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Practice Notes: The Bulldozer feasts at the goal line

From a weather standpoint, the Eagles were spared on Saturday. Clouds provided some cover following a week of oppressive heat. But the intensity was high as the pads went on for two live-hitting periods during the morning session. Fran Duffy, Ben Fennell, and Chris McPherson recap the highlights below:

1. On Friday, a day off for the players, the Eagles signed safety Johnathan Cyprien as a free agent for veteran depth purposes. Cyprien is out on the field this morning and is still finding his way, having only been in town for hours instead of days. Camp comes at you fast though, as coaches yelled for Cyprien, wearing No. 41, to jump into a kickoff return period at the start of practice. – Ben Fennell

2. After some individual periods, the team split off for some one-on-one drills. As it has continued to work out for most of Training Camp, I was over with the running backs and tight ends taking on the linebackers and safeties. First, the group worked on blitzing and pass protection. Standout reps came from Dallas Goedert (who continues to shine as a blocker), Miles Sanders (who had a really competitive snap against linebacker Alex Singleton), Andrew Sendejo (who beat Josh Adams with a quick swim move), and Jordan Howard (who stoned Nathan Gerry on one rep halfway through the drill). Next, the group shifted to one-on-ones in space. Sanders continued to shine, running by Kamu Grugier-Hill on a route down the seam. Corey Clement stood out with a catch near the sideline, namely because he stuck his foot on the ground and cut upfield right after the catch, which was great to see coming off last year's knee injury. – Fran Duffy

3. During the podcast, I mentioned how linebacker Zach Brown looked like a defensive end using his long arm to rush during the TE/RB vs. LB drills. Fran and Ben started to laugh. Ben has previously said in talks with Fran that Brown almost looks like a defensive end. Brown forced head coach Doug Pederson to blow the play dead, getting a sack during the goal-line drill. He did a nice job in coverage during the 7-on-7 period limiting catches by Greg Ward and Boston Scott to short gains. And he posted a solid tackle in the final live team period of the day. – Chris McPherson

4. Red zone one-on-one drills are some of my favorites, and today's was not disappointing. Malcolm Jenkins got an interception in a physical rep against Nelson Agholor, who would later beat both Rodney McLeod and Blake Countess on fades from the same spot on the field. Rasul Douglas and Alshon Jeffery duke it out on the goal line before Jeffery dives to the pylon for a score. Douglas got revenge later with a breakup on a fade, continuing a fun battle to watch all summer. Avonte Maddox broke up a fade to DeSean Jackson in the back of the end zone. Sidney Jones also disrupted a pass to Jackson in the back of the end zone. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside drew applause with an over-the-shoulder catch with both feet in-bounds against Alex Brown. Arcega-Whiteside majored in these throws at Stanford. Jenkins and Dallas Goedert had a couple of spirited reps later in the drill as well, with each gaining the advantage over the other on alternating snaps. – Ben

5. The first team period of the day begins, and the offense works to get the run game going to start things off. The defensive line is not having it though. First, Vinny Curry slices down the line and taps up Jordan Howard right at the line of scrimmage. On the next play, Hassan Ridgeway (who was getting reps with the first team), knifed into the backfield and wrangled up Darren Sproles for a loss. On later reps, Josh Sweat showed up with an explosive tackle for loss, lassoing Josh Adams behind the line of scrimmage in a hurry after the snap. Defensive end Daeshon Hall, a former third-round pick in Carolina, showed up to the party late in the drill as well with a tackle for loss of his own against Boston Scott. – Fran

6. This was the practice where I thought rookie defensive end Shareef Miller flashed the most of Training Camp. During the first team session, before they tackled to the ground, Miller and fellow end Daeshon Hall met Scott in the backfield for the tackle. During the live goal-line period, Miller stuffed Scott to keep him out of the end zone. Late in the final team period to conclude practice, Miller had a sack and was active with his other reps. And, to top it all off, he and Casey Tucker mixed it up in the O-line vs. D-line one-on-ones. The two were matched up in consecutive reps and some bad blood from the first snap carried over. – C-Mac

7. DeSean Jackson's cleat game is second-to-none and warrants a much longer feature at some point. Nonetheless, it's easy to see when he's out on the field. His big play Saturday came in the first 11-on-11 period. Lined up on the right side across from cornerback Avonte Maddox, Jackson hauled in a beauty of a throw from quarterback Carson Wentz between Maddox and the safety 20 yards down the sideline. It wasn't a live-tackling period so the play was dead, otherwise No. 10 – and his colorful cleats – would have streaked toward the end zone for the score. – C-Mac

8. It's good to see Rodney McLeod out on the field for 11-on-11 action. The veteran safety is coming off a season-ending injury in 2018 and had only participated in 7-on-7 drills up to this point, so he took a step in the right direction in Saturday morning's session. – Fran

9. Live hitting gets going with the next session, with tackling to the ground. Vinny Curry gets a tackle in the run game on the first play against Jordan Howard. After a short completion to Zach Ertz, Carson Wentz drops back and hits J.J. Arcega-Whiteside for a big play on a deep dig route down the field. – Fran

10. The team worked in a couple of two-back sets in this period with Donnel Pumphrey, and the former fourth-round pick got the ball on a toss to the left. After making Kamu Grugier-Hill miss, Pumphrey got smacked by Rasul Douglas, and the corner let him know about it after the play. I've had a lot of fun watching Douglas compete in coverage so far in camp, and this was the first time we've got to see him come down and tackle someone. – Ben

