Philadelphia Eagles News

Practice Notes: Who Shined In The First Live-Hitting Sessions?

  • Calling these practice notes is almost an insult. It's more of a manifesto. Fran Duffy and Ben Fennell offer a comprehensive review of Tuesday's Training Camp practice.

Get an up-close look at the ballcarriers in 2018 training camp.

1. The Eagles took the field on Tuesday morning donning full pads. It was partly sunny and it wasn’t too hot during the team stretch period (but the sun would beat a little harder later in practice). More importantly … we had live tackling coming today, and that had everyone excited. – Fran Duffy

2. Despite there being no threat of precipitation, boos rained down on head coach Doug Pederson and his staff during the team stretch. Why? The speakers cut out in the middle of the warmup session, and the players were not happy. The issue was rectified quickly, but it was ugly for about 17 seconds with no music blaring. – Fran

3. Special teams drills, individual workouts, and the team install periods came and went, and it was time for the first 11-on-11 action of the morning. From a personnel standpoint, Sidney Jones got the first-team look in the slot once again. For those of you keeping score at home, that is three days for Jones, and two days’ worth of practice for De’Vante Bausby in the slot as the team holds their competition to replace Patrick Robinson inside. – Fran

4. The defense was active with its pressure in this period. Kamu Grugier-Hill came in for a “sack” of Nate Sudfeld after beating Wendell Smallwood with a nifty swim move in pass protection. Smallwood later dropped a screen pass to end the session. – Fran

5. That period was a lot of fun to watch, and featured a lot of blitzes in the A gaps. These pressure schemes put a tremendous amount of stress on the running backs but also on the pre-snap protection calls from the center. The defense was able to get home on several blitzes up the middle. One guy who stood out to me, however, was tackle Jordan Mailata. The rookie did a good job of keeping his eyes up and diagnosing pressures from the second level, something that showed up in a later period as well against a stunt. – Ben Fennell

6. The team period broke, and as the linemen broke off into individual groups, the skill players separated as well. On the middle field, the team worked on more three-receiver sets with corners and receivers. On the far field, where I remained, we watched what amounted to a “middle of the field 7-on-7” drill, where there were no lines, but linebackers and safeties matched up against tight ends, slot receivers, and running backs in pass coverage. Here are my notes from that period. – Fran

o The three linebackers in the “first unit” were Nigel Bradham on the strong side, Jordan Hicks on the weak side, and Joe Walker in the middle. I made it a bit of a focus to study the rotation of the linebackers on Tuesday, as the team figures out who will be the third linebacker in the base defense. It’s been a fascinating battle, and the defensive staff has worked a lot of different combinations in. The names in the hunt to start next to Hicks and Bradham appear to be Walker, Nathan Gerry, Kamu Grugier-Hill, LaRoy Reynolds, and Corey Nelson.

o The tight ends were active early on, with Richard Rodgers securing a quick throw, followed by a deep corner route to Billy Brown. Rodgers caught another pass for a third Sudfeld completion in a row.

o The second group of linebackers featured Grugier-Hill on the weak side, Gerry on the strong side, and Kyle Wilson in the middle.

o Hicks posted an impressive pass breakup down the field against Rodgers on another corner route. The veteran tight end had a step or two on Hicks, who watched the receiver’s hands and shot his own hands through the catch point to punch the ball to the ground.

7. While Fran stayed put with the combo guys, I walked over to watch the receivers and defensive backs on the middle field. Nelson Agholor started things off with a crisp out-and-up double move against cornerback Jalen Mills. Agholor’s route running was on full display as he sold the out route with his head and body and then snapped back upfield. It was a thing of beauty. Later in the drill, Agholor brought in a tough catch against Ronald Darby. Agholor ran a quick out route and Wentz left the throw slightly inside but with good velocity past Darby’s head. Agholor snagged the ball at the last second with an impressive reception. – Ben

8. It’s strange to suggest that a receiver who ran in the low 4.40-range at the Combine is “playing faster,” but second-year player Shelton Gibson is doing just that. Gibson has looked considerably more confident thus far in camp compared to this point last year. He is catching the ball naturally and even hauling in a few tight-window and contested catches to boot. Gibson was primarily a vertical threat at West Virginia but looks to be polishing his craft in other areas of the route tree (something he struggled with last summer). It was unfortunate to see Gibson get banged up later in practice today. – Ben

9. The only interception from the period came from Tre Sullivan. The second-year safety played in the deep part of the field, expanding off the hash, getting great depth on a post route in his direction. But Sullivan read the eyes of the quarterback and saw the pass was being thrown in the direction of an out-and-up route along the sideline from Carson Wentz. Sullivan has been one of the bright spots in camp thus far, getting solid reps as the third safety in “big nickel” packages. – Ben

