Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Eagles practice observations: Jake Elliott shortens the day; Darren Sproles/Nelson Agholor handling kick returns

Highlights from Day 8 of Eagles training camp.

Eagles head coach, Dough Pederson walking back after the practice. Aug. 03, 2018 19 2018 AKIRA SUWA / For The Inquirer.
Eagles head coach, Dough Pederson walking back after the practice. Aug. 03, 2018 19 2018 AKIRA SUWA / For The Inquirer.Read moreAKIRA SUWA

The Eagles held their eighth practice of training camp Friday (Click here for Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Here are my observations and notes:

  1. The Eagles held a light practice a day after their most grueling workout. Players were in shorts and shells, and team drills weren't designed to be very competitive. Tight end Zach Ertz was given a rest day, per coach Doug Pederson. Tight end Richard Rodgers (arm) and defensive end Josh Sweat (ankle) sat out after suffering injuries Thursday. Pederson said the injuries were "little nagging" issues and didn't seem concerned. Receiver Shelton Gibson (concussion) was still sidelined, along with tight end Adam Zaruba. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returned after taking a "vet day" break. Receiver Greg Ward was also back in action.

  1. Carson Wentz didn't participate in team drills for the fifth straight practice. He did partake in individual drills, but swapped his helmet for a cap and watched the last hour. Pederson said Wentz hasn't suffered a physical setback. He said that dialing back Wentz has been part of the plan, but he also conceded that the Eagles wanted to keep the quarterback out of harm's way. Pederson also indicated that Wentz will be involved once the team starts to prepare for actual games.

  1. For the first time since camp started, Sidney Jones was the first-team slot cornerback on back-to-back days. He had been splitting days with De'Vante Bausby. Jones made a quick read on a dump to running back Donnel Pumphrey and tagged him in the backfield. His understanding of his responsibilities inside seems advanced for his age. Bausby and receiver Anthony Mahoungou got into a brief scuffle. Bausby wouldn't let go of Mahoungou's facemask until they were separated. As well as he has played since the spring, a roster spot isn't assured. There are five cornerbacks ahead of Bausby who are virtually guaranteed to make the team: Jones, Jalen MillsRonald Darby, Rasul Douglas and rookie Avonte Maddox. The Eagles have kept six corners before. There weren't any other personnel changes with the first units, although rookie Dallas Goedert and Bill Brown saw more snaps at tight end with Ertz and Rodgers absent.

  1. We got one of our first glimpses of defensive tackle Michael Bennett inside on third down. He was teamed with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, with Chris Long and Derek Barnett on the edges. Bennett recorded more than half his sacks last season when he rushed from inside. Brandon Graham rushed from inside a fair amount, too, and I wouldn't be surprised to see a "NASCAR" lineup of four defensive ends this year. Jim Schwartz was also working on some newfangled zone alignment that had only two down linemen and the ends split wide in the slot. It seemed to work.

  1. During kick drills, Darren Sproles and Nelson Agholor handled returns. They've been the primary guys back there since the start of camp. With the new kickoff rules that are designed to make the play safer, the Eagles could rely more on shifty, smaller guys such as Sproles and Agholor. Running backs Kenjon Barner (no longer on the team), Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement were the top three return specialists last season. The kickoff team is no longer permitted to get a running start for the kick. For the blockers, there's now a setup zone like the one used on punt returns, and wedge blocks have been banned.

  1. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld had some nice throws for the second-team offense. He lofted a pass to receiver Bryce Treggs for a touchdown. Treggs did a nice job getting both feet inbounds. He hit tight end Joshua Perkins just inside the pylon on a run-pass option play. And he hooked up with receiver DeAndre Carter on a corner fade over Darby. Sudfeld tried to go back to Carter on the next play, but Mills had him blanketed and the ball was thrown away. Wentz's regression in practice time should benefit Sudfeld, who is getting more snaps than he ever has in a NFL camp. He did have an errant toss that was intercepted by cornerback Chandon Sullivan.

  1. Pederson whistled the squad together at the end of practice, but before having the players stretch, he had Jake Elliott attempt a 45-yard field goal. If he made it, evening meetings would be canceled. Cox ran under the crossbar and awaited the kick. Rick Lovato's snap was clean, Cameron Johnston's hold was steady, and Elliott's kick split the uprights. Cox celebrated along with most of the other players. I asked Elliott (somewhat kiddingly) after practice if his 61-yard game-winner against the Giants last season or his 46-yarder late in the Super Bowl was more pressure-packed, and he said the practice kick was easy because he wasn't scheduled to have any meetings. Oh, the life of an NFL kicker. Elliott has been perfect on kicks this camp and connected on 35-, 33-, 37- and 33-yard attempts Friday.

  1. And some leftovers: Johnston didn't punt, but he received a strong endorsement from Pederson. Asked for his comfort level with his punter, the coach said, "Extremely high." … The Eagles are off Saturday and will reconvene for Sunday night's open practice at Lincoln Financial Field.