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Practice Notes: Carson Wentz Returns To Action In Front Of Over 40,000 At The Linc

What a weekend for Eagles fans. First, they descended upon Canton, Ohio and turned the Pro Football Hall of Fame into a sea of midnight green. Then, on Sunday night, over 40,000 fans welcomed the defending Super Bowl Champions in the first public practice of the year. It was not lost on Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie.

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the 40,000-plus fans who attended tonight’s public practice. It was an incredible atmosphere and yet another example of the passion and energy that our fans bring every day," Lurie said.

"I am also moved by the extreme generosity of those who stepped up to help further our mission of advancing autism research. Thanks to the support of those in attendance we were able to raise more than $42,000 that will directly benefit the lives of many people through the Eagles Autism Challenge.”

Fran Duffy and Chris McPherson recap what took place on the field.

1. First off, the atmosphere at Lincoln Financial Field was incredible on Sunday night. The 40,000-plus fans in attendance brought a gameday-like energy to practice – we’re talking about practice! At one point, fans continuously sang the “E-A-G-L-E-S, Eagles!” chant for at least five minutes creating a buzz that reverberated around the stadium. When a Dallas Cowboys Ezekiel Elliott jersey was spotted in the crowd, the owner was booed mercilessly. If this is any indication of what Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers will be like – look out! The best home team in the NFL since Doug Pederson took over as head coach will have even more of an advantage. – C-Mac

2. Special teams drills begin as the punt unit gets out onto the field. Running backs Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood are the lone offensive players on the first-team unit (outside of the gunners). Punter Cameron Johnston, with the ball being snapped from his own 25-yard line, places multiple kicks beautifully inside the 5-yard line. It was one of his most impressive days I’ve seen from him in Eagles green. – Fran Duffy

3. Full-team 11-on-11 work begins, and Nate Sudfeld is in at quarterback with Nick Foles getting the night off and Carson Wentz only seeing action in 7-on-7 drills. The Eagles defense is in their nickel package, with five defensive backs on the field, and second-year corner Sidney Jones is in the slot (giving him five days of work as the starter, with De'Vante Bausby getting three days, and one for Jalen Mills). The base defense came in on the following play, and Nathan Gerry entered as the starter at weakside linebacker. That has been the case for the majority of camp. – Fran

4. Sudfeld started the night off with a completion to Mike Wallace, but then threw three straight incompletions. The third one came on a vertical pass to Wallace down the left sideline, where Rodney McLeod flew over to defend the throw from the middle of the field, making contact with Wallace at the catch point to help usher the ball to the ground. Something tells me that if this were a game, that hit would have been much more violent. McLeod has been very active patrolling the deep part of the field for an impressive Eagles secondary this entire summer. – Fran

5. Strong back-to-back runs by Donnel Pumphrey in this team period. First, he had a nice run up the middle then showed burst on an off-tackle run to the left side. I’m excited to watch him in preseason action because I do think he’s made strides since last season. However, he had a drop on a wide-open throw later in practice during the red zone 7-on-7 drill. He wasn’t the only one who struggled on offense then. – C-Mac

6. The team transitions to the next drill, another 11-on-11 session, and the defense keeps its strong play going. Ronald Darby steps in front of a crossing route in the middle of the field and nearly picks off Sudfeld. It would have been a sure touchdown the other way had he reeled in the pick, but it was a great read on the play nonetheless from the veteran corner. – Fran

7. One area where Darby wants to improve from last season is his ball skills. He did tie a career high with three interceptions despite missing significant time with the ankle injury. However, Darby lamented a couple of interceptions he left on the field, noting he should have had at least five. He should have come up with the interception there. – C-Mac

8. The best catch during this period came from – no surprise – wide receiver Nelson Agholor. He made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch off a throw from Sudfeld on a go route down the right sideline beating safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. – C-Mac

