Tuesday marked a Training Camp milestone as the pads went on for the first time! While it remains to be seen whether there will be a tackling-to-the-ground period during this Training Camp, there is no question that the intensity and competition picked up a notch. The final team period of the day was a "move the ball" two-minute drill. More details are below, but rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson noted the difference.
"It's definitely faster. It's wayyyyy faster than in college," the fourth-round pick said. "I could see it today. I experienced two-minute (drill) for the first time and it felt like a track meet out there."
Here are the news and notes from Tuesday's practice:
• While wide receiver DeVonta Smith is week to week with a knee injury, the rookie was on the field catching balls from the JUGS machine and taking in practice from the sideline. Reporters asked Head Coach Nick Sirianni before Tuesday's practice whether or not the first-round pick will see any action in the preseason.
"We're not putting a timetable on any injuries. We just want him to attack his rehab, and get ready as soon as he can," Sirianni said. "We want him to have as many reps as he possibly can. This is a different game. NFL and college football are different games, so we want him to get as many reps as he can and we'll play that day by day, week by week."
In other new injury news, defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is day to day with a thumb injury. – Chris McPherson
• Paying attention to special teams drills this morning, and one player I'm anxious to see is safety Elijah Riley. He appears to be taking on more of a leadership role with that group in Year 2. Could he be a special teams captain? He's been working with the second unit on defense most days here in Training Camp. I wonder if he's a player who could make the 53 based on his prowess in the game's third phase. – Ben Fennell
• The first drill I watched today pitted the linebackers against the running backs in a blitz pickup drill. The runners honed in on pass protection technique as the linebackers worked on their rush moves both off the edge and inside. This was my first chance listening to new Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Jemal Singleton up close, preaching to his running backs to stay patient against the blitzing linebackers. Kerryon Johnson was the standout in this drill – which was not unexpected after studying him on film – and he set the tone for the rest of the guys in the session. Johnson also had a nice run in the next period as well as a long catch-and-run late in practice, showing off his versatility. Rookie Kenneth Gainwell also flashed with a couple of good reps. Defensively, I thought Joe Ostman and Shaun Bradley had the best rushes from the linebacker spot. – Fran Duffy
• I watched the wide receivers and defensive backs go 1-on-1. Avonte Maddox had a good drill to start things off today, getting a couple of pass breakups out of the slot. His backup, Josiah Scott, has been flashing every day and pulled in an interception here. On offense, wide receiver Travis Fulgham pulled in a deeeeeeep fade route down the right sideline. – Ben
• A couple of plays into the first team period, Boston Scott ripped off a long run down the left sideline. The blocking scheme seemed to really work on that one, as the young veteran had a ton of real estate when flying through the line of scrimmage. On the very next play, Jalen Hurts dropped back and hit Greg Ward on a deep crossing route in stride for a nice play to move the chains. – Fran
• On Joe Flacco's second dropback of the day, he faced a full assault from the defensive line. I'm not sure who got there first between Hassan Ridgeway, Josh Sweat, and Milton Williams, but all three were in the area, forcing the veteran quarterback into an incompletion. – Fran
• The team split up, and I followed the trench players to watch more one-on-ones with the offensive and defensive lines. Some quick notes:
1. Javon Hargrave is on a tear. I write his name down in my notebook every day at practice, whether it's in team drills or one-on-ones like this. On his first rep, he got a win with impressive quickness, and later he put his power on display as well. He's such a well-rounded player.
2. Derek Barnett got some wins lined up both on the left and right sides.
3. Rookie defensive lineman Milton Williams got a couple of wins in this drill as well, beating offensive linemen while lined up both inside and outside.
4. Casey Tucker continues to have a solid camp at right tackle and had a couple of good wins in the drill.
5. Undrafted rookie free agent Kayode Awosika got the offense (and veteran defensive linemen) excited after shoving Brandon Graham to the ground on one rep. Both guys got up, high-fived, and walked back to the line of scrimmage for another rep, where Graham returned the favor with a win inside. One of the veterans jabbed. "Yeah, BG, you still got it!" in the fun exchange. – Fran
• After the one-on-one drills, another team period gets underway, with Jalen Hurts starting the session off with three straight completions. It was the third one that got me most excited, however, as he stepped up and hit Zach Ertz downfield for a nice completion on the opposite sideline. My eyes were elsewhere though. From my angle on the sideline, I saw Anthony Harris coming on a blitz and he was stoned by a running back in the backfield. As I waited for the bodies to disperse around Hurts, Sirianni came running in to hype up the pass protector, and I soon saw that it was Boston Scott who delivered the block. Sirianni was excited about the blitz pickup, allowing Hurts to deliver the throw to Ertz. – Fran
• McPhearson continues to impress me every day, and in today's practice he really stood out. He had a pass breakup on a fade route downfield in one-on-ones earlier, and in this period he did a great job of sticking the running back to the ground on a pass play to the flat, quickly shedding a block before arriving at the ball. The rookie had a near interception for a touchdown, jumping a hitch route and drawing praise from Sirianni and the rest of the secondary. I stayed after practice to watch the young players working in a 7-on-7 drill, and McPhearson forced an interception with a pass breakup over the middle. It's been fun watching the rookie DB every day. – Ben
• Kenny Gainwell had a nice scamper up the middle. The rookie gained a lot of ground in a hurry. Gainwell has been very active as both a runner and a pass catcher in practice, and I'm excited to see him in preseason games. – Fran
• The hit of the day with the pads on for the first time came from veteran safety Anthony Harris, who hit wide receiver Travis Fulgham on a short throw along the right side right in front of us. Both guys popped right up, but it was a good stick from Harris. – Ben
• Getting into another team session, my favorite play came from running back Jason Huntley. The second-year back has created a big play on seemingly every day, and that was no different on Tuesday as he raced down the right sideline, blazing past a majority of the defense. Speed alone won't get him on the roster, but it definitely helps him. – Fran
• It seemed as if practice was ending, but the team got together for one more 11-on-11 session, and it was one of my favorites that we see this time of year. This was a "move the field" period with scrimmage rules. The offense starts at their own 25 and has normal down and distance to move the ball downfield. Jalen Hurts hit Dallas Goedert over the middle of the field to move the chains on the first third down, beating the defensive blitz in the process. Facing another third down a minute later, Hurts found Ertz on a deep curl route to again move the sticks. On the next play, however, the defense got a stop with a T.Y. McGill "sack," forcing the clock to run down. – Fran
• The second-team defense continued to have success as McPhearson broke on the short route and nearly came away with a pick-six.
"I just gotta capitalize on them," McPhearson said. "In this league, there's very little room for error. You gotta finish on these plays. Those are touchdowns if I catch them. That's 12 points on the board. That's a lot in this league."
Quarterback Nick Mullens threw a nice rope to rookie wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon. On the final play of the day, Mullens showed good anticipation trying to thread the ball to Adrian Killins between two defenders, but the pass fell incomplete. – C-Mac