The Eagles held their fifth practice of training camp Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights and my observations from Day 5.
1. The Eagles were in pads for the second straight day, and there were live tackling periods. While there weren’t any big hits, there were a number of highlights for both units. Most important, there didn’t appear to be any significant injuries. The live periods are best for evaluating the run game. Overall, yards were tough to come by on the ground — a good sign for the defense — but running back Miles Sanders did deliver about a 5-yard touchdown run for the first-team offense to finish a drive late in practice. The rookie ran up the gut and into the end zone standing. Tackle Lane Johnson jumped on Sanders and coach Doug Pederson admonished rookie tackle Andre Dillard for not celebrating, as well.
On the first carry of the day, Jordan Howard was stopped near the line after cornerback Rasul Douglas knifed in off the edge. Sanders, several plays later, was cut down in the backfield by linebacker L.J. Fort as his blocking broke down. Fort clogged the middle on a Josh Adams run. But the running back rebounded with six tough yards. Howard later rumbled two yards into a cloud of dust.
2. Quarterback Carson Wentz was a smidge off on some early live throws to receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. He threw behind the rookie on a hitch route and fluttered a pass a touch high on a crosser. Arcega-Whiteside got his hands on both balls, and maybe could have done more to help his quarterback, but the throws weren’t where they needed to be.
Wentz did drop a dime to Sanders down the sideline on a wheel route. And he was simply electric on a third-and-long dart to receiver Nelson Agholor. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz called his sticks defense on the play, but Wentz uncorked one down the seam. Agholor picked up additional yardage after the catch and was tripped up after about a 40-yard gain.
The completion that drew the most reaction from fans came a series earlier when Wentz threw short to Agholor. Linebacker Nate Gerry tipped the ball from underneath, but it deflected about 10 yards in the air to Arcega-Whiteside, who had nothing but green earth in front of him. He raced down the sideline and outran a late-arriving defensive back to the pylon. The rookie chucked the ball in the air and celebrated with Agholor, Kid n Play style.
3. Schwartz’s defense — all three units — dominated early. The second- and third-unit offenses, and particularly quarterbacks Nate Sudfeld and Clayton Thorson, struggled throughout the day. Sudfeld threw the ball away and tuck-and-ran out of bounds on two naked bootlegs. He had a pass sail on him on a toss down the seam to tight end Josh Perkins that a safety (I couldn’t tell which one) should have intercepted. He took a delay-of-game penalty.
Thorson’s issues with accuracy, etc. continued. He had to burn a timeout when there was some confusion over the call. He rolled out to his right for a just a dink pass to running back Boston Scott, but he inexplicably threw the ball at his feet. He threw high to open tight end Will Tye and was nearly picked off by safety Godwin Igwebuike.
4. Joe Ostman had made a solid showing in the first four practices, but he was all over the field Tuesday. The defensive end spent most of last season on the practice squad, and the Eagles seemingly have five at his position ahead of him on the 53-man roster, but if cut-downs were today, I’d have him on.
Schwartz is clearly intrigued. He had Ostman line up as a “joker, a roving stand-up rusher, on the first-team rep for the first units. As the second-team left end, he has abused tackle Jordan Mailata. He got him with a spin move and “sacked” Sudfeld during team drills and was able to burn Mailata with an outside speed rush during one-on-one drills. Ostman, it should be noted, didn’t have as much success when he switched to the other side vs. rookie left tackle Andre Dillard. But he fended off a kick-out block by another lineman and dropped running back Wendell Smallwood for a loss, and finished practice with another sack as the “joker.”
5. Dillard hasn’t seemed overwhelmed by the transition to the NFL. He’s lost a few battles with defensive end Josh Sweat in second-unit team drills. But when called up to give Jason Peters a spell, he’s mostly had his way with defensive end Vinny Curry. The same has applied to one-on-one drills. Pass protection won’t be a problem for Dillard. I want to see more of his run blocking, though. He’s obviously a big guy, but he doesn’t yet have an NFL body. He’ll need bulk to handle bigger defenders and the pounding over 16 games.
6. I’m not a huge fan of one-on-one receiver-defensive back drills, especially if there’s more than just one move. It’s almost untenable for, say, a safety to stick with a receiver for that amount of time in that amount of space. I could see safety Malcolm Jenkins’ frustration mount after having to defend one too many double moves. Receiver Shelton Gibson, who had yet another drop on a short pass from Wentz, made a splendid shoelace grab in the end zone, though.
Pass-protection drills gave us our first glimpse of Sanders as a blocker. He did fine vs. linebacker Zach Brown on the one rep I watched. Brown drove him back off one foot, but Sanders recovered and anchored. Howard stood his ground vs. a Jenkins spin move. Adams had trouble with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill.
7. Some other highlights from the day: Wentz’s ability to throw from different arm slots was evident on several passes, particularly on his quickies to slot receiver Greg Ward. ... It wasn’t the prettiest flea flicker, but Wentz hooked up with Agholor for about a 30-yard gain. ... Fort injured himself during special teams drills, but got his foot taped up and returned, albeit with a noticeable limp. He was having himself a nice workout. ,,, Grugier-Hill and Gerry have consistently been the nickel linebackers with Nigel Bradham (toe) still limited. Brown is running behind them.
Running back Donnell Pumphrey picked up about five yards after a little shimmy deke. ... Wentz hit receiver Charles Johnson for about 18 yards on a comeback route, and as the offense rushed to the line, Jason Kelce yelled “Sonic!” The Eagles have one-word calls in hurry-up situations, but my takeaway from hearing the center was that Pederson had cut the music in live situations. I miss practices without music. I blame Chip Kelly. ... Wentz went back to Johnson on the next play, but his receiver ran into cornerback Sidney Jones and was flagged for pass interference. It may have been incidental.
8. DeSean Jackson was active Monday, but he did little the next day. My first clue that the receiver wouldn’t be involved much came during warmups. As nearly every other player went through the stretching routine, Jackson stood to the side and watched. Pederson might have told the 32-year old to take it easy on a day that reached mid-90 temperatures. But I also flashed back to Jackson’s quote in March, one he used to explain how he once felt about practice: “Cheetahs don’t stretch.”