Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Carson Wentz Escapes Pressure In Another Big Step Forward

  • It was the first day of pads at this year's Training Camp. The weather added to the flavor by making it a hot, soupy, sunny day at the NovaCare Complex. Fran Duffy and Chris McPherson have the details.

It was the first day of pads at this year's Training Camp. The weather added to the flavor by making it a hot, soupy, sunny day at the NovaCare Complex. "Philly a pretty humid place," cornerback Ronald Darby said. "Humid. It's been really, really humid," wide receiver Mike Wallace said echoing the same remarks. – Chris McPherson

1.After some stretching, the team broke off into separate special teams drills with a focus on the punting game. As I noted back on the first day of practice, running backs Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood were the only offensive players working with the first team. – Fran Duffy

2. A brief install period begins and I have my eye on Nate Sudfeld, the third-string quarterback. In his first Training Camp with the team (remember, he spent the last two summers with Washington), the third-year pro has thrown the ball well. He looked sharp throwing against air early in practice after making perhaps the play of the day on Friday. Later in the drill, Nathan Gerry appeared to be the first linebacker on the field to play alongside Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. – Fran

3.The walk-through comes to a close and we have our first full-team session of the day. It's 11-on-11 and we see the first-team units on both sides of the ball. Nick Foles is in at quarterback. Sidney Jones is in the slot. For those of you keeping track at home, that's now two days out of three so far where Jones has been the starter in the slot (De'Vante Bausby held that honor on Friday). Rookie corner Avonte Maddox appeared to be the backup in the slot on Saturday. – Fran

4.The quarterbacks worked to get the ball out quickly and quite a few times with no support in the backfield. A couple of snaps stood out while Foles was in at quarterback. Hicks came up the middle, and the coverage on the back end gave Foles nowhere to go with the ball. The other snap was on a blitz by Gerry. Foles looked to get the ball to running back Darren Sproles in the flat, but Gerry's blitz forced a bad throw that landed incomplete. Carson Wentz did not participate in this portion of practice. – Chris

5.On the third play of the period, Fletcher Cox flew into the backfield and forced Foles from the pocket. The Super Bowl MVP rolled to his right, but Jalen Mills had tight coverage down the field, forcing Foles to keep the ball and get "sacked" by Chris Long along the sideline. – Fran

6. A handful of plays later, Sudfeld dropped back and rolled to his left, throwing an incompletion near the sidelines. That wasn't what stood out to me on this play, however, because Donnel Pumphrey executed a near-perfect block in pass protection against linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill. The second-year back stood up the blitzer on contact, and while the bigger and more explosive Grugier-Hill eventually overwhelmed him, it was a great effort early in the down from Pumphrey, who I thought quietly had a good day on Saturday. The former fourth-round pick caught the ball smoothly, made some people miss in space, and that block was one of my favorite plays from the day. – Fran

7. The team period ended and the squad once again split up into some individual and one-on-one sessions. We both stuck around the latter portion, a half-field 7-on-7 drill where a pair of receivers - one in the backfield and one out wide, matched up with a defensive back and a linebacker - as the offense worked on two-man route concepts.

o The Eagles signed wide receiver DeAndre Carter on Saturday morning, and he took part in his first practice. The 5-8, 190-pound speedster showed some juice during this portion of practice as he hauled in a rope from Carson Wentz. The quarterback tried to connect with Carter deep down the left sideline later in this drill, but safety Tre Sullivan had good position shielding Carter from coming toward the numbers to make the catch. – Chris

o I agree with Chris. Carter is short but he is built like a running back and he does have some juice. This is the first I've ever seen of him. He ran two crisp routes in this drill, and came away with that nice catch early on, which was good to see for the newcomer. – Fran

o Tre Sullivan also posted an impressive pass breakup against Zach Ertz one-on-one. – Fran

o After Pumphrey beat Corey Nelson on a route out of the backfield, Matt Jones tried to run the same route against Jordan Hicks. The veteran linebacker was having none of it, as he sat on the route and picked off Carson Wentz. – Fran

