Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith Dominate Friday's Practice

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There's a lot to get through here, so we present the best of Friday's action from the NovaCare Complex.

Play Of The Day

During the 7-on-7 drill, nickel cornerback Aaron Grymes picked off a Nick Foles pass and returned it for a pick-six.

"I feel like we kind of knew what the offense was going to throw at us route concept-wise. I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The quarterback threw it right to me. I just had to make the catch and run with it. I'm getting comfortable flying around, understanding what the offense is going to do and what we're supposed to do on defense," Grymes said.

Grymes was a standout during Training Camp last year until suffering a shoulder injury while making an interception in the preseason win over the Steelers. He eventually made his NFL debut in the win over Atlanta before finishing the season on the practice squad. He's been running as the second-team nickel behind Ron Brooks in Training Camp.* - Chris McPherson*

Number Of The Day: 17

Since his debut season in 2011, Torrey Smith ranks second in the NFL in yards per reception (17.0) (min. 200 receptions), trailing only DeSean Jackson (17.4) in that span. - John Gonoude

Rita's Update Of The Day

You know Training Camp has kicked into full gear when the Rita's Water Ice stand is on-site at the NovaCare Complex. Alex Smith was seen with a cup of mango. I'll have to go for my half-cherry, half-blue raspberry concoction at some point when it's not overcast and 75 degrees at 9 a.m.

It should be noted that mango was the most-requested flavor of the day, followed by Swedish Fish. - Fran Duffy

*

The first day of Training Camp practice with Eagles fans was a huge success! We love all the support!

*Practice Observations

1. At the start of practice, I thought Chris Hemsworth was the newest member of the Eagles' offensive line when Lane Johnson came out with this Thor-like blonde wig to start the morning off.* - FD*

2. The 25-minute 7-on-7 drill begins with three straight completions for quarterback Carson Wentz.

First, Wentz hits tight end Zach Ertz down the seam on a skinny post route for a first down. Then came a pair of throws to Alshon Jeffery, first on a curl route to the left against cornerback Patrick Robinson, and then on a slant route from the right side against Jalen Mills. The second-year corner had extremely tight coverage on the second throw, even getting a piece of the pass, but to no avail. Jeffery showed off his strong set of hands and reeled in the throw for a first down. Alshon displayed those hands again on Wentz's final throw of the opening team period, a shallow crossing route that was thrown behind the receiver. Jeffrey spun around, adjusted to the throw, and made a great catch on the move. - FD

3. Wentz's first incompletion of the day came on a deep ball to second-year receiver Marcus Johnson, who ran by Mills down the right sideline. The ball was just slightly overthrown, who showed off some wheels to go with his 6-2 frame. - FD

4. Nick Foles stepped in for Wentz and completed four straight passes, first hitting running back Wendell Smallwood in the flat, then hitting tight end Brent Celek over the middle. On that throw, Celek appeared to be the third or fourth progression for Foles, as he climbed the pocket and got through his reads quickly to get the ball to the veteran tight end.

After a quick hitch to Johnson, Foles hit second-year receiver Paul Turner on a short crossing route. Turner tried to pick up yards after the catch when rookie defensive back Randall Goforth came from behind, diving, and tomahawking the ball out of Turner's hands to force a fumble before falling to the ground with an injury. Goforth left the field. No update was provided. - FD

5. As the 7-on-7 drills continued, my eyes diverted to the offensive and defensive lines as they prepared to begin the first one-on-one drills of the summer (something I've anxiously been waiting for). Here are some of the highlights:

A. All eyes were on first-round pick Derek Barnett, who impressed me a number of times. He can win with speed on the outside as he beat Taylor Hart with a violent chop move, but can he win in other ways?

Barnett lined up for two straight reps against veteran lineman Matt Tobin early in the drill, and on both times he tried to win with a spin move inside. On the first rep, Tobin was able to keep him blocked, but on the second rep you could see Barnett better sell the outside speed rush before countering inside with the spin move, winning with ease, and getting to the "quarterback" on the rep.

Barnett also squeezed in a speed-to-power rush which wasn't extremely effective at first glance, but the important takeaway is that he is working on those moves now and refining his timing with executing those techniques. As he continues to develop his plan of attack against offensive tackles, Barnett will become an increasingly dangerous weapon for this Eagles defensive line.

B. One player I was very excited to see was rookie defensive tackle Elijah Qualls. His first rep came against Jason Kelce, and he stumbled out of the gate, allowing Kelce to bury him into the dirt. On his next rep, this time against Stefen Wisniewski, Qualls won with an outside rip move. Later, Qualls showed the ability to string multiple pass rush moves together, executing a bull rush on Josh Andrews before converting to a swim move and winning inside. Qualls certainly has the size to compete inside, but his athleticism is a bit underrated by some. He showed off his potential as a pass rusher on Friday morning.

