The Eagles held their second mandatory minicamp practice Wednesday. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The play of the day, if not of spring workouts, came midway through practice when cornerback Avonte Maddox intercepted Carson Wentz. It’s wasn’t so much that he picked off the quarterback, it was the way in which he did it. Wentz dropped back and threw to receiver Marken Michel, who had a half a step on Maddox on a seam route. Maybe he needed to loft the pass a touch higher, but Maddox turned his eyes back at the right moment and skied for the ball. It was a good read, but also an impressive athletic move. Maddox isn’t long. He’s 5-foot-9 and has a 29½-inch arm length. But he’s quick, he can jump — he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash and had a 37-inch vertical leap at the combine — and he’s smart. He’s been one of the standout stars of workouts and has benefited as Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills recover from injuries. He’s ahead of Sidney Jones – when the Eagles are in base it’s been Maddox and Rasul Douglas on the outside – and one could argue on track to be the best of all the cornerbacks.
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2. It took a while, but Wentz and DeSean Jackson finally hooked up on a long pass, at least during one of the open practices. Jackson ran a deep post from the outside vs. Douglas, who had no help over top. I don’t know if there was a blown coverage or that Wentz simply made the right read. But Jackson burned by Douglas and Wentz swished his heave. After reaching the end zone, Jackson spun the football and turned back toward the team. When he realized that there wasn’t anyone around to retrieve the ball, he circled back and picked it up. Ladies and gents, the new, more mature DeSean.
3. Later on, Wentz went back to Jackson on a curl route. The toss was a smidge low, but it hit him in the hands and he flat dropped it. I think it was the first drop Jackson had during the open sessions. Wentz jogged over and gave his receiver a few pats on the helmet, but Jackson was clearly upset with himself. When he returned to the huddle, he dropped to the ground and did five pushups. Ladies and gents, the new, more mature DeSean.
4. The Eagles’ first unit defense was in its big nickel package for a good amount of practice. Tre Sullivan filled that role – as he did for parts of last season -- and he had a difficult spell during red zone drills. To his defense, Wentz was tossing dimes during this set. On the first play, Wentz threw to Wendell Smallwood, who had wheeled out of the backfield and in to the corner of the end zone. Sullivan turned back as the pass was coming his way, but the ball rainbowed over his outstretched hands and right into Smallwood’s mitts. A play later, Wentz strung an arrow to tight end Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone ahead of the man-defending Sullivan. The safety swung his arms to the back judge as if to say that Ertz didn’t get both feet in, but the referee raised his limbs for a touchdown.
5. Malcolm Jenkins hasn’t had many passes thrown his way over the last two days, but his contributions extend beyond playmaking. I asked Doug Pederson before practice if he was worried about the safety’s displeasure over his contract situation affecting his performance and the coach said that he thought it wouldn’t become a distraction. I can’t imagine it will. During the 2017 season, Jenkins and defensive end Brandon Graham started racing to the ball at the start of team drills as a way to encourage their teammates and add an element of hustle to each practice. They did it again last season, and when the whistle blew for the start of team drills the last two days, Jenkins was the first player to the ball.
6. We had our first Miles Sanders sighting in some time. The rookie running back missed all of OTAs with a hamstring strain and won’t go in minicamp, but he was out on the field watching Wednesday. He wasn’t the only player who watched without conditioning. Wide receivers Nelson Agholor (“lower body,” per Pederson) and Shelton Gibson (injury unknown) were also merely spectators. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (foot), linebacker Nigel Bradham (hand), running back Corey Clement (knee) and guard Brandon Brooks (Achilles) did some work off to the side. Safety Rodney McLeod (knee), cornerback Ronald Darby (knee), defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder), and receiver Mack Hollins (groin) were limited to individual drills. Cornerback Jalen Mills (foot) was absent.
7. Here are some of the other notable moments during first team drills: Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill had tight coverage on Ertz and Wentz threw incomplete. Center Jason Kelce rolled a snap and Wentz was forced to throw the ball away. Wentz would later bobble another snap which may or may not have rushed him to throw a pretty ugly interception to safety Andrew Sendejo. During 7-on-7 drills, Wentz rolled to his right and heaved a bomb to Jackson down the sideline, but Jones and Sendejo were there and the ball drifted to the ground. Michel caught a wide open pass, but as he ran after the catch he juked Sendejo for additional would-be yards.
8. The second unit: Josh Sweat, after spending most of the spring on the left, took some snaps on the right and got to face off against rookie Andre Dillard. I wouldn’t make much of line play when little contact is allowed, but as far as technique goes, Dillard looks like he’s miles ahead of most first-year tackles. He has cat-like feet and on one rush squared up Sweat with ease. I don’t know what to make of Nate Sudfeld’s spring. He’s had his moments and there are parts of his game that really stand out – like his touch on deep balls or passes that need to be floated into certain spots. But he’s had his struggles on throws outside the hashes. He hasn’t always gotten to work with the best receivers, but it’s not like the second unit defense is full of future NFL starters.
9. The third unit: The less said about the third team offense, the better. Quarterback Cody Kessler hasn’t thrown one pass that I’d label above average over the last several weeks, which has me questioning why he’s even on the roster stealing snaps from Clayton Thorson. The rookie quarterback has had issues, as well, but he needs to get as many repetitions as possible, especially when Wentz and Sudfeld take about 90 percent of the total snaps. The Eagles may want to limit his pitch count, but I think they can get by with just three quarterbacks in camp.
10. And a few leftovers … Alshon Jeffery, once again, did very little during team drills. … The Eagles have one more minicamp practice left before breaking for the summer. The first practice of training camp is slated for July 26. Players will be required to report a day prior.