Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Who delivered the first big hit of Training Camp?

Saturday was a milestone day at Training Camp as the players put on the pads for the first time and engaged in a two-plus-hour practice. Here are the big takeaways.

1. At the end of the team stretch period, cornerback Rasul Douglas and safety Deiondre' Hall had a little bit of fun. Douglas pretended to loft up an alley-oop that Hall slammed down. Fitting with Philly native and Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry attending Saturday's Training Camp practice. – Chris McPherson

2. After team stretch, the team split off into position groups, and I honed in on the defensive backs. After a lateral shuffle drill, Cory Undlin's group split into two sections, with the corners working on a press coverage drill while coach Tim Hauck took the safeties and had them work on zone drops. Hauck, who served as the quarterback in the drill, had the players drop into their zone and read his shoulders as the passer. If he opened up his shoulders, they'd drop deeper in coverage and make the interception, and if he looked closer to the sideline, they were to get width and make the play in the flat. It was a fun drill to watch and observe the reaction quickness of the safety group. – Fran Duffy

3. When watching the offensive line group during individual drills, you develop an appreciation for the importance of the players giving "looks" on the other side of reps. Coach Jeff Stoutland was often correcting and analyzing the play of offensive linemen serving as defensive line dummies during the period. – Ben Fennell

4. I was scanning the fields during individual drills and wanted to check out the linebackers. Each linebacker "shed" a stability ball rolled his way and ran to the side to either pick up a ball off the ground or catch a pass. The Eagles need to find a way to generate more big plays from the defense in 2019. The linebackers accounted for six sacks, two interceptions, three fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble last season. Overall, the Eagles posted just 17 takeaways, tied for 22nd in the league. In 2017, the Eagles were fourth in the NFL with 31 takeaways. – Chris

5. From my vantage point in the top row of the bleachers, it is sometimes hard to differentiate certain jersey numbers. Zach Ertz's No. 86 looks similar to Dallas Goedert's No. 88. Another example is Mack Hollins, who now sports No. 16, and rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside's No. 19. During multiple 11-on-11 sessions, the first play was a completion from Carson Wentz to Goedert. Yes, I kept double-checking to make sure it wasn't Ertz. But then I recalled last year's Training Camp when Wentz, who worked with the second-team offense coming back from his knee injury, and Goedert developed an impressive rapport. Go back to Wentz's 2018 season debut. Who caught his first touchdown pass of the season? Goedert. – Chris

6. The first big hit of camp came from ... linebacker Alex Singleton. The former Canadian Football League star sprinted into the backfield and thumped second-year back Josh Adams a few plays into the period. That got the defense excited. A few plays later, Andrew Sendejo and defensive tackle Treyvon Hester arrived in the backfield simultaneous to wrangle up Adams on an outside run. A couple of periods later, Singleton thumped Boston Scott along the sideline to the delight of the rest of the defense. – Fran

7. During the spring minicamp, linebackers coach Ken Flajole was asked about Singleton. Flajole described Singleton as "a tough nut" and a player who he was excited to see once the pads went on. Well, we found out why on Saturday. – Chris

8. The Eagles' offense appeared to be working on their various "trap," "wham," and "draw" plays in practice. The timing of these concepts is critical, as the plays invite defensive linemen up the field. Because of this, there were several instances where the defensive tackle was immediately in the face of the quarterback and disrupted the mesh point on handoffs. – Ben

9. Toward the end of this 11-on-11 period, Wendell Smallwood bounced a run outside to the left. Wide receiver Carlton Agudosi did a great job blocking newly acquired defensive back Alex Brown, but the officials threw a flag for holding. Looked clean to me! I think Doug Pederson agreed, though, as he made sure to give Agudosi a slap on the helmet and tell him good job after the play. – Ben

10. After two completions to Alshon Jeffrey and Greg Ward to kick off a 7-on-7 period, Carson Wentz was picked off by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill in the middle of the field in what was one of the highlight plays of practice. Grugier-Hill appeared to get great depth and made an acrobatic, fingertip grab, leaping in the air to secure the interception. I'm not sure Wentz ever saw the athletic linebacker, as he appeared to come from the back side of where Wentz was looking. It was an awesome play by Kamu, to Chris' point earlier. Wentz responded by hitting Mack Hollins on a deep dig route in the same area of the field on the following play. – Ben

