The Eagles held their sixth practice of training camp Wednesday. Here are some of the highlights and my observations from Day 6.
1. The Eagles dialed down the intensity after Tuesday’s full contact practice. The players wore shells rather than pads, and the workout lasted a little less than 90 minutes. Center Jason Kelce and left tackle Jason Peters were given a veteran day off, although the latter warmed up and participated in individual drills before resting. Earlier this week, Stefen Wisniewski spotted Kelce for a few first-team drills, but Isaac Seumalo took all the repetitions at center Wednesday.
This wasn’t new. Seumalo has logged practice time at center since he was drafted three years ago. It’s never amounted to snaps in a game, as far as I can remember, even in the preseason. But that could be where he’ll end up, depending upon when Kelce decides to retire (something he has considered the last two offseasons). The Eagles extended Seumalo’s contract through 2024 this offseason.
Wisniewski has typically been the backup center, and his inside versatility has made him a valuable reserve the last three seasons. But he’s been inconsistent with his snaps during camp. I don’t know if that’s enough for an early demotion, or if Seumalo is just going through his natural progression, or if we’re just seeing more of the same.
Nevertheless, if Wisniewski is no longer the backup center, his value decreases. Of course, the Eagles aren’t exactly in the position to cast off guards with Brandon Brooks still recovering from a torn Achilles and unlikely to be ready by Week 1. Wisniewski, by the way, took Seumalo’s starting spot at left guard Wednesday. Seumalo had a very nice kick-out block on a Darren Sproles carry. Kelce once told me that center was Seumalo’s best position. Andre Dillard jumped up into Peters’ spot and looked fine, although players were going at a relatively slow pace. He was quick off the snap, to the point that it looked like a false start, but I just think he was reacting a split second faster than the rest of the linemen.
2. Alshon Jeffery hasn’t done much in camp — not that he really needs to — but he had a couple of nifty grabs Wednesday. The receiver pulled in a Carson Wentz bullet with his fingertips after slanting inside cornerback Rasul Douglas. And he beat cornerback Josh Hawkins to the pylon for a touchdown pass from Wentz.
The Eagles worked on some red zone, and the quarterback got off to a slow start. He threw high off the hands of Dallas Goedert, although Hawkins was there to make life difficult for the tight end. There later appeared to be a miscommunication between Wentz and receiver DeSean Jackson on a route into the end zone. The quarterback threw to the sideline as Jackson turned inward and slipped to the turf. Earlier, a Wentz fade to Nelson Agholor sailed too high and out of bounds. He floated another to the receiver on a go route, but a diving Agholor couldn’t make the grab.
3. Backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld took the most snaps and had one of his better days, particularly in the red zone. He hit a wide-open Goedert — as in somebody totally blew an assignment — in the end zone on his first attempt. And he followed up with a perfectly placed toss, over a linebacker and before a cornerback, to tight end Richard Rodgers for a touchdown. I like the way Sudfeld felt pressure in the pocket on a later play and climbed the ladder before hitting receiver Braxton Miller downfield. He saw a pass to receiver Greg Ward tipped by Douglas to safety Tre Sullivan for an interception. But he tossed a couple of back-of-the-end-zone bulls’ eyes to tight end Zach Ertz and receiver Marken Michel, who didn’t appear to get both feet inbounds.
4. Sudfeld’s numbers could have been better had he gotten more help from a few receivers. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside couldn’t reel in a pass on a comeback route. Cornerback Jay Liggins had tight coverage, but NFL receivers should win more of those than they lose. And Shelton Gibson’s struggles continued. He didn’t drop any passes, but he didn’t get enough separation on several throws. Sudfeld went to him on an out route, and the pass was a touch wide, but Gibson couldn’t make a play on the ball. He slammed his hands on the ground in frustration. Sudfeld tried to hit him on a deep fade vs. the man-covering Avonte Maddox. But Gibson couldn’t break free off Maddox as the ball caromed off both.
5. Oddly, the third-team offense didn’t get any red-zone reps. Maybe Doug Pederson just doesn’t expect the Clayton Thorson- and Cody Kessler-led unit to have opportunities inside the 20 in the preseason. I kid.
Thorson’s problems have already been well-documented. He’s got good size and a good-enough arm, so the Eagles have a template to develop. It just might take some time. I counted nine plays with Thorson under center. He handed off on four, was sacked once by defensive end Josh Sweat, and threw four passes. Three of the four were of the check-down variety, but on the one he tossed downfield, he pumped, paused and unloaded to I-don’t-know-who. I think he was targeting receiver Carlton Agudosi.
6. Other highlights and lowlights: Running back Miles Sanders sidestepped a defender before getting north-to-south on a red-zone rush. It’s difficult to evaluate the run game with virtually no contact. ... Sanders and Sudfeld fumbled an exchange on a zone read play. ... Donnell Pumphrey has had a heavy workload throughout camp. He took a handoff at one point and jetted around the corner and I thought, he looks faster. But then I noticed his footwear. Pumph was wearing black, low-cut Nike cleats without (visible) socks, the way a sprinter might. So it might have been an optical illusion.