Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Defense Dominates Inside The Bubble

1. Heavy rain forced the team inside to the practice bubble for the first time this summer, so practice was a little more condensed than usual on Monday morning. From an injury standpoint, running backs Donnel Pumphrey and Corey Clement, wide receivers Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, and Markus Wheaton did not participate. Tight end Dallas Goedert did not participate in any team action, while Carson Wentz only threw in 7-on-7 drills once again. Newly signed quarterback Christian Hackenberg (wearing No. 8) did not participate in team drills, but was glued to quarterbacks coach Press Taylor's side throughout the morning. – Fran Duffy

2. After some special teams work, the team breaks out into individual drills. The media is usually not this close to the defensive line or linebackers during this part of practice, so I took the opportunity to watch them. As the defensive line runs through bags, I marvel at the lightning quick feet of Fletcher Cox. The way he's able to get his feet up and down to navigate through the drill is not normal for a man his size. About 15 yards away, the linebackers are going through a similar exercise, and No. 91 looks like he could easily stroll over and hold his own with that group in terms of how fast he's able to finish the rep. – Fran

3. The full squad comes together for 11-on-11 work, and rookie Avonte Maddox gets his second straight day as the starting nickel corner. The fourth-round pick saw all of the starting reps there on Sunday and split reps with De'Vante Bausby there on Saturday. Sidney Jones practiced inside with the second team. Maddox had a strong outing on Sunday, and he built on that today with another impressive performance. – Fran

4. After a completion to Jay Ajayi on the first play, Nick Foles drops back and hits Richard Rodgers in the right flat on the second throw from scrimmage. The Eagles were in their base defense with three linebackers on the field. Nathan Gerry was the third linebacker alongside Jordan Hicks and Nigel Bradham. Gerry, who has held the starting spot in team drills for most of the summer, was back with the first-team after relenting that spot to Kamu Grugier-Hill for most of Sunday's practice. – Fran

5. Jalen Mills makes a great pass breakup along the near sideline on a comeback route. The veteran corner broke on the throw perfectly, jumped up and swatted the ball away from Kamar Aiken. A few plays later, with the backups on the field, Rasul Douglas made a very similar play against Shelton Gibson. I thought Douglas was one of the two or three players who stood out to me most in Monday's practice. – Fran

6. Competitive 1-on-1 sessions broke out across the length of the field, as both lines worked out in the end zone, running backs and tight ends matched up with linebackers in the middle of the field, and skill players worked out in the near end zone. I stayed with the third group to watch the quarterbacks and receivers match up with the secondary as they worked on three-receiver sets in one half of the field. There were a handful of plays that stood out to me:

  • Carson Wentz dropped back and tried to hit Gibson on a crossing route, but the ball hit Gibson's back shoulder, bounced in the air, and was picked off by Maddox. Wentz didn't like something about the way the route was run, so he sprinted over to Gibson after and the two talked through some things after the rep.
  • Foles hit Kamar Aiken on a back shoulder fade on the left side of the field for a touchdown. It was a great throw against Jones, who was pretty tight in coverage.
  • Nate Sudfeld hit Gibson on a comeback route where the second-year receiver pretended like he was running a deep route down the left sideline then pumped the brakes and broke back to the quarterback, stopping on a dime and creating separation from the defender. Three throws later, Wentz hit Gibson for a touchdown on a similar-looking route in front of safety Tre Sullivan. Gibson, who only ran a couple of different routes in college and struggled to expand on that route tree this time last year, has started to improve in that area.
  • Maddox made a great play in coverage against receiver Tim Wilson, leaping up into the air to swat the ball away on the pass from Foles. Two plays later, the offense tried a bubble screen to the right side, and Maddox was extremely physical at the point of attack against receiver Greg Ward. Malcolm Jenkins was happy with the rookie after the rep, and expressed his emotions by running over and giving him a helmet slap on the way back to the huddle.
  • Wentz made arguably the best throw of the day to end the drill on a wheel route to Rashard Davis. Lined up as the No. 3 receiver inside, Davis ran to the far right pylon, and Wentz dropped the ball in a bucket over the receiver's shoulder. It was a perfect throw.

