It was a busy Tuesday at the NovaCare Complex as the Eagles hosted the New England Patriots for the final day of joint practices ahead of their preseason clash Thursday night at Lincoln Financial Field (7:30 PM, NBC10). Here is a recap of all the action:
• The Eagles had to get to the league-mandated 85-player roster limit by Tuesday at 4 PM. The team waived running back Kerryon Johnson, center Luke Juriga, and tackle Casey Tucker, all with an injury designation. The Eagles have 86 players on the active roster because of an international exemption for defensive end Matt Leo.
• Great news on the injury front as wide receiver DeVonta Smith was a limited participant in 7-on-7 and team drills for the first time since July 31 due to a knee injury. "I'm excited. I feel good," said Smith. "Just coming in every day, just taking it day by day, step by step, continuing to get more comfortable with it." Head Coach Nick Sirianni was noncommittal when asked if the first-round pick would play Thursday in the preseason game.
• Before practice, Sirianni praised second-year wide receiver Jalen Reagor's performance in Monday's 1-on-1 drills against the Patriots.
"I thought he had a good day altogether, but his one-on-ones now were special, and he was starting to use some techniques that we want him to see because we all know that he has phenomenal athleticism, right and so it was like, can we put – and this is with every player – you made it this far because you're a heck of a football player. Can you put that football ability and your athleticism and can you combine fundamentals and technique with it and that's when you reach your ceiling," Sirianni said.
"So what I saw Jalen do yesterday in those one-on-ones, he was great off the line of scrimmage of how he was moving a guy, he was good at the top of the route. He finished with the catch. He just had a good feel how to attack guys yesterday and so I really see him growing."
This was before what was arguably the best catch in all of Training Camp this summer on Tuesday (read more below). It's a positive sign to see Reagor stack consecutive strong practices with the goal of transitioning that effort into the regular season.
• Sirianni was also impressed by the work of quarterback Jalen Hurts on Monday.
"I thought he knew where to go with the football. Made good quick decisions. You always want a couple that will go a little quicker with the decision but yeah, I thought he had a good day throwing it around yesterday," Sirianni said.
Sirianni would not divulge the amount of planned playing time for Hurts and the starters on Thursday night against the Patriots. The benefit of the joint practices is significant reps against the top opposing players in controlled situations. If Sirianni wants to see Hurts work against another defense in the red zone or in a two-minute drill, he can. He doesn't know if he'll get those opportunities in a game.
Hurts' teammates have also been very complimentary of the second-year quarterback's development this summer.
"You can just see a man who really wants it. I believe he's going to show everybody what he's made of," said wide receiver Greg Ward. "He's always talking to us about plays. We could just be eating and he would just call out a play or ask us about certain things. You can just tell his mind is steady there all the time. It doesn't matter if we're in the cold tub, doing recovery, it doesn't matter. He's always in his book studying." – Chris McPherson
• During individual work I stood over in the end zone, where the wide receivers and tight ends ran routes on air. As the group repped some of the plays they would be running during practice, I listened in on the coaching points delivered by Nick Sirianni, who was actively working with a number of players as they went through drills. Sirianni pays incredible attention to detail with his players as they go through these routes, and a lot of the coaching points he delivered in the segment we did together this summer are present out on the field. – Fran Duffy
• I wanted to watch the Eagles' offensive line work against a deep, versatile Patriots defensive front as 1-on-1s get going. Jordan Mailata had a good day working against the savvy veteran Deatrich Wise. The Patriots moved an athletic stand-up rusher, Josh Uche, up and down the line of scrimmage, so the Eagles' interior blockers got some work against him as well. They don't usually get those looks in 1-on-1 drills, so that was good to see. – Ben Fennell