8. Next up, the team split off into two groups. On one field, the offensive line, tight ends, and running backs matched up against the defensive front seven in a 9-on-7 drill, focusing on the run game. On the next field, the wide receivers matched up with the defensive backs one-on-one. Chris went over to the one-on-ones while I stuck with the Inside Run drill. – Fran

o   Grugier-Hill is the Eagle who stood out to me the most in this period. I counted twice where, from my vantage point, he seemed to explode through traffic and find the football at, or behind, the line of scrimmage. - Fran

o   On the third play of the session, Cox rodeoed Corey Clement at the line of scrimmage. No. 91 has looked like his normal self through the first three days. - Fran

o   Back when I was the video coordinator at Temple, this was one of my favorite drills to watch from the "end zone angle," high up and right behind the offense or defense. I don't have that luxury on the field, but standing right on the line of scrimmage and staring down the line, you can really tell which line wins the battle on every snap. Two reps that stood out to me on the offensive side came from a pair of devastating double teams. First, Jason Kelce and Stefen Wisniewski moved Destiny Vaeao off the ball. A few plays later, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Chance Warmack did a great job on Haloti Ngata. - Fran

o   Towards the end of the period, linebacker Corey Nelson ignited the defensive sideline with a stop at the line of scrimmage on Matt Jones, enough so that Michael Bennett came running off the sideline to celebrate.

9. I took a walk to the middle field to check out the receivers and defensive backs go at it. Here were the biggest standouts for me. – Chris

o   Nelson Agholor is filthy. Just silly. Explosive off the line. Sharp in his routes. He's been the best receiver in the early stages of Training Camp, in my opinion. Agholor beat cornerback Rasul Douglas off the line of scrimmage and caught a deep ball from quarterback Nick Foles. Later, he cruised past safety Rodney McLeod on a corner route for another completion from Foles. "He's an explosive player," Darby said of Agholor. "I like working with him. I talk to him all the time about how to set things up. He asks me how I do stuff or how I look at things. He's a great player. He goes out there and competes."

o   Darby was strong in this drill as well. He was all over Mack Hollins on a slant route, forcing an incomplete throw from quarterback Joe Callahan. He smothered Anthony Mahoungou on a comeback route. My favorite rep from Darby was against Markus Wheaton, who tried to shake Darby in every way possible only to come up empty.

o   Jalen Mills did have nice coverage and should have picked off a pass from Carson Wentz intended for Agholor, but he dropped it. No, he did not do push-ups on the field.

10. The team got back together for a long 11-on-11 session, and you got a sense for the kind of period it would be right from the jump. Foles threw a quick screen pass to Agholor, who was met almost immediately by Malcolm Jenkins in the flat. The veteran safety laid a nice thud on Agholor, setting the tone for what turned out to be a pretty physical set of plays. Foles and Agholor responded on the next play with a nice hookup for a first down off play-action. – Fran

11. A few plays later, Bennett knifes into the backfield for what would have been a sack on Wentz. A couple of plays later, the Pro Bowl defensive end gets upfield and pressures Wentz into a throwaway. Later in the session, Bennett did the same to Foles. Take this with a grain of salt, but Bennett appears to be as good as advertised so far through three days. Not only has the energy level been high from the seasoned veteran, but he's been extremely active and disruptive so far in camp, and at this point he should be paying rent in the backfield. – Fran

12.While Wentz came on as the second quarterback, he did get some reps with the first-team offense in this drill. If there were any questions about Wentz's mobility coming off the knee injury, he took a big step in answering them. On a snap from the 40-yard line, defensive end Chris Long came crashing down from the left side forcing Wentz to roll to his right before firing the ball to Agholor who had to leap to make a great grab. This play came after Wentz threw an interception to Jalen Mills on the same side of the field. That pass was intended for Zach Ertz, whom Mills called the best tight end in the league later after practice. – Chris

13. Wide receiver Greg Ward made a couple of plays that caught my eye during this drill. First, Foles was under pressure and threw a quick pass to the flat on the left side for Ward that was high. Ward concentrated on the ball, tipped it to himself, and charged upfield into traffic. The second catch was another quick pass, but I like how smoothly Ward plucked the ball away from his body and immediately darted up for a gain. – Chris

14.How versatile do the Eagles' linebackers have to be? Jordan Hicks, who has impressed me with his level of participation coming off the Achilles injury, was on the weak side for one rep with the first-team defense while Joe Walker was positioned in the middle. – Chris

15. I couldn't help but focus my attention on Halapoulivaati Vaitai on one rep as he absolutely stonewalled rookie defensive end Josh Sweat. I was waiting for the playlist to put on slow jams so the two could have danced together. – Chris

