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Eagles practice observations: D-line dominates; Jalen Hurts makes hay; Jordan Mailata vs. Andre Dillard all but over

Mailata is poised to win the left-tackle starting job; Hurts had good moments in a joint practice with the New York Jets.

Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni greeting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox  while he warms up during training camp at the NovaCare Complex.
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni greeting defensive tackle Fletcher Cox while he warms up during training camp at the NovaCare Complex.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

FLORHAM PARK, N.Y. — The Eagles held their 16th open practice of training camp on Tuesday — and the first of two joint practices with the New York Jets. Here are links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 15. Let’s get to Day 16′s action:

Hurts mode. Jalen Reagor knows who butters his bread. Asked to name one player he thought would have a great season for the Eagles, he singled out Jalen Hurts. I can’t fault a receiver for choosing his quarterback. While Fletcher Cox, for instance, chose a couple of camp stars I’d have chosen — receiver Quez Watkins and defensive end Josh Sweat — Hurts has performed increasingly well over the last month. On the bus ride over to Jets Way, Hurts told his receivers, “I’m in the mode,” per Reagor, which I guess meant that he was feeling well after last week’s bout with a stomach ailment. Nevertheless, he did have some nice throws and unscripted moments.

But it wasn’t a clean performance, either. Some of the blame for the sloppiness falls on the rest of the offense (more on that later). Hurts, though, had several times when he held the ball too long or locked in on a receiver. Early in team drills, Hurts eyed receiver DeVonta Smith downfield for what seemed forever. He finally unleashed a pass deep — contested and incomplete — but not before Jets safety Michael Carter tapped him for a sack from the blindside. A period later, Hurts had tight end Zach Ertz open on a hook route. He saw him, but didn’t pull the trigger and was sacked by Jets defensive end John Franklin-Myers.

Hurts rebounded after the second sack and hit receiver Travis Fulgham on a comeback route. But he was sacked a few plays later when the Eagles offensive line struggled with a stunt. Hurts continued to go through his reads and fired to an open Smith on a deep dig route. The ball sailed well over the intended target’s head, though. A play later, Hurts did well to climb the ladder and scramble as the pocket collapsed. He’s typically a side-to-side scrambler, so it was good to see him get north.

The next period was Hurts’ best. He hooked up with Dallas Goedert downfield after the tight end lost his man. And he flushed left and threw across his body to Watkins, who made a leaping grab. The receiver landed on his back — much like tight end Tyree Jackson did a week ago when he got hurt — and was slow to rise. But Watkins did return and seemed fine. Hurts had another play when he stared down a receiver — this time JJ Arcega-Whiteside, for whatever reason and kept looking his way well after his route was finished. But Arcega-Whiteside didn’t circle back and Hurts’ pass went out of bounds.

» READ MORE: JJ Arcega-Whiteside went back to college to find the key to kick-start his struggling Eagles career

Flag day. As noted above, there were mistakes. I counted at least five pre-snap penalties from the Eagles on both sides. The Jets had as many pre-snap errors and were also more careless down the field on defense. Cornerback Bryce Hall, who had a couple pass breakups when pitted against Reagor, was flagged for pass interference on one jump ball. He drew another when he got handsy vs. Goedert on a Hurts red-zone pass into the end zone. Overall, the Eagles outplayed a Jets team that was banged up and just three days removed from playing at the Packers in its second preseason game. The Eagles, conversely, played Thursday and had non-practice days on Friday, Saturday and Monday. You could see the difference, especially up front where the Eagles had the advantage. Running backs Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott reeled off several long runs. Hurts kept a few times himself on zone read plays, but also when man coverage gave him green to gobble up. He ended practice by hitting Reagor on a sprint out from the 1-yard line.

D-line domination. The Jets offensive line looked gassed. And when left tackle Mekhi Becton left with an apparent head injury, there weren’t many blockers who could consistently keep the Eagles’ D-line in check. Sweat forced a fumble. Cox and Javon Hargrave kept pushing the pocket into rookie quarterback Zach Wilson’s lap. Wilson has obvious arm talent, but wasn’t sharp. Of course, having Cox in your face all day probably didn’t help. Sweat committed one of the aforementioned pre-snap penalties when he jumped in a late period. But the Eagles’ first unit closed its day with a forced fumble — I couldn’t see who jarred the ball loose — on a Jets rush.