10. The entire squad got back together for a Team Run period, with the first-team offense and defense lining up against each other. The starter on the weak side at linebacker was Gerry alongside Hicks and Bradham. The three second-team linebackers were Nelson at WILL, Walker at MIKE, and Grugier-Hill at SAM. – Fran

11. The offense brought in an extra offensive lineman, Isaac Seumalo, on the second play. This was something they did often in 2017 and we could continue to see more of in 2018 with the loss of Brent Celek. Unfortunately, the handoff was botched between Nick Foles and Jay Ajayi and the play never fully developed. – Ben

12. Michael Bennett cuts inside on a stunt and comes in clean for a “sack.” Brandon Brooks didn’t see him coming, and he stayed locked in on the defensive tackle to his side. Two plays later, Grugier-Hill hits the running back untouched on what appeared to be a busted assignment on the right side of the offensive line. It was tough to call live but the right side was Matt Pryor at right guard and Taylor Hart at right tackle. No one blocked Kamu and he got a good shot in on Corey Clement. – Fran

13. Kamar Aiken had one of the best routes of the day on a double move, post-corner route off play-action. Aiken was able to sell the post route to the middle of the field and then break back to the sideline. The ball was thrown slightly late and behind the receiver, but because the route was so effective, Aiken was able to adjust to the pass and get upfield. – Ben

14. The period ends with an interception from Chandon Sullivan in the front of the end zone against fellow undrafted rookie Anthony Mahoungou. Sullivan, a personal favorite of mine who stood out at practice on Sunday, had his share of moments on Tuesday as well, but he got away with a bit of a shove before the interception that likely would have been flagged. – Fran

15. The team gets back to midfield for the start of a new period, and we have our first live hitting session of the 2018 season. We start things off with the first-team offense facing off against the second-team defense, and we are tackling to the ground! On the first play, Foles hands the ball off to Clement on a draw play to the left for a nice chunk of yardage. Josh Sweat chases the play down from the back side and pushes Clement out of bounds. Jason Kelce was out in front as a blocker. – Fran

16. A few plays in, another stunt gets home to Foles. Elijah Qualls this time records the “sack,” as the coaches blow the play dead as Foles waits for his receivers to uncover downfield. – Fran

17. Two linebackers stood out for the second-team unit over a three-play span - Joe Walker and Kamu Grugier-Hill. Walker dropped back into coverage and picked up Dallas Goedert on a shallow crossing route, making a one-on-one stop on an island out in the flat. If he had missed the stop, the rookie was picking up a huge play; it was a nice tackle by Walker. A couple of plays later, Grugier-Hill impressed me with his pop on contact on an inside run against Smallwood. The linebacker bounced off a block, stayed square, and knocked Smallwood to the ground. – Fran

18. On that play with Walker and Goedert, I had my eyes on the trenches. Rookie undrafted free agent Joe Ostman had a “Welcome to the NFL” moment on that play. Ostman was locked up by Lane Johnson in pass protection and Johnson was able to get leverage and pancake Ostman into the ground out in the open field. Both players immediately got up and continued to engage until the whistle before cooler heads prevailed. – Ben

19. Now it’s time for the defensive starters to shine against the second-teamers on offense. The linebackers on the field included Bradham, Hicks, and Reynolds in the team’s base defense. The first play of this session was defended flawlessly as Sudfeld sprinted out to the right and had nowhere to go with the football, as he tucked it and ran out of bounds. – Ben

20. The starters are in on the defensive line and I’m glued into the front four, and on the second and third plays Fletcher Cox just flat out dominated. First, he beats Matt Pryor for a run stuff inside, then he abuses Seumalo at the point of attack and gets another tackle on the ensuing play. – Fran

21. Second-year receiver Greg Ward had two consecutive highlight receptions in the team session and is flashing competitive reps every practice. First, Sudfeld was flushed out of the pocket to the left and Ward was able to make a strong move at the top of the route against veteran safety Rodney McLeod. The very next play, Sudfeld had a clean pocket and fired a strike to Ward over the middle of the field. Ward took a big shot from Hicks but was able to hang on. – Ben

22. After the Greg Ward catches, the team sets up for what appears to be a short-yardage play, and it’s a car wreck in the trenches. It was tough to tell much from the play down on the field, but one thing did stand out. Seumalo pancaked Haloti Ngata on my side of the field. It appeared to start off as a double team but Seumalo finished the veteran into the dirt, and Ngata smacked him on the helmet afterward as a brief “congratulations.” – Fran

