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Practice Notes: Darren Sproles Roaring To Go And Quick Hits From Tuesday's Minicamp

Dave Spadaro and Chris McPherson provide a look at what happened on the field Tuesday as the Eagles held the first of three minicamp practices.

SPROLES READY FOR “FULL GO” NOW

Darren Sproles wants everyone to know: He’s back. All the way back. Scoring touchdowns on punt returns back.

Back. Back. Back.

He played a limited role in Tuesday’s first day of mandatory minicamp at the NovaCare Complex, but only because the Eagles played it conservatively.

“It feels great to be back,” Sproles said after practice. “The knee is feeling great. The whole offseason I’ve been rehabbing, working out, pretty much doing my regular stuff.”

Sproles returned for 2018 after suffering a 2017-ending broken arm and torn ACL in the Week 3 victory over the New York Giants. He didn’t want to end his glorious NFL career in such a manner, and his daughter wanted to see him play one more season.

So he signed with the Eagles following the 2018 draft and, well, he’s ready to go. When asked if he thinks the start of Training Camp is a reasonable time to be “full go,” Sproles shook his head and was emphatic with his response.

“Oh yeah, oh yeah,” he said. “Really, if they let me go full go now, I could. They’re just holding me back a little bit.” - DS

EAGLES SIDELINED DURING THE FIRST DAY OF MINICAMP

The following players did not participate in Tuesday’s opening day of minicamp: Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, still out recovering from offseason rotator cuff surgery, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, safety Ryan Neal, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, running back Josh Adams, safety Chris Maragos, defensive end Brandon Graham, defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, and cornerback Sidney Jones.

It’s worth noting that Jones said after practice that it’s just a “precaution, they don’t want me practicing right now,” for not being on the field with the defense. “It’s just minor soreness,” Jones said. “It’s not a setback. I feel like I’m made a big progression this offseason. This is a very important time for me to make strides as a player. I’ll definitely be ready to roll for Training Camp.” - DS and CM

RED ZONE CHALLENGE

Quarterback Carson Wentz took more reps in 7-on-7 drills in the red zone and had a mixed bag. Safety Rodney McLeod intercepted him on a pass thrown into the end zone and then came right back and threaded a beauty of a ball through traffic and into the hands of a diving Nelson Agholor for a touchdown catch working against cornerback Ronald Darby, in tight coverage. Nate Sudfeld also had some success in the red zone with some deft passing. Wide receiver Markus Wheaton had a strong day finding openings against the defense in the middle of the field. - DS

MICHAEL BENNETT WORKS INTO THE MIX

Tuesday's minicamp practice was our first chance to see defensive lineman Michael Bennett on the field as an Eagle. He lined up with the second-team unit at left defensive end. He looked spry, quick off the ball. What was evident was his effective hand usage which comes as no surprise to Pro Bowl tackle Lane Johnson.

"He's very active. He can play inside; he can play outside. He's one of the more versatile guys on the team, a lot of guys can't do that," Johnson said. "I played last year against him in Seattle. He's very good with his hands. Very active. Quick twitch. He does a lot of damage inside." - CM

TRE SULLIVAN PUSHING FOR THIRD SAFETY POST

Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod are entrenched as the starting safeties. There is no mystery there entering the 2018 season.

But who will be the primary backup? Corey Graham remains a free agent after manning the role last season.  

Graham could return, but Tre Sullivan is making a case in the meantime. Sullivan generated headlines with some vicious hits in last year's preseason. He spent the latter half of 2017 on the practice squad as the Eagles went on to win the Super Bowl. 

He's worked on his range and broke up a pair of passes in Tuesday's minicamp and has his eye on a roster spot.

"I'm hungry for it. I'm focusing on myself, how to progress personally so I can make this team better in any way that I'm asked of whether it's special teams, the third safety, whatever it is," Sullivan said. "I just want to take on that role and make sure I do a great job at it." - CM

QUICK HITS

With Ngata and Jernigan sidelined, Destiny Vaeao took the reps at first-team right defensive end next to Fletcher Cox. During a team drill, he had a tackle for loss on running back Jay Ajayi.

De'Vante Bausby was the first-team nickel corner as Jalen Mills and Darby were on the left side and right side, respectively.

The base defense featured Nigel Bradham at middle linebacker as Jordan Hicks works in slowly from his Achilles injury. Kamu Grugier-Hill was on the strong side and Nathan Gerry on the weak. Bradham and Grugier-Hill were the nickel linebackers.

It was good to see Donnel Pumphrey in action after he was sidelined during the recent OTAs. He caught the ball well and looked fluid in his cuts. It's a logjam at running back behind Ajayi, Sproles, and Corey Clement with Wendell Smallwood and Matt Jones battling for roster spots.

I thought Darby was excellent in coverage on Tuesday. He blanketed Mike Wallace deep down the seam on a rep in a 7-on-7 drill and broke up the pass. In another 7-on-7 rep, he prevented Nick Foles from going deep with tight defense. 

The red zone touchdown from Wentz wasn't the only nice ball caught by Agholor on the day. During a team drill, he lined farthest inside of three receivers to the left of the formation. Foles recognized that Agholor had the jump early and aired it out for the completion. - CM

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