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Eagles practice observations: Kenneth Gainwell shows fire; Javon Hargrave a camp MVP; Jack Stoll turns heads

Nick Sirianni said he was still undecided about whether to play his first units in Friday’s preseason finale against the Jets, but he probably will rest the majority.

Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell talking with reporters after a joint practice with the New England Patriots on Aug. 16.
Eagles running back Kenneth Gainwell talking with reporters after a joint practice with the New England Patriots on Aug. 16.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

FLORHAM PARK, N.Y. — The Eagles held their 17th open practice of the 2021 training camp on Wednesday — the second 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, 15 and 16. Let’s get to Day 17′s action:

That’s a wrap. Training camp unofficially ended with the Eagles’ last open practice to reporters. It may be the final opportunity for outsiders to assess Jalen Hurts and the starters before the regular season opens in 2½ weeks. Nick Sirianni said before practice that he was still undecided about whether to play his first units in Friday’s preseason finale against the Jets, but reading the tea leaves, it seemed all but certain that he will rest the majority. Wednesday’s workout was more physical than Tuesday’s as the two teams worked on red zone, goal line and two-minute drills. It was time well spent and injuries were mostly avoided, but if Hurts is to sit at MetLife Stadium, the second-year quarterback would have played just two series and thrown seven passes this preseason. Is that enough considering he has only four career NFL starts and is learning a new system? The Eagles certainly have to weigh risk vs. reward in suiting Hurts up — and maybe they still give him a drive or two — but it will be exactly a month between live snaps if Sirianni is to rest his quarterback until the Sept. 12 opener in Atlanta.

Mailata vs. Dillard. Asked if he still was rotating his first-team left tackle, Sirianni said that Andre Dillard’s return from a knee injury had him relegated to second-team duty. That may be a convenient way for the coach to kick the can on naming a starter, but the Eagles also don’t want to decrease Dillard’s value if they hope to trade him. I can’t imagine many teams will be fooled. The former first-round draft pick was clearly being outplayed early in camp and now he has the knee sprain. Dillard had an embarrassing moment in one-one-one drills when Jets defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga — for the second straight day — steamrolled him with a bull rush. He fell back on his butt and lying down clenched his fists in frustration. Dillard’s knee is probably not helping matters. The Eagles’ timetable for return was week-to-week as of a week ago, but he returned Sunday and has been wearing a brace. Dillard, to his credit, had some decent repetitions in team drills. He seemed lost on whom to block on an early screen pass, but he mostly kept backup quarterback Joe Flacco’s blind side untouched. Mailata had some early issues in team drills. He got roasted by Jets end Folorunso Fatukasi when he lunged early, and as a result running back Miles Sanders was tagged in the backfield just as he got the handoff. A period later, Hurts was sacked when Mailata and left guard Isaac Seumalo failed to pick up a Jets stunt. As stated before, the competition at left tackle has been mostly one-sided. Mailata has improved, but just because he beat out Dillard doesn’t mean he’s 2011 Jason Peters either.

Screen door closed. The Eagles’ screen game had some shaky moments in the red zone. It’s hard to completely assess a play’s success, especially when Dallas Goedert has the ball in his hands and some momentum. But the execution on a few screens was downright ugly. On one attempt, Sanders had nowhere to run after multiple blocks were missed. On another occasion, Hurts threw to his left with no receiver in the vicinity. There were some positives. Rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith showed a willingness to block on a bubble screen to receiver Greg Ward. Goedert had a head of steam before the Jets’ Jamien Sherwood popped him to the ground. The rookie linebacker’s over-aggressiveness carried over into the next period when he flung his body at Sanders just before the goal line. The running back held his ground and Sherwood’s teammate ended up taking the brunt of his hit.

Chipper tipper. Tackling was forbidden, but that didn’t stop some Jets from pushing the limits. The Eagles had their way Tuesday, partly because they were healthier and more rested. And, well, it’s the Jets. Four wins would be a good season. But the Jets came out with more fire a day later, even if they ultimately had less success than the Eagles. The chippiness started during linemen’s one-on-ones when Jack Driscoll and John Franklin-Myers got into a pushing match that turned into a 12-man scrum. In team drills, rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell mixed it up with two Jets — Isaiah Dunn and Lamar Jackson — on separate occasions. The latter Jet clearly instigated the second brouhaha. Gainwell, a few plays later, lost Jackson on a crosser and managed to sneak the ball over the pylon for a touchdown. He let his actions speak for themselves.