16. For the second day in a row we got a chance to see my personal favorite individual celebration, Steven Means' sack dance. He jumps in for a "sack" on Joe Callahan and throws the proverbial hammer down after the play with enthusiasm. – Fran

17. The team session ends and we move into our second special teams period of practice. I stood by as assistant special teams coach Matthew Harper worked with the gunners and the jammers on the punt and punt return teams. Harper praised Mills several times throughout the session, and young safety Tre Sullivan earned some props as well, both from the coach and from Jenkins, who coached him up on the sidelines after a few reps. Rookies Avonte Maddox and Tim Wilson both had some impressive reps as gunners trying to beat double teams as well. – Fran

18.The final 7-on-7 session begins, and the secondary owned this period. Whether it was Wentz, Foles, or Sudfeld, the quarterback had to check down and there were even multiple "sacks" because the coverage was just too tight downfield. – Fran

19.Tight end Richard Rodgers has done nothing flashy, but he's been reliable catching everything that comes his way. – Chris

20.Perhaps the play of the day came mid-way through this period, as rookie Dallas Goedert hauled in a beautiful one-handed grab down the left hash from Wentz. The ball was a bit underthrown, and safety Rodney McLeod was right in the rookie's face, but Goedert went to the ground and still came up with the pass, drawing a ton of applause from the sidelines. "Anytime the quarterback throws me the ball, I want to catch it," Goedert said. "I'm going out there trying to make a play every time. It was kind of lucky that it stuck right there. I like to think it's a little bit of natural ability as well as working on it." Wentz and Goedert would hook up later in the drill for a 30-yard completion as well, which made me think of something. With Wentz getting a lot of second-team reps, alongside Goedert, those two appear to be developing a bit of a rapport. That could be something to watch for as the season progresses. – Fran

21.Two plays later, the defense responded with a fantastic leaping interception down the field by McLeod. Defensive backs coach Cory Undlin, posted up on the near sideline, turned to the fans and wondered where all the cheering was for the pick after the ovation Goedert got just a minute earlier. Fans love offense! – Fran

22.The back-and-forth continues, as Carson Wentz comes in and throws a strike to Agholor on a corner route. It was a good throw and a great catch from the receiver, as Agholor climbed the ladder and came down with the pass for a big play. – Fran

23. Another win for Mills against Ertz in coverage. The tight end ran an intermediate out route and sat in space. Mills didn't bite and took away what looked like the top option for Wentz on the play. – Chris

24.Wentz is such a competitor that he wants his teammates to be alert at all times. He wanted to connect with running back Darren Sproles up the right sideline, but Mills had him tight in coverage. Wentz signaled for Sproles to go deep, but the coaches blew the whistle. Wentz just flicked the ball up high to Sproles anyway and the Pro Bowl back plucked the ball despite Mills' best effort to keep it away. – Chris

25.One more team session begins with more 11-on-11 action and Foles hits three straight quick completions to Agholor, Ajayi, and Ertz, in that order. Two running plays later and Foles was done for the day. – Fran

26. Wentz stepped onto the field for his final five plays, and fans got a bit of a scare, as the quarterback dropped back and the pocket collapsed around him. One of his teammates was pushed right into his lap while another came from his blindside. Wentz took some slight contact, but stepped out of it, rolled to his right, and found Clement for a reception along the right sideline. And everyone let out a big exhale. – Fran

27.The high blood pressure didn't stop there, however. Wentz had four more throws to close out the day, and on three of them the pocket closed around him quickly or a rusher flashed in his face almost right away. They can be scary moments, but these are the trials Wentz needs to go through at some point to prove that he is ready to roll this fall. Mike Wallace talked about the sequence of plays after practice, saying "I love it. We have a great defense, though. We like to see that. The one time I saw him scramble and it kind of collapsed and he got out of there. I was excited about that because just to see him move and he comes back in the huddle, he looks normal. That was a big sign because this is football. Not everything is going to be clean." – Fran

28. My last note of the day came with just about two minutes left in practice. Nate Sudfeld handed the ball off to Matt Jones, who ran down the left sideline. Rasul Douglas was engulfed by Markus Wheaton on the play, and the veteran garnered a big celebration and extra praise from offensive coordinator Mike Groh afterwards for his prowess as a blocker. – Fran

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