Practice Notes: Defense Stifles The Offense, But Alshon Jeffery Provides Some Big Plays

There was no live hitting, but the defense brought the heat on the sun-soaked fields at the NovaCare Complex on Sunday morning. Here's a look at what happened.

Number Of The Day: 21

New Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby had 21 pass breakups as a rookie in 2015. It was the second-highest, single-season total for any player in Buffalo Bills history. - Chris McPherson

Practice Observations

1. Having been around the defensive backs for multiple days this summer during Training Camp, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of a different vibe watching the group today. With Darby practicing for the first time on Sunday, one could almost sense the energy level rise a bit within the group. As I watched a young group of corners that includes Darby, Jalen Mills, Rasul Douglas, and Sidney Jones (who obviously isn’t practicing, but is still intently taking in coaching off to the side), you get the sense that this will be a really fun group in a year or two. - Fran Duffy

2. Staying in the secondary, Patrick Robinson, who had been penciled in as one of the starters on the outside, got a bunch of reps in the slot on Sunday with the first-team nickel group (with Darby and Mills outside). It’s a smart move by the Eagles' coaching staff to see if Robinson can chip in there and offer some position versatility as he still competes to make the final 53. Aaron Grymes also got some reps with the first-team defense in nickel. - FD

3. In the group install, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin worked on assignments, communication, and technique when facing a trips alignment (three receivers bunched together on one side of the formation). Undlin spent a lot of time talking through plays with Darby, trying to get him up to speed. This paid off later in practice as safety Malcolm Jenkins passed off tight end Zach Ertz to Darby on one rep with no issue. - CM

4. I made it a point to watch Darby on the very first snap in the team’s first 11-on-11 session of the morning. He lined up in off coverage against Torrey Smith on the far side of the field. Smith ran a curl route, and you saw Darby’s explosive burst as he broke on the route and took it away in a flash, forcing Carson Wentz to dump the ball off and incomplete to the right. On Wentz’s next throw, Darby was in tight coverage on a dig route to Mack Hollins that fell incomplete. It was a good start for the new starting corner. - FD

5. With defensive tackle Fletcher Cox sidelined due to back spasms, Destiny Vaeao took his spot with the first-team defense. - CM

6. The results didn’t change much when the second-team units took the field as the defensive side largely came away victorious in this period. Defensive tackle Justin Hamilton flew into the backfield for a stop behind the line of scrimmage. Douglas broke on a throw early against Hollins on a pass that fell incomplete. Safety Corey Graham got a pass breakup on a crossing route. The lone offensive highlight came from second-year receiver David Watford, who ran past the corner on the right side and made a great catch over his shoulder after stacking the defender. - FD

7. After that period we got to see some more one-on-one action, this time with the running backs and tight ends facing off against linebackers and safeties. First, the groups ran routes in the passing game. Running back Darren Sproles drew cheers from the crowd after racing down the left sideline for a deep throw on a wheel route. Running back LeGarrette Blount made rookie linebacker Nathan Gerry look silly, swimming by the defender on his release and winning in the middle of the field for a catch. Defensively, linebacker Jordan Hicks had a nifty pass breakup where he undercut a running back out of the backfield, and safety Chris Maragos had tight coverage on a throw intended for tight end Adam Zaruba. - FD

8. On a rep during this one-on-one drill, I loved the way tight end Brent Celek used his leverage against linebacker Nigel Bradham. Celek pressed Bradham inside to the right, and popped back outside to the left to create separation and make the catch.* - CM*

9. After playing catch, the two groups got together for some blitz pickup drills. Rookie running back Corey Clement pulled some fire out of coach Duce Staley, blocking linebacker Joe Walker for what seemed like 30 seconds straight on one play. Staley jumped on the rookie to celebrate afterward. Ertz had a great rep against Kamu Grugier-Hill, a long, athletic linebacker off the edge. Defensively, Hicks swam past Sproles for a "sack," and linebacker Mychal Kendricks did the same to Blount a minute later. - FD

