Heating up. Nick Sirianni had his longest practice yet of camp, which made sense since the Eagles have their first day off Sunday. The session, which was in shorts and shells again, went about an hour and 45 minutes. It started late in the afternoon because NFL Network was running a special from the camps of all 32 teams. The weather was ideal. Sirianni confirmed before practice that the defense had won the first three workouts. My guess would be that they got the “W” again Saturday.
DeVonta Down. DeVonta Smith had his practice end early after he suffered an apparent leg injury. The Eagles said that he was still being evaluated after the session, but that they didn’t deem it serious since he hung around for the rest of practice. Smith appeared to tweak the leg when he made a nice grab on a low throw during an early team drill. The Eagles have mostly been without their other projected starter at receiver -- Jalen Reagor -- so if Smith is to miss an extended period it would open opportunities up for reserves like Travis Fulgham and John Hightower. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has already taken a ton of first-team snaps, mostly in the slot. Arcega-Whiteside got dinged in the midsection area late in practice and had to miss a few plays, but he returned after several deep breaths.
Ahem … injuries. Davion Taylor was a new addition to the injury report. He was listed as day-to-day with a quadriceps strain. The second-year linebacker got some first-team repetitions early in camp, but it’s difficult to say if he actually earned the promotion. Reagor (lower-body tightness) and receiver Quez Watkins (non-COVID-19) were again limited. They both participated in one-on-one drills. Guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and cornerback Shakial Taylor (lower body) remained day-to-day, and guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) and defensive back Nate Meadors (hamstring) were still week-to-week.
Receiving RBs. The quarterbacks spent a long time working on passing routes with the running backs. They touched on most routes: swings, screens, crossers, wheels, etc. Miles Sanders has had some bobbles early in camp and was working off to the side with running backs coach Jemal Singleton during special-teams drills. The extra work appeared to pay off as he cleanly caught every pass and did so on a few he snagged in team drills. Jason Huntley may be the fastest option the Eagles have out of the backfield. But he seems to drop a pass or run a poor route at least once every practice. Sirianni is always very involved in receiving drills. He’s very detailed in his instructions. For instance, Boston Scott caught a short pass, but Sirianni didn’t like his transfer and reprimanded him for it. Back to Sanders: He had the run of the day on an option pitch. Tackle Lane Johnson kicked out and the third-year back zoomed into the secondary and as he turned the corner ahead of defenders, pointed his index finger to the sky.
Reagor’s (sorta) return. Reagor is missing valuable time. Sirianni conceded as much before practice, but he also said that he sympathized with the receiver over the recent death of a close friend. The Eagles believe it had something to do with Reagor’s not coming into camp in shape and failing his conditioning test. He had a decent repetition against cornerback Darius Slay in one-on-ones. He ran a hook, and as Slay dug in he slipped and Reagor made the catch. The veteran cornerback rebounded, though, and was on Reagor like glue when quarterback Jalen Hurts tried to hit him on a crosser.
Hightower’s headaches. John Hightower’s NFL peak may end up being last year’s camp. He looked as if he had the ability to play at this level, but it’s pretty much been all downhill since. He has not stood out, at least in a good way, this year. During one-on-ones, he had a step on a defender and Hurts threw a real nice pass, but Hightower didn’t look back in time. Sirianni exploded. In team, the receiver got open down the seam. Based upon the deep coverage, he should have known to look back for the back shoulder. But he didn’t, even though Hurts’ ball was seemingly on time.
Ertz (still) so good. Zach Ertz had the grab of the day. The tight end toasted safety Elijah Riley down the sideline and Hurts hit him in stride for like a 25-yard gain. The quarterback looked a little sharper Saturday. He hasn’t attempted many tight window passes, and he will need to from the pocket when the bullets are real. But he has many other traits the Eagles can highlight. He found tight end Dallas Goedert downfield on a run-pass option play deep into practice. There seems to be at least two or three busted offensive plays a practice in which Hurts is a sitting duck. The screen game hasn’t looked sharp either. Hurts had to kill one when the defense snuffed it out. The Eagles’ screen game was abysmal last year. It can only go up, one would assume. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon continued to mix up his fronts. I don’t know how much Fletcher Cox will like playing five-technique defensive end, but he was again a monster inside. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention T.Y. McGill. The journeyman defensive tackle has struggled to latch on with a team, but there’s a reason he’s still in the NFL after seven years. He’s disruptive. He’s not particularly large at 6-foot-0, 299 pounds, but he’s stood out a number of times.
OL-DL one-on-ones. Andre Dillard had probably his best day of camp. I didn’t notice any glaring errors in team drills, and in one-on-ones, he had his best rep when he drove defensive end Derek Barnett to the ground on an outside speed rush. Dillard probably held Barnett in an earlier rep, but it was promising to see him bounce back after a few rough days. Sirianni said before practice that Dillard has been fighting through some bumps and bruises. Rookie defensive lineman Milton Williams exploded off the ball when matched up against guard Nate Herbig. But he wasted his next rush with some sort of waving hand fake that fooled no one. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave beat guard Sua Opeta with a nifty swim move. Defensive end Josh Sweat has started strong in camp, but he ran into a wall on one take vs. tackle Jordan Mailata.
Special-teams notes. The following fielded punts: Greg Ward, Kenneth Gainwell, Reagor, Scott, and Smith. Reagor cleanly caught all his tries. Gainwell muffed one. Jake Elliott was shaky on field goals. Overall, he went 4 of 6. He was wide right from 33 yards, good from 38, 43, 40, and 44, and wide left from 49.
And a few leftovers … Saturday was “Military Day.” The Eagles invited 200 members of the armed forces along with two guests for each. … Tuesday will be the first padded practice of camp. It’s about time.