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Practice Notes: Michael Bennett Adds Style, Substance To Defensive Line

  • After a day of live tackling to the ground on Thursday, head coach Doug Pederson worked in a lighter 10-10-10 practice on Friday. The players were in shells (shoulder pads, helmets, and shorts), and contact was minimal in the shortened session. Quarterback Carson Wentz only did individual drills. Tight end Zach Ertz was given a rest day. Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell have more.

1. The offense started things off with the completion from Nick Foles to Nelson Agholor on a corner route in what appeared to be some kind of three-level stretch concept. Agholor slid to the ground to complete the tough catch. Foles followed that up with a well-placed throw to Mike Wallace on the run on a crossing route underneath. – Fran Duffy

2. When players aren't practicing it creates an opportunity for others. Second-year receiver Mack Hollins has made the most of Alshon Jeffery's absence due to shoulder surgery, taking most of the reps at the X-receiver spot with the first-team offense. Hollins had a highlight-reel grab towards the end of the first period of practice, going up for a ball in the front left corner of the end zone between two defenders (Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox). – Ben Fennell

3. The second-team units came out on the field, and Nate Sudfeld gets things going quickly with two really strong throws. First, he throws a perfect bubble pass to Donnel Pumphrey. Those throws don't travel far in terms of distance but they're not easy to make when you have traffic underneath. Sudfeld put this throw out ahead of Pumphrey, allowing him to hit the catch with a head of steam and create some yardage afterward. On the next play, Sudfeld threaded the needle between two defenders on a completion to Kamar Aiken along the right hashmarks. – Fran

4. The offense was definitely putting an emphasis on pre-snap motions in this session. These types of plays put a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense to properly communicate and solidify the rotation rules at the snap. Think back to Ertz's game-winning touchdown in the Super Bowl, where the Patriots removed an extra defender from the tight end's side to deal with Corey Clement, who was put in motion just before the snap. The Eagles are one of the best in the league when it comes to this facet of the game. – Ben

5. The defensive starters come out for their first session, and in the first three plays we get an idea of how the defensive personnel groupings are starting to take shape as the team prepares for the first preseason game. Second-year linebacker Nathan Gerry has been getting a majority of the first-team reps at weakside linebacker in the base defense. That continued on Friday. The nickel personnel (featuring three cornerbacks) sees Sidney Jones slide into the slot for the fourth time in eight practices (Jalen Mills held that spot Thursday. Mills slid back outside for today's session). The big nickel package (featuring three safeties) features Tre Sullivan coming onto the field to allow Malcolm Jenkins to play in the slot. We also saw a handful of snaps with the dime package on Friday, with both Sullivan and Jones on the field. – Ben

6. The backups on offense attempt some type of Jet Sweep, but defensive end Derek Barnett is having none of it. He sniffs the play out quickly and is all over the ballcarrier in the backfield. – Fran

7. Michael Bennett ruined a play-action bootleg pass Thursday by getting up the field on the back side of a run fake, and he continued more of the same in Friday's practice. Bennett flew upfield on several snaps this morning, blowing up backfield action and causing chaos. You expect play fakes to hold the defensive end on the backside, but Bennett and his teammates up front are taught to get upfield and penetrate. That served them well in Friday's session. – Ben

8. "Hot In Herre" begins to blare over the speakers on the practice fields, and Bennett flows to the sultry sound of Nelly before the snap. The veteran defensive end fires upfield for a sack, then finishes dancing as the offense goes back to the huddle. – Fran

Check out all the photos of the Philadelphia Eagles Tight Ends at 2018 Training Camp.

9. Special teams drills begin with a pair of field goal attempts, and Jake Elliott nails both tries. This is my eighth Training Camp, and I can honestly say that no kicker has never looked more confident and steady in a camp than Elliott has through eight practices. Maybe I'm crazy, but he's been money so far. He also converted an onside kick. As practice ended, Pederson lined up his field goal unit and had Elliott try to kick a 45-yarder with some stakes on the line. If the second-year kicker made it, the entire team would get the night off with no meetings. Elliott drilled the kick, and the team celebrated. – Fran

10. In the ensuing period, the offense worked on their two-minute offense, which allowed us to see both Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld run the hurry-up. Both quarterbacks managed and orchestrated the offense smoothly, especially with newcomers like Dallas Goedert and Mike Wallace on the field. Assignments and alignments get put into a hyperloop in these situations, and it was great seeing the offense execute without any hiccups. – Ben

11. Foles and Sudfeld were both perfect in the session until the very last play when Sudfeld was intercepted in the end zone. We saw a number of screen passes to both Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey that picked up big chunks of yardage. – Fran

12. The defensive starters return to the field and they work on their third-and-long situations. For that reason, we saw a lot of different subpackage looks both in the secondary and up front. On one play, Michael Bennett lined up inside at defensive tackle and the front four got home for a "sack." I can't wait to see this group once Brandon Graham returns to the lineup. – Fran

13. Tre Sullivan is making the most of his opportunity this summer with veteran safety and special teams captain Chris Maragos still sidelined due to injury. Sullivan is the personal protector on the punt coverage unit, a position typically occupied by Maragos. We also see the second-year player on the field with the defensive starters in the big nickel package as the third safety, a role filled by veteran Corey Graham in 2017. Sullivan has embraced the on-field time, whether he's on defense or special teams. – Ben

14. The offensive starters returned for red zone work, and my favorite play of the day occurs on the very first snap. Nelson Agholor was the lone receiver on the field in a three-tight end set. Agholor was lined up as the third receiver in a trips set and ran a great route over the middle field, high-pointing the football in the back of the end zone for a touchdown from Foles. – Ben

15. With Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers out of practice, Dallas Goedert had a busy day filling in the missing snaps. Goedert only missed one snap in this entire red zone session and was the only player playing on both the first- and second-team kickoff return units in the previous period. I didn't feel like this was Goedert's best practice, as he struggled to get the timing down with his routes in the red zone. – Ben

16. Ben's favorite play happened on the first play of the final offensive period, but mine took place on the first play of the last defensive session. Nate Sudfeld was in at quarterback down in the red zone and he threw a picture perfect fade pass in the left corner to the diminutive DeAndre Carter for a touchdown. The throw was well-defended by Ronald Darby outside, but the ball placement was perfect on the play. – Fran

17. Cornerback Jalen Mills has emerged as an active and vocal leader of this team. Mills practices every day with a high energy level and can be seen encouraging players on the second- and third-team defenses in each and every session as they run off the field. – Ben

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