9. Special teams drills begin once again, and the punt and punt return units start 1-on-1 drills across the length of the field. In this session, both Jake Elliott and Johnston hold long sticks with footballs on the end of them to simulate the snap of the ball. In between reps, Elliott works on his golf swing, and I must say, he’s got a pretty clean stroke. It’s no surprise to me to hear that he’s a scratch golfer. – Fran

10. Fans come to their feet when Carson Wentz gets his first real action of the night as 7-on-7 drills begin. No. 11 responds with a quick completion to Dallas Goedert over the middle of the field to get things started. On the next play, Wentz would hit Joshua Perkins on a crossing route. We saw a lot of Goedert, Perkins, and Billy Brown on Sunday night with Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers held out of practice once again. – Fran

11. It was not all sunshine and rainbows for Wentz in this drill. After just missing on a deep ball over the top to Mack Hollins, Wentz dropped back and went through his progressions, checking to a backside dig route intended for receiver Bryce Treggs. Cornerback Jalen Mills read it the entire way, however, and jumped the throw downfield and nearly picked it off for what would have been a big play the other way. Once again, the secondary was swarming in this practice. – Fran

12. Going through my notes from Sudfeld’s snaps and Joe Callahan’s reps, I wrote down “nothing there” multiple times. The defense plastered the pass catchers leaving no windows for the quarterbacks to throw the ball. And I don’t think it was due to missing an open lane, I just didn’t see any space. – C-Mac

13. Sudfeld comes onto the field after four Wentz passes, and he throws a dime on the first play, hitting receiver Rashard Davis on an over route in the middle of the field. I turned my eyes to the big board to watch the replay, and from the ground angle you could see Sudfeld execute a perfect pump fake to his left, moving linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill out of the throwing lane to help Davis break open inside. Extremely well-done from the third-year quarterback. – Fran

14. Wentz was back on the field to start 7-on-7 red zone drills. His second rep of the rotation was a nice anticipation throw in the back right corner of the end zone for Treggs. The ball was a little high, but Treggs should have come down with it. Wentz ended his day on a high note with a nice touchdown pass to Perkins. – C-Mac

15. I previously mentioned Pumphrey’s drop in this portion of practice. DeAndre Carter had a pass that was a little high from Sudfeld that should have been brought in. Overall, the offense was sloppy (or the defense was dominant, however you want to spin it). – C-Mac

16. After another 7-on-7 period that was absolutely dominated by the defense (quarterbacks completed just 3 of 10 passes in the drill), the team gets together for one long, final 11-on-11 session. The defensive line jumps into the party early, with Fletcher Cox and Destiny Vaeao firing into the backfield to wrangle up Jay Ajayi on the first play. Ajayi bounced back with a sizeable gain on the ensuing play. – Fran

17. A pair of Eagles linebackers make two outstanding interceptions in the middle part of the drill. First, Jordan Hicks dives in front of a Sudfeld pass intended for Mack Hollins in the middle of the field and secures an interception. Not to be outdone, Kamu Grugier-Hill made a diving interception of his own on another pass intended for Hollins. Kamu was active again on Sunday (I thought he had an outstanding day on Thursday), getting a "sack" in an earlier period as well as an impressive thud in the run game early on. He continues to show off his athleticism at the linebacker position. – Fran

18. I found the Hicks interception to be particularly encouraging. Remember, Hicks led all NFL linebackers in interceptions with five just two seasons ago. A healthy Hicks will make a world of difference for this defense. That’s one thing that was missing from the defense after Hicks suffered his Achilles injury last season – takeaways. With the rotation up front, the back seven will have a lot of chances to get their hands on the ball, as evidenced by both of those plays. – C-Mac

19. Practice ends on a fade pass from Joe Callahan to Brown in the corner of the end zone. The second-year tight end continues to flash every day during camp as a pass catcher, and he put a ribbon on the day’s work with this acrobatic, contested grab for a touchdown that got Eagles fans fired up before heading home. – Fran

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