The Eagles held their first practice in pads of training camp and reporters were at the NovaCare Complex to – finally -- document the action Monday. I’ll have daily reports throughout camp. Here’s the first:
1. Ah, injuries – they’re as much a part of camp as temperature screening, face masks and social distancing. Well, at least this year they are. The Eagles announced the following: Offensive lineman Jason Peters (lower body) and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (lower body) were out with day-to-day injuries. Defensive end Derek Barnett was week to week with a lower-body injury. Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave was out for “multiple weeks” with an upper-body injury. And linebacker Duke Riley was sidelined with an illness.
A few notes on the subject: The Eagles will take their time with injured players, especially a veteran like Peters, but they aren’t afforded the luxury of time with camp starting three weeks later than normal. And it’s not like Peters is returning to his long-time post at left tackle. The move to right guard will require more practice repetitions. I was anxious to see if Arcega-Whiteside had noticeably made any advancements this offseason, but that will have to wait.
The Hargrave and Barnett injuries have to be disconcerting for the Eagles. Every team around the NFL will experience injuries early in camp. The Cowboys lost defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for the season during their first padded practice. But Hargrave and Barnett likely got banged up during non-contact workouts. “Multiple weeks” is at least two and could push Hargrave’s return to the start of September, which could potentially put the season opener in doubt. He plays a position in which practices reps aren’t exactly imperative, but he’s new and we saw just last season how losing Malik Jackson early impacted the interior of the defensive line.
The narrative on Barnett this camp has been that he’s back and as focused as ever because he’s 100 percent healthy. But it didn’t take long for the oft-injured fourth-year player to bounce back on the disabled list. Maybe he just has a minor soft tissue strain. Maybe he benefits from the rest. But I got to imagine the coaches want their starting right end on the field working on his pass rush moves and challenging left tackle Andre Dillard.
2. Depth charts are like seating charts this time of year -- to steal a Chip Kelly quote – but here’s a look at how some of the positions looked:
First-team offensive line: LT: Dillard, LG: Isaac Seumalo, C: Jason Kelce, RG: Matt Pryor [Peters], RT: Lane Johnson.
Second team: Jordan Mailata, Sua Opeta, Nate Herbig, Casey Tucker, Jack Driscoll.
Third team: Prince Tega Wanogho, Julian Good-Jones, Luke Juriga, Tucker, Driscoll
There was some moving around and sharing of roles, but those were generally the units up front.
Other notable depth chart notes: Jalen Reagor took most of the first-team reps at the “X” receiver spot opposite DeSean Jackson at the “Z.” Greg Ward was the first-team slot receiver. On defense, Avonte Maddox was the first-team outside cornerback opposite Darius Slay. Nickell Robey-Coleman was the slot corner. Nathan Gerry and T.J. Edwards were the top two linebackers.
3. Dillard split some of his first-team snaps with Mailata. He was taking some reps off after returning from a minor injury, a team source said. Dillard taking over left tackle from Peters is clearly one of the main stories of camp. Other players have talked about his increased weight and strength, and the former was visible to the naked eye. One-on-one rush drills – whenever they occur – should give some indication on the latter.
4. First impressions aren’t everything, but I have a pretty good track record with skill position rookies. Miles Sanders, for instance, looked legit from the jump. Nelson Agholor did not. Reagor didn’t exactly raise eyebrows, but his explosiveness was obvious, and he looked smooth catching a few passes on inside slants. I was intrigued and anticipate seeing him take advantage of opportunities in other routes and situations. Quarterback Carson Wentz said that he’s liked what he’s seen on the field from the Eagles’ first-round pick but has been as impressed with his curiosity off it. Reagor fielded punts along with Ward but dropped a few of Cameron Johnston’s boomers. It’s early. No need to overstate either way.
5. As for the Eagles’ other rookie receivers, John Hightower provided an early highlight when he disposed of cornerback Rasul Douglas’ attempt to jam him at the line and released to catch a rainbow fade for about 25 yards. Quez Watkins didn’t stand out other than when he dropped a bullet from Wentz.
6. The Eagles’ first workout in pads was a relatively light one. It was a scripted “10-10-10” session which typically isn’t supposed to be ultra-competitive, but the juices seemed to be flowing and “thud” contact sometimes resulted in players being tackled to the ground. I was focused primarily on offensive goings-on. Wentz and the first unit were sharp, relatively speaking. His two hookups with Reagor over the middle were promising. There’s been a lot written about Wentz’s added bulk. He confirmed that he’s up to 250 pounds – he was listed at 237 last season -- but the increased weight didn’t seem to affect his mobility. He once rolled right away from the rush and hit Ward with an across-the-body dart.
7. Dallas Goedert was probably Wentz’s favorite target of the day. The tight end caught a few intermediate tosses, several check-downs and had the grab of the day when he tipped a high pass to himself in the back of the end one. Zach Ertz didn’t have as much chemistry with his quarterback. Wentz underthrew him on an out route and the ball went through the hands of linebacker Alex Singleton. Ertz was later covered in the end zone on a short crosser and Wentz threw incomplete. A few plays later, they failed to hook up on a route they’ve must have completed hundreds of times – and maybe a half dozen times in games – when Ertz ran a little inside slant into the end zone. Wentz’s pass was behind him. After the red zone set, the teammates went to another field to work on the route. Reagor eventually joined them to watch.
8. Nate Sudfeld took second-team reps at quarterback and was fine, but rookie Jalen Hurts was not slighted and took about as many with the third unit. The Eagles’ second-round pick looked solid considering the circumstances. He didn’t throw the ball downfield into tight windows much but had nice touch on the fade to Hightower and later hit a receiver on a corner route in the red zone. Hurts did a fair amount of running when he couldn’t find his first few reads, but when he did throw underneath, the balls had decent pace.
9. Sanders picked up where he left off last season. The Eagles are clearly going to use him more and in a variety of ways. He was flexed out wide a few times and once lined up in the slot in the red zone and caught a short slant touchdown. But most of his touches will come as a runner and he dazzled with an early jump cut to the outside before bolting upfield. The Eagles have yet to add a veteran running back – it’s still possible – so Boston Scott received the majority of second-team plays.
10. And a few leftovers … There was an Alshon Jeffery sighting. The injured receiver (foot) watched the final third of practice from the sideline. There is still no timetable for his return. … Running back Corey Clement wants to make the most of his opportunity. Injuries plagued his last two seasons, but he said he’s healthy. Sanders said last week that Clement looks like the Super Bowl Corey. … There were obvious changes to a typical camp practice. Coaches and other observers work masks, there weren’t any fans in attendance and tents were set up outside to extend the weight room and cafeteria. … Practice lasted about 90 minutes. Doug Pederson will continue to ramp up workouts until Saturday’s first day off.