• After individual work, I stayed in the same spot to take in the Eagles' receivers working against the New England corners in red zone 1-on-1 drills. The play of the day came late, with Jalen Reagor getting some serious hang time, moonwalking over Patriots corner Michael Jackson before coming down with a remarkable one-handed grab. This was similar to his catch that he had over Darius Slay last week, but I think this one was even more impressive. Outstanding example of Reagor's athleticism there, and he also showed off his route-running skill against New England's JC Jackson on a slant route. Jackson, who recently cracked the NFL's Top 100 list, had some good battles with Quez Watkins as well. Watkins beat him on a slant and beat Jalen Mills on a corner route as well. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside had some impressive routes in this drill too, as he continues to stack good days together. – Fran
• It's great to see DeVonta Smith out on the field for the first 11-on-11 session. He's out on the field with Jalen Reagor and Quez Watkins ... that's a TON of speed for this Eagles passing game. The Eagles mixed and matched several personnel groupings in this period though, presenting different looks to the defense. – Ben
• In the first 11-on-11 action of the morning, I focused in on the defense, where the line got off to a dominant start. After impacting the practice in such a big way on Monday, this group picked up right where they left off despite Javon Hargrave and Derek Barnett being on the sideline. On the first play, Fletcher Cox met the running back at the line of scrimmage with a bear hug. Soon after, Josh Sweat got into the backfield for a "sack" of Cam Newton and then thudded up the running back on the play immediately afterward. Brandon Graham was around the football just as the running back tried to cut back. There's just always a white jersey at the football so quickly on these run plays. Even Matt Leo got in on the action late in the drill, grabbing the running back behind the line of scrimmage. – Fran
• In the 7-on-7 period, I worked on taking notes for the offense, and there's an outstanding sequence of throws for Jalen Hurts here. First, he threw a corner route to Zach Ertz over last year's second-round pick, safety Kyle Dugger. It was a perfectly placed ball by Hurts, who followed it up with an impressive anticipation throw to tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert seemed to run a 7-Stop route, where he was running to the corner before throwing on the breaks and turning around just as the ball was arriving with a defender on his back. These were decisive, firm, accurate passes from Hurts. – Ben
• As 7-on-7 drills begin, I've got eyes on the defense on the middle field. The Patriots are clearly working on getting their running backs down the field in the passing game, and Anthony Harris tackles the pass catcher on one play short of the goal line to start the drill. That wasn't the best play in coverage though, because linebacker T.J. Edwards pulled in a Mac Jones pass patrolling the middle of the end zone a few plays later. Edwards' instincts result in him always being around the football, and it doesn't look like Jones even saw Edwards coming from the back side to pick this pass off. – Fran
• While the Eagles' offense ran 11-on-11 on their field, the defense participated in more 7-on-7 action in the red zone. Luckily for the New England offense, the defensive line ran some individual work off to the side, and that worked to the Patriots' advantage. Cam Newton and Mac Jones completed a handful of touchdowns in this drill, but the Eagles got off the field with a bang. Linebacker Alex Singleton made an outstanding diving interception on the goal line, stepping in front of a pass intended for a running back. Singleton could be really, really productive in this new defensive scheme this year. – Fran
• The two teams joined together on one field for a low red zone drill, and on the first play, Jason Kelce's snap was errant as he got rolled up on. All is well though, as the veteran got up and walked back to the huddle. What a warrior. Soon after, Joe Flacco would find Kenny Gainwell for a touchdown on a nifty little play at the goal line. Gainwell had a good day of practice, overall. – Ben
• The defense steps onto the field against the New England starters. Newton rifles a pass right that rookie Patrick Johnson knocks to the ground. I don't think Newton saw the rookie there in the passing lane. The Patriots' offense chose to run the ball on the next two reps, the last of which resulted in Newton running it in on his own for a goal-line touchdown run (Of course, he's got a red jersey on). – Fran
• The backups on defense took the field, and a Patriots score was highly questionable. Mac Jones handed the ball to Brandon Bolden on a jet sweep, leaving him one-on-one with Zech McPhearson on the perimeter. It's not a live tackling drill, so McPhearson meets him at the goal line and thuds him up, with Bolden stumbling forward across the goal line. The day ends with some special teams work. – Fran