The pads came off, but the energy remained intense on Thursday morning. It was the eighth and final install practice for the offense which worked on a backed-up at the goal line session during the workout. The defense, keyed by an early takeaway (see below), was spirited as it is just three days from the first public practice at Lincoln Financial Field and one week until the preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
From an injury standpoint, linebacker JaCoby Stevens suffered a hamstring injury on Wednesday and is week to week. Wide receiver John Hightower exited Thursday's practice with an undisclosed injury. Friday is an off day for the players.
Here are the notes from the NovaCare Complex for Thursday, August 5:
• I watched the wide receivers run routes against air before practice, and Head Coach Nick Sirianni was once again very involved with this position group. After an impressive route and catch from Jalen Reagor, Sirianni ran over yelling, "There's that 4.3 speed you told me you were going to run at the Combine!" Sirianni really seems to have great relationships with these players. (More on that in Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro's latest column.) – Ben Fennell
• In the opening period, Jalen Hurts found Dallas Goedert on a quick throw before hitting J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on an in-breaking route underneath. Arcega-Whiteside made a great effort on the pass, securing the throw while going to the ground. He was not the only Eagle making a play fully extended in this drill, as cornerback Steven Nelson got a pass on the ground on the very next play, diving to the grass to net the pass breakup. – Fran Duffy
• Fran was watching the starters on one field, while I studied the second-string unit on the other. Rookie Zech McPhearson was running with the second-team unit opposite Michael Jacquet. – Ben
• The wide receivers and defensive backs got together for red zone one-on-one drills, and these are some of my favorite drills in camp, because typically the drill favors the receiver, but with the shorter field close to the goal line, the defenders have much more of a fighting chance. Some quick notes:
1. Jalen Reagor made one of the best individual plays of camp, attacking the ball in the air on a back-shoulder fade and snaring the ball with one hand at the highest point above Darius Slay. It was awesome to see the former first-round pick pluck the ball the way he did. The two enjoyed some good battles in this drill. Slay broke up a slant pattern intended for Reagor on their next rep, undercutting the throw and getting the ball on the ground (Reagor actually caught a slant for a touchdown on their first rep together early on). On the fourth, and final snap, Reagor carved Slay up with a double move but dropped the ball in the back of the end zone. Really good stuff from both guys in the matchup.
2. Steven Nelson got a win over Travis Fulgham (which have not been easy to come by this summer), breaking up a fade in the back of the end zone. Nelson played this perfectly, shooting his hands through the catch point and raking the ball to the ground.
3. Zech McPhearson broke up a slant intended for receiver Andre Patton (although Patton got him back on the next rep with a one-handed grab in the end zone). McPhearson got another pass breakup on the final rep of the drill as well on a throw intended for Quez Watkins in the back of the end zone.
4. Greg Ward scored a couple of times, once on a quick out route where his lateral agility came into play, and another on a back-shoulder throw where he brought in a tightly contested pass. – Fran
• I was in the opposite corner, keeping one eye on the receivers and another on the running backs and linebackers. This was a good session from Kerryon Johnson, who has proven to be a quality third-down back in the NFL. Johnson is a great blocker and has really soft hands as a pass catcher. – Ben
• After one-on-ones concluded, the team got together for some 11-on-11 action. On the second play of the period, Avonte Maddox tracked down the running back in the flat and punched the ball to the ground. The defense swarmed and appeared to recover it and they mobbed the slot corner after the play. There has been a huge emphasis on creating turnovers with the defense, so creating one in a team period earned a ton of praise out on the field. – Fran
• The starters left the field and when the backups stepped up we saw the best sequence of plays yet from veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. First, he hit an out route to the far left sideline, then he hit another out-breaking route to the right. On the third dropback, he smoked a throw to Kenneth Gainwell underneath for a nice gain that featured some yards after the catch. He put the cherry on top on a deep ball to Greg Ward, a throw he put on a rope downfield as he rolled to his right. Sirianni was juiced after that throw, congratulating the quarterback in the backfield. – Ben
• Craig James came away with an impressive pass breakup along the near sideline, getting the defensive backs hyped up after the play. James is an instinctive, pesky corner – he always finds his way to the catch point when he's targeted. It's rare for receivers to be wide open when he's in coverage. – Fran
• While Ben took in the 7-on-7 drills, I watched the linemen go one-on-one. Some notes from that session:
1. The first-team offensive line got most of the wins in the first round. Matt Pryor had a good rep. Jason Kelce and Javon Hargrave battled inside. Nate Herbig displayed a strong anchor. Jordan Mailata ran the arc.
2. T.Y. McGill had some impressive reps today – and what I loved about both is that they came on counter moves. His first rep started with quickness before he converted to power, and it was vice-versa for the second rep, where he tried the long arm off the snap before converting to his quickness at the top of the rush and getting home to "quarterback" Connor Barwin.
3. Andre Dillard had one of his best one-on-one reps of the summer, sitting down and dropping his anchor against a Josh Sweat bull rush.
4. Casey Tucker has stacked some nice practices together in these drills. Tucker has been around the block, and his savvy is showing. This is the best I've ever seen him look, for sure. – Fran
• He's not practicing, but Brandon Brooks is very involved every day. Just today, I saw him talking a lot with Lane Johnson in between plays after standing right in the hip pocket of Run Game Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach Jeff Stoutland. Brooks is constantly coaching up Pryor, who is working with the first-team in his stead, as well. – Ben
• In the next team period, the defensive line put pressure on Hurts early, with Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox meeting in the backfield for a sack. With all of the buzz surrounding Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat, it's easy to overlook the way those two vets have looked. That's without even mentioning Derek Barnett. Or Ryan Kerrigan. Or the young rookies. Or the consistent, high-effort backups like Hassan Ridgeway and T.Y. McGill. This is a deep, talented, fun group to watch. – Fran
• We got to see some creative ways to get playmakers the ball in this practice, whether it was Reagor, Quez Watkins, or even tight end Dallas Goedert, the screen game and gadgets built into this offense will be fun to watch. – Ben
• In the final team period, Hurts hit Reagor along the sideline, facing tight coverage. Reagor went to the ground to make the catch, and Jason Kelce and other members of the offense went over to tell the second-year receiver "good job" after the rep. – Fran