Quez says. The Eagles held the first of two open practices at the Linc — the second will be on Aug. 22 — and fans were subjected to a lot of shaky offensive football. But they did catch a glimpse of one of the early stars of camp and why he has stood out: Quez Watkins. The second-year receiver has flashed in various practices since camp opened, but he easily had his finest outing Sunday. Watkins’ best moment came during team drills. Jalen Hurts and the first unit had been struggling to move the ball in the air, but he had the receiver deep in man coverage vs. safety Anthony Harris and tossed it up for grabs. It wasn’t a bad decision — or toss for that matter — but Watkins made a play on the ball and came down in the end zone. Earlier, he made a leaping catch over cornerback Craig James in one-on-one drills, and stretched out for a low Joe Flacco pass with the second unit. Watkins got dinged in seven-on-sevens, but he returned and finished. With DeVonta Smith still out, John Hightower also injured, and Jalen Reagor up and down, Watkins is slowly carving out a role at receiver. How involved he will be this season is yet to be determined.
Hurts bad. Most reporters thought the Eagles offense performed poorly Saturday. Coach Nick Sirianni said Sunday that he didn’t think it was as bad as it might have looked, and I’ve written that before about previous workouts. It can be hard to assess the success of play with Hurts at quarterback. Sirianni said that he wants his quarterback to execute the offense in rhythm. But he also doesn’t want to take away from his special qualities with the ball in his hand. It can be a difficult balance to strike. It’s a problem, though, if Hurts doesn’t have receivers who can get separation or he misses opportunities because he’s not making the correct reads. He held the ball a lot Sunday. There were some valid reasons. On one play, there was a designed naked bootleg, but Hurts had only one read and tight end Zach Ertz was covered and he had to run out of bounds for little or no gain. Maybe he should have checked out of the call, but I think Sirianni wants him simply to run the offense as called right now. Hurts completed a few short passes over the middle and a several checkdowns, but nothing of significance downfield until the Watkins heave.
Hurts good. His best throw, though, came a period later when he teardropped a fade to receiver Travis Fulgham for about 30 yards. Hurts has a nice touch on sideline fades. It might be his best throw. But you can’t live off those attempts, especially against certain zone coverages. You’ve got to be able to zip darts into tight windows. The Fulgham completion came during two-minute, but he struggled to complete the drive. He threw to a double-covered Boston Scott in the back corner of the end zone and the ball bounced off cornerback Steven Nelson’s helmet incomplete. He extended a play and found Fulgham underneath just before going out of bounds a play later. But he threw high and out of the back of the end zone after defensive end Derek Barnett beat tackle Jordan Mailata and applied pressure. And Hurts scrambled on the last play, but he had nothing and dirted the ball before he stepped out.
Singleton’s return. Alex Singleton practiced Saturday for the first time since coming off the COVID-19 list, but it was easier to appreciate his return from the friendly confines of the Linc press box. The Eagles run defense is just better with Singleton at linebacker. He helped clog a number of rushes up the middle, but he notched a solo stop when he darted into the backfield and tagged Miles Sanders during one team drill. He later met Sanders near the line on a Hurts dump. The lead running back found daylight on a couple of inside carries. But it was mostly tough sledding for Sanders and Scott. Linebacker T.J. Edwards also had a couple of notable stops near the line.
Epps ups. Safeties Marcus Epps and K’Von Wallace have been bouncing back and forth with the first-unit defense. It was Wallace’s turn Sunday, but Epps had the highlight when Flacco gifted him an interception during team drills. The safety spot opposite Harris is up for grabs, or at least until Rodney McLeod returns. Andrew Adams tossed his hat into the ring and could make a push. Elijah Riley is in the mix and had the hit of the day when he popped tight end Tyree Jackson after a 20-yard catch down the seam.
Tyree trying. Jackson, to his credit, hung on. He has easily been Flacco’s favorite target. And at 6-foot-7, it’s easy to see why. But he has been getting open, and while there have been some drops and miscues, he has always bounced back. It’s remarkable how far the former quarterback has come since changing positions just eight months ago. I’m not sure if there’s room on the roster, but he could make the Eagles’ decision a difficult one, especially if Ertz is traded. Third-string quarterback Nick Mullens connected with Jackson for a touchdown on a nifty play that had the tight end releasing late.
Uncle Milty. Milton Williams often looks like a rookie — which is what he is — but there have been times when you can see why the Eagles expended a third-round pick on the defensive tackle. His natural speed and strength will be tough to contain if he ever figures it all out. He flashed his versatility when he drove back guard Harry Crider on an inside rush, and then followed up with a devastating outside move vs. tackle Brett Toth. Jack Driscoll remained at guard and the Eagles are testing him. He struggled to anchor vs. bull rushes by defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Hassan Ridgeway.
Ahem … injuries. Guard Brandon Brooks returned to practice after sitting out for over a week because of a hamstring strain. He was limited, as were defensive end Ryan Kerrigan (thumb), receiver Michael Walker (foot). Linebacker Shaun Bradley (illness) was also back in action. Guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) was upgraded to day-to-day. The following were also listed as day-to-day on the pre-practice report: Linebacker Genard Avery (groin), safety Grayland Arnold (hamstring), tight end Jason Croom (knee) and safety Obi Melifonwu (hamstring). Tackle Casey Tucker (biceps) was added to the injury report with a week-to-week designation. The other week-to-weekers: linebacker Davion Taylor (calf), linebacker JaCoby Stevens (hamstring), Smith (knee), and Hightower (groin).
Other high/lowlights. Reagor created separation vs. Nelson with a crafty stop-and-go route in one-on-ones. Cornerback Darius Slay broke up a back shoulder from Flacco to Fulgham in the same drill. It was Mailata’s turn as the first-unit left tackle. Andre Dillard was put on skates by defensive end Josh Sweat in one team-drill play, and Flacco couldn’t step into a throw that fluttered out of bounds. Dillard rebounded with a nice second-level run block on the next play. The Eagles tried a couple of end-arounds to Reagor and Watkins, and both were disasters. Reagor muffed the handoff on the first. Nate Herbig was the second-unit center and botched another snap. Flacco didn’t like a play call and called timeout (?) during team drills. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. The call must have been DOA. Flacco did toss a bullet on the next play to receiver Andre Patton. Reagor stretched out for a Flacco BB, but the play had already been whistled dead. Mullens had his daily ugly pass when he threw into triple coverage over the middle. Ew. Flacco and the second-unit offense failed to score during two-minute, as well.
And a few leftovers … Coaches and staff members wore kelly green shirts in honor of Eagles great Harold Carmichael’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday. … The Eagles announced that 25,896 fans were in attendance at the Linc. It looked far less.