The Eagles held their second practice of the 2021 training camp at the NoveCare Complex Wednesday. Here’s a link to Day 1. Let’s get to Day 2′s action:
Dillard vs. Mailata. I touched upon arguably the most important position battle in Wednesday’s notes, but the topic leads Thursday after Jordan Mailata had a strong practice, and Andre Dillard didn’t. The former took most of the first team repetitions at left tackle a day after the latter did. I don’t think that was a reflection of how they performed on Day 1, but it might as well have been after Day 2. Mailata didn’t allow much pressure in team drills when facing either Josh Sweat or Derek Barnett, and he had a few “wins” during 1-on-1 drills. Was everything clean? Of course, not. But the early camp woes that Mailata suffered through in his first three seasons of playing football appear to be gone. Well, at least for now. Dillard, though, had one of those days when you wonder what the heck Howie Roseman was thinking when he drafted the Washington State product. He had forgettable moments both in team and individuals. Rookie end Tarron Jackson toasted Dillard during one team drill rush, and it clearly affected the tackle. Dillard’s body language said as much as he walked away from the action. He took a knee and then advice from a nearby assistant as play resumed. In 1-on-1s, Dillard struggled to contain Sweat’s bend on an outside speed rush. He overset vs. Barnett and was undressed with an inside move. It’s just one day, and the players have yet to don pads, but Mailata has the early lead in my estimation.
Brooks injury. Brandon Brooks left practice early with a hamstring strain. The Eagles called it a “precautionary evaluation.” Brooks didn’t appear to be burdened or upset when he left the field. Brooks’ health will be closely monitored after he missed all of last season following an Achilles tendon rupture, his second in the last three years. The Eagles are now down both starting guards with Isaac Seumalo week-to-week with a hamstring injury. A svelte Nate Herbig — tackle Lane Johnson said the third-year guard dropped from 355 to 325 pounds this offseason — has been filling in for Seumalo, and Matt Pryor jumped in at right guard when Brooks left.
Ahem … Injuries. The Eagles didn’t report any other new injuries from practice. The following were limited: receiver Jalen Reagor (lower body tightness), and receiver Greg Ward (non-COVID-19 illness); and listed as day-to-day: receiver Travis Fulgham (lower body), cornerback Shakial Taylor (lower body), and receiver Quez Watkins (non-COVID0-19 illness); and listed as week-to-week: defensive back Nate Meadors (hamstring), and Seumalo.
Hurts to Smith. The highlight of the day had to be a 50-plus-yard teardrop that quarterback Jalen Hurts laid into the lap of rookie receiver DeVonta Smith during 7-on-7 drills. Smith beat cornerback Steven Nelson on a “go” route and also got behind safety K’Von Wallace to make the grab. Fan reaction from the few hundred or so in attendance was easily the most boisterous of camp. Smith has had his ups and downs thus far, as to be expected. He’s dropped a few passes, even against air, and has met his match in veteran cornerback Darius Slay during team drills. But his raw talent has been evident. I narrowed in on Smith during one “dig” route, and his break inside left corner Craig James well in his wake.
Depth chart notes. There was more movement aside from left tackle. A day after running with the ones, Wallace was with the second team defense. Marcus Epps took his spot at safety alongside Anthony Harris. Linebacker Davion Taylor was still with the first unit, but he was paired with T.J. Edwards and then Shaun Bradley rather than Eric Wilson. As defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon noted after practice, there will be a fair amount of movement between units, and not just based upon performance. He wants to see how his defenders perform at various levels and with various personnel.
Tarron Jackson flashes. The Eagles love to take swings in the draft on third-day defensive ends. It makes sense. It’s often the position where you can find talent that slips through the cracks. Jackson was drafted out of Coastal Carolina in the sixth round. Some teams may have underrated him because of the competition he’s faced in college, but Jackson has done some nice things during the first two days. I’m not about to project him to Canton, but the 6-foot-2, 254-pound end could find his way onto the 53-man roster. The Eagles are deep at the position, but they have kept as many as seven ends before. Milton Williams has played both end and tackle in camp. Gannon said he thinks the third-round rookie could play five of the spots on the line.
Cox Cox-ing. Fletcher Cox seems to always turn it on during one early camp practice just to remind everyone how great he can be. Thursday was one of those days. He wrecked a bunch of plays and got into the backfield on multiple occasions. Gannon said Cox had three tackles for loss and two sacks. I must have missed a few. Cox said he’s played only the three-technique spot so far, but Gannon said he will line the perennial Pro Bowler up in other spots when applicable this season. Why allow an offense to know where a defense’s best player will be on each play?
More on Reagor. I was able to find out more on why Reagor wasn’t cleared for the start of camp. He failed Tuesday’s conditioning test, per league sources. I have more on why in my story here. A close friend of Reagor’s was murdered recently, and the Eagles believe that may have played a role in why he wasn’t ready both physically and mentally for camp. It’s impossible to get inside the young man’s head, but the Eagles obviously need him in the right frame of mind if he’s to compete in camp. Sirianni is an engaged coach, especially with receivers, and after Reagor caught a pass in individual drills, the coach ran to his player and seemed to be positively challenging him. There’s a lot of football left to play before the season opener, but it would benefit Reagor if he didn’t fall behind.
Other team drill highlights. Johnson said that Sirianni and his staff chart every play so that after each practice a winner — offense or defense — is declared. He said the defense won on Day 1 and that he thought the offense would claim Day 2. That would probably be my assessment, although it’s not as if the offense was significantly better Thursday. The unit had a few breakout moments besides Smith’s deep snag. Running back Adrian Killins busted off a big run in team drills. Smith took an end around into the secondary. Hurts found an uncovered JJ Arcega-Whiteside wide open after a busted coverage. Running back Boston Scott scooted through a gaping hole. Running back Jason Huntley wheeled for a large gain on the ground. But there were low moments, too. Hurts overthrew tight end Zach Ertz on a short crosser. Running back Miles Sanders could have picked up more yards on a short toss had he not bobbled the ball. Hurts held the ball a few ticks too long, and a play was whistled dead.
And a few leftovers … Tight end Tyree Jackson got a reaction from the crowd when he trucked a linebacker on Wednesday, but he struggled with a couple of dropped passes a day later. … Practice ended after about 75 minutes, but after the entire team gathered for Sirianni’s parting message, the session resumed. It wasn’t technically the continuation of practice but just a developmental period for bottom-roster players to get in some additional work with coaches.