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Practice Notes: Eagles fans show once again why they're the best

The Eagles hosted their Training Camp practice at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday to a crowd of more than 40,000 fans. As part of Military Appreciation Night presented by Dietz & Watson, the evening focused on celebrating our country's armed forces, which included an honorary post-practice jersey exchange between Eagles players and military personnel on the field.

As the team's signature fundraising event, the Eagles Autism Challenge sets out to drive scientific breakthroughs and establish Philadelphia as a major center for autism research and care. The funds raised through the team's practice will provide critical resources to doctors and scientists at leading institutions so that those affected by autism will have an improved quality of life.

"On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles, we would like to thank everyone who came out to support our team tonight at Lincoln Financial Field," said Don Smolenski, Philadelphia Eagles President. "We have incredible fans and are excited to have their support as we honor the men and women in uniform while also raising more than $475,000 for cutting-edge autism research."

In total, more than 45,000 fans have attended Eagles Training Camp this season, which includes Sunday's practice and the seven practices held at the NovaCare Complex. Practices at NovaCare have averaged approximately 500 fans per day, which includes youth football participants, high schools, community groups, and families faced with various hardships.

1. Dave Spadaro did a phenomenal job, as always, as the emcee at Sunday night's practice at Lincoln Financial Field. As players took the field for warmups, the stadium cameras zoomed in on a player, and Dave would "introduce" him to the crowd of 40,000-plus on hand. Several people received thunderous applause, but the most notable ovations belonged to head coach Doug Pederson, running back Darren Sproles, quarterback Carson Wentz, tight end Zach Ertz, and, finally, wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who got the longest, loudest round of cheering. Fans are excited to see No. 10 back in Philly.

"It's been five years since I came out of that tunnel and the support hasn't changed one bit," Jackson said. "I'm happy. I'm excited for this year. ... It's Philadelphia, it doesn't get any better than this." – Fran Duffy

2. Kamu Grugier-Hill was "relieved" to find out the lower-body injury that he incurred on Saturday was not season ending.

"It's unfortunate, I thought I was trending in the right direction," said Grugier-Hill, who watched practice from the sideline on crutches Sunday. "But stuff happens. It's the game of football.

"It's probably the worst injury I've had but thank God for that too because I've seen much worse. ... I was a little frustrated yesterday, but I'm positive now an I know myself to be a quick healer, so I'm excited for the season."

Before practice, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz discussed the impact that Grugier-Hill's injury will have on the defense as he heals. Grugier-Hill offered no timetable for a return. – Chris McPherson

3. When the first-team defense was on the field to open team period on Sunday, Nathan Gerry was paired with Zach Brown in the nickel subpackage. While Grugier-Hill is sidelined, Gerry wants to ensure that the defense won't miss a beat.

"I think that's what preseason is all about, be able to show the coaches that they can trust you," Gerry said. "They can plug you in different spots. Since I've been here, we've had a linebacker get hurt every year."

Last season, Gerry saw the most extensive playing time on defense in the stretch where the Eagles won three out of four games to climb back into the playoff race. In 13 games (two starts) in 2018, Gerry had 18 tackles and his first career interception.

"I think a lot of my confidence came from my teammates, just being able to look at them and some of the other guys, give them calls and then them being able to trust me," Gerry said. "That kind of took me to the next level of my game." – C-Mac

4. After stretching, the group got into special teams drills. Jobs are won and lost on special teams, whether it's with players fighting for a roster spot or players fighting to make the active roster on gamedays.

Watching the receivers work as gunners on the punt team, I couldn't help but think of both scenarios as veteran Charles Johnson and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside took their teams trying to beat two jammers down the field. Johnson has worked with the first- and second-team offensive units this summer but will need to prove himself on special teams to make this team. Arcega-Whiteside, a second-round pick this spring, is pretty much guaranteed a roster spot, but if he wants to be active on gameday he, too, will have to show out in the third phase of the game in the preseason. – Fran

5. The first team session begins with a "Run" period, as both the offense and the defense focus on the ground game. C-Mac mentioned Gerry working with the first-team defense. On the first play from scrimmage, Miles Sanders took a handoff from Wentz and was met in the hole by the linebacker. Defensive end Brandon Graham ended things on a high note for the defensive starters with two "tackles" (no live tackling Sunday) at the end of their first sequence. – Fran

