Eagles practice observations: Who’s trending up, most valuable performers and other training camp awards
Highlights from the 15th and final day of Eagles training camp.
The Eagles held their fifteenth and last practice of training camp Tuesday . The session was a light 10-10-10 workout, which offers the perfect opportunity to tie a bow on camp and hand out awards (and some dubious honors):
1. Dallas Goedert. The rookie tight end showed in the spring that he had the goods to play in the NFL, but camp further legitimized the Eagles' second-round draft pick. Goedert runs crisp routes, utilizes a large catch radius and has soft hands. He will have a prominent role on offense alongside starter Zach Ertz, likely in the red zone. During a practice without Ertz, Goedert caught two touchdowns with the first unit offense.
2. Kamu Grugier-Hill. Nate Gerry has gotten the most repetitions at weak-side linebacker, but Grugier-Hill made more plays in camp. He had a knack for diagnosing plays before they developed and recorded several tackles for loss. Grugier-Hill once knifed into the backfield and dropped running back Josh Adams during live team drills, prompting his defensive teammates to croon in unison, "Kammmuuuuuuu."
3. Avonte Maddox. Maddox entered the competition for the slot corner spot when he took all the first team snaps during the last week. It's hard to see the Eagles burying Sidney Jones, who had been splitting slot time with De'Vante Bausby, but Maddox has made a case that the job should be his now.
4. Matt Pryor. Another rookie with a bright future, Pryor will be on the 53-man roster, which isn't always a slam dunk for sixth-round picks. He locked down the backup right guard spot and dominated throughout one-on-one drills.
>> READ MORE: Matt Pryor is a hands-on favorite to make the Eagles
5. Shelton Gibson. Gibson essentially had only one direction to trend after last year's camp. But he's locked down the fifth receiver spot ahead of Markus Wheaton– in this reporter's opinion – and showed playmaking ability. Gibson needs to be more consistent. He still has the occasional issue with uncontested throws, but you can't teach speed.
Most valuable performers
1. Malcolm Jenkins. The Pro Bowl safety has little left to prove as he enters his tenth season, but he still practices as if his job were on the line. Jenkins is the first to every team drill and brings an intensity that his teammates are forced to try and match.
2. Zach Ertz. The six-year tight end is firmly among the best at his position. By my count, he didn't drop one pass in camp and was the receiver targeted most. Had he not missed several practices, he may have challenged Jenkins for the top spot.
3. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby. A year ago, the Eagles' cornerback situation was kind of a mess. Now it's considered a strength. Mills and Darby have solidified their roles as the starting outside corners. There wasn't a practice when one from the duo failed to stand out. A caveat: They didn't have to deal with quarterback Carson Wentz and receiver Alshon Jeffery.
>> READ MORE: Mills and Darby are nailing down the corners
4. Fletcher Cox. The all-pro defensive tackle doesn't always go hard. He has the safety of the Eagles quarterbacks to consider. But when Cox decides to turn it up, few offensive linemen can handle him. Now in his seventh season, defensive line coach Chris Wilson recently said that Cox is in the best shape of his career.
5. Jason Kelce. It's easy, at this point, to take Kelce for granted – and maybe for him to coast. But the Eagles' honorary Mummer looks poised to build off his comeback season. His effort in camp was consistent, as evidenced by a vicious block on linebacker Jordan Hicks during live drills.
1. Wentz has completed countless 25-yard sideline passes in practice, but the one he strung to Gibson during his brief stint in team drills might have been the most important one. It was the first time he had thrown under camp-controlled duress since knee surgery and it showed that Wentz still had the magic touch.
>> READ MORE: Time isn't on Wentz's side as season opener approaches
2. Ertz could have had his own separate category, but he gets top billing for a catch-and-run touchdown during live drills. Quarterback Nick Foles threw high and behind him on a bubble screen. But Ertz pulled the pass in with one hand, turned his body north, broke a tackle and stretched the football over the plane of the goal line.
3. Mike Wallace missed a few practices and the preseason opener, but when he returned last week for an open practice he showed fans at the Linc why the Eagles signed him this offseason. The 30-year-old receiver got behind Mills on a deep post and hauled in a majestic Foles bomb before falling to the grass.
4. It's easy to get caught up with offensive accomplishment, but the Eagles' first-unit defense won more than it lost throughout camp. Linebacker Nigel Bradham had a standout moment when he snaked through a gap and walloped running back Corey Clement deep in the backfield during live drills.