Stuffed. The intensity increased during goal line drills. The Eagles’ first unit offense struggled to penetrate the Jets defense on the ground. Sanders was stopped short on all three of his tries, as was Boston Scott on his lone rush. The last two carries resulted in tackles for losses after center Jason Kelce and Seumalo were apparently beaten. Hurts, on a naked bootleg, did find an unaccounted-for Sanders for a score. The quarterback also found receiver Quez Watkins in the back of the end zone after he extended a pass, but Jets cornerback Justin Hardee was first credited with the sack.

Ahem … injuries. The Eagles didn’t have any obvious injuries during practice. Linebacker Patrick Johnson briefly left the field but eventually returned. The following were listed as limited on the pre-practice report: defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (groin), defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (thumb), running back Jason Huntley (ribs), linebacker Shaun Bradley (groin), cornerback Craig James (foot), and Dillard. The following were deemed day-to-day: defensive end Derek Barnett (shoulder), safety K’Von Wallace (groin), and linebacker Genard Avery (groin). Linebacker Davion Taylor (calf) was still week-to-week, and tight end Tyree Jackson (back) was still month-to-month.

Hurry-up highlights. The Eagles dominated the final two-minute period. Their first and second unit offenses scored touchdowns, while their top two units on defense kept the Jets out of the end zone. Hurts opened the drill by rolling to his right and hitting a leaping Watkins for a touchdown. Check that, a Jets lineman eased up and was given the sack. After a short pass to tight end Zach Ertz on the next play, Hurts found Ward alone over the middle. The receiver ran through an arm tackle for the score. Down two points in the simulation, the Eagles went for the tie. Hurts escaped the pocket, bided time, and found Smith in the back of the end zone for the conversion. When the Jets offense had its turn, quarterback Zach Wilson flashed his arm talent with a couple of completed passes . But one of his receivers wasn’t ready for his no-look pass a play later, and Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave ended the series with another sack (More on Hargrave’s impressive camp below). Flacco and Jack Stoll had the hookup of the day when the quarterback zipped a line to the Eagles tight end on a seam route into the end zone. Stoll can play. The Eagles failed to convert for two, though, when Flacco’s pass was out of the reach of receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the back of the end zone. The Eagles’ second unit defense benefited from a some sloppy Jets offense. There was an overthrow, a dropped pass, and two false starts. Rookie linebacker JaCoby Stevens, who has missed time with a hamstring strain, made his presence felt with a pass breakup from underneath. And defensive end Matt Leo ended the day when tight coverage gave him a sack.

Gravedigger. Buy Hargrave stock. He was starting to peak late last season, but he has been consistently one of the Eagles’ better performers this camp. He sat all of last summer, of course, because of a pectoral muscle injury and needed time to adjust to playing in a new scheme. But he looks ready to deliver on that hefty free-agent contract he signed in March 2020. Jonathan Gannon’s multiple fronts could allow for Hargrave to do what he mostly did for four seasons with the Steelers — eat up blockers — while also playing to a skill set that takes advantage of his athleticism.

Second and third units high/lowlights. The second-unit offense got off to a rocky start when Flacco and Scott botched a handoff. Flacco then overthrew a covered Richard Rodgers. The veteran tight end, though, caught a crosser and carried Jackson across the goal line. Third string quarterback Nick Mullens had some success. He found receiver Travis Fulgham on a crosser that netted a touchdown. And he hit running back Elijah Holyfield out of the flat for a score. But the snaps were few. The Eagles are saving Mullens for Friday. Oh joy.

And a few leftovers … Nate Herbig shined in one-on-one drills and pancaked Fatukasi on his first rep. … The Jets announced that defensive end Vinny Curry’s season is over. The former Eagle was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder in July that required the removal of his spleen. Curry was originally expected to be ready by mid-September, but blood clots forced him to go on blood thinners. He said he was expected to make a full recovery and resume his career next year. ... Eagles practices are now closed for the remainder of the season. Thanks for reading.