Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Mike Wallace Is Hitting His Stride

Sunday kicks off the final week of the Training Camp schedule. The Eagles will begin implementing their regular in-season routine following Thursday's preseason game against the New England Patriots. On the day following the public practice at Lincoln Financial Field, the crowd wasn't as big as the 35,000 who cheered on the Eagles, but the action on the field was just as spirited. The Eagles practiced for two hours under the best conditions arguably all of Training Camp - cool temperatures especially early in practice with the cloud cover.

From a depth chart standpoint, rookie Avonte Maddox got first-team reps with the defense as the nickel cornerback. Sidney Jones was a full participant after being limited Saturday with an ankle injury incurred in Thursday's preseason game, but he worked with the second-team defense inside. At weakside linebacker, Kamu Grugier-Hill got the work with the first team over Nathan Gerry.

Tight end Dallas Goedert watched the start of practice from the field. He did not practice on Sunday after leaving early on Saturday with an elbow injury. He told reporters that he expects to be back in a day or so. Wide receiver Nelson Agholor, running back Corey Clement, wide receiver Mack Hollins, running back Donnel Pumphrey were among the players who remain sidelined. Fran Duffy and Chris McPherson recap what happened on the field Sunday at the NovaCare Complex.

1. Before the team drills kick off, I noticed something a little different as the defensive backs were doing individual position drills. Each player would line up for the snap then a JUGS machine fired a ball deep that had to be tracked down to work on ball skills.

"There's a lot of drills we do, just techniques of when to look and how to play. Some guys are better at it than others," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. "You guys love my other-sport analogies, but Charles Barkley was the best rebounder in the league at, what, 6-foot-4? Something like that. It wasn't because he was 6-11 and he was just taller. He just had great anticipation and great timing, great awareness to go for it. So, I think there's some of that, but there's other things as far as drill work and when to look and different defenses that you put them in that are more visual than others where their backs are turned. It's layered so many different ways it's hard to put it in one category." – Chris McPherson

2. Maddox got some reps with the first-team defense in the nickel package on Saturday, splitting time with De'Vante Bausby, but as C-Mac mentioned, Sunday was his day in the spotlight. He lined up with the starters on the first play of the opening team period, but the ball went to the opposite side of the field. Nick Foles dropped back and hoped to hit Mike Wallace on a corner route, which was brilliantly defended by Jalen Mills with a diving pass breakup. Foles went back in Wallace's direction on the following play on a slant route. – Fran Duffy

3. Maddox jumps onto the scene early on. On the third play from scrimmage, he lines up against Greg Ward in the slot, and the second-year receiver runs a corner route to the right. Maddox mirrors Ward at the top of the route, attacks the throw at the highest point and punches it out of bounds for the incompletion. Mills is fired up for the rookie after the play. – Fran

4. Maddox follows that up with a blitz from the slot corner spot. Foles' hot read was wide receiver Rashard Davis, who didn't turn around in time and the ball fell incomplete. – C-Mac

5. The backups take the field on the sixth play, and Sidney Jones is in the slot. Bausby lines up at left corner, with Rasul Douglas at right corner. Nate Sudfeld drops back and hopes to hit Shelton Gibson on a go route down the right sideline. Gibson flies by Bausby, but the ball falls incomplete. – Fran

6. On the next play, Sudfeld throws a quick slant to Bryce Treggs, and Douglas comes down and pops him on contact, putting Treggs to the ground. – Fran

7. It's time for 1-on-1 drills, with receivers and defensive backs going to one field and running backs and tight ends matching up with safeties and linebackers on the middle field to work on pass protection and rush drills. One player stood out above the rest, as Wendell Smallwood made multiple blocks in the drill that got Duce Staley fired up. After losing on his first rep to Malcolm Jenkins (who always does well in these drills), Smallwood came back and beat Kyle Wilson HANDILY, stonewalling him on contact and running him out of the pocket. He ended the sequence with a nice pop on linebacker Nigel Bradham. It should be noted that running back Jay Ajayi stood out as well in this drill. – Fran

8. I watched the 1-on-1 wide receivers vs. defensive backs. The ball was placed at the defense's 10-yard line so the receivers had to show that they can accelerate off the line quickly and win early in the down. This was our first chance to see Carson Wentz and he opened with a beautiful throw that was brought down by Wallace to set the tone for the offense. Ronald Darby exacted revenge for the defense later as he got the pass breakup on a fade pass from Sudfeld. Kamar Aiken had two standout reps. First, he put D.J. Killings on skates on an out route then beat Mills on a fade route. I thought Maddox continued his strong practice in this drill. Gibson pulled in a ball thrown over Rasul Douglas and did a great job of getting two feet in.