Overall, the players that stood out most to me from the drill were Maddox and Gibson, two young players fighting for significant roles on this team. – Fran

7. While Fran watched that drill, I was studying the running backs and tight ends facing off against linebackers in pass protection drills. Rodgers performed well throughout the session, but there were two plays that really stood out to me. First, Josh Adams delivered a strong block on Nigel Bradham that got coach Duce Staley excited enough to almost run into the drill mid-rep. Shortly afterward, Darren Sproles stepped up to block Jordan Hicks, slipped on contact and struggled to recover. Hicks shoved him down and won the rep, and Sproles was not happy with himself. These are the kinds of things that the great ones possess. It's late in Training Camp for a running back in the final year of his career. It's miserable outside. It's a rep that most fans and reporters would think is meaningless, but this guy is so mad at himself for slipping and is still hot off to the side as the next rep begins. Sproles is always trying to be great. Those are the kinds of things you hope rub off on younger players. – Ben Fennell

8. Full-team 11-on-11 action began, and Foles dropped in a beautiful pass over the shoulder to Zach Ertz down the seam. The star tight end was matched up in coverage against Bradham. Ertz had a great practice on Monday and caught everything thrown his way. – Fran

9. Foles took the snap a few plays later and handed the ball off to Ajayi, but if this were a game, it would have been completely blown up in the backfield. Cox exploded through the line of scrimmage and almost took the ball out of Foles' hands on the exchange. A few plays later, with the second-team defense on the field, Grugier-Hill flew downhill to get a tackle for loss. – Ben

10. We've seen numerous pass breakups already in practice, and Ronald Darby gets in on the party in this period, flying high to defend a throw intended for Aiken along the left sideline. A few plays later, Douglas jumped an out route for a diving pass breakup that causes the defensive sideline to erupt. It was a great break on the ball from the second-year corner. – Fran

11. A red zone period begins, and the offense comes out in 13 personnel, meaning one running back and three tight ends. The defense responded with a four-linebacker set, including Hicks, Bradham, Gerry, and Joe Walker. The offense wins the rep with a wheel route from Sproles that Foles dropped in for a touchdown. Sproles would score again later on a zone read close to the goal line. – Fran

12. The defense was so active all morning and has already had several splash plays in coverage. One of the most impressive plays came from safety Corey Graham, who ran Rodgers to the flat after a play-action boot fake. Graham got his eyes back to the quarterback and attacked the passing lane with a great angle. – Ben

13. Sullivan comes flying downhill and smacks Adams on an inside run. Sullivan played with a chip on his shoulder today. Not only was he ultracompetitive in coverage but he had a couple of impressive "thumps" downhill in the flat. – Fran

14. Adams was banged up on a play late in the period. As he tried to release to the flat, he got tangled up with defensive end Joe Ostman getting upfield in his pass rush. Adams got up off the ground, caught the pass, and finished the rep, but looked to be slightly shaken up after the play. – Ben

15. The defense absolutely dominated the 7-on-7 drill:

  • Foles came on and completed just 1-of-5 throws (a hitch route to Ertz that required a tough catch on the tight end's part). Maddox was tight in coverage on two of those throws, and Rodney McLeod made an athletic pass breakup in the post.
  • Wentz came on and threw 10 straight passes and completed just five of them. On one play, Joshua Perkins reeled in the pass and was smacked immediately by Sullivan, who forced the fumble. Mills picked off Wentz on a throw to the corner intended for Mike Wallace. Grugier-Hill made a great pass breakup in the middle of the field. On Wentz's final play, Darby physically jammed Wallace at the line of scrimmage, but Wallace shook free and was open for a throw. Wentz hit him on the money, but Darby physically separated Wallace from the ball at the catch point, causing the entire defense to explode in celebration.
  • The third-team units came onto the field. Bausby knocked a Joe Callahan pass up in the air, causing it to be picked off by Sullivan in the back of the end zone. – Fran

16. On the final play of 7-on-7, receiver DeAndre Carter impressed me with a touchdown in the back of the end zone against Jones. Carter has consistently been one of the best receivers on the practice field. Carter can run sharp change of direction routes over the middle of the field but also has some explosiveness to run vertically. Carter takes his blocking assignments seriously in the run game and on perimeter runs. Carter is in his fourth NFL Training Camp for his fifth NFL team. The experience is evident from the 5-9, 190-pound receiver each day. – Ben

17. One final team session breaks out, with the first-, second-, and third-stream units all seeing extensive reps in 11-on-11 action. Foles hits Ertz in the flat before an Ajayi run inside. Foles then dropped back and hit Aiken over the middle, and he's met immediately by Graham, who delivered a nice pop on contact. The defense is fired up again. – Fran

18. The offense responded with two big plays from the running backs. First, Sproles takes a toss play to the right that's extremely well-blocked for a big gain. They follow that up with a sneaky screen pass to Ajayi that goes for long yardage on the opposite side. – Fran

19. The second-team units come out, and after the defense shuts down a Matt Jones run inside, Jones gets that side of the ball excited. Sudfeld tries to hit Carter on a quick hitch route, but Jones jumps the throw and takes it back for a touchdown as his teammates celebrate with him in the end zone. – Fran

20. A few plays later, Matt Jones busts out a huge run inside that must have been blocked up well, because the offensive starters, lined up behind them in the end zone, are excited when the veteran back breaks free. The offense was in heavier personnel, and the defense didn't lay a finger on Jones until far downfield. – Fran

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