23. The third-team offense and defense took the field and one guy who stood out consistently in the session was rookie Bruce Hector. The undrafted free agent from South Florida was active in the run game, and a couple of times at the snap of the ball I noticed the knockback he got on contact as he locked his arms out and turned to find the ball. This was the most I had noticed him so far this camp. – Fran

24. The 11-on-11 action ends and the team gets into a special teams period. I spent my time watching the “combo” players (linebackers and tight ends) working on a blocking drill for the punt and punt return units. Reynolds, Steven Means, Walker, and Grugier-Hill stood out to me most with their effort and execution in the drill. – Fran

25. With special teams over for the day, the team reconvenes for some 7-on-7 work as the offensive and defensive lines head over to 1-on-1s on the middle field. It was tough to watch from our vantage point, so Ben and I both stayed to watch the 7-on-7 session, and it did not disappoint. Right off the bat we saw a really fun battle, as Jalen Mills and Mack Hollins sprinted down the right sideline. Hollins beat Mills with a slick release off the snap, winning outside, but Mills stayed with the play, got back into his hip pocket, and was right there to contend the throw from Foles. The ball was bobbled, and Mills was able to get his hands through to punch it to the ground to force an incompletion. It was a really well-fought rep from both sides. – Fran

26. A few plays later, Mills’ teammate in the secondary, McLeod, came away with his own pass breakup. Foles tried to hit Zach Ertz over the middle, but McLeod dove in front of the tight end and stabbed the ball to the ground for an incompletion. – Fran

27. Carson Wentz’s first (and only) team action of the day came in this 7-on-7 period, and his first two throws were sharp and deliberate. Wentz displayed savvy ball placement on consecutive throws over the middle of the field. Wentz was able to place the ball away from the diving Walker on a stick route from Rashard Davis and then kept the ball away from Bradham as Rodgers settled down on a sit route over the ball. The placement on these quick-hitting throws over the middle of the field are vital to keep the pass catchers from hard hits. – Ben

28. A few plays later, Wentz tried to hit Markus Wheaton on a go route down the field. The ball was a bit overthrown, but Rasul Douglas went stride-for-stride with the veteran and was in position to make a play. – Fran

29. The 7-on-7 action ends after a handful of reps from the third team, and it’s time for our final live session of the day. Again, we have the first-team offense matched up against the second-team defense in a live tackling period. The offense gets things going quickly with a completion from Foles to Ertz on the run over the middle of the field on a crossing route. The tight end goes for about 20 yards and a first down to move the chains. A setback occurs on the next play, however, when Means sneaks inside against Halapoulivaati Vaitai for a “sack.” – Fran

30. Hollins flashed on several plays today, but his best rep came in this period. Hollins climbed the ladder on a curl route in traffic to reel in a tough catch, displaying excellent catch radius and strong hands. – Fran

31. After three straight touches for Donnel Pumphrey both as a runner and as a receiver, Foles dropped back and threaded a pass on the run to Agholor between defenders. It was a short throw but it was a difficult one to make in traffic. – Fran

32. Smallwood gets the starting offense into the red zone with an inside run that he cuts back against the grain, but the final two plays for the first-team unit do not go well. A sack from Joe Ostman against Vaitai sets the group back a few yards, and Foles followed that up with an interception in the end zone by De’Vante Bausby. There appeared to be some kind of miscommunication with Foles and Ertz on the play. Just like that, the day is over for the first-team offense. – Fran

33. The defensive starters took the field, and one of the biggest plays of the day on offense happened right off the jump … but it wasn’t what it appeared. McLeod was the deep center fielder in a single-high scheme. Off play-action to Pumphrey, Sudfeld fired a quick throw over the middle to Aiken. This was a live period, and McLeod could have leveled the receiver, but the veteran safety elected to let up on the huge hit rather than potentially injure himself or his teammate. The coaches blew the play dead at the spot of the catch. – Ben

34. That first play to Aiken was the only first down the offensive backups would pick up. After an incompletion to Ward, Derek Barnett brought down Pumphrey on an inside run to bring up third down. Sidney Jones comes up with the “must have” play for the defense, as he matched up with Ward in the slot and made a really athletic pass breakup, diving in front of the receiver over the ball and knocking the ball out of harm’s way. The defense celebrates as they get off the field, its day over. – Fran

35. The third-team took the field on both sides of the ball, and the best play of the sequence happened late. A blitz gets home to quarterback Joe Callahan, who broke the pocket and ran around in the backfield. Coverage broke down and Callahan found Davis down the field, and he picked up a big gain, but the most impressive player on the rep may have been defensive lineman Winston Craig, who gave chase and made the stop what appeared to be about 30 yards downfield to save a touchdown. A few plays later, practice ended on a touchdown throw from Callahan to receiver DeAndre Carter, who battled with safety Ryan Neal in the end zone for the reception. – Fran

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