The Eagles held the second of two inter-squad scrimmages with the Ravens Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex. Here are my observations from the workout (And my reports from training camp days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, Sunday’s practice and the first scrimmage):
1. The joint portion of practice between offenses and defenses opened with 7-on-7 drills, so I headed over to the side field to watch defensive line and offensive line one on ones. Before I get to the individual matchups, let’s focus on Brandon Brooks, who partook in the two-on-twos that followed. He had been cleared earlier this week to participate and looked pretty good during the one rep I saw. The Ravens ran a stunt and the guard flattened Ravens edge rusher Pernell McPhee. I asked Brooks, who is coming back from an Achilles rupture, how he felt following Monday’s session and he said that once he got past his first bull rush, he knew that he was back. He still hasn’t been cleared for team drills, but I wouldn’t count him out for Week 1.
Andre Dillard returned after missing most of Monday following a bout of dehydration. He was also back at left tackle after taking reps on the right. He held his ground against a McPhee bull rush and gave a little arm flex of satisfaction afterward. Linebacker Tim Williams fooled him with an inside move. But Dillard rebounded and stoned linebacker Otaro Alaka.
Jordan Mailata has steadily improved his technique since his early camp struggles. He used a strong punch to ward off linebacker Shane Ray. But he’s still erratic. He was working with guard Stefen Wisniewski against a stunt, but when a defensive tackle twisted outside Mailata, he let him turn the corner. “What are you doing? What are you doing?” Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland yelled in his face. “Be consistent.” Mailata’s second turn was better.
2. Toward the end of practice, both teams converged on one practice field. The units had been working on separate fields earlier, but this allowed me to watch some of the Eagles’ defense against the Ravens’ offense for the first time this week. Several reporters said that Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson had some nice throws, particularly in the red zone, but of what I saw later, he was inconsistent. He tried to squeeze a pass to tight end Hayden Hurst over the middle, but safety Malcolm Jenkins was close in man coverage and got a hand on the ball. Jackson went deep down the sideline to receiver Miles Boykin, with cornerback Ronald Darby in coverage, but the pass wobbled well out of bounds. Jackson did hit receiver Michael Floyd on a seam route during that set.
After a few runs and a check down to start the next period, Jenkins blitzed up the “A” gap for a sack. The play was whistled dead, but Jackson threw the ball into the waiting hands of defensive end Vinny Curry, who had dropped into a zone. Jackson can move on the ground as well as any quarterback I’ve ever seen. He scooted outside the pocket on one play and appeared to be easing up just as L.J. Fort had him in his sights. But Jackson quickly cut inside, and the linebacker fell over awkwardly. Both sides reacted with laughing (the Ravens) and groaning (the Eagles).
3. The Eagles’ second team defense had a field day against rookie quarterback Trace McSorley (sorry, Penn Staters). In McSorley’s defense, he’s been learning several positions as a rookie. But of what I saw, he made Clayton Thorson look like the next Dan Marino. The first pass was directly to linebacker T.J. Edwards, who dropped an easy interception. He should have done ten pushups it was so blatant. During a later period, three of McSorley’s five pass attempts were intercepted. Safety Tre Sullivan snagged the first, although there might have been a sack. Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon was gift-wrapped the second. And cornerback Ajene Harris fielded the third – as if he were returning a kick -- on a deep ball into the end zone. I had barely mentioned all four during my previous practice reports. They may be building a shrine to McSorley in the locker room as of this writing.
4. Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ first offense vs. the Ravens’ first defense was, in my estimation, a stalemate for the second straight day. Wentz was more efficient, though. It was, again, difficult to assess the run game without tackling, but it felt like tough sledding for the Eagles. Wentz’s first toss was a beauty over the shoulder to Josh Perkins. It landed in the tight end’s hands, but he couldn’t hang on when he hit the ground. With Richard Rodgers’ future cloudy after he left Monday’s practice with an apparent foot injury, Perkins could find himself on the 53-man roster. He briefly left practice after that play but would return.
The Eagles didn’t appear to work as much on their deep passing game. There were several early designed screens, or Wentz simply took what the defense gave. The Ravens called a zone blitz and had defenders pick up tight end Zach Ertz as he released down the sideline, so Wentz dumped the ball to receiver Nelson Agholor. During a later period, Wentz had no one open and may have scrambled for the first time this camp. After a false start, Wentz hit Ertz on a quick out, but he couldn’t hook up with running back Darren Sproles on a wheel.
5. The first offense’s last two periods were tame. Wentz evaded a rusher and hit receiver DeSean Jackson on a comeback even though he was held. He dumped the ball to receiver Greg Ward, who got in a brief dustup with a Ravens defender. Running back Miles Sanders stormed into contact and kept running, like he does on every carry. He’s this year’s Jordan Matthews. Wentz hooked up with running back Jordan Howard and Darren Sproles on screens and then Ertz on a short pass. Then he placed a teardrop into Mack Hollins’ bucket on a deep crosser, but the receiver couldn’t make the grab as it grazed off his fingertips. Wentz has had better completions in camp, but that was probably his best near-make.
6. Josh McCown took more reps as the second team quarterback than he did a day prior and you could already see the difference between him and Cody Kessler. He found receiver Marken Michel over the middle on a run-pass option, but the ball was dropped. He had a strong set later and hit on all four passes – a dart to diving tight end Alex Ellis, a 15-yarder to Ward on a high-low route concept, a strike to receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a comeback, and a release to running back Corey Clement out of the backfield. McCown had another pass over the middle sail through the hands of a receiver (Carlton Agudosi), but he threw wide of Hollins on a sideline route to end practice.
Kessler didn’t perform poorly; he just didn’t do anything that stood out. Thorson didn’t get much action. He got sacked on back-to-back plays during one team set. It was almost as if the Ravens knew the play and the snap count on the second.
7. And a few leftovers … Linebacker Zach Brown (ankle) returned to practice but didn’t partake in team drills. … Delran native and U.S. women’s soccer star Carli Lloyd was in attendance. … This will be the last practice report until next year. The Eagles are no longer required to have the formal portion of practices open to reporters. Thanks for reading.