Friday could be considered the calm before the storm of Training Camp. The pads go on for the first time on Saturday. The coaches utilized Friday's practice to focus primarily on special teams and teaching sessions on the field. Still, there was a 7-on-7 as well as an 11-on-11 period that provided some insight into the development of the team. Here are 15 observations from today's practice.
1. The linebackers went through stretch and I took a moment to survey the position. It's going to be a really interesting summer just watching the back end of the depth chart.
It appears that Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill are locked in as the two starters in the team's nickel package. And when you look past that duo, it's going to be a fun battle. There are the holdovers in Nate Gerry, the third-year former safety from Nebraska, and the veteran Paul Worrilow, a former starter in Atlanta who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Then you have free agent additions L.J. Fort, who climbed his way up the depth chart after earning a role on special teams early in his career in Pittsburgh, and Zach Brown, a former second-round pick in Tennessee who has played in Washington for the past couple of seasons.
Alex Singleton was signed this offseason from the CFL, where he was really productive after graduating from Montana State. Singleton is rangy and athletic and looks the part. There are also the rookies, T.J. Edwards from Wisconsin and Stanford's Joey Alfieri, who are almost polar opposites. Edwards is a four-year starter at middle linebacker in the Big Ten who is a smart, tough, instinctive player inside. Alfieri is adjusting to a new position after playing as a 3-4 outside linebacker during his career at Stanford, but he's athletic and rangy and versatile. This is going to be a fun group to study this summer to see how the roster battles shake out. – Fran Duffy
2. Individual periods begin and I'm watching Jeff Stoutland and the offensive line. Double teams and fold blocks are staple run schemes from that unit, and it's so interesting watching Coach Stoutland and the collective group work on the details of the play during the period. Sorting through different defensive fronts and on-the-fly adjustments are key aspects of the drill. – Ben Fennell
3. Sticking with the offensive line, I'm always in awe of Jason Peters' pre-practice stretch routine. He has one of the trainers work him out separately away from his teammates ahead of practice. Peters said after practice that he's ready for a bounce-back year after coming off a knee injury in 2018. The 37-year-old remains as hungry as ever entering his 16th season. – Chris McPherson
4. Next, I walked down to check out the defensive backs. Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod, and Ronald Darby are front and center at the beginning of each drill. There is no doubt who the veterans and leaders of the group are. Additionally, Avonte Maddox looks like he's one of the sharpest players in drills. Second-year players are always fascinating case studies after a typically fast-paced, whirlwind rookie season. Maddox is playing fast and confident through two days, consistently getting in and out of his breaks and finishing drills a step ahead of other DBs in the same rep. – Ben
5. It's important for the players to develop chemistry during Training Camp and one way is through their handshakes. Tight end Zach Ertz and wide receiver DeSean Jackson were working on theirs during practice, hopefully to be used many times during the season. Even head coach Doug Pederson got into the act, having some fun with running back Corey Clement. By the way, it's great seeing the third-year running back catch passes individual drills after missing the latter half of 2018 with a knee injury. I can't help but think of his unreal Super Bowl performance where he posted 100 yards receiving, including an incredible 22-yard touchdown grab, becoming one of just four rookies in Super Bowl history to hit triple digits. One of the other three was in attendance for Super Bowl LII, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth who couldn't believe that Clement hauled it in. – Chris
6. Players coming off injury haven't participated in team sessions, but they are still active and present in the positional portions of practice. The starting secondary trotted out Sidney Jones at left corner and Darby at right corner in the base defense with Maddox coming in at left corner and Jones moving inside in subpackage sets. Keep in mind that Jalen Mills, who is on the Active/PUP list, has not practiced with the group yet. – Ben
7. After a lengthy walkthrough session, the team got together for some 7-on-7 work, and my biggest takeaway? Carson Wentz completed all seven of his passes to seven different receivers. Wentz hit Dallas Goedert, Alshon Jeffery, Darren Sproles, Mack Hollins, DeSean Jackson, Zach Ertz, and Josh Adams in order to get the period off to a great start on offense. – Fran
8. There really does seem to be a strong connection between Wentz and Jackson. That completion in that period was one of the highlights of the day on a corner route from Jackson. Wentz placed the pass slightly inside away from the defender and Jackson was able to hang in the air and pirouette to make the grab. Wentz has really looked sharp in the first two days of practice. Accuracy, velocity, and decision-making all look to be in midseason form after missing the final six games of 2018. – Ben
9. Nate Sudfeld stepped in and completed two straight passes, first to Greg Ward to set up a long catch-and-run where the former college quarterback showed off his wheels in the open field, then to Richard Rodgers in the flat. The throw to Rodgers was particularly impressive with a defender in tight coverage. – Fran
10. The catch of the day may have come from Carlton Agudosi down the left sideline on a throw from Cody Kessler. The former Rutgers standout went up and over cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon on a fade route, using his 6-6, 220-pound frame to outmuscle the young corner for the big play, drawing applause from the fans in attendance.
"I've been working it a lot this offseason and the past years. It was a great ball by the quarterback," Agudosi said. "He (Cody Kessler) kind of looked at me before we left the huddle and told me he was looking for me, so I ran it with a purpose. It was a great throw." – Fran
11. Another team session started, with the offensive and defensive lines coming into play as the defense practiced a number of blitzes. Wentz started things off with a completion to Goedert in the right flat before juuuuuuust missing DeSean Jackson on a fade down the left side, much to the chagrin of the fans who were up on their feet when the ball was in the air. On the next play, Wentz hit Mack Hollins on a quick screen pass where the young wideout plucked the ball from the air with one hand to secure the throw. – Fran
12. Second-year project player Jordan Mailata got beat on an inside move yesterday against defensive end Joe Ostman. I wanted to keep a close eye on anyone else looking to attack Mailata on the inside, but he didn't have any issues in today's practice. Mailata has rare movement skills and athleticism for a player of his size, but he is still refining the details of hand usage in pass protection. – Ben
13. A final special teams period began, as the team worked on kickoff return drills. Typically, how these drills work during this time of the summer is that the team is split wide into several individual groups, working on the specific jobs on the unit. Returners catch balls from the air, while frontline blockers spread out across the width of the field and take one-on-one reps against each other to hone in their craft. Three players, in particular, stood out to me in these drills on the near side of the field – safety Andrew Sendejo, rookie wideout J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, and veteran receiver Charles Johnson. – Fran
14. After the individual sessions, the whole squad gets together to put it all together for full-team kickoff returns. With kickoff and punt rules being some of the most altered and evolving aspect of the NFL game, expect more special teams coordinators (including Dave Fipp) to fine-tune their strategies and possibly try things we've never seen before from a blocking and coverage standpoint. – Ben
15. One final individual period, and I'm over studying the defensive backs, as they prepare to go through my favorite drill that Cory Undlin runs, where they pull a JUGS machine out in the middle of the field and fire footballs deep down the sideline. Corners line up as if they are in a press-man position on the line of scrimmage, flip their hips, and turn to run as if they're covering a go route before turning to find the ball shot out of the machine. Safeties, meanwhile, line up in the deep middle of the field and have to chase balls shot out of a cannon out along the sideline. You really get a sense of players' ball skills in this drill, and a number of impressive grabs were made in this session. – Fran