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Eagles practice observations: Jalen Reagor’s ridiculous catch; DeVonta Smith does more; Derek Barnett injured again

Reagor had the best catch of training camp, a leaping one-handed grab that could be a turning point.

Eagles wide Jalen Reagor stretches before the start of a joint training camp with the New England Patriots at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021.
Eagles wide Jalen Reagor stretches before the start of 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 held their 14th open practice of training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Tuesday. Here are links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13. Let’s get to Day 14′s action, which was the second of two joint practices with the Patriots.

Reagor rising. Jalen Reagor came into camp reeling from his friend’s death, not physically ready, and still with legitimate concerns about whether he can live up to expectations the Eagles had when they drafted him in the first round. He has had some bumps in the road but also smooth patches. The last two days against the Patriots, though, could be a turning point. He stood out in one-on-one drills and had enough moments in seven-on-seven and team drills to suggest that he can transfer his success on the practice field to games. Is there an obvious difference in intensity and competition? Absolutely. But if you can’t do it in practice, you’ll never do it in the games. On Tuesday, Reagor had the catch of camp — a one-handed, acrobatic snare that highlighted his leaping ability. It was a thing of beauty. But what impressed most was that he took Nick Sirianni’s teaching on a similar-type corner fade just a repetition earlier and applied it to his execution on the next. On the first try, Reagor did a beeline to the spot and the Patriots’ Michael Jackson defended it perfectly. Jalen Hurts had nowhere to throw, and the ball hit the cornerback in the back. Sirianni was close by and told Reagor, “Don’t be in such a rush. Slow it down.” He did on his next attempt. Reagor slow-played his release off the line, exploded, and used his left hand to fend off Jackson as he skied for the floater with his right. Catching a pass with one hand may be special for mere mortals, but most NFL receivers have that capability. But not many have a 42-inch vertical, or the body control to land on both feet in bounds. Reagor has plenty of room for improvement. There are internal concerns about his mental makeup. But the same could be said about the majority of players, most of whom don’t have his natural talents. Reagor’s on the right path. He can’t afford to be swayed.

Quezlove. Quez Watkins actually had a better set of plays than Reagor during red zone one-on-ones. Pats corner Jalen Mills won the first matchup when his jam at the line threw off the chemistry between Hurts and his receiver. But Watkins embarrassed J.C. Jackson with a little shimmy at the line, so much that the corner just stood flat-footed as the pass was completed for a touchdown. In the Watkins-Mills rematch, the receiver tilted the corner toward the post and then cut outside to the corner for an easy score. Watkins had words for the chatty former Eagle. Knowing Mills, he had something to prove after the Eagles let him walk in the offseason. And he mostly delivered the last two days. Earlier, he broke up a pass to receiver Marken Michel that came on a similar route. He gave Michel a little elbow to the helmet afterward that didn’t seem accidental. I imagine Watkins’ response had something to do with Mills’ chippiness.

JJ hanging on. JJ Arcega-Whiteside has had an up-and-down camp. He has never looked bad in practice, and that stretches back to his rookie season. There have been periods when it seems like he could be capable of breaking out — not quite on a high level, but enough to actually catch more than a few passes. But adjusting to game speed has proved difficult for the third-year receiver. He had maybe his best practice of camp Tuesday, but I can’t give him the benefit of doubt as I did for Reagor because he doesn’t have those adaptable skills. That said, he did well in every period. He caught all three targets in one-on-ones — most on inside slant routes — for touchdowns. He had a couple of grabs in seven-on-sevens. And he caught two more scores — both out of the slot — in team drills. I still think that Arcega-Whiteside could be on the wrong side of the 53-man roster bubble. He has performed better than John Hightower. But Greg Ward would seem to be ahead as it relates to playing in the slot. And while Travis Fulgham, in my eyes, has underwhelmed, he has gotten significantly more playing time with the first unit than Arcega-Whiteside. Stay tuned.

Tight ends in tight spots. The Eagles and Patriots mostly worked in the red zone Tuesday. It’s an area where a tight end’s size can be exploited, especially if you have two above-average receivers such as Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Hurts and backup quarterback Joe Flacco took advantage, especially the former. Early in team drills, Hurts hit Goedert on a well-timed run-pass option play that gave the tight end space to waltz into the end zone. A set later, the quarterback went back-to-back to his tight ends: hitting Ertz on an out after he toasted safety Kyle Dugger, and then Goedert just over the plane of the goal line with a defender draped on his back. And, finally, Hurts dropped a beaut to Goedert on a corner route. Not to be outdone, Flacco found Tyree Jackson in the back of the end zone. The pass was a touch high — even for the 6-foot-7 tight end — but Jackson elevated and pulled the ball in before he landed on his back. He was down for a spell — it looked like he got the wind knocked out of him — but he did return. I should note that third-string quarterback Nick Mullens also hooked up with Jackson on a timing route. Jackson emphatically spiked the ball after scoring.

