The Eagles held their eighth practice of the 2021 training camp at the NovaCare Complex Thursday.
Reagor rebounds. Jalen Reagor’s performance since being cleared to return to practice has been underwhelming, to say the least. The second-year wide receiver was working his way back from injury, but he had already failed the conditioning test and wasn’t where he needed to be mentally following the death of a close friend. But Reagor finally flashed some of the skill that compelled the Eagles to draft him in the first round on Thursday. His best moment came during one-on-one drills in the red zone. He was matched up against cornerback Darius Slay and got little separation. Quarterback Jalen Hurts threw high and just a touch behind his receiver in the back of the end zone. No problem. Reagor reached back, snagged the ball with his backhand and landed both feet inbounds. Slay bounced back and recorded a pass breakup on their next go-around. But Reagor de-cleated the defender the next turn on a two-way go and was so wide open he could have caught the ball with his eyes closed. Maybe he did because the ball clanged off his hands for a drop. Reagor has the speed, the agility and the leaping ability to play in the NFL. But he has yet to put it all together and the drop was another example of a young guy pressing. Later on, he turned cornerback Michael Jacquet around with a precise stick toward the sideline. Toward the end of practice, he converted a short third down by winning a contested jump ball vs. Slay. But he had a bad rep vs. cornerback Steven Nelson in between. Despite drawing an offensive pass interference penalty -- I can’t 100 percent confirm the call, but it looked rather obvious -- Reagor failed to get separation on a go route and Nelson swatted away a perfectly thrown deep toss by Hurts.
J.J. just hanging on. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is an introspective guy. In each of his last two offseasons, he’s been open about his struggles and about trying to find the secret sauce to succeeding at this level. I give the kid credit. He works hard. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. He’s accepted a move from outside into the slot this summer. But a roster spot is slipping from the former second-rounder’s grip. He pulled in a pass thrown slightly behind him in backed-up team drills, but he didn’t look back for a Hurts attempt that should have been a back shoulder. And he failed to secure an accurate, low toss in one-on-ones. Maybe Arcega-Whiteside sneaks in. He has that high-draft pick thing going for him. And the Eagles don’t have many big-body options. But his lack of breaking speed puts him at a disadvantage.
Some other WR/DB one-on-ones. Individual matchups tend to favor receivers, but the short field in red zone drills evens the scale some. Nelson broke up a corner fade to receiver Travis Fulgham. Rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson continued to shine with PBUs against Andre Patton and Quez Watkins. The latter play was impressive because McPhearson not only had Watkins blanketed, but he turned his head in time to tip the ball out of the back of the end zone.
Flacco firing. Joe Flacco had easily his best practice of camp and was able to showcase the arm strength he’s long had. During one team set with the second unit he completed all four of his passes, and on a variety of throws. He hit Patton on a 15-yard-or-so out. He zipped one to Reagor on the aforementioned sideline route. He correctly dumped to an open Kenneth Gainwell. And he extended a play by moving right and found receiver Greg Ward alone beyond the defense for a long score. Flacco later connected with Arcega-Whiteside on a 20-yard dig route over the middle. Third-stringer Nick Mullens, meanwhile, has regressed. He had one throw that fluttered and was so poorly thrown that it wasn’t worthy of being intercepted.
Ahem … injuries. Linebacker JaCoby Stevens was the latest addition to the pre-practice injury report. He was listed as week-to-week with a hamstring injury a day after he had probably his best practice. Receiver DeVonta Smith (knee), guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) and linebacker Davion Taylor (calf) were also week-to-week. Taylor was sporting a boot at practice. Guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring), receiver Michael Walker (foot), and tight end Jason Croom (knee) were still deemed day-to-day. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (thumb) was limited. Receiver John Hightower went to the medical tent early in practice and was held out of the rest of practice with an unspecified injury. It didn’t appear serious.
Hargrave’s fitness. A year ago, Javon Hargrave opened camp on the physically unable to perform list with a pectoral injury. It clearly affected him in the early going of the season, not to mention having to learn a vastly new scheme. But the defensive tackle looks in tip-top shape this summer. He’s been winning various competitions in both team and one-on-one drills, and used a combination of speed and strength in a rep against center Jason Kelce. There was no clear victor, but Kelce would have likely been flagged for holding. A Fletcher Cox-Hargrave 1-2 punch inside should be formidable, as long as both stay healthy. Cox continued his camp domination with a sack that came from the five/six-technique spot.
DL/OL one-on-ones. Cox has had his way against Matt Pryor, but the fourth-year guard had a solid pass rush rep against the Pro Bowler. Tackle Jordan Mailata squashed a Derek Barnett outside speed rush. Tackle Jack Driscoll stoned rookie end Tarron Jackson, who has tailed off since a few solid early workouts. Guard Sua Opeta did well against a Milton Williams power move. Tackle Andre Dillard locked horns with end Josh Sweat and scored a draw. Rookie Patrick Johnson has worked mostly as an off-ball linebacker, but he’s had a few pass rush snaps. He struggled mightily to get by tackle Casey Tucker. Johnson said later that he dropped 15 pounds to prepare for the switch from college edge rusher. He’s what we call a tweener.
Misdirection plays. Every team has them, every team calls them, but not every team knows when to effectively use them. Doug Pederson’s Eagles weren’t known for their misdirection. Sure, they pulled off a few, but they didn’t have enough horses for the job, and their execution wasn’t often detailed enough. You don’t want to have to rely on trickery all the time, especially against a sound defense that plays its keys. But Smith, Reagor, Watkins and running backs Miles Sanders and Boston Scott are threats out of the backfield with the ball in their hands. Reagor got the handoff on a double reverse Thursday, although Slay stayed home and cut off the gain. He faired a little better on a jet sweep later on.
Other low/highlights. Sanders put the ball on the turf for the first time this camp. I wrote about his pass catching struggles Wednesday. Running backs are going to fumble every now and then, but the third-year tailback can’t afford to have ball security problems again. Earlier, Sanders converted a short third down after a Hurts pass. Williams batted a pass on third-and-long when Hurts had to throw out of his own end zone. Tight end Hakeem Butler had a Mullen toss sail through his hands. Pederson’s favorite fourth-and-goal weapon has done very little positive so far this camp.
And a few leftovers … Mailata and linebacker Eric Wilson have spent a number of post-practice periods working with each other. I sense a bromance. … Eagles general manager Howie Roseman had about a 15-minute conversation with tight end Dallas Goedert after practice. Make of that what you will. … Former Eagles receiver and 2017 hero Torrey Smith watched practice.