Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: 30 Observations From Thursday's Opener

  • Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell offer a comprehensive recap of the Eagles' first Training Camp practice.

Number of the Day: 92 - Courtesy of John Gonoude and the Eagles' media relations department, 92 members of the media attended Thursday's Training Camp practice.

Fran Duffy's Notes

1. I stood behind the offense during walk-through, and the first unofficial huddle of the 2018 season was not a quiet one. Jason Kelce urged his teammates on prior to meeting before the snap. While it may not have been Mummers Costume-worthy, it was great to see the energy level so high to get Training Camp going.

2. It was also great to see so many new or, more importantly, returning faces back on the field at the NovaCare Complex. For me, in particular, Darren Sproles' return was great to see. Early on during walk-through, No. 43 busted out a long run, and while there was no defense on the field, just to see him out with the team was a sight for sore eyes.

3. The offense took the field to begin the 10-10-10 practice. After two good runs from running back Jay Ajayi, we got to see a pair of throws from Nick Foles. The first fell incomplete, intended for Zach Ertz down the left sideline after the veteran tight end beat De'Vante Bausby, but on the next play the Super Bowl MVP hit Mack Hollins right between the numbers for a would-be first down.

4. Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls, who was seemingly pretty active throughout the day, nearly broke up a screen pass before it even got started. The second-year player knifed into the backfield just as Carson Wentz faked a handoff to Sproles before quickly dishing the ball out. With the injuries along the defensive line, the former sixth-round pick has a real shot to contribute this fall.

5. Carson Wentz's first completion of 2018 came courtesy of rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, who was used in a number of different ways on Thursday. The second-round pick lined up in the slot, out wide, and on the line of scrimmage, showing his versatility. He ran a quick route to the right flat on this play, and Wentz hit him in stride.

6. In the first defensive session, I was really excited to see the personnel in the secondary. Ben kept track of the rotation below, but I was excited just seeing Sidney Jones inside. Talking with some of the other media members in attendance, who asked why Jones would make more sense inside as opposed to someone like Darby, I explained that with his size and physicality, Jones will be able to hold up a bit better in traffic against the run. I'm sure the rotation will be different on Friday, but it will be fun to follow all summer long.

7. On the fourth play for the defense, Chris Long dipped outside and got home for what would have been a sack. On the following play, Michael Bennett lined up in the same spot and looped inside for a pressure and forced incomplete pass. Both of these plays came off of four-man rushes, but Jim Schwartz was not bashful with his unit's defensive looks and exotic schemes on Thursday. I'm excited to see this group in its third year under Schwartz and this coaching staff as they unpeel even more layers to the scheme.

8. Donnel Pumphrey ripped off a couple of long runs on Thursday, including one on the seventh defensive snap. This will be a big camp for the former fourth-round pick as he tries to stake his claim for a spot on the back end of the depth chart in a crowded backfield.

9. Speaking of the crowded backfield, as we transitioned to a special teams portion of practice, my eyes transitioned to someone Pumphrey will be competing with over the next few weeks, Wendell Smallwood. The young veteran was one of just two offensive players lining up with the first-team "punt" unit for the Eagles on Thursday (the other was Corey Clement). Smallwood will need to prove himself in the third phase of the game. Seeing him out there with the first team was certainly a good start.

10. On the final rep of the same drill, Mack Hollins blew past a double team on the outside as a gunner. Jalen Mills, one of the jammers, praised Mack afterward, screaming down the field at the second-year wideout.

11. The starting offense took the field again, and Corey Clement got things started with a leaping, one-handed grab on a screen pass.

12. I mentioned the versatility Goedert showed throughout the day. A few plays after Clement's big catch, Goedert lined up by himself on the outside, matched up on defensive back D.J. Killings. Wentz went to the rookie on a slant route, and he almost came up with a big catch, but Killings was able to break on the throw and get the ball on the ground. Killings is competing for a spot in a tough Eagles secondary.

13. The defense returned to the field and Sidney Jones was the target of the first pass from Carson Wentz. It was a deep fade route to the slot receiver, Markus Wheaton, and Jones was step for step with the veteran and prevented the completion.

