had tight coverage on two Wentz incomplete tries to Goedert.
9. The second units went live late in the workout. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway clothes-lined running back Adrian Killins. But the offense got the better of the defense up front as Warren and Holyfield converted runs inside the 5-yard line. Graham and Cox have been vocal about defensive success during practices, but running backs coach Duce Staley cupped his ear and glared at Graham after Holyfield’s dance into the end zone.