From the sideline at the NovaCare indoor facility, without benefit of replay, it sure looked and sounded like the ball hit Nelson Agholor in the shoulder pads and caromed away.
Agholor later said this was not the case, that Carson Wentz's pass, thrown to the wide open wideout, streaking 5 yards behind the nearest defender, actually bounced off his head.
"I couldn't see it. At the end of the day, stuff like that happens," he said.
Whatever, it was one of the first Agholor Moments of 2017 – a reminder of the drops and misplays that made you wince and shake your head through the 2015 and 2016 seasons. There was another drop Monday, on a much tougher ball, thrown through traffic in the end zone, but there also were several excellent catches made by the Eagles' 2015 first-round pick. Most notably, Agholor skied over Rodney McLeod in the end zone, plucked the ball, collided with McLeod, and held on as he went to the ground.
Agholor had a few rough reps in Sunday's public practice at the Linc, as well. But so far he does not seem to be letting those mistakes turn him into a thoroughly rattled mistake machine, as was the case last season.
"I'm trying to make sure I continue to have that next-play mentality," Agholor said. "Because I know I'm a good receiver, and I think I have great hands. At the end of the day, if the ball comes my way, I'm going to pluck it … The game of football is for tough people. I'm a tough person."
Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said that Agholor "has had a real strong spring and camp," working mostly in the slot, and Reich said the Eagles will take a play-to-play approach to the slot position this season – decide on who mans the slot based on matchups and coverages.
Asked if this would be different from last season, when Jordan Matthews was a slot mainstay, Reich said: "I think right now, the whole receiving room is more competitive. So yeah, I think it is a little bit different than last year."
Matthews also had a drop Monday, and also made some really strong catches. NFL Network commentator Daniel Jeremiah ignited some dog-days-of-camp controversy recently by predicting on his podcast that Agholor will supplant Matthews in the slot this season.
Wideout Torrey Smith trotted back to the huddle with a pronounced limp after just about every rep he took during Monday's two-hour workout. This led to much speculation from the media corps. Was it his ankle? His groin? His calf? One reporter thought safety Malcolm Jenkins might have accidentally made contact downfield with Smith's, uh, nether regions.
After an extended postpractice session catching with the ball machine, Smith, 28, cleared up the mystery.
"First day I definitely felt like I was in camp," Smith said. "I was definitely more sore today. We had a good (workout Sunday). So, I'll be all right … You'll see me tomorrow, I'm sure I'll be fresh and I'll be fine. It's no big deal – I felt like I was in CAMP today. I'm telling you, from the time I woke up, I was, 'ooh, today's the day.' "
Right guard Brandon Brooks left practice with an apparent ankle injury, replaced by Chance Warmack. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox had a day off, though he watched the workout. Running back Wendell Smallwood and wideout Marcus Johnson sat out with hamstring woes. Nick Foles (elbow) and Paul Turner (shoulder) also did not take part.
First-round rookie defensive end Derek Barnett said it was at the prompting of veteran DE Chris Long that Barnett took reps on the left side the past few days.
Barnett said that when a vet like Long says, "get some reps over here," he listens.
"What am I going to say to him?" Barnett asked.
Barnett said the experience was valuable, but the difference wasn't vast.
"I think it's pretty much the same. At the end of the day, it's just switchin' what hand you put down. It's still the same techniques, you have to be able to do it on the right and on the left," Barnett said.
One thing that stands out about Barnett is how eager he is to learn from vets. Left tackle Jason Peters has been working with Barnett after practice, but Barnett said Monday, "Even during practice, I'm asking JP, if he's calling something out, 'How'd you pick that up?' "