14. On the next play, Jordan Hicks got home for a sack on a blitz inside. Jim Schwartz really turned up the heat in this drill. Josh Sweat netted a sack during this period as well.

15. A couple of snaps after Hicks' big play, Mills almost pulled in an interception that would have been returned for a touchdown. The young veteran broke on an out route toward the sideline and attempted to snatch the ball away from the receiver outside, but it bounced off his hands to the ground for an incompletion. Shortly afterward, rookie Jeremy Reaves did the same exact thing on the opposite sideline, except the undrafted free agent signee pulled in the pick and took it to the house.

Take a look at the best photos from the Eagles' first practice of 2018 training camp.

Ben Fennell's Notes

1. It was clear multiple tight end sets will still be a focal point in the offense. The Eagles practiced several two TE sets - with a variety of tight end combinations and formations.

2. With Alshon Jeffery opening Training Camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list, second-year receiver Mack Hollins played the X position. Hollins was the backup X wide receiver in 2017.

3. A funny observation in a particular personnel group - the running back (Matt Jones) was taller than all three wide receivers in the huddle (Shelton Gibson, Greg Ward, and Markus Wheaton)

4. Michael Bennett and Josh Sweat were playing as the second-team defensive ends behind starters Chris Long and Derek Barnett.

5. With the loss of Patrick Robinson in free agency, the nickel position is seeing some new faces. Sidney Jones served as the starting nickel, D.J. Killings on the second team, and rookie Avante Maddox on the third string.

6. The Eagles practiced several different blitz looks and packages on defense - often seeing pressures from the nickelback blitzing from the slot.

7. A popular defensive group today was the big nickel (3 safeties) - featuring Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McCleod, and Tre Sullivan. In this group, Jenkins would roll down to the line of scrimmage while McCleod and Sullivan played deep.

8. The group of punt returners were Darren Sproles, Nelson Agholor, Markus Wheaton, Donnel Pumphrey, and Rashard Davis.

9. Two players who will need to embrace special team roles to solidify a spot on the roster - both Wendell Smallwood and Shelton Gibson had several solid reps. Smallwood was serving as a personal protector on punt coverage and Shelton Gibson displayed his elite speed while gunning on the perimeter.

10. Jeremy Reaves had a highlight interception today in the flat after quarterback Nate Sudfeld made a late throw. Sudfeld was nearly picked off on the play earlier by Jalen Mills.

11. With Tim Jernigan on the Non-Football Injury list and 2017 backup Beau Allen gone in free agency, the battles and depth at the 1-tech defensive tackle position will be one to watch. Destiny Vaeao was the starting defensive tackle adjacent to Fletcher Cox. Haloti Ngata played several reps with the second-team unit.

12. In one particular empty formation, rookie running back Josh Adams, who practiced for the first time after missing all of the spring with a foot injury, was split outside the numbers and blew past veteran linebacker Nigel Bradham on a vertical route. The ball went elsewhere, but you were able to see the speed and strides of the high cut 6-2 running back who clocked a 4.48 40 yard dash at his Pro Day in the spring.

13. One of the more exciting and energetic moments of the practice was when quarterback Nick Foles kept a zone-read exchange and as he ran to the perimeter, wide receiver Mack Hollins released late downfield - reminiscent of the touchdown Alshon Jeffery scored last season against the Broncos. Foles didn't throw the pass to Hollins, but it was clear Hollins was open and wanted the target.

14. Later in the session, the Eagles' defense put in their three defensive end pass-rush unit - something they used often in 2017. Chris Long and Derek Barnett occupied the end positions while Michael Bennett aligned inside with defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

15. An intriguing rookie depth battle we'll be watching all camp is between tackle Jordan Mailata and defensive end Joe Ostman. The 6-8, 345-pound Mailata towers over the 6-2, 245-pound Ostman but the results are fairly even. Ostman is a savvy, experienced rusher while Mailata is learning the nuances of playing football for the first time in his life.

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