Slaying receivers. The Jets may have a receiver corp as unheralded as the Eagles. So I would hope that cornerbacks Darius Slay and Steven Nelson won more than their share Tuesday, especially with the Eagles’ front wrecking havoc. But they had the Jets on lockdown on the outside for most of practice. On the few times they did get beat in man coverage, Wilson was errant. Receiver Jeff Smith got behind Slay one time, but the pass was under thrown and the corner recovered to tip the ball. It caromed directly back to Smith, but the ball was jarred loose and fell to the ground. Jets receiver Corey Davis sprung free over the middle a period later, but Wilson’s throw was too far ahead. There were some holes in defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon’s zone coverages later in practice. Rookie receiver Elijah Moore caught a 30-yarder — easily the Jets’ best offensive play — on what appeared to be a blown coverage.

Uncle Miltie. With Cox sidelined for Sunday’s practice, Milton Williams took some reps at defensive tackle. The rookie has spent most his summer at defensive end, but the Eagles have stayed committed to cross training him. Williams on Tuesday was primarily on the outside, where he was my standout performer in one-on-one drills. He put offensive lineman Tristen Hoge on skates with a power move from the edge and then disposed of center Jimmy Murray with a swim move on an inside rush. Williams is unlikely to play many snaps when the season opens, but he’s in an ideal position to watch and learn behind some of the better defensive linemen in the NFL.

» READ MORE: Where’s Eagles rookie Milton Williams? He played left end against the Steelers and did OK in his NFL debut

Ahem … injuries. The Eagles were relatively healthy heading into workouts with the Jets. The following were listed as limited participants in the pre-practice report: tackle Andre Dillard (knee), linebacker Shaun Bradley (groin), running back Jason Huntley (ribs), linebacker JaCoby Stevens (hamstring), cornerback Craig James (foot), tackle Le’Raven Clark (ramp up) and Cox (groin). Cox said after practice that he was fine. Dillard seemed to be involved in all portions, including team drills. More on Dillard in a moment. The following were day-to-day: defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder), defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (thumb), safety K’Von Wallace (groin), linebacker Joe Ostman (concussion) and linebacker Genard Avery (groin). Avery, who had been dealing with a previous groin injury, strained the other side, per the team. Linebacker Davion Taylor (calf) is still week-to-week, and the tight end Jackson (back) is still month-to-month. After practice, the Eagles announced that Ostman was waived/injured.

Dillard vs. Mailata. Jordan Mailata ran with the first unit at left tackle even though Dillard was back in team drills after missing almost two weeks. Maybe the Eagles want to ease his return, but if Dillard isn’t with the ones Wednesday, I think we can call this race. Mailata had another impressive day. He’s just stacking up positive practices at this point. The Jets’ D-line, admittedly, was light with Carl Lawson, Vinny Curry and others out. But Mailata and right tackle Lane Johnson mostly kept the edges clear for Hurts. Dillard did fine in team drills. But he got trucked by defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga on a bull rush in one-on-ones. He’s wearing a right knee brace.

» READ MORE: What should the Eagles do about Andre Dillard?

Under the radar linemen. One-on-one drills allowed for some lesser known linemen to make hay. Offensive lineman Kayode Awosika continued to impress. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland has him working at both tackle and guard. I think the interior is where he is best suited. Awosika has played only tackle in the preseason, but his low number of snaps (19 total) suggests the Eagles are trying to keep him off other teams’ radars. He stonewalled Valoaga in their individual matchup. The Eagles’ Tarron Jackson has come back to reality after a fast start. He struggles to get off blocks. He couldn’t wrestle free of tackles George Fant, Grant Hermanns and Morgan Moses. Clark was slowed by COVID-19 early in camp, but he’s getting to full speed and had a couple solid reps here.

Second team defense high/lowlights. Nate Herbig has been at second-team center for almost three weeks. He rolled another shotgun snap to Joe Flacco, but has otherwise held up inside. Flacco hit Arcega-Whiteside in rhythm downfield on one toss. Tight end Jack Stoll snared a Flacco pass with one hand. The undrafted rookie isn’t a bad player and could end up on some other team’s roster, or maybe with the Eagles depending on what happens with Ertz. Linebacker Eric Wilson blitzed and sacked Jets quarterback James Morgan. Receiver Andre Patton made a diving sideline grab, but he was ruled out of bounds. Fulgham got behind a corner on a go route and Flacco’s fade seemed perfectly timed. But the receiver couldn’t catch up to the pass. The Eagles’ second-unit defense ended practice on an upswing when safety Andrew Adams intercepted a Josh Johnson duck.

And a few leftovers … The amount of snaps the Eagles’ first unit got compared to second and third teams suggested that coach Nick Sirianni will likely rest most of his starters in Friday’s preseason finale. … Official No. 173 at practice was former Eagles linebacker William Thomas. I’m not sure if the Eagles have had a linebacker in the 20-plus since Willie T. last played for the Eagles who can cover as well.