10. On the other field, the offense went against the defense in a 5-on-4 drill. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery lined up on one rep to the far right across from Mills. Jeffery exploded off the snap, stacked up Mills and forced the cornerback to lose his footing. Jeffery ran an out route to the sideline where he awaited the wide-open pass from Wentz. - CM

11. The team returned to 11-on-11 action and Blount got the offense off to a good start with a long run down the left sideline. Defensive end Brandon Graham showed off his motor in pursuit, racing to catch Blount from behind about 20 to 30 yards downfield. Defensive end Vinny Curry was the one who chased down Sproles near the line of scrimmage on the next play before Graham exploded into the backfield for what may have been a sack on the next play. Curry beat tackle Jason Peters at the point of attack on the next rep, a run stop against Blount. It was one of the best days that I can remember this summer for the veteran defensive end. A few plays later, rookie defensive end Derek Barnett got a "sack" against quarterback Mike McGloin. The defensive line, across the board, was very active on Sunday. - FD

12. In the next period, I got my first chance to watch Darby in action directly in front of me as the offense reversed field. He lined up against Hollins and took a deep in-breaking route away, forcing Wentz to check down to Smith on a shallow crossing route. Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan "sacked" Wentz on the next play. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor responded with two straight catches, one of which came against Darby downfield as he slid to the ground. The period ended a few minutes later with the backups in, as defensive end Steven Means won with a violent inside spin move and forced a whistled sack. - FD

13. After some special teams action, we got to see Jeffery step in for a 7-on-7 drill matched up on Ronald Darby. Jeffery ran a straight go route, and Darby was with him step for step. The two got tangled up, Darby stumbled, and Jeffery made the completion about 40 yards downfield to start the drill off. It was one of five straight completions for Wentz to start the drill. - FD

14. The team moved down into the red zone for more 7-on-7 work, and the quarterback didn’t see the same amount of success. Mills took away Jeffery, and the rest of the defense clamped down, forcing a checkdown to Sproles to the flat. Smith had Mills beat on a double move on the next play, and Wentz overthrew him by about two inches. After a completion to Hollins on the right side, Wentz was nearly picked off by Jenkins in the end zone, as he stepped in front of a pass intended for Ertz. Wentz finished with two touchdowns on his final three throws of the period, one to Celek and another to Smith.* - FD*

15. The first-team offense got moving again in the final period of practice. First, Sproles took a handoff down the left sideline for a big gain on a draw play. Two plays later, Wentz hit Hollins over the middle of the field before handing the ball off to Blount, who churned out a nice gain down the left side. Leading the way for the monstrous running back were linemen Peters and Jason Kelce, who formed a formidable wall out in front. In the red zone, Hollins almost pulled in a beautiful one-handed grab on a jump ball against Darby, but the pass fell incomplete. Wentz went back to Hollins two plays later on the other side of the field, and Robinson came away with the interception on a jump ball. Two plays to Sproles later and the session would end for the first-team with a pass breakup by safety Rodney McLeod in the end zone. - FD

16. One of the best plays on the day for me was a McGloin pass down the right seam for tight end Trey Burton. Kendricks leaped to tip the pass in the middle of the field, but it wasn't enough as Burton still made the catch for a big gain. - CM

17. It was a frustrating day for the offense. Tackle Jason Peters went in the huddle with the third-team unit to offer encouragement. - CM

Injury Update

Offensive lineman Josh Andrews remains out with a hand injury.

Guard Brandon Brooks was sidelined with an ankle injury.

Cornerback Ron Brooks suffered a hamstring injury in the preseason game on Thursday.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox experienced back spasms and did not practice.

Tight end Anthony Denham is still not back in action due to a calf injury.

Quarterback Nick Foles is still battling a sore elbow.

Running back Wendell Smallwood has a hamstring injury.

Wide receiver Bryce Treggs sat out practice with lower leg soreness.

Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai was sidelined with the knee injury he incurred against the Packers.

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