11. The offense moved the ball to the goal line, and Howard comes in on the first rep and cuts downhill into the end zone for a touchdown, right off the back hip of Jason Peters. Something tells me we will see that once or twice this fall. Later, Wentz would hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown in the back of the end zone. That is something we have seen more than once or twice before. – Fran

12. That being said, this was about the defense on the goal line. The group did a good job of keeping the offense out of the end zone for the most part. A gang tackle kept the offense out of the end zone. Ridgeway was in on the action on one rep. Shareef Miller and Treyvon Hester on another. Trae Elston and Alex Singleton are at the bottom of a pile later on a Smallwood run that just barely comes across the goal line. – Fran

13. At the start of Saturday's Eagle Eye in the Sky podcast, Fran asked me for the big takeaway from practice. I instantly went with the running backs. With that tackling periods, we were able to witness what each rusher brings to the table and how diverse the ground game will be in 2019.

Jordan Howard was outstanding in the goal-line period of practice, getting into the end zone with no problems on the first snap. Nicknamed "The Bulldozer" in Chicago, the 6-0, 224-pound Howard converted 74 percent of his short-yardage (third- or fourth-and-2 or fewer) opportunities in 2018 (for comparison, Ezekiel Elliott was successful 76 percent of the time last year). He's scored 18 touchdowns on the ground in the past two seasons, tied for third most in the league.

Miles Sanders wasn't a full participant after suffering a foot injury on Thursday, but he showed glimpses of the explosiveness he can bring to the offense. In the RB/TE vs. LB drill, Sanders blew past Kamu Grugier-Hill on an out-and-up, hauling in the pass deep down the field. Sanders also fielded kickoffs during a special teams period, but was on the sideline for the team sessions.

"He's an exciting player," quarterback Carson Wentz said on Saturday after practice. "He's definitely going to help this offense."

Who was the Eagles' leading rusher in 2018? It was rookie Josh Adams and I thought this was Adams' best practice of Training Camp. He scored a touchdown during the goal-line period that got tackle Lane Johnson excited. On another run during the first live period, Adams eluded Nathan Gerry and Deiondre' Hall before breaking into the open field. He broke another tackle in the final team period. – C-Mac

14. The 7-on-7 period gets underway, and the pacing of the offense really caught me off guard. Personnel groups were shuffling in and out and the ball was being snapped extremely quickly. This put a ton of pressure on the defense to get lined up and communicate pre-snap. As Carson Wentz completed pass after pass, the defense had to adjust immediately to the next grouping as they sprinted up to the line of scrimmage. This is also the first time I've seen the defense in their dime package (with six defensive backs) all summer, which may or may not have to do with the return of McLeod to the team sessions. – Ben

15. While Ben watched the 7-on-7, I took in the big boys in the trenches over on the middle field with offensive and defensive linemen. Here were the highlights:

  • Lane Johnson took Vinny Curry's bull rush, absorbed it, anchored, and rode the veteran defensive end up the field in a really strong first snap.
  • Jason Kelce stonewalled rookie Kevin Wilkins, who gained almost no ground against the veteran center.
  • Isaac Seumalo showed off his quick feet against Bruce Hector in a strong rep for the left guard. Seumalo has quietly had a really strong summer so far. Not enough people are talking about him.
  • Brandon Graham bullrushed rookie left tackle Andre Dillard straight back into the pocket, and did the same in a later rep as well. This is not an unexpected result, as Graham is one of the better bullrushers in the league and Dillard is still working to get stronger with his anchor.
  • Jordan Mailata had one of his better practice periods of camp in this drill. He moved his feet extremely well, running the hoop with Hall. He would do the same thing later, and even had a strong rep at left tackle as well. I'm excited to see how the progression for the second-year tackle looks on Thursday night in live action.
  • Speaking of second-year linemen, Matt Pryor had an outstanding session as well. First, Pryor had a REALLY strong punch against Bruce Hector at right guard. Then, he got reps at both tackle spots, showing off a strong anchor against Malik Jackson and quick enough feet on the edge. Pryor is a really intriguing player.
  • Young defensive linemen continued to shine as well. Hassan Ridgeway won with a quick arm-over move, Treyvon Hester pulled off a slick swim move, and Joe Ostman beat rookie Casey Tucker with a solid spin move as all three got into the backfield early. – Fran

16. In the final team period, Howard rushed up the middle and was stopped by Grugier-Hill. The linebacker remained on the ground after the play and had to be helped to the sideline by trainers. Following practice, head coach Doug Pederson said that Grugier-Hill had suffered a lower-body injury that required more examination. Alex Singleton, the former CFL product, stepped in with the first-team defense. – C-Mac

17. After the Grugier-Hill injury, the defense pulled off some impressive plays. First, Vinny Curry got into the backfield for a "sack," as Doug Pederson blew the whistle before the throw. Joe Ostman met Josh Adams at the line of scrimmage for no gain on a run play. – Fran

18. The offense began to move the ball. First, Nate Sudfeld threw a nice ball on a comeback route to the far sideline to Charles Johnson. Next, Greg Ward got to the corner on the left side and busted off a nice gain. Josh Adams burst off-tackle for a nice run before being tripped up, and then Sudfeld hit Josh Perkins on a crossing route. The drive ended with a Sudfeld touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert in the right corner. – Fran

19. Jake Elliott nailed a long field goal to end practice, but it wasn't one that resulted in any reward for the team. Elliott said that he thought that one of those pressure kicks – you don't want the whole team to be mad at you – could come on Saturday, but figured not since the players just had Friday off. – C-Mac

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