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Practice Notes: 21 Observations From Friday's Session

  • The defense took charge with outstanding performances by the defensive backs. Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell have the complete recap.

1. Walking out on the field during the stretching session, the first thing I noticed was the guff that head coach Doug Pederson was receiving from some of his players on the defensive line. Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, and Chris Long gave Pederson some grief about the soundtrack playing over the speakers, which featured mostly country music. Pederson pleaded ignorance, with a sly smile, but as the team broke into drills the music changed to more of a rap/hip-hop mix. – Fran Duffy

2. It's important to keep an eye on special teams personnel groupings throughout Training Camp as well as the preseason to get an early indication of which young players could have a more permanent role. The starters on kickoff coverage Friday included young players such as linebacker Nathan Gerry, wide receiver Shelton Gibson, and cornerback Rasul Douglas. This will be something I'll be keeping an eye on throughout the summer. – Ben Fennell

3. Watching the secondary go through individual drills, I could help but watch the two young corners, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas. I found myself wondering, 'What would this defense look like this fall if Jones can reach his potential?' I think the ceiling is sky-high, and with his ability to potentially play both inside and out, I'm excited with how he fits in this group of corners as the year progresses. – Fran

4. Individual drills ended and after an extensive walk-through the team got together for some 7-on-7 action, and from the jump I thought the defense had the upper hand. On the very first play, Nick Foles dropped back and looked to hit Mack Hollins on a double move down the field, but the second-year receiver was blanketed by Ronald Darby in coverage. This was a consistent theme that stuck throughout the morning. – Fran

5. Defensive back De'Vante Bausby saw significant action as the nickel cornerback with the first-team defense on Friday. This was a change up from Thursday's practice where we saw Sidney Jones in that spot. Jones primarily played outside cornerback today with the second-team unit today. Expect to see a steady rotation at the nickel spot throughout camp. – Ben

6. A couple of plays in, Foles hit running back Jay Ajayi on a quick throw to the flat. The veteran running back made an impressive grab on the play, pirouetting like a ballerina to secure the throw behind his body before working upfield. – Fran

7. Second-year receiver Greg Ward was active in this period. First, he caught a pass from Foles on a deep crossing route near the left sideline. A few plays later, Carson Wentz drove a pass to the same part of the field, where Ward climbed the ladder and came down with the catch just out of bounds. It was a great catch by Ward, but the referees in attendance didn't give the former Houston quarterback the benefit of the doubt. – Fran

8. The secondary's strong performance continued, as Foles dropped back and tried to hit Zach Ertz on a corner route on the right side. Malcolm Jenkins was having none of it, as he slid over to that side of the field and pulled in a leaping interception. Cornerback Jalen Mills followed that play up with a pass breakup of his own, as he jarred the ball loose from receiver Mack Hollins on a curl route. – Ben

9. That aggressiveness at the catch point got the best of Sidney Jones a couple of plays later, as he drew multiple penalty flags on a quick throw to Mike Wallace. The second-year corner broke on the pass but got there early, making contact with the veteran speedster and bringing him briefly to the ground. – Fran

10. Duce Staley is entering his eighth season as a coach with the Eagles (22nd year in the league overall counting his playing days), and he is still one of the most active and vocal coaches on the field. Staley can be seen and heard coaching up his players after nearly every rep, and he was often right on top of Donnel Pumphrey on Friday. Even 14-year veteran Darren Sproles can be seen getting coaching and adjustments from Staley in any given practice period. – Ben

11. Later in the session, Carson Wentz came back on the field with the first-team offense and it didn't take long for him to make a big-time throw. The third-year quarterback dropped back and smoked a throw between both starting safeties to Zach Ertz down the seam on a double move. His Pro Bowl tight end obliged with a beautiful diving catch well beyond the first-down marker. – Fran

12. A couple of plays later, Wentz was mad at himself after he didn't pull the trigger on a vertical route. He appeared to have both Markus Wheaton and Dallas Goedert open down the field, hesitated briefly, and checked the ball down instead. He clapped his hands immediately and pointed at Wheaton after the play, knowing he should have thrown the ball quicker. – Ben

13. Ah, Ben. Always focused on the negative! On the very next play, Wentz dropped back and hit Wheaton down the left sideline right between the corner and the safety for a first down. Good catch, but a better throw. Unlike on Thursday, Wentz did not take part in 11-on-11 drills. – Fran

14. Second-year cornerback Rasul Douglas was tested with consecutive double moves in the team session and handled the coverage flawlessly. Douglas stayed perfectly in-phase with receiver Nelson Agholor on a stutter-go and then didn't bite on the very next play when veteran Kamar Aiken attempted a slant-and-go route. Douglas displayed good discipline on both plays. – Ben

15. During both sequences where the third-team offense and defense were on the field, tight end Billy Brown came up with impressive grabs down the field. Earlier, Nate Sudfeld hit Brown near the sideline on a diving catch. To close the 7-on-7 period, Joe Callahan hit Brown on a deep corner route for a touchdown. – Fran

16. The entire team got together for the first, and only, 11-on-11 action of the morning. The defense got the best of the offense on the first play, as the pressure got home for what would have been a sack of Foles, but the ball got out after the whistle and was nearly picked off by Darby in the middle of the field. – Fran

17. The offense responded a couple of plays later. Foles felt a potential blitz coming and got the ball out quickly in the flat to Nelson Agholor, who raced down the sideline untouched for what would have been a huge play. Darby was the nearest defender in pursuit up the sideline, but I was surprised to see that the next defender behind him was Derek Barnett, hustling downfield after the catch-and-run. – Ben

18. The defense definitely appeared to be mixing in different blitzes in this session, which can unveil some unusual matchups with some players blitzing and linemen dropping into coverage. One particular rep featured veteran defensive end Bennett dropping to cover Donnel Pumphrey in the flat. – Ben

19. The coverage work didn't appear to gas Bennett, however. A minute later, the song 'Super Freak' by Rick James was blasting in between reps, and the Pro Bowl defensive end busted out some dance moves that had the media contingent laughing on the sideline. Bennett lined up on the following play and exploded into the backfield for a "sack" just seconds later. – Fran

20. Inside at defensive tackle, Destiny Vaeao continued to be the starter alongside Fletcher Cox, with Haloti Ngata and Elijah Qualls playing with the second unit. Linebacker Corey Nelson appeared to play the majority of first-team snaps as the third linebacker in the Eagles base defense. Kamu Grugier-Hill also saw some reps with the first-team as well. The defense will often line up in that package against multiple tight end sets from the offense. – Ben

21. Perhaps the best throw of the day came late in the session as Nate Sudfeld dropped back and hit Rashard Davis on a deep corner route down the field. It was a beautifully thrown pass from the third-year quarterback who figures to be a big part of the Eagles' plans in the future. – Fran

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