5. All that stood in the way of the Eagles from having a much-needed day off were a walkthrough and evening meetings. After practice, Doug Pederson gathered the team together and called for Jake Elliott. If the kicker successfully hit a 45-yard field goal attempt, meetings would be canceled. Elliott calmly booted the ball through the uprights and the players erupted.
1. Corey Nelson. Inked to a one-year deal in March, the former Bronco said he was told he would compete for the weak-side spot. One problem: Mychal Kendricks was still on the roster. Kendricks was released two months later, clearing a path for Nelson. But the fifth-year linebacker was quiet in camp and remains low on the depth chart.
2. Donnel Pumphrey, Matt Jones and Wendell Smallwood. The Eagles have three running backs locked into roster spots – Jay Ajayi, Darren Sproles and Clement. They typically keep four and the job was up for grabs entering camp. Pumphrey showed improvement after a disappointing rookie campaign, but he suffered an injury and will miss at least the first two preseason games. Jones has also been banged up, but when he has played he has been underwhelming. Smallwood has been healthy – unlike in camps past – but his performance has paled in comparison to undrafted rookie Josh Adams.
>> READ MORE: Matt Jones is ready to carry the load in New England
3. Tim Jernigan and Chris Maragos. Their futures are unknown. Jernigan suffered a back injury in April and underwent surgery in May. The Eagles haven't said as much, but the defensive tackle is unlikely to be ready for the season and could miss an extended period. Maragos' season ended in October when he tore his anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments. Even though he underwent surgery a month before Wentz, who tore his anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments, the safety hasn't come close to sniffing the practice field.
4. Cameron Johnston. The Eagles didn't opt for two punters in camp, so Johnston has been opposite imaginary competition. He's not losing as much as he isn't winning. He has a big leg, but situational kicks have been an ongoing issue. If Johnston makes a few fans forget Donnie Jones, the Eagles could be comfortable allowing him to mature on the job.
5. Elijah Qualls. The second-year defensive tackle hasn't had a bad camp, but with the potential to earn playing time with Jernigan on the shelf, Qualls hasn't moved ahead of Destiny Vaeao on the depth chart and could be facing competition from promising undrafted rookie Bruce Hector.
>> READ MORE: Why did the Eagles sign Christian Hackenberg?
Least valuable performers
1. Chance Warmack. The guard has a protector in offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, but he hasn't impressed in camp. Warmack plays just one position and the ascension of Pryor could knock him off the roster.
2. Mack Hollins. With Jeffery sidelined, Hollins jumped up to the first team and had the opportunity to prove that he was more than just a fourth receiver. But he struggled to get anything going against Darby and company. Hollins' special teams skills gets him on the roster, but he's injured now and if Jeffery isn't ready by the opener, he may not be his backup.
>> READ MORE: Mack Hollins hopes the extra work pays off
3. Haloti Ngata. His spot on the roster isn't in jeopardy, and maybe that's why he was a non-entity in camp, but it would have been nice to see glimpses of his former all pro self. The 34-year-old Ngata took a few veteran days off, but even when active he ran through the motions. Defensive end Michael Bennett, meanwhile, brought his "A" game daily.
4. Kamar Aiken. Signed just before camp, the journeyman hasn't been consistent. Aiken was one of the few veteran receivers to stay healthy throughout camp, but he didn't take advantage of chances with the first two units.
5. Tre Sullivan. It's difficult to knock a former undrafted rookie, and Sullivan has shown nothing but great effort. But he had an opportunity to claim the third safety spot and hasn't delivered. The Eagles went out and re-signed Corey Grahamas a result.
1. Pick any one of Isaac Seumalo's errant shotgun snaps.
2. Brandon Brooks was out sick. The first team offense lined up for its first play with Warmack in Brooks' place at right guard. But Warmack had a false start and Pederson yanked him from the lineup for Pryor.
3. Rookie tackle Jordan Mailata has shown progress in just a few months of playing football for the first time in his life. But there have been growing pains. On back-to-back plays, he false started and was toasted around the edge by defensive end Derek Barnett.
4. Either a lowlight or highlight, Pumphrey juked linebacker Joe Walker with a shimmy move up the middle.
5. Poor Darrell Greene. The second-year guard whiffed on a block during one-on-one drills, which is bad enough, but having Brandon Graham and Cox loudly cackle in the background had to be a blow to the ego.
>> READ MORE: What we learned from Eagles-Steelers