Local rookie Tim Wilson consistently shows good quickness in and out of his breaks. The final play of the drill was a ridiculous catch by Treggs over Mills in the back right corner of the end zone. The referee signaled that Treggs was out of bounds, but head coach Doug Pederson sided with his offensive player and raised his arms for a touchdown. The chunks of grass that flew might indicate the coach was right. – C-Mac

9. The team reconvenes for some 11-on-11 work, and the Eagles offense comes out in 13 personnel with one running back (Jay Ajayi) and three tight ends. Jason Peters is in at left tackle. The defense comes out in a four-linebacker set with Jordan Hicks, Bradham, Nathan Gerry, and Joe Walker. Zach Ertz is flexed out wide and Jenkins runs with him. Foles drops back off play-action and hits Ertz on a beautifully run slant route toward the middle of the field. Ertz has really become one of the best route-running tight ends in the entire NFL. – Fran

10. On the next play, the nickel package comes out with Maddox on the inside. The ball is handed off to Ajayi, who is hugged up at the line of scrimmage by Rodney McLeod. After the play, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin works with Maddox on the side, giving the rookie some pointers on his technique. The base defense comes out onto the field for the following play, seeing Kamu Grugier-Hill come on as the weakside linebacker next to Hicks and Bradham. – Fran

11. Darren Sproles takes a toss to the right for a huge gain. The play was blocked up extremely well offensively with Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, and Kamar Aiken all out in front of the veteran running back in space. – Fran

12. A new team period begins, and after a quick completion to Ertz, Foles drops back and unleashes a throw over the middle to Wallace, who climbs the ladder and makes an outstanding grab between the hashes, drawing "oohs" and "aahs," not just from the fans in attendance, but from teammates as well. Wallace ran the slant against Mills, who was right on the receiver's back to try and make a clean play on the ball, but Wallace outmuscled him for the completion. It's the second big catch in two days for Wallace, who got Lincoln Financial Field rocking on Saturday morning with a diving catch on a deep ball to start that day's practice. – Fran

13. The defense responds on the following two plays. First, Jenkins picks off Foles in the deep part of the field on a ball intended for Greg Ward. The veteran safety made a great adjustment on the ball mid-flight and reeled it in over his shoulder. However, the pick was wiped out by an offsides penalty. On the next play, Maddox got the defense fired up with a pass breakup in the middle of the field against Bryce Treggs. The snap was bobbled by Foles, who picked it up quickly, slid to his left, and tried to stick the ball in a tight window to the young speedster, but Maddox made a great play and celebrated after the pass breakup. – Fran

14. Today's episode of If The Defense Could Hit The Ballcarrier once again features Smallwood. He didn't catch the ball cleanly from Sudfeld and I don't know he would have had the focus to secure it if the defender could level him. – C-Mac

15. The second- and third-team units go through their respective sequence of plays, and the starters come back onto the field. On the second play, Darby jumps in front of a throw intended for Kamar Aiken and knocks it up in the air. Bradham scoots under it and reels in the interception, running the other way to the end zone. If anyone on defense needed a boost of confidence at the catch point, it was Bradham, who will certainly take the big play going the other way. – Fran

16. The backups come onto the field a couple of minutes later, and defensive end Josh Sweat bull rushes veteran tight end Richard Rodgers right into the quarterback's lap. Sudfeld stumbles out of contact, rolls to his left, and has nowhere to go with the ball because of tight coverage downfield. Sudfeld bounces back two plays later with an impressive throw on a comeback route to Shelton Gibson. – Fran

17. After the defense dominated Saturday's 7-on-7 drill, the offense bounced back fairly well on Sunday. Foles gets things started with a completion to Rashard Davis on a pass tightly defended by Maddox. The lone win for the defense came on the next play, when Mills blanketed Wallace on a deep corner route, leaving Foles with nowhere to go with the ball. The Super Bowl MVP finished his five throws with three straight completions to Ertz, Davis, and Wallace. – Fran

18. Smallwood made a nice catch on Carson Wentz's third throw of the period, snatching the ball out of the air on the move on what appeared to be an option route in the middle of the field. – Fran

19. Treggs made a great adjustment on the ball down the field on a slightly underthrown deep ball from Foles. Treggs throttled down just short of the goal line and caught the ball on his back shoulder with Douglas in coverage. – Fran

20. The final team period begins, and Foles drops back off play-action only to turn his head back to the defense and see a screaming Mills flying off the corner on a blitz. The play would have almost certainly resulted in a sack, but Foles rolled to his left anyway and attempted a throw in the vicinity of Rodgers. – Fran

21. I loved the effort from Michael Bennett on consecutive plays. First, he shoved Halapoulivaati Vaitai to the ground to get in the backfield. On the next snap, he penetrated for a tackle for loss on the running back. – C-Mac

22. A few plays later and down in the red zone, Foles takes the snap and looks to his left, hitting a slanting Ertz at the goal line for a touchdown right in front of Darby. The two try and hook up again on the very next play, but Darby steps in front of this throw, making a fantastic, leaping interception. The veteran corner took some punishment upon hitting the ground though, and was slow to get up. – Fran