The pads were back on – for most of Monday's practice. Chris McPherson and Fran Duffy provide the highlights.
Malik Jackson an early Training Camp MVP candidate
A year ago, Malik Jackson was a wrecking ball that was difficult for the offensive line to contain. Fletcher Cox was sidelined after offseason surgery, so the new defensive tackle was able to show that he could still play at a high level.
Unfortunately, Jackson suited up for just one game. In the postgame locker room after the win over Washington, Jackson told reporters that he would be fine.
It took almost a year, but Jackson is more than that. He has been simply outstanding thus far in Training Camp and is looking to send a message that he's far from finished.
"Malik did a great job last year of staying active with our team. Even though he was injured, he did his rehab here. He was in our meetings. He still served a role on our team and I was really impressed by that," Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz said on Monday. "It's hard for a young player to do that but a veteran guy like Malik who has seen a lot of different things, he's still brought something to our team and I was really pleased, and it just shows you what kind of man he is, what kind of player he is that he was selfless enough to do that.
"He never felt sorry for himself. He went out and did his rehab and found a way to contribute and that's all we can ask for players. You can see his excitement. Maybe it would be a little bit different if he had played 17 games last year and went out but he's excited. He's got that sort of almost a rookie excitement about being out there every day because he realized how quickly it can be taken away from you."
With Javon Hargrave sidelined, Jackson has capitalized on the opportunity to play alongside Cox, which he didn't get to do in the build-up to the 2019 season. Vaughn Johnson wrote the other day about how Jackson is looking to put last year in the rear-view mirror. – McPherson
Schwartz: Avonte Maddox may be short, but he's not small
Schwartz had a great line on Monday when asked if there was any concern starting a 5-9, 184-pound corner on the outside in Avonte Maddox.
"The only time he looks short is when he's in the lunch line," Schwartz said. "When he gets on the field, he's never in my mind played small. He's a physical player. He has great timing and ability to jump. There's been a lot of guys that have that kind of skill set. He brings some things to the table that maybe some of the taller guys don't have. He's got great quickness and change-of-direction ability. He can get up to speed super quick, which allows him to play a little bit different technique on the outside.
"And the thing that he's probably most deceiving with is he's really strong. Let's not confuse small with little with him because – or short with small; I guess that's probably the best thing there, because he's a physical player. He's strong and he's matched up against big receivers his whole career. As far as settling him in, he has played a million different positions for us."
With the march toward the regular-season opener in Washington, Maddox has lined up as the first-team cornerback opposite Darius Slay in each practice. Schwartz added that Maddox – who has played outside, inside, and at safety in his first two seasons – will benefit from focusing on one position. – McPherson
Instead of a list, here's a position-by-position breakdown of the spots affected by injury:
RB: Miles Sanders (week to week, lower body)
WR: Robert Davis (week to week, lower body) and John Hightower (illness)
TE: Joshua Perkins (upper body, out indefinitely)
OL: Andre Dillard (upper body, day to day) and Lane Johnson (lower body, day to day)
DL: Derek Barnett (lower body, week to week), Javon Hargrave (upper body, week to week), Anthony Rush (illness)
DB: Sidney Jones (lower body, day to day), Marcus Epps (lower body, day to day)
Boston Scott returned to team drills and took the first-team reps along with Corey Clement. Jordan Mailata took Dillard's place at left tackle, while Matt Pryor lined up at right tackle. Josh Sweat and Vinny Curry lined up at right defensive end opposite Brandon Graham.
Quick hits from Monday's practice:
1. We had one-on-one drills right off the bat, and I focused hard on the offensive line and the defensive line once again. Here are my biggest takeaways:
• With no Lane Johnson at practice, Matt Pryor got the first rep against Brandon Graham and more than held his own. Graham tried to win with an outside move and Pryor was able to match him through the rep and didn't give up a pressure. On his second rep, Pryor matched up with Shareef Miller and really showed off his length, getting into Miller before he could really start his rush and throwing him off-balance.
• Fletcher Cox beat Nate Herbig, pressuring "quarterback" Connor Barwin and pushing him off his spot.
• Jason Kelce had a good rep against Malik Jackson inside. Kelce can be so tough to bull rush because of his unique flexibility and core strength. You're rarely going to win the leverage battle against him.
• With Dillard sidelined, Jordan Mailata got the first rep at left tackle, matched up against Josh Sweat, who tried to win outside. Mailata just rode him upfield and mirrored him through the rush. Good rep from Mailata. He had another one shortly afterward against Matt Leo, who he rode to the ground at the top of the arc.
• More good stuff from Jack Driscoll today after yesterday's impressive outing. He matched up with Genard Avery, who tried to beat him with speed, and completely locked him up. The two went at it again a few minutes later with the same result. Driscoll has had a good summer so far. He keeps getting better. – Duffy
2. With Fran watching the O-line vs. D-line one-on-ones, I checked out the wide receivers going up against the defensive backs:
• Rasul Douglas blanketed rookie Jalen Reagor, using his length to his advantage while staying in-phase with the receiver.
• Fellow rookie receiver Quez Watkins shook Nickell Robey-Coleman with a nice double move. Robey-Coleman has been arguably the toughest defender in these drills to date.
