DeVonta sidelined. DeVonta Smith is out with his first NFL injury and it didn’t take long. The Eagles deemed the receiver as week-to-week with a knee strain, but also said that they expect his timetable to be on the earlier side of that designation. They said they’re not overly concerned because of how the rookie has performed thus far. Smith has gotten off to a solid start, but he has only three full camp workouts to his name and none in pads. If he’s back by the first or second preseason game and is able to participate in joint practices with other teams, I don’t think a missed week or two of camp will be a major issue. But the Eagles have been overly cautious with injuries in recent seasons and there is always the risk of a slow start if Smith needs September to work back into shape. The top draft pick may already be the No. 1 receiver, but he’s still a rookie and would benefit from playing at game speed, even if it is in the preseason.
Receiver carousel. Smith may have been down, but Jalen Reagor was back up. After being limited in the first four days, the second-year receiver was a full participant and practiced with the first unit. He had a few grabs in team drills -- nothing spectacular -- but having him just out there was a positive. Travis Fulgham took Smith’s reps. He’s drifted under the radar thus far, but this could be his chance to show that last year’s midseason explosion wasn’t an anomaly. He made a strong snag vs. tight coverage on the first pass of practice. Quez Watkins was also back to full strength after a non-COVID-19 illness limited his play last week. I opted to watch linemen one-on-ones over seven-on-sevens, but the second-year receiver apparently caught a deep pass during the set. He also took a bubble screen into the end zone. Greg Ward took most of the first-team repetitions in the slot. He’s been relatively quiet. JJ Arcega-Whiteside seems to be Ward’s top competition, but there aren’t any obvious answers inside. Maybe try Fulgham in the slot?
Hurts improving. Jalen Hurts had his best practice of camp, in my estimation. He seemed more assertive in his decision-making. The ball was out quick and his reads were often the correct ones. His first toss to Fulgham was on target. He lofted a strike to tight end Zach Ertz on his next attempt. And he hooked up with his releasing running backs on his next three throws for an efficient first set. He later hit Reagor on a slant, found running back Miles Sanders with a swing pass that picked up positive yards, and connected with an open Dallas Goedert on a crosser. There were some moments he’d like to have back, of course. He threw slightly behind Fulgham in the end zone on a post route. The receiver could have maybe pulled the ball in, but he had a half-step and Hurts was a touch late. The quarterback had another toss sail uncontrollably when Ertz was alone in the flat. But, overall, Hurts was sharp and appears to making strides in learning a new offense.
Ahem … injuries. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan left with an apparent right hand injury. Guard Nate Herbig got a little banged up near the end of practice and left team drills, but he remained outside. Receiver Michael Walker headed to the trainers’ table early on. I don’t know if he returned. The Eagles didn’t have updates on any of the in-practice injuries. They did provide a status report on their existing injured. Linebacker Davion Taylor (quadriceps) and cornerback Shakial Taylor (lower body) returned to practice as limited participants. Guard Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and tight end Jason Croom (knee) were listed as day to day. And besides Smith, guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) and defensive back Nate Meadors (hamstring) were still week to week. Safety Andrew Adams was off the COVID-19 list and at practice, but he only watched. Linebacker Alex Singleton and defensive end Matt Leo remained on the COVID-19 list.
Dillard vs. Mailata update. Can we just call off the competition between Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata? The latter has clearly been better, and I don’t think that’s just a short-term thing. If I’m being fair, the winner shouldn’t be declared until padded practices and preseason games are held. But Mailata has already proven himself capable of playing at a starting left tackle level, while Dillard has not. Should the Eagles give up on Dillard (trade?), who has only four career starts to his name? I don’t think we’re at that point yet. But if Mailata is to win the job, the public angst over another underperforming first-round pick could further erode Dillard’s confidence. It may just be within each side’s best interest to part ways. The Eagles need depth on the offensive line, but Jack Driscoll could be a competent swing reserve tackle. It was Dillard’s turn with the first unit, and while he avoided catastrophe in team drills, he struggled in one-on-one drills. Defensive end Josh Sweat used a push-pull move that forced the tackle to hold him. Dillard’s get-off vs. Brandon Graham was quick, but he allowed the veteran end to shift inside when he should have just forced him outside.
OL/DL One-on-Ones. With Brooks and Seumalo down, the Eagles’ first-unit defensive tackles have had their way with their replacements. Javon Hargrave beat guard Matt Pryor with a swim move. And Fletcher Cox made quick work of Herbig with a devastating inside move. Cox then swung an imaginary baseball bat for the fences. Mailata compensated for the inside issues. When he gets to his mark and uses his hands correctly, there’s little “smallish” defensive ends like Derek Barnett can do. Mailata ate up both Barnett and Sweat, who tried multiple moves to get by the bully tackle. Barnett, it should be noted, toasted Driscoll later on.
Zech rising. Zech McPhearson recorded his first interception of camp. The rookie cornerback nearly had a pick a few days ago, but he secured the ball this time on what could be described as a Nick Mullens underthrow. McPhearson hasn’t appeared to be overwhelmed in his first NFL camp. He could have some setbacks once the pads are on, or he’s asked to face better competition, but he’s shown that he’s a physical corner with some instinct. Steven Nelson and Craig James are ahead of him on the depth chart, but it’s not as if either has their signature on the position.
Odd man in. Defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon continued to utilize a three-man front on certain plays. He might have had a 3-4 base or 3-3-5 nickel package, but the concept up front has been essentially the same: three down linemen and two standup outside backers. Whatever the alignment, the Eagles’ D-line has probably been the most effective unit so far in camp. Graham had a “sack” after he dusted Pryor during one team drill. Sweat batted a pass later on. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway notched a tackle for loss on a Kerryon Johnson carry. And Hargrave tagged Hurts after he wrestled by Herbig.
Flacco’s best. Joe Flacco hasn’t exactly flashed so far, but he had arguably his best moment of camp when he strung a rope to Tyree Jackson on a deep cross. The quarterback placed the ball high where only the 6-foot-7 tight end could snatch it, and Jackson caught it in stride and picked up yards after the catch.
And a few leftovers … With Smith absent, cornerback Avonte Maddox took his place on punt returns. Reagor has done a nice job on fielding returns. Ward has muffed a few. It’s still remarkable to think that the Eagles stuck with Ward as their returner for most of last season. … The pads come on tomorrow. It’s about time!