6. The second unit jumps onto the field, and Wendell Smallwood busts a long carry, cutting back to the left side after starting right and bursting through a huge hole. It was tough to tell exactly how that hole formed, but all I know is that second-guard offensive lineman Matt Pryor had two Eagles defenders on the ground on the back side. Smallwood took advantage. – Fran

7. Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Treyvon Hester went back and forth in this drill, as both players took turns getting into the backfield or meeting runners at the line of scrimmage. I would venture to guess that no team has the talent from top to bottom on their interior of the defensive line that the Eagles do. – Fran

8. Next, the team split up into two groups, with skill players taking part in 7-on-7 while the linemen went to the far end zone for some one-on-ones. I kept my eyes on the 7-on-7 session in front of me, and the first big play came courtesy of cornerback Avonte Maddox, who made an athletic pass breakup against DeSean Jackson on a corner route from the slot. The young corners on this roster, with Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby still sidelined, have continued to make plays in practice. – Fran

9. The offense worked on a lot of pre-snap motions in this period, and they ran a beautiful route concept to work Darren Sproles open underneath for a touchdown pass from Carson Wentz. I had the pleasure of sitting with Mike Quick for this session of practice, and he and I both exchanged looks after the play. This Eagles offense is going to be fun to watch. – Fran

10. In what was arguably the highlight grab of the night, Josh Perkins made a spinning, one-handed grab in the end zone on a corner route from Nate Sudfeld. The athletic tight end drew thousands of "oohs" from those in the stands, especially after the replay on the videoboards rolled out. It was a really impressive grab for the third-year tight end. Perkins replicated that effort in the one-on-one period on a vertical route, pirouetting along the sideline on a deep ball for a diving catch to the ground. – Fran

11. On the very next play, after the Perkins touchdown, newly signed safety Johnathan Cyprien made his presence felt, forcing a fumble against Josh Adams in the flat (a Cyp strip), picking it up and running the other way with it. Cyprien, a former second-round pick, is hoping to make the team and provide veteran safety depth for the defense. – Fran

12. Cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon flashed again today, particularly in this drill. McKinnon broke up a pass in this session against J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on a fade route, which is no easy task, and then stopped Donnel Pumphrey with a nice little stick at the goal line on the final play. In one-on-ones later, he broke up a deep post route against Shelton Gibson. – Fran

13. Defensive end Joe Ostman sustained an injury during a special teams period. Ostman had to be carted off the field. Teammates were coming up to Ostman, a first-year player out of Central Michigan who spent last season on the practice squad, to show their support. The Eagles have not provided any information regarding the injury.

"I think he is probably the hardest-working guy we have here," said tackle Lane Johnson, who has had many battles in practice with Ostman. "It sucks, man. He's just a guy who was really competing well and doing really good things this camp. It sucks. It's part of the game, but it really sucks." – C-Mac

Check out the best photos from Military Appreciation Night presented by Dietz and Watson at Lincoln Financial Field during Eagles Camp presented by Independence Blue Cross.

14. Now it's time for one-on-ones in the passing game, and this is going FAST and on both sides of the field. I tried to keep up, but admittedly, this was tough to do. Some highlights:

  • Jackson was lethal in this drill. First, the veteran beat Sidney Jones on a slick comeback route where he attacked outside and flashed his eyes over his inside shoulder, as if he was looking for the deep ball. That got Jones to look for the ball. Then, Jackson slammed on the brakes, shifting gears back outside on a comeback with yards of separation on the young corner. I've written before about how Jackson's route running has really improved over the last handful of years, and that was a great example of it. Jackson ended the drill with a quick stutter off the line of scrimmage, blowing by Rasul Douglas for what would have been a looooong touchdown.
  • Sproles beat Gerry on a Texas route on the opposite side of the field. Sproles still has that quickness in and out of breaks to separate on those kinds of routes.
  • Josh Hawkins jumped an out route from J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and took it back the other way for a big play.
  • Cyprien got the ball on the ground against a tight end, showing off some coverage chops.
  • Carlton Agudosi continues to flash – catching a fade route down the right sideline over the shoulder with both feet in-bounds as fans ring down applause. – Fran

