The Eagles continued training camp Wednesday with rookies and selected quarterbacks and veterans. Here's what I saw from Day 3:
He has yet to participate in a practice, and he might not for several more months, if at all this year, but there still is a great amount of interest in Sidney Jones' recovery from an Achilles tendon rupture and the timetable for his return. The Eagles haven't set anything close to a date. When Jones was drafted in April, they were positive about a possible mid-season return – as was Jones – but both the team and the rookie cornerback have since been more conservative in their estimations. But since missing OTAs because of the NFL's graduation rules, the Washington product has been an observer at every practice and has occasionally taken a quarter-speed repetition during individual drills. Most of the time, Jones takes mental reps. On Wednesday, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin gave Mitchell White a stiff arm when it was his turn during a ladder drill, and had the baseball cap-wearing Jones step up. The defensive backs practiced footwork in a drill that had them stepping in squares from side to side, as if they were to cover a receiver who ran horizontally off the line rather than vertically. Jones also sometimes lines up directly behind a cornerback and mimics his moves. He is clearly far from practicing at full strength – he's been wearing a small brace around his foot and ankle – but each mental rep that he takes during this time will help when he is finally able to strap on some cleats and run.
There were a few notable absences. After participating the first two days, quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Nick Foles were given the day off. Doug Pederson did something similar last year when he excused Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel on the day the rest of the team was to report. Wentz acknowledged yesterday that he would be on some sort of pitch count this camp. "He comes in as the guy. He's going to get more reps," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "The reps aren't going to be split equally. So it's just good business to keep that in the equation and to just keep monitoring that." Wentz and Foles, like all 89 players on the roster (offensive lineman Allen Barbre's release was announced this afternoon), reported to the NovaCare Complex by noon. Cornerback Ron Brooks, who is slowly returning from last season's quadriceps rupture, was also not present at practice. Wednesday's session consisted almost entirely of rookies.
Quarterback Matt McGloin was one of the veterans still in attendance. He likely appreciated the extra snaps because when camp continues Thursday, he'll have to defer to Wentz and Foles. He struggled during his first set and threw three straight incomplete passes. McGloin overthrew receiver Mack Hollins on a deep ball during 7-on-7s, saw a pass he threw slightly behind tight end Billy Brown broken up by linebacker Don Cherry, and heaved an ill-advised pass to receiver Marcus Johnson that White knocked away. His next set started poorly when he scrambled in the red zone, threw to running back Cory Clement, and was intercepted by the leaping Jomal Wiltz. He should have just thrown the ball away. But McGloin rebounded and threw three straight "touchdowns" — to Johnson on a post and to Brown on back-to-back passes in the end zone.
Of the rookies, I'd say Donnel Pumphrey, Mack Hollins and Greg Ward stood out the most during the first three days. The 7-on-7 drills will by nature benefit the offense. But all three consistently shined when called upon. Pumphrey, as I noted Tuesday, has been as active as any receiver. The early portion of camp was essentially a passing practice. Team running drills will begin in earnest later this week and especially when the full pads come out. But Pumphrey's pass-catching skills have been evident even though he ran much more than he did in college. "I think he's exceeded expectations in that area," Reich said. Pumphrey, it should be noted, added "Jr." to the back of his jersey. (This is the kind of reporting that wins Pulitzers.)
Hollins hasn't been perfect. He's had his fair share of drops and couldn't hang onto a Dane Evans pass in the end zone that should have been caught. But he has flashed many of the requisite skills for a receiver – soft hands, downfield speed, crisp routes – and a willingness to go over the middle. He caught a tough pass in traffic Wednesday. It's early. Let's see how he does when Rodney McLeod can unleash a hit in that situation. But he's off to a solid start. Hollins and fellow rookie receiver Shelton Gibson have routinely been the last two to work on the JUGS machines after practice.
The undrafted Ward was perhaps most notable for playing quarterback at Houston. He started for three years and put up strong numbers both through the air and on the ground. But he was originally recruited to play receiver and has shown thus far that he can compete at this level. Reich said that he liked the 5-foot-11, 186-pound receiver in the slot. "I think he's way exceeded expectations," Reich said. OK, so Reich probably needs to diversify his answers if he wants to pump up a rookie. But Ward has caught a number of difficult balls and works well in tight spaces. He ended practice with a "touchdown" catch in which he boxed out cornerback Rasul Douglas in the end zone.
And some leftovers: Speaking of Douglas, he got turned around by receiver David Watford on a 10-yard out. … Hollins was back practicing his long snaps. He didn't do as well as he did Tuesday and sailed one about five yards over rookie punter Cameron Johnston's head.