T.J. Edwards salute. Linebacker has become one of the less glamorous positions in the modern NFL, and that has certainly been the case here in Philly. The Eagles don’t expend much capital on the position compared to others — and rightfully so — but that also doesn’t mean that there haven’t been a few solid linebackers here. T.J. Edwards would have a larger role if he played in the NFL two decades ago. He’s a run stopper. He has excellent downhill instincts. But pass defense, particularly in man coverage, can be an issue. Nevertheless, he has done well in both disciplines this summer and Tuesday might have been one of his better days. During one early set, he thwarted a screen pass and nearly snagged an interception a few plays later. But in seven-on-sevens, he dropped into coverage, read quarterback Mac Jones’ eyes, and got his pick when the rookie quarterback tossed an ill-advised pass. One other linebacker note: Alex Singleton finally got his interception — he could have had one or two Monday — when he secured a Brian Hoyer flick.

1st team defense high/lowlights. Overall, I’m giving the Eagles the edge for the second straight day. Both of their first-team units clearly had more success Tuesday. On defense, Fletcher Cox and Josh Sweat teamed up for an early run stop. Rookie Patrick Johnson, running with the first unit at strong-side linebacker, broke up a Cam Newton pass at the second level. And while Newton and the Pats scored a couple of touchdowns on goal-line runs, when the quarterback dropped to throw, his reads typically led him to check-downs. I could count on one hand the number of times he challenged cornerbacks Darius Slay and Steven Nelson. That might say more about Newton, or the Pats receivers, but every time I looked, Slay and Nelson were glued to their assignments.

2nd team offense high/lowlights. The second unit started slow. Flacco overshot an open Jason Croom in team drills. Center Nate Herbig snapped one over his quarterback’s head. Running back Kenneth Gainwell ran into a Pats wall for no gain. And receiver Hakeem Butler was flagged for offensive pass interference. But Flacco had the two touchdown tosses to Arcega-Whiteside, the one to Jackson, and another to Gainwell on a fake sprint-out that turned into a shovel pass.

2nd team defense high/lowlights. Jones found a late-releasing James White that caught the Eagles secondary napping during an early team drill. Nelson Agholor lost cornerback Michael Jacquet for an easy six points. Zech McPhearson rebounded from a rough Monday and plastered receiver N’Keal Harry when he was Jones’s first read in the end zone. He also wasn’t fooled by a jet sweep later on. There was some defensive miscommunication when Pats tight end Devin Asiasi was unaccounted for and walked into the end zone.

Ahem … injuries. DeVonta Smith (knee) didn’t partake in one-on-ones, but he did take about a dozen team snaps. Alas, the rookie receiver wasn’t targeted once. I don’t see any way he suits up Thursday. Derek Barnett was the most significant addition to the injury report. He was listed as day to day with a shoulder injury. While my understanding is that there isn’t internal concern, Barnett has had shoulder problems before, not to mention the many other injuries he has accrued since entering the NFL. The other limited participants: safety K’Von Wallace (groin), linebacker Genard Avery (groin), receiver Andre Patton (knee), tackle Le’Raven Clark (ramp up) and Hightower (groin). The other new day to dayers: defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (ankle), kicker Jake Elliott (ankle) and center Luke Juriga (ankle). The returning day-to-dayers: linebacker Joe Ostman (concussion), defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (thumb), running back Jason Huntley (ribs), linebacker JaCoby Stevens (hamstring), cornerback Craig James (foot), and tackle Casey Tucker (biceps). The following are still week-to-week: tackle Andre Dillard (knee), running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) and linebacker Davion Taylor (calf). Kerryon Johnson, Juriga, and Tucker were later waived/injured.

» READ MORE: Eagles WR DeVonta Smith looks good in first limited work since injuring knee

And a few leftovers … Former NFL executive Mike Lombardi was at practice. Lombardi used to work in the Eagles and Patriots front offices, among other teams. I imagine he was a guest of Bill Belichick because I can’t imagine he has been to the NovaCare Complex since his controversial comments about Doug Pederson in 2017. The Eagles, of course, would go on to win a Super Bowl just months after Lombardi called Pederson the most unqualified coach in the NFL. And Pederson would go on to be fired just three years after he won the title. Maybe Lombardi got the last laugh (not really). … Center Jason Kelce had an errant snap and then let out a loud roar as he lay on the ground. There was a brief silence until Kelce got up, gathered himself and grabbed the ball for the next play. ... The Eagles will have a closed walk-through before Thursday’s second preseason game at the Linc.