Eagles practice observations: Jalen Mills locks down; Nelson Agholor explodes; Dallas Goedert catches on
Highlights from the second day of Eagles minicamp.
The Eagles held the second of three minicamp practices this week. Wednesday's session was open to the media. Here are some observations and notes:
Jalen Mills has had a strong under-the-radar spring. "Under the radar" maybe because I hadn't highlighted his performance – until now – or maybe because he's gotten to a stage in his career where it's expected. Mills wasn't an elite cornerback last season. But he was mostly consistent and has solidified himself as a starter. I don't want to overstate his effectiveness in noncontact practices, but he competes on every down and has kept Mike Wallace – his primary opponent – in check. Carson Wentz went to Wallace on a go route during a team drill, and Mills ran step for step with the speedy receiver. The pass sailed wide – Wallace would have landed out of bounds had he caught it – but as it hit his hands, Mills swatted the ball to the ground. And out came the corner's familiar finger wag as he celebrated. Ronald Darby, Mills' counterpart, has been steady throughout camp, as well. With Sidney Jones' setback – he'll be sidelined through minicamp – Mills and Darby should enter training camp as the top two outside starters. Doug Pederson said that the "soreness" Jones has been experiencing is unrelated to his Achilles tendon rupture from last year and is in his "lower body." It was D.J. Killings' turn in the slot with the first unit. He intercepted Nick Foles during a seven-on-seven drill. There appeared to be a miscommunication between Foles and receiver Nelson Agholor on the route. The pass hit Killings in his mitts.
A year ago, it became clear that Agholor had vastly improved. I'm not sure whether he's taken another step forward this spring, but he's looked explosive and confident. He did drop back-to-back passes from Wentz during quarterback-receiver drills, but he just shrugged it off and was back to snagging a variety of passes during the team portion. Wallace has had his moments. Asked for receivers who have had stood out, Wentz mentioned the veteran, who was signed in free agency. Bryce Treggs had maybe his best showing of the spring. Most of his repetitions came with the third-string offense, but he ran free. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld hit Treggs on a deep corner route that required the receiver to extend his body. He caught it behind rookie safety Jeremy Reaves. Treggs popped up and spun the football on the ground. I don't know if there's a spot for him on the roster, but he'll end up on some team's 53 if he keeps getting a half-step on defensive backs.
It could be only a matter of time before Dallas Goedert supplants Richard Rodgers as the No. 2 tight end. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, because the rookie has yet to practice in pads or play in the preseason, but he obviously belongs on the NFL stage. I don't recall seeing him drop a single throw in the open sessions. Yes, he has soft hands, but that also tells me that the game isn't moving too fast for the Eagles' second-round draft pick. Goedert vs. Tre Sullivan has been a long-running competition throughout the spring, but the tight end easily slipped the safety with an out route against inside leverage. Goedert did struggle to get separation vs. cornerback De'Vante Bausby on a seven-on-seven seam route, and Wentz's pass was batted away.
The first team offense didn't have one of its best days. Foles was picked off twice. The offensive line was flagged a few times for false starts. And Jim Schwartz's defense diagnosed a few plays before they developed. Foles' first interception, like his second, was on a pass to Agholor. But unlike the second, this one was just poorly thrown. Foles looked off his first read, turned and fired, but the toss was right to linebacker Nate Gerry. Earlier, he went to Agohlor on a bubble screen, but safety Rodney McLeod shot into the backfield for the "tackle." The first offense had some highlights, and I'll get to them later, but I'm sure Pederson will be looking to wipe this effort off the books with Thursday's final practice of minicamp.
Gerry has pretty much been a staple at the strong-side linebacker spot opposite Kamu Grugier-Hill at weak-side. Jordan Hicks' return from injury will eventually shift Nigel Bradham from the middle to strong-side and drop Grugier-Hill to the second team, but Gerry could win the other outside spot from Corey Nelson. While Gerry and Grugier-Hill were both college safeties, the former has bulked up significantly over the last year. Tight end Zach Ertz had his way vs. Gerry on a dig route. Grugier-Hill didn't bite on an option play in which Foles lateraled to Wallace and the receiver heaved a deep pass to running back Matt Jones. The linebacker stayed home and broke up Wallace's underthrown pass.
The injury list remained essentially the same as it's been for weeks. Jones, receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Chris Maragos, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, running back Josh Adams, safety Ryan Neal, and linebacker Joe Walker were present but didn't practice. Defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan still did their rehab work indoors. Running back Darren Sproles didn't do much, but he took a few passes and handoffs during individuals.
Here's a running diary, of sorts, on the first units during team and seven-on-seven drills: At the start of team drills, tackle Jason Peters, who was still limited, walked into the offensive huddle and slapped hands with every player. The Bodyguard's presence is still felt. Foles hit Agholor as his hot receiver after Killings blitzed from the slot. Running back Corey Clement turned the corner on an outside zone and shot upfield through a giant hole. Guard Stefen Wisniewski raised his fist from behind the play when he knew the line had caught the defense. Defensive end Derek Barnett dropped into coverage on a zone blitz and had tight coverage, but Agholor pulled in a Foles pass. Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai jumped offsides. Defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao notched a "sack" before Foles connected with receiver Mack Hollins. During seven-on-sevens, Rodgers had a difficult time slipping Gerry in man coverage. Ertz pulled in a Foles pass with his fingertips. Running back Donnel Pumphrey caught a screen pass and ran through yielding defenders. He looks bigger, but I'll wait till the pads are on to see whether he's improved. Agholor tiptoed in bounds after the rolling Foles found him on a comeback.
The second unit: Isaac Seumalo was at center for his first team drills – at least the first I saw. Rasul Douglas and Bausby were the outside cornerbacks, with Avonte Maddox in the slot. Douglas broke up a low Sudfeld pass to Rodgers. The second team had far fewer reps than the "starters" in the first half of practice. Wentz, during seven-on-sevens, dumped a pass to Clement over the middle. Offensive lineman Ian Park took over Seumalo's snap-boy duties during seven-on-sevens. Wentz hooked up with Rodgers on a short route. Seumalo's snap sailed over Sudfeld's outstretched arms. Jon Toth took the next rep at center.
And the third unit: Tight end Joshua Perkins – he looks more like a receiver – plucked a Joe Callahan pass out of the air. Joe Ostman, who had his right leg looked at during punt drills, was back in at defensive end. Tight end Adam Zaruba caught maybe his first catch of the spring. Tight end Billy Brown shook Sullivan. Right now, Sullivan, Reaves and Stephen Roberts are the top candidates for the third safety spot. Paging Corey Graham …
And a few quickies … Wentz had a catch with Jeffery during team drills. The injured receiver, who had offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, looked nimble. … Clement and Shelton Gibson handled returns during kickoff drills. … Running back Jay Ajayi has worn a sleeve on his left leg all spring. … Jake Elliott was 4 of 5 on field goals. He hit from 22, 33, 36, and 43 and was wide left on a 39-yard try.