C. Second-year guard Isaac Seumalo, named the starter on the left side earlier this week, displayed really good feet and a strong anchor on one rep against Tim Jernigan, who tried to win with a bull rush attacking Seumalo's inside shoulder. Seumalo stood his ground and kept his feet moving through contact, stopping Jernigan in his tracks to maintain a clean "pocket." Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, also a 2016 draft pick, also looked good on Friday. On one rep against Chris Long, who stood up off the left side, Vaitai anchored against the veteran's bull rush attempt. Later in the session, Vaitai displayed some foot quickness, riding Vinny Curry outside with success and keeping him away from the proverbial quarterback.

D. The rep that drew the biggest reaction came from second-year defensive end Alex McCalister, who exploded off the snap and bull-rushed converted-defensive lineman Taylor Hart, vaulting him into the air and onto the ground. The defensive line group, perhaps mostly at their former linemate's suspense, was hooting and hollering all the way up until the two faced off again on the next rep. This time, McCalister tried to win with an inside dip move, and Hart rode the former Florida pass rusher out of harm's way with relative ease. It was a rough day for Hart, who saw his first significant one-on-one action since becoming an offensive lineman, but it was good to see him battle back after losing the previous rep.

E. Brandon Graham, by my eyes, was 2-for-2 on the day, beating both Lane Johnson and Dillon Gordon with outside hand swipe moves from both defensive end spots. Steven Means won on a similar move off the edge against Matt Tobin. - FD

6. In the first full-team 11-on-11 drill of the summer with the first units on both sides of the football facing off, the one notable depth chart item I noticed was Najee Goode in for Jordan Hicks with the starting linebacker group. Hicks was with the starters in the 7-on-7 drill, but is taking things slow with his finger injury. - FD

7. On the first play of the period, Wentz dropped back under heavy pressure from the defensive line and delivered a throw to Torrey Smith for a completion despite tight coverage by Mills. It was good to see Wentz handle the heat after the snap and still deliver the throw on time to Smith for what would've been a first down. A couple of plays later, Wentz threw a hard count at the defense, which forced their hand. With Malcolm Jenkins clearly preparing to come off the edge, Wentz changed up the protection, took the snap, and completed a pass to the left from a clean pocket. That completion all started with Wentz's ability to recognize pressure before the snap and put his teammates in position to keep him clean in the pocket.

Now, just as impressive was the player who eventually ran Smith out of bounds - defensive tackle Fletcher Cox about 30 yards down the field. Great hustle play. - FD

8. Smith made another great contested catch in the blitz drill this time with Robinson draped over him. On the play, Graham dropped back in coverage out of his left defensive end spot. - CM

9. One of the near-misses of the day happened late in that same team period, when rookie corner Rasul Douglas made an outstanding play on the perimeter. The Eagles had been throwing a lot of screens on Friday, and Douglas read this one perfectly, jumping right into the throwing lane and nearly picking off a bubble screen for Donnel Pumphrey in what surely would've been a touchdown the other way. The ball slipped through his hands and fell to the ground, however, much to the chagrin of the fans just mere feet away from the play. It was still good to see such a heads-up play from the rookie defensive back. - FD

10. That wasn't the only heads-up play by Douglas. In the 7-on-7 drill, he was playing off coverage against Nelson Agholor and perfectly read a slant route by the wide receiver. Douglas met Agholor at the catch point and knocked the ball away. - CM

11. Rookie wide receiver Shelton Gibson has had his struggles in Training Camp, but he drew a pass interference penalty against cornerback Mitchell White on a deep pass down the right sideline in the team blitz drill. - CM

12. Greg Ward has made headlines for his conversion from quarterback at Houston to wide receiver, but David Watford did the same thing a year ago and made an impressive play during Friday's practice. He ran a double move on Robinson and quarterback Matt McGloin led Watford perfectly down the left sideline for a big gain. Watford admits that a year ago that route would have not looked as good.

"You can ask any of the guys that we had last year, I would have been struggling running that route. It took me time to learn to really be patient and trust myself and not rush it. I feel like I've done a way better job this year," Watford said.

In fact, Eagles Hall of Fame wide receiver Mike Quick said on the Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast with Fran Duffy that Watford will stick with a team in the NFL.

"It's a blessing," Watford said of the comment, "to have those guys believe in me and just see that I can play this game because at the end of the day it's a confidence thing." - CM

13. In the 7-on-7 drill, Wentz threw a play-action pass to Jordan Matthews and what caught my eye was the sight of LeGarrette Blount and how defenses will be forced to respect the play-action this season because of the 250-pound back. - CM

14. One thing I've noticed is how Agholor is doing a much better job of catching the ball away from his body this year. It was evident on a throw from Wentz in the 7-on-7 drill today. - CM

15. The near play of the day was a pass thrown behind Jeffery deep down the right sideline. Jeffery twisted his body toward the sideline, and while falling down nearly came up with the catch. The fans in attendance were ready to erupt. - CM

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