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Eagles practice observations: Jalen Hurts returns for intense indoor practice, Miles Sanders’ drops persist

The Eagles had to cancel their scheduled public practice at the Linc because of inclement weather, but still had a competitive practice indoors.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw the ball during a joint training camp with the New England Patriots at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw the ball during a joint training camp with the New England Patriots at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

The Eagles had planned to conduct Sunday’s training camp practice under the lights before fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but Hurricane Henri changed those plans. Instead, they had a rare training camp practice indoors at the NovaCare Complex. Here’s what we saw on Sunday. Here are links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14. Let’s get to Day 15′s action.

Healthy Hurts. Jalen Hurts returned to the field for Sunday’s practice after missing Thursday’s game because of abdominal pain so serious he ended up going to the hospital. Hurts moved around well considering he was reportedly instructed to spend the last two days resting at home. Perhaps the rest paid off, but it’s worth noting he had several plays in which he was flushed from the pocket and flashed good speed. On the second play of team drills, Hurts rolled to his left and outran a few defenders. He had a handful of scrambles and at least one designed run. He looked normal on all of them, gaining extra yards by racing defenders to the boundary. Throwing the ball, Hurts also had a solid day, with his best pass coming in the first team period on a simulated third-and-10 when he found Zach Ertz near the sideline for about a 40-yard gain. It’s clear to see Hurts’ progress from the beginning of training camp to now. He’s improved his timing with receivers and looks more comfortable in general while running the offense. The upcoming week against the Jets’ defense will be an important test, especially considering he missed last Thursday’s game against the Patriots, but he’s trending in the right direction so far.

Intense indoors. This was our first glimpse of what coach Nick Sirianni’s indoor practices will look like. With Hurricane Henri looming on the coast, the team elected to cancel its public practice and sought out the shelter of the NovaCare Complex bubble: a 60-yard indoor practice field. The team holds some private walkthroughs indoors, but this was the first training camp practice held inside. Even with limited field space, the practice was surprisingly spirited. Typically under Doug Pederson, indoor practices would be more laid-back than an outdoor session. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. The entire practice, which lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, was an intense and competitive one. Individual periods were physical, with defensive linemen working on the sled and defensive backs practicing forced fumbles with a drill where one player would wrap up a ball carrier and the second would punch at the ball. The linemen did one-on-one pass-rushing drills during practice, but it was hard to make out the matchups because of a poor vantage point.

Sirianni’s scoring ... Because of the close proximity to the field, Sunday was a good opportunity to glean a bit more about the scoring system Sirianni uses to determine whether the offense or defense won the practice. During the first team session of the evening, the team worked on third-down situations, starting from 2 yards out and incrementally backing up 2 yards at a time from there. A coach would call out the situation on a megaphone before the play, and announce the outcome and the points awarded afterward. There’s still some mystery on why certain outcomes are assessed different values, but the starting units finished tied, 15-15. Hurts completed a first-down pass to Jalen Reagor on the second play of the session. A few plays later, he completed the 40-yarder to Ertz. Ertz’s catch was worth seven points, and Alex Singleton “sacking” Hurts the next play was also worth seven. The second- and third-team defenses had the advantage over their counterparts, though. Joe Flacco had a pass to Greg Ward stopped short of the sticks on a simulated fourth down. The next play, he completed a short pass to Boston Scott that gained a first down. After two forced incompletions, though, the second-team defense gained a 27-20 advantage. By the time the third team finished up, the defense won the period, 33-20.

Sirianni’s situations. ... Sirianni drilled situational football the entire practice, especially around the end zone. One team session started the offense backed up near its own end zone. During the backed-up simulation, Flacco tried to draw the second-team defense offside with hard count, but offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark jumped instead, costing the offense half a yard. The final team session was the most intense of the evening, with Sirianni calling the entire group in for a huddle to set up a fourth-down situation. The offense started at the 25-yard line down by eight with 10 minutes left on the clock. “We’re gonna need somebody to make a play,” Sirianni said during his speech. Hurts led the starting offense within 6 yards of the goal line, but the group was ultimately stopped by the starting defense on a fourth-and-goal. Hurts might have been able to run in for a score in an actual game on the pivotal fourth down, but still. On the play in question, Hurts rolled out to his right and tried to find Quez Watkins in the back of the end zone, but the pass was too high for the well-covered receiver. Hurts had plenty of green space between him and the nearest defender and was probably one shed tackle away from scoring himself, but it’s possible he wanted to try the throw rather than tuck it and run. It’s also possible he was instructed not to run it in. Regardless of the semantics, Darius Slay celebrated the defense’s fourth-down stop by flexing on Watkins. Speaking of taunting, Flacco threw a touchdown pass to John Hightower a few plays later and the second-year receiver dunked the football on the uprights. The celebration elicited a penalty flag from the practice referee, likely trying to enforce the NFL’s new rules surrounding taunting. Sirianni wasn’t a fan of the call, evident by him throwing the flag into the air as a form of protest.

Sanders’ drops persist ... Miles Sanders is well aware that he needs to improve his hands this training camp, but the drops keep coming. About an hour after Sanders told reporters that retired Eagles running back Brian Westbrook told him he needed to have confidence as a receiver to “take his game to the next level,” he had a concentration drop during seven-on-sevens. Drops have been a problem for Sanders dating back to last year and this training camp hasn’t done much to calm those concerns. It’s not for lack of work, either. Sanders has spent plenty of time working on the JUGS machine and getting extra reps during or after practice, but he’s still had a few drops in the last few weeks. Last season, Pro Football Focus credited Sanders with eight drops, which tied him with Ezekiel Elliott for the most by a running back. If he’s going to continue to be an every-down back, he’ll have to cure his case of the drops.

Ahem ... injuries. The Eagles shuffled the bottom of their tight end depth chart earlier on Sunday, placing Jason Croom on injured reserve after he tore his ACL on Thursday. With the newfound roster spot, the team signed Cary Angeline, a tight end out of North Carolina St. who played high school ball at Downingtown East. Andre Dillard and Ryan Kerrigan were both in pads at practice Sunday, but neither did much outside of some individual work and conditioning. Dillard is recovering from a knee injury and was considered limited, while Kerrigan is coming back from a thumb injury that required surgery. Kerrigan is still considered day to day. Fletcher Cox was limited with a groin injury and Javon Hargrave was listed as day to day with an ankle injury. Even though he was listed as day to day, Hargrave participated in practice and was in full pads. Shaun Bradley (groin), Clark (ramp up), Craig James (foot), and JaCoby Stevens (hamstring) were also listed as limited for the session. Genard Avery (groin), Derek Barnett (shoulder), Jason Huntley (ribs), Joe Ostman (concussion) and K’Von Wallace (groin) were all listed as day to day. Davion Taylor (calf) is still week to week, and Tyree Jackson (back) is considered month to month.

Smith’s scare. DeVonta Smith appeared to tweak his right ankle during seven-on-seven drills. He limped off the field after a rep and went to the ground, grabbing his right leg. It looked like trainers were checking out the ankle, and he walked gingerly up and down the sideline before progressing to jogging, then cutting and sprinting. He returned to practice about 20 minutes later.

A few leftovers ... Mental errors along the offensive line were a bit of a problem Sunday. Jason Kelce had a low snap to Hurts during team, and there were two false-start penalties, one on Clark and one on someone on the Eagles’ interior line. ... Brandon Graham had back-to-back pressures during team drills matched up against Lane Johnson. ... The starting linebackers for team drills were Singleton, Eric Wilson and T.J. Edwards.