Eagles practice observations: 40,000 fans at the Linc; Nate Sudfeld struggles; Kamu Grugier-Hill leading linebacker competition
Highlights from Day 9 of Eagles training camp.
The Eagles held their ninth practice of training camp Sunday. Here are my observations and notes:
1. The Eagles held the first of two open practices at Lincoln Financial Field and the response was impressive. The team announced just over 40,000 fans were in attendance. It was the most I've seen at the Linc for an open practice. The crowd was animated. There were competing E-A-G-L-E-S chants throughout the stadium, a wave, and the only boos heard came when some unfortunate soul was caught wearing an Ezekiel Elliott Cowboys uniform. The Eagles honored the military before and after the workout (good) and wore camo uniforms (bad, because it was difficult to make out some of the numbers from the press box). All in all, in was a great night for the faithful, although they didn't get to see much of quarterbacks Carson Wentz (still limited) and Nick Foles (out).
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2. Foles missed his first practice of training camp. The Eagles didn't have an update. Foles sat out most of camp and preseason last year with an elbow injury. He doesn't necessarily need the work, but with Wentz still being held out of team drills, there was a lot of Nate Sudfeld and Joe Callahan on Sunday. Tight end Zach Ertz was sidelined for a second straight practice. Coach Doug Pederson said he was just taking a day off on Friday, but Ertz obviously has had some sort of physical setback. It doesn't appear serious. He was jogging a fair amount. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton joined the injured for the first time. Tight end Richard Rodgers, center Ian Park and linebacker Asantay Brown weren't in pads and watched practice. Receiver Shelton Gibson is still out with a concussion, but he was at practice and is further along in the protocol. Receiver Mike Wallace briefly ran to the locker room after a team drill but he returned, although he didn't take the field again.
3. With Foles out, Wentz took first team repetitions during the offensive installation period. He hasn't participated in team drills for over a week now, but did take snaps in 7-on-7s. Wentz's first set was a little shaky. He overthrew Mack Hollins, although his receiver may not have run a clean route. Hollins, taking most of the injured Alshon Jeffery's snaps, has been quiet for most of camp. I think his underwhelming performance can be attributed more to the defense Ronald Darb yhas played than his own struggles. Wentz was better during his next set, although he didn't get much help from his receivers. Bryce Treggs couldn't hang onto a pass in the back of the end zone, and tight end Dallas Goedert failed to pull in a low toss over the goal line, but tight end Joshua Perkins scored when Wentz found him alone.
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4. Sudfeld didn't make the best of his time with the first unit, but he had one beautiful toss: a 35-yard fade to receiver Nelson Agholor, who had maybe a quarter step on safety Malcolm Jenkins. Sudfeld was otherwise ineffective against the starting defense, which could be expected. Jim Schwartz's top unit has been very good throughout camp and they gave up little on Sunday. Sudfeld briefly had Wallace open down the sideline vs. Cover 2, but safety Rodney McLeod was there and could have decapitated the receiver had he not eased up. Sudfeld has had a nice camp, but facing the first-unit defense was another story. Even though he didn't fare well, it was good for him to face more talent.
5. The Eagles' run defense has been dominant – at least the first unit – ever since the pads came out over a week ago. There are times when it seems as if Fletcher Cox and company know the plays before they're coming. That could just be a symptom of all the time they spend facing each other. Sudfeld handed off to running back Jay Ajayi on successive run plays and he was met instantly at the line – first by Cox and then by linebacker Nigel Bradham. Running back Corey Clement did find a seam on a later carry, though.
6. The weak-side linebacker competition has been essentially a two-man race between Nate Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill. The latter has made more plays, but a decision won't be made until after some live games. Grugier-Hill sacked Sudfeld early on. He later intercepted the quarterback when he tried to squeeze a pass to Hollins. Corey Nelson hasn't really stood out at weakside. Gerry has played the most with the first unit, but it's still early.
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7. A running diary of team drills, starting with the first unit: Sidney Jones was at slot cornerback for the third straight practice. Sudfeld threw behind Treggs on a dig route. He was patient on his next pass and waited until Wallace returned on a comebacker. During a later period, Sudfeld dumped to Darren Sproles, but the pass was short. He looked to Hollins again, but the pass was woefully off target and ended up in the hands of linebacker Jordan Hicks for an interception. Sudfeld fired deep to Agholor on a route into the end zone, but Darby knocked the pass away.
8. The second unit: Sudfeld and Callhan split reps. Defensive end Steven Means jumped offsides. Sudfeld arced a long ball to Treggs, but safety Jeremy Reaves came over from center field to bat the ball away. There looked to be too much air under the pass. Center Isaac Seumalo had back to back shotgun snaps that Callahan had to stretch to get. Callahan found an open Perkins after he beat linebacker LaRoy Reynolds.
9. The third unit: Running back Donnel Pumphrey raced through a gaping hole. He was tapped out in the backfield by Grugier-Hill. Running back Josh Adams patiently waited for a crease and powered ahead. Callahan tossed a low line drive to receiver Kamar Aiken, but he couldn't hang on. Pumphrey took a pitch left and ran in space behind left tackle Jordan Mailata. Callahan threw wide of receiver DeAndre Carter on a short out, and threw behind Perkins.
10. And a leftover … One-on-one drills between the linemen weren't as spirited as usual, although watching them from the confines of the press box may have lessened my engagement. Halapoluivaati Vaitai has gotten the better of defensive end Derek Barnett's bull rush before, and he did again on their first rep, but Barnett was able to tip over the tackle on the second try when he got his hands on him first. Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls had a strong power move vs. Seumalo. Matt Pryor owned defensive end Joe Ostman. Ho-hum.
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