1. With Saturday’s practice moved indoors and closed to most reporters, it was nice to be outside in the sun at the Linc for arguably the Eagles’ most important workout before the season opens in two weeks. Doug Pederson held a traditional scrimmage between the first- and second-team offenses and defenses that lasted about 2½ hours. There were some notable plays on both sides of the ball, but overall, it was a sloppy effort. It’s best to get the mistakes out of the way, but I counted a total of six pre-snap penalties and two additional holding calls on the offense.
2. The first unit was without quarterback Carson Wentz, who was listed as day to day with a lower body injury by the team. Wentz’s soft tissue injury isn’t considered serious and the Eagles want to be cautious with only so many days left before real football starts. There was a potentially significant departure, however, when wide receiver Jalen Reagor left midway through with what ESPN reported was a shoulder injury. The Eagles were awaiting results as of this writing.
Running back Miles Sanders, tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Dallas Goedert, defensive end Derek Barnett, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and receiver Quez Watkins joined Wentz on the sideline while still injured.
3. The final result of the scrimmage was Team 1 31, Team 2 17, but I have no idea how those numbers were tallied. The Eagles worked on situational football throughout and there wasn’t a clock. Nevertheless, with quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Jalen Hurts splitting repetitions with both teams it appeared as if the defense had more wins than losses. Linebacker Nate Gerry was probably my defensive MVP. The Eagles need Gerry to solidify that No. 1 middle linebacker role this season. He has performed well, but let’s wait to see how he does once the real bullets start flying.
Gerry’s best series came at the halfway point of practice. He beat tight end Zach Ertz to a spot and tagged Hurts down near the line on a zone read keep. Two plays later, he knifed into the backfield on a delayed blitz and sacked Hurts. And several plays later, Gerry read run and stuffed running back Corey Clement after a short gain.
4. My offensive MVP award goes to John Hightower. The rookie receiver has done well all camp and could move up the depth chart if Reagor is sidelined for an extended period. Hightower got wide open over the middle on an inside slant and Hurts hit him for an easy score. The catch of the day, and perhaps all of camp, came a period later when Hightower ran a stop-and-go fade route into the corner of the end zone. Cornerback Craig James had tight coverage, but Hurts’ pass sneaked by and Hightower tipped the ball twice until he secured it with both feet inbounds. The rookie flashed his speed with another double move that caught cornerback Avonte Maddox flat-footed. Sudfeld pumped and hit Hightower about 50 yards downfield. The pass was a touch short and Maddox caught up to tag him down short of the goal line.
5. One interesting depth-chart note: When starting cornerback Darius Slay took a few reps off early in practice, it was Rasul Douglas who took his place and not Sidney Jones. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz typically keeps his corners on one side throughout camp, which could explain why Jones, who currently backs up Maddox, wasn’t up with the ones. Jones, who returned to team drills Saturday, didn’t stand out much Sunday. But Douglas had a fine workout.
He thwarted a scramble mode pass to Hightower with a swat in seven-on-seven drills and tackled the receiver for a loss on a flare pass. He sacked Sudfeld with a blindside blitz. And I didn’t see him allow many passes over his head.
6. The Eagles’ first-team offensive line grouping remained essentially the same with Matt Pryor at left tackle, Isaac Seumalo at left guard, Jason Kelce at center, Jason Peters at right guard and Jordan Mailata at right tackle with Johnson still out. Rookie Jack Driscoll took some reps in Mailata’s place. The O-line play was inconsistent. Pryor, who is getting the first look-see at left tackle after Andre Dillard’s season-ending biceps injury, had a late practice false start and he continued to struggle in pass protection against defensive end Josh Sweat.
Sweat was credited with two sacks on the day. Casey Toohill was credited with two sacks, as well. Shareef Miller had perhaps his best open practice ever. He read a run early and dropped running back Elijah Holyfield in the backfield. And he recorded a tackle for loss on a Michael Warren run when he shed tight end Tyrone Swoopes’ blocking attempt. He still needs to work on his pass rush.
7. The play in which Reagor got hurt was an eventful one. Hurts went to the rookie receiver short, but Maddox broke up the pass and it landed in the hands of safety Will Parks for an interception. Reagor tried to tackle Parks down and came up lame. Earlier, Parks gave up a touchdown to DeSean Jackson when the receiver lost him on a release to the sideline.
James had an up-and-down day. He intercepted a Hurts short-armed fade to Reagor and ran through a maze all the way into the end zone. He was victimized by a Sudfeld back-shoulder pass to receiver Travis Fulgham that resulted in a score.
8. With second-team drills live, there was some good tackling and some good tackle breaking. Linebacker Alec Singleton may be only a good practice player, but he brings it every snap. I think he should squeeze onto the 53-man roster, at least for special teams. Holyfield had tons of green ahead of him on a screen, but Singleton ran him down. Running back Adrian Killins gained zero yardage on a run when Singleton met him at the line. He did fail to take Warren down on a strong carry in the red zone that advanced the ball to the 1-yard line.
Holyfield runs hard, I’ll give him that. He scored a few times on short-yardage plays. And he picked up a few blitzes on third down as well. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside continues to have a strong camp. He made a sweet catch on a back shoulder vs. Maddox, but the grab was brought back by a holding penalty.
9. Hurts had some wonderful moments, as previously mentioned, and some bad ones as well. But what I can say is that he looks very comfortable in the pocket running the Eagles offense, however limited it may be for the rookie right now. He has patience and isn’t always in a rush to scramble when things break down. He can do that and will. And there are plenty of plays that are designed for him to have the option to keep and show off his athleticism.
But he can extend pass plays with his footwork in the pocket. He honestly looks a little like Wentz in that regard. He once escaped pressure and found the releasing Ertz for a nice gain. But he also, in red zone drills, held onto the ball for a ridiculously long time and took a sack. Hurts went to turn and walk toward the sideline, but Peters grabbed him by the arm and pulled him close for a talk.
10. Jake Elliott hit all his field-goal tries aside from a 57-yard attempt that was wide right. ... The Linc was eerily near empty in the stands. It’ll be like that for games for the foreseeable future. The Eagles had fake crowd noise throughout and Doug Pederson pumped up the volume for the offense to work on its silent count. ... This was the last open practice to the media for the season.