Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: The Odds-On Favorite At Weakside Linebacker?

Fresh off the night practice at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles were back in action Monday morning at the NovaCare Complex. Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell offer 15 takeaways including some depth chart updates.

1. It was a hot and sticky day at the NovaCare Complex for the 10th day of Training Camp practices. The Eagles' coaching staff has begun to give some veterans days off while others nurse some minor ailments as we slug through the "dog days" of summer. Nick Foles sat out for the second straight day of practice. Carson Wentz didn't participate in anything outside of individual drills. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Richard Rodgers both missed practice for a third straight day. Wide receiver Mike Wallace sat out of Monday's session while teammate Markus Wheaton worked off to the side as well. This is pretty much par for the course by this point in camp as the team prepares for its first preseason game on Thursday night. – Fran Duffy

2. Third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld took advantage of the extra reps in practice on Monday, getting reps with both the first- and second-team units for a second consecutive day. Giving Sudfeld time with the first unit allows him to build up some chemistry and rapport with some of the starters he might not normally get much time with on the field. These reps are important for a backup quarterback, especially a young one, to hone huddle command and communication, mesh points with running backs on handoffs, timing with wide receivers, and just having a feel for the offensive line. – Ben Fennell

3. In the first session of practice, the offense got its work with the starting unit against the second- and third-team defense. The period started with a screen pass to Jay Ajayi followed by a Darren Sproles run to the left, where Jason Kelce was able to get out in front. Getting Kelce in space and on the perimeter is a constant mission for the offensive coaching staff. The Eagles' offense executed a wide variety of screen passes today which highlight his speed and athleticism out in the open field. The screens may have targeted running backs, receivers, and even tight ends, with heavy misdirection and eye candy in the backfield for the defense to sort through. Kelce's athleticism can also be on display in certain running schemes, which was the case on this play, as he wrapped around left guard Stefen Wisniewski and got out to block the playside linebacker. – Ben

4. After the Sproles run, Sudfeld dropped back and unleashed a throw in the direction of tight end Dallas Goedert, but linebacker Nathan Gerry made an athletic play in coverage to get the ball on the ground. Sudfeld put the ball up high where, seemingly, only his man could go up and get it, but Gerry shot his hands through the catch point and punched the ball to the ground. A former college safety, Gerry had a great feel for playing in coverage at Nebraska, despite his athletic limitations in the secondary. At linebacker, I believe he has a great feel for playing in space. – Fran

5. We saw a lot of reps with Goedert running with the starters once again, with Ertz and Rodgers both out. Young veteran Joshua Perkins also saw plenty of snaps with the first-team offense in multiple tight end sets for the same reason. – Ben

6. Safety Corey Graham returned to the practice field after signing his one-year deal over the weekend. Graham stayed close to defensive backs coach Cory Undlin throughout practice. On the very first snap with the defensive starters on the field, he parked right next to Undlin behind the secondary. The veteran was often talking in between plays with both Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins, as he gets a refresher course on different checks when communicating with his teammates on the field. Graham stepped right back into his role as the third safety in the Eagles big nickel package and was active throughout the morning. – Ben

7. On the first play of the team period, cornerback De'Vante Bausby got starting reps with the regular nickel package as the fifth defensive back. For you sickos (like me) who have been keeping track at home, that's five days for Sidney Jones, four for Bausby, and one for Jalen Mills as the starter in the slot. Bausby was in on the action as the defense stuffed a run on the first play of the period against the offensive backups. – Fran

8. As Ben mentioned, Graham returned as the third safety with McLeod and Jenkins in the big nickel package, and he entered the period on the third play. The offense attempted a screen pass to the left, and linebacker Nigel Bradham sniffed it out with ease and proceeded to dance in the backfield after the play. – Fran

Take a look at the best photos from the big guys on the defensive side of the ball.

9. Linebacker Nathan Gerry continues to get action with the starting defense in base personnel as he appears to be the odds-on favorite to win the weakside spot to open the year. That's not Gerry's only role, however, as he also stayed on the field as he also called the shots as the middle linebacker in the team's backup nickel package. That versatility will help Gerry in the future. – Ben

10. Special teams drills begin, and as Jake Elliott drills kick after kick through the uprights, I can't help but appreciate the practice playlist today, with numerous 90's rap and hip-hop hits blaring over the speakers. I didn't write any of the songs down, but "Shoop" by Salt-N-Pepa played at one point, as did "Money Ain't A Thing" by Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z. I got a side glance from Ben as I recited most of the lyrics to "Juicy" by Notorious B.I.G. – Fran

11. The action moves to the red zone with the offensive starters and the backups on defense, and Steven Means shows up yet again. The veteran has been active all morning, and this time he jumps through the air and breaks up a screen pass intended for Darren Sproles in the backfield. – Fran

12. Here's a fun two-play sequence from Goedert down here on the goal line. First, the rookie catches a dump-off screen and then runs a stutter-and-go to the back corner of the end zone. Goedert is a fluid athlete with the ball in his hands, and the Eagles will look to get him in catch-and-run situations. The stutter-and-go route for a touchdown was a clear display of Goedert's stop-start ability and how deadly of a red zone threat he can be for this offense. – Ben

13. The throw of the day came from Sudfeld to Perkins down on the goal line. The Eagles were in 12 personnel with two tight ends on the field, featuring Goedert and Perkins aligned together in a 3x1 set. Perkins ran a patient skinny post against Corey Graham, and Sudfeld was able to anticipate the window just as Perkins snapped off his route to the inside. The ball was placed perfectly and Perkins was able to make the grab in a tight window. – Ben

14. Linebacker LaRoy Reynolds flashes in consecutive plays, first breaking on a pass intended for Donnel Pumphrey and being right in position to make the stop. On the next rep, the veteran flashed in front of a Joe Callahan pass and got the ball to the ground. – Fran

15. The defensive starters returned to the field soon afterward, and after a Matt Jones catch in the flat defensive line coach ran onto the field screaming, but he was not upset. Wilson pumped his arm yelling "YES!" at his front four on the play, and while I'm not certain as to why it was good to see the positive encouragement for what could be the strongest position group on the team, particularly when everyone is healthy. – Fran

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