Good morning, Eagles fans. We are only eight days away from the NFL season’s return and 11 days from the Eagles’ first game. The Eagles held practice yesterday and will return to the field again this afternoon. These practices are closed to the media except for the early portion of stretching and individual drills.
It sounds like Carson Wentz will have a pretty relaxing week as he nurses a soft-tissue injury, which first popped up on the injury report Sunday. Wentz isn’t expected to miss significant time, and it doesn’t sound like the Eagles are in a hurry to get him back to practice. Eagles coach Doug Pederson pointed out Tuesday that we’re in Week 4 of the canceled preseason, which would have been a light week for Wentz already, and that’s not accounting for the minor injury with which he’s dealing.
Without the prying eyes of me and my colleagues, I’d be interested to know what the first-team rep distribution between Jalen Hurts and Nate Sudfeld is looking like. Sudfeld got the majority of reps on Sunday while Wentz watched from the sideline, but Hurts got his share of time, too. The offenses run by Hurts and Sudfeld look quite different, and it’s likely by design. Hurts’ plays very frequently get him moving with play-action, while Sudfeld’s plays are more conventional. Hurts takes off and runs often, whereas Sudfeld hardly ever does.
— EJ Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org)
As I mentioned earlier, gone are the days when I send you nonsensical tweets each morning from Eagles training camp followed by hopefully useful analysis of the biggest moments of the practice. The team has shifted into a schedule more akin to the regular season, with practices later in the day and team periods closed to the media.
Here are the players who impressed the most during the practices open to the media over the last two weeks:
Jackson came into camp as a somewhat-forgotten entity overshadowed by the Eagles’ signing of Javon Hargrave this offseason. The 2019 free-agency signee played just one half of football for the Eagles last season before a Lisfranc foot fracture cost him the year. The season before with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Jackson had a down year in which he was benched and eventually released.
This season sets up a campaign for him to reestablish himself as one of the best interior pass rushers in the league, as my colleague Jeff McLane pointed out last week.
With Hargrave missing the last two weeks with a pectoral strain, Jackson has finally gotten the chance to play for an extended time alongside Fletcher Cox, who missed last year’s training camp with his own foot injury. Cox, who draws frequent double-teams, will help Jackson during the season, and it’s been the case in training camp, too. Jackson has been dominant at times, very noticeably wrecking a two-minute drill in the first live-contact practice of the summer. He’s been consistently disruptive, a promising sign for an interior pass-rushing unit from which the Eagles will need production.
Sweat and Jackson have a lot in common. They’re both starting on the defensive line in camp because of injuries, and they’re both flourishing with the extra opportunity.
Sweat had four sacks last season but has yet to start a game. That said, he hasn’t looked out of place with the Eagles’ first-team defensive front in Derek Barnett’s absence. He was the standout performer in Sunday’s scrimmage, in which he capitalized on an out-of-place Matt Pryor by getting more “sacks” than I could count.
If Sweat can improve on his 2019 season, the Eagles’ edge-rushing rotation becomes much better, and he’s given them reason to believe he’s capable of doing so.
If I forced myself to pick one receiver, it’d be Hightower by a hair. In the second week of camp in particular, Hightower was making flashy catches on a nearly daily basis. A touchdown grab he made with Avonte Maddox in tight coverage is my pick for the best catch of training camp. If you were making a Top 10 list, he’d have at least three or four of them. His speed is apparent, but his ability to secure contested catches makes him an intriguing prospect who could see an increased role in the offense with Jalen Reagor sidelined for a few weeks.
Arcega-Whiteside is the runner-up mainly because I have to keep reminding myself, this time last year, he looked like a promising young receiver. Still, everything he’s said this summer about the work he’s put in, the new outlook on the game, and the plays he’s made on the field could all be indications of a resurgent sophomore season. He’s been the most productive receiver in the red zone and looks faster everywhere else. Now he just needs to show it in the regular season.
Is the linebacking position a weakness for the Eagles or is the position irrelevant based on scheme? — from Flyer88 (@Flyer883) on Twitter.
Thanks for the question, Flyer. Congrats on your namesake’s Game 5 win. Linebackers, especially in Jim Schwartz’s scheme, don’t hold as much importance as productive pass rushers and competitive corners. The league is also shifting to more frequent use of sub packages to flood the field with more speedy defensive backs and fewer plodding ’backers. The significance of having three guys ready to step into a base defense is really inconsequential for the Eagles, who will gladly trade out Duke Riley for Nickell Robey-Coleman in most cases.
The Eagles have taken the undervaluing of linebackers to an extreme level this season with such an inexperienced, unproven group, but I wouldn’t be too concerned because of the reasons listed above. If the Eagles’ passing defense is miserable, it will reflect more on the status of the pass rush and the defensive backs than the linebackers.