15. Something to add from the one-on-ones, Spadaro had Brandon Brooks spotlighted on the videoboards and the crowd gave a raucous ovation for the way he's fought back so quickly from his Achilles injury. The other linemen made sure to embarrass Brooks while he was getting his well-deserved moment in the limelight. – C-Mac

16. Another team session, and the defense forces a punt after some quick Wentz passes and then a run stop right at the line of scrimmage by defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who wrangled up Miles Sanders. The second-team units step onto the field next, and Nate Sudfeld makes one of his best throws of the night, making a tight-window completion to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside between defenders as he dove to the ground on the in-breaking route. – Fran

17. Up in the press box, it was hard at times to distinguish the camo jersey numbers, but on the first rep of this team period, I thought I saw Rodney McLeod come on a blitz off Wentz's blind side and get right in the face of the quarterback for a potential sack. The defense could welcome a jolt of the playmaking ability McLeod possesses when he's at full health. Great to see. I also noted how defensive end Josh Sweat was able to stick step for step with running back Donnel Pumphrey in coverage, making it tough on one rep to provide a target for the quarterback. – C-Mac

18. After more special teams drills, 11-on-11 action commences with a run/pass period, and the offense seems very focused on working on their play-action pass game. First, Wentz hits Zach Ertz on a diving catch over the middle before hitting Arcega-Whiteside on a quick slant route. Next, Wentz unloads a deep post route to DeSean Jackson, much to the delight of the fans in the house. Wentz ends the starting sequence with a completion to Ertz over the middle, but for some reason, my eyes caught Sanders' pass protection in the backfield, as he took on a blitzing linebacker and pushed him to the ground on the rep. This was great to see from the rookie. – Fran

19. In the same period, receiver DeAndre Thompkins shows off his ball skills with a diving catch on a corner route. The rookie can fly, that he's shown this camp, but this was probably his best catch of the summer. In a later period, Thompkins would catch a quick throw for a nice catch-and-run for another big pickup. – Fran

20. A red zone team period begins, and Wentz delivers a pass outside the numbers to Nelson Agholor in the end zone, who comes down with a beautiful catch for a would-be touchdown ... if both feet were in-bounds. The referee on the scene ruled it incomplete, but it was a great throw and catch, nonetheless. – Fran

21. Sanders busts off a nice run for a touchdown, throwing a quick juke as he approached the line of scrimmage, bursting to the right pylon for a score. It was a nice run by the rookie, though it should be noted that he fumbled on the previous snap, so there's still plenty to work on for the second-round pick! – Fran

22. Wentz caught a touchdown pass from himself on the next play, reeling in his own pass after it was tipped by Malik Jackson near the goal line before he ran it in for a score. – Fran

23. Later, Sproles took a toss play to the right and scampered in for a touchdown, following a lead block from Jason Kelce out in front. We've seen that before! In a series of "déjà vu" plays, Wentz hit Ertz for a touchdown right at the goal line before hitting Alshon Jeffery on a slant route for another score in the middle of the end zone. – Fran

24. Greg Ward made his token highlight play of the night, reeling in a contested catch on a corner route along the sideline for a touchdown. Sudfeld put the ball where only Ward could get it, but he still took a shot in coverage and came down with the reception for six. Ward has always flashed, but this is the best he's looked thus far in his short career, in my opinion. – Fran

25. The final team period of the night is underway, as an 11-on-11 "Team Pass" period starts. Sidney Jones gets things started for the defense, netting two pass breakups in the first four plays. First, Jones breaks up a curl route intended for Ertz. A couple of snaps later, he follows Dallas Goedert in coverage on a shallow crossing route and dives to break up a pass intended for the talented tight end. Jones continues to impress in camp. – Fran

26. The second-team units took the field, and the defense owned the session. Sudfeld was "sacked" multiple times, linebacker L.J. Fort exploded into the backfield for a "tackle for loss," and Daeshon Hall had a nice stick at the line of scrimmage on a run play. – Fran

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