• Friendly quarterback competition here. Jalen Hurts aired a perfect fade pass deep down the right side for Travis Fulgham against Will Parks. Great job putting air under the ball and letting the receiver go get it.
• Not to be outdone, on the very next snap, Carson Wentz hit Reagor on a perfectly placed ball deep down the right side against Darius Slay. – McPherson
3. In the first team period, Fletcher Cox made his presence felt right away, getting a "sack" of Carson Wentz on the opening snap after being lined up against Jason Peters on the right side. – Duffy
• The only thing I'll add from this period is that J.J. Arcega-Whiteside made a nice contested catch along the right side continuing his strong camp. – McPherson
4. In the team "run" period, Shaun Bradley chased down a toss play along the near sideline for a tackle for loss. The defense was excited for the play and let the offense know about it while also congratulating the rookie linebacker, who finds ways to be around the ball every day in practice. – Duffy
• Duffy will tell you that there hasn't been much room to run for the backs in these drills, but Corey Clement was able to wiggle through a hole for a big gain. – McPherson
5. After the run period, the team got together for some situational football, as they appeared to be working on their two-minute and four-minute drills. Everyone knows the two-minute drill is what you do when you're in hurry-up mode, trying to score before the clock runs out at the end of a half. The four-minute drill is almost the opposite, where you have the ball with a lead, and are trying to bleed the clock as long as possible, typically by running the football. First, we saw the starters in a four-minute segment, then the backups with a two-minute drill (Jalen Hurts led the offense into field goal range), followed by another four-minute drill and then a two-minute drill with the starters, where Carson Wentz was able to hit Zach Ertz for a big gain to put the team in field goal range at the end of the period. – Duffy
• Watching Head Coach Doug Pederson during practice, I can't help but notice Assistant Linebackers Coach/Game Management Ryan Paganetti near Pederson on several occasions. Paganetti is in the coaches' booth on gameday relaying the success rate for potential scenarios researched by the analytics team led by Vice President of Football Operations and Strategy Alec Halaby. This collaboration is why the Eagles have been one of the most aggressive teams in the NFL, especially on fourth-down situations, in the Pederson era. – McPherson
• Cameron Johnston got some punts in and the ball just booms off his foot. No surprise seeing what he's done to the team's record books in his first two years in the position. More importantly, Reagor was able to secure the fair catches as the Eagles look to incorporate the explosive returner immediately. – McPherson
6. Another team period and more game-wrecking play from defensive tackle Malik Jackson. He got a pressure on Wentz to force an incompletion early and then closed it out with another "sack" later on a play-action pass. Jackson looks healthy and has been disruptive every day that the pads have been on. – Duffy
• One of the best parts of Eagles Training Camp practices over recent years has been the jawing back and forth from Assistant Head Coach Duce Staley (representing the offense) to the entire defensive sideline. Well, Fletcher Cox wanted to know on Monday if Duce had something stuck in his throat that was keeping him quiet. "You're quiet. You're quiet. I get it. I get it," the All-Pro defensive tackle said. – McPherson
• Slay's ability to shadow top receivers is great as he can play on either side, but that puts an onus on Maddox – and all of the corners – to be able to follow suit. – McPherson
• I couldn't help but notice Wentz and Reagor working numerous times on timing and positioning of the back-corner fade in the red zone. Without the OTAs or the preseason, this is the "game-like" opportunities for Wentz to help the rookie get up to speed. Wentz has lofty expectations for Reagor. – McPherson
7. Special teams was spirited with the defensive sideline cheering players on. Without fans at the NovaCare Complex, the juice has to come from within this year. Duke Riley, a special teams captain for the 2019 playoffs, helped teach the rookies in between snaps. – McPherson
8. The pads came off, and 7-on-7 drills began. Jalen Mills made maybe the most impressive individual defensive play in camp so far with a one-handed interception on the back shoulder against Dallas Goedert in the back of the end zone. Mills took it back the other way and did a little somersault on the opposite side of the field for good measure. Mills continues to make plays every day at his new safety spot. Wentz went back in Goedert's direction on the very next play and hooked up for a touchdown on a slant route. – Duffy
• In all of my years of covering Eagles Camp practices, I can't recall the pads coming off in the middle of practice and practice continuing. – McPherson
9. In that 7-on-7 period, linebacker T.J. Edwards made two athletic plays in coverage. The second-year player got a diving pass breakup between the hashes, but then he followed that up with a leaping interception of Nate Sudfeld in the back of the end zone. Edwards wasn't known for his athleticism coming out of Wisconsin, but was still very productive on the ball anyway with a bunch of interceptions and pass breakups in college. He showed how much his instincts and ball skills help him in coverage. In the ensuing 11-on-11 period, Edwards was around the ball on multiple run plays as well. I continue to be a big fan of Edwards and his NFL future. – Duffy
10. Not to be out-done, Edwards' positionmate Duke Riley made a leaping interception of his own in the next team period, picking off Sudfeld in the middle of the field. The defense was EXCITED for Riley, with several players running off the sideline to celebrate with him on the opposite side of the field. This defense is a very tight-knit group. – Duffy