Eagles practice observations: Bradford in control; Matthews unstoppable; Ravens get chippy
The Eagles held their 14th open practice of training camp on Thursday, the second of three joint workouts with the Baltimore Ravens. Here are some highlights and observations:
1. Friday's practice will be open, but a light workout. So this is the last day of observations. The majority of practices (at least the good parts) will be closed to the media starting on Monday.
There was a lot that went on during Thursday's session, so I'm going to do the notes in running diary form:
After individual drills, the Eagles and Ravens converged for various one-on-one drills. Baltimore receiver Steve Smith continued his assault on Eagles defensive backs when he caught a deep pass over Nolan Carroll. Walter Thurmond, a play or two later, notched an interception, I believe, on a Joe Flacco pass. Smith later turned cornerback Marc Anthony around for an easy grab over the middle, and after the catch, he flipped the ball 30 yards into the air. Eagles cornerback Jaylen Watkins (5-foot-11) won't win many jump ball against 6-6 Ravens receiver Darren Waller, but he also couldn't stick with the rookie when he ran a dig route.
2. On the other field, the Eagles offense went up against the Ravens defense. Nelson Agholor beat Ravens cornerback Tramain Jacobs on a deep post, but Tim Tebow missed him by about five yards. Josh Huff was matched up against Ravens corner Cassius Vaughn and couldn't pull in a jump ball. Sam Bradford connected with Agholor on a slant.
3. The Ravens were first up on kick return drills and the Eagles' Seyi Ajirotutu made the type of special teams play that should land him on the 53-man roster. He blew up his man (Kyle Arrington) and ran him into returner Michael Campanaro, who fell to the turf. Marcus Smith injured his right hamstring on the play. He had to be carted off the field. Smith will have an MRI tomorrow, but his injury is being called a strain. A kick return later, Denzel Rice forced a fumble. Jumping ahead briefly, the Eagles' kick return got its turn and Dave Fipp's unit kept creating and hitting holes through the Ravens. Huff and Raheem Mostert both had long runs.
4. During 7 on 7s, Kiko Alonso and DeMeco Ryans started off as the first team inside linebackers. Eric Rowe was the slot corner. On the other field, Bradford's first pass sailed high off Riley Cooper's hands. He then zipped a throw to Agholor on a 15-yard hitch out the slot. And then he found Huff on another hitch. D-line and o-line one-on-ones, meanwhile, took place on the farther field, and Connor Barwin was blocked wide, nearly into a tent by Ravens rookie lineman De'Ondre Wesley. Back to the Eagles defense, and Smith gave safety Chris Maragos an extra pop after a catch. Mychal Kendricks did more today than he has for about a week. He nearly picked off a Flacco pass. Malcolm Jenkins broke up a Flacco pass to receiver Jeremy Miller over the middle.
5. Team drills opened with Andrew Gardner once against at right guard with the first team. It's safe to assume the job is his unless he falters in the next two preseason games. DeMarco Murray took the first carry and withstood a hard thud from linebacker Courtney Upshaw. Bradford threw a bubble screen to Darren Sproles and he took off upfield behind two blockers.
6. The Eagles third team defense got into a scuffle with the Ravens when it appeared linebacker Diaheem Watkins took a swing Wesley. Watkins was pulled out of the scrum and it looked like Eagles defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro gave him the heave-ho. The Eagles and Ravens must have had preordained rules about fighting. A member of Eagles personnel escorted Watkins off the field. He was briefly called back, but then left entirely for the rest of practice.
7. Cody Parkey bounced back after a shaky Wednesday. The Eagles kicker was 7 of 7 on his kicks. He converted two PAT-length (32 yards) boots, and then was good from approximately 40, 44, 33, 37 and 45 yards. Parkey didn't attempt any kicks from beyond that distance. The Eagles are clearly trying to bolster his confidence. He may have lost a little of that juice after watching Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nail a field goal attempt (without a rush) from around 70 (!) yards. Showoff.
8. Back to team two-minute offense drills, and Bradford marched the Eagles down the field for a "touchdown" on nine plays. The sequence: Bradford hit Sproles on a wheel route, Huff on a screen, Sproles over the middle for a big gainer when he beat the linebacker, and then he spiked the ball to stop the clock. Bradford then connected with Cooper, who made a diving grab, he handed off to Ryan Mathews for a short gain, and airmailed a pass to Huff out of the end zone. Then on third down, Bradford threw a fade into the corner of the end zone to Jordan Matthews, who drew a pass interference penalty. Kenjon Barner ran from a yard out on the next play for the score. Parkey's PAT was good.
9. Bradford had some struggles during red zone drills later. His receivers didn't appear to help him out. Brent Celek couldn't pull in a pass that was a touch high. Huff couldn't handle a hot one a few plays later. Matthews, though, drew two more pass interference flags when he beat defensive backs downfield during a different set of team drills. Matthews continued to look great. Huff lost his cool when Ravens safety Will Hill gave him a shot on a pass over the middle. Huff went toward Hill, who similarly gave Matthews a little extra the day before. The brouhaha ended rather quickly, but practice overall was more chippy than a day prior.
10. A few notes: Mark Sanchez had trouble completing the out route on back-to-back passes to Agholor, who appeared to have a step each time. … Matt Barkley threw a dart to tight end Justin Tukes for a "touchdown," but was intercepted later in the red zone by Jacobs. … Eagles cornerback E.J. Biggers – "Bigs" to Chip Kelly – had an interception during team drills.