11. After the 7-on-7 session, the team entered what I refer to as "half-field skelly" drills, where they work one half of the field at a time with no offensive or defensive lines. A few standout plays: Cody Kessler hit Charles Johnson on a deep post route for a big play against cornerback Jeremiah McKinnon. McKinnon rebounded, however, forcing a "coverage sack" of Kessler later in the period along with Malcolm Jenkins in the deep part of the field. – Fran

12. The other standout play from the skelly drill was a beautifully threaded ball by quarterback Nate Sudfeld in between three defenders to wide receiver Marken Michel for an intermediate gain. – Chris

13. Another period starts, and Wentz completes another pass to Goedert, who reeled it in with one hand along the sideline. – Fran

14. After the catch by Goedert, it's Vinny Curry time. The veteran defensive end explodes into the backfield and wraps up Jordan Howard on the second play, falling to his knees and celebrating after the play. On the next snap, Curry blasts rookie Miles Sanders in the backfield and gets up in the backfield doing the "shoot" (look it up if you're over 30, like me). – Fran

15. Jordan Howard busts off his biggest run of camp so far, cutting downhill and picking up a huge chunk of yardage between the tackles, bringing some juice back to the offense. – Fran

16. Sidney Jones comes up with one of the highlights of his week, securing a diving interception while being matched up on Mack Hollins. It was a play-action fake, and after initially biting on the run fake, Jones got back in position and dove to come up with the turnover, as the defensive section of sideline erupted. My ears immediately went to the offensive side, however, where I paid attention to Jeff Stoutland. Coach Stoutland is routinely one of the more vocal and animated coaches throughout camp, and he was enthusiastic after that snap, praising the offensive line's ability to make the play-action fake look identical to a running play. He made the same exclamation a number of times on Saturday. – Ben

17. Special teams begin, and while punt drills happen on the field, I can't help but notice running back Jordan Howard on the near sideline working with one of the equipment managers, catching passes. The book on Howard in the media is that he struggles in the passing game, but the veteran back caught about 70 passes during the 10-minute period, and by my eyes not one hit the ground (though I was not watching the entire time). – Fran

18. Finally, we've got our first one-on-one sessions of the summer, as the team splits up into three groups. I went over with the running backs and tight ends as they took on the linebackers and safeties in a pass protection drill. Dallas Goedert looked outstanding, especially early on. Zach Ertz had a couple of really competitive reps. Kamu Grugier-Hill rolled through a back on one snap, while rookie Joey Alfieri (a former 3-4 outside linebacker in college) made quick work of Goedert with an outside move late in the period. – Fran

19. While Fran watched running backs on the far side of the field, I watched the receivers and defensive backs go one-on-one, and Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas were the standouts here. Douglas started things off with a very impressive pass breakup of Alshon Jeffery on a hitch route, where he stayed right with the veteran receiver and made the play. Jones followed that up with a pass breakup of his own against DeSean Jackson on the far side. Later, Douglas pulled off a downfield interception against Jeffery on a deep ball, while Jones continued to play the ball extremely well, as he had all day long. – Ben

20. I had the pleasure of witnessing the O-line vs. D-line one-on-one session, and Vinny Curry continued his excellent day on the first rep. Center Jason Kelce had a pair of outstanding reps in what, as Ben explained on the podcast, is a worst-case-scenario for the All-Pro center going against a bigger defensive tackle. The matchup I was most interested in seeing was Isaac Seumalo against Malik Jackson. A monster of a man at 6-5, 290 pounds, Seumalo stonewalled Jackson, a promising sign for the third-year guard who has quietly made positive strides earning an extension this past offseason. – Chris

21. One-on-ones ended, and as the team got back together for 11-on-11 action, Carson Wentz made one of his top throws of the day. The defense sent a blitz right up the gut, and Wentz side-stepped the pressure, kept his eyes downfield, and threaded the needle on a pass to Jeffrey for what would have been a first down from a crowded pocket. It was an awesome throw. Afterward, Greg Cosell from NFL Films came up to me on the sideline and noted that between reps, whenever he wasn't on the field, Wentz was talking through things with at least one teammate constantly, working on timing and rhythm and understanding of what they're doing on the field. Like clockwork, a few minutes later, Wentz hits Goedert on a corner route for what would have been a 30-plus yard gain. – Fran

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