Monday was a glorious day of Eagles football at the NovaCare Complex. The Baltimore Ravens provided a welcomed relief from the Eagles-on-Eagles Training Camp we’ve seen the last three weeks – not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you – and the two teams engaged in a spirited session that included one-on-one drills at the line of scrimmage, seven-on-seven work, 11-on-11 periods, special teams engagement, and everything you could want in a Training Camp afternoon.
It was a blast, and it was great football. When it finished, the Eagles were excited at the opportunity to get in some good work against the Ravens.
Corey Clement, RB
A knee injury suffered on a botched handoff attempt in Dallas last season cost Corey Clement the rest of the year and he’s worked hard to get back on the field. It’s been an arduous process, but Clement looked like the best version of himself on Monday against Baltimore, ripping off several long runs.
Clement attacked his rehabilitation, lost weight, feels faster, and is hopeful to make his 2019 preseason debut on Thursday night against Baltimore. The injury was a stunner and Clement has worked hard to win the physical and emotional battle.
“It’s a jolt of reality and it reminds you that you can never take this game for granted,” Clement said. “I’ve put a lot of hard work into this, into getting back on the field. I felt great out there today. I felt fast, I saw the field. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working against another team.”
The running backs room is stacked with the additions of Jordan Howard and Miles Sanders and the re-signing of Darren Sproles. The Eagles saw Josh Adams and Boston Scott play well in Jacksonville on Thursday night and Wendell Smallwood has been on his game since the spring.
Where, then, does Clement fit in? He insists he’s not worrying about that.
“I’m going to play my best football and we’ll see what happens,” he said. “I know nothing is going to be handed to me. That’s always going to be my mentality. I’m going to just take care of what I can control.”
Josh McCown, QB
In his second day of practice as an Eagle, Josh McCown took full-team reps, even with Cody Kessler cleared from concussion protocol for practice (he’s wearing a red jersey, so no contact). And McCown generally looked like he knew where to go with the football, he delivered it with some authority, and afterward he said the comprehension of the offense was coming to him pretty quickly.
“It felt good to be out there to get a little more work than the day before,” McCown said. “I’m just trying to grow, become more comfortable with things. It’s getting there in terms of understanding the offense. It’s kind of like learning Spanish and you just hear words and then you have that moment of understanding what those words mean and you go, ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ I hear people talking the offense and I understand what people are saying now. I’m getting there. Press Taylor (quarterbacks coach) is doing an unbelievable job of meeting with me and getting me up to speed so I’m just working at it.”
Will McCown play on Thursday night? That remains to be seen, but given his rate of retention with the offense, he could very well be ready to play should head coach Doug Pederson want to see him on the field.
Avonte Maddox, CB
The reps weren’t particularly plentiful for Avonte Maddox against a Baltimore offense that runs a lot of 12 personnel (one running back, two tight ends) and is that rare NFL team that has a run-first mentality.
“It was still good to compete against a team with a different color. It was fun and I’m looking forward to more tomorrow,” said Maddox. “I would love to get more reps, so we’ll see if that happens.”
The Eagles prepared just a bit for Baltimore’s offense to get a general sense of what the Ravens do, and Maddox said the sideline intensity was fun as the players “chirped” at Baltimore for some friendly trash talking. And yes, Maddox made note of Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson, who is one of the most mobile signal-callers in the NFL.
“He’s fast and I feel like they’ve got a lot of read-option in that offense, so I’m looking forward to seeing what they do in a game situation on Thursday night,” Maddox said.
Zach Ertz, TE
Pederson said that he likes to use practices to prepare his front-line players for preseason games, so Monday and Tuesday are important for players like Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz. Going against a different scheme and different players provided a nice change of pace.
Ertz appreciated the new looks.
“I think these are very beneficial for me and all the starters. I think it’s a lot harder than a preseason game, these two practices,” Ertz said. “I’m enjoying it. It’s fun to compete against really good players and they have a lot of them.”
The Eagles had tight end Richard Rodgers go down with an undisclosed injury and Joshua Perkins stepped up for those reps on Monday. The Eagles are deep at the position (Dallas Goedert is out for the remainder of the preseason) so players like Perkins and Will Tye get extended reps to show what they can do.
“It’s going to happen and (Perkins) has battled his butt off. Last year he made plays for us early in the season before he was hurt, so it’s good to see him back out there,” Ertz said. “You need everybody to step up and make plays. We know it’s a long, long season.”
Ronald Darby, CB
The goal, said veteran cornerback Ronald Darby who is recovering from last season’s knee injury, is to play against Washington on September 8. Having joint practices, then, is extremely helpful for a player like Darby, who may not play in the preseason games. These days are as close to game tempo as a regular-season game.
“It’s great to go against new receivers who are out there fighting for their jobs,” Darby said. “For me, I’m just taking it week by week. Playing against Washington is the goal, but before I get there I have to take care of my business every day. I feel good. I’m making the kind of progress I want to make.
“When I’m out there practicing, I’m not thinking about it (the injury) at all. I thank the Lord that it’s not bothering me. Other than that big brace I’m wearing, I feel pretty good. I’m getting there. The brace feels a little awkward, but I feel good.”
Darby said he plans to shed the brace for the regular season. For now, he’s wearing it “for safety reasons.”
“We have some time and I’m making progress,” he said. “All I can do is keep working and increasing things. Pushing myself. That’s where I’m at.”
Yes, it was a fantastic day of football. The Eagles looked terrific against a playoff-caliber team. They’ve got one more day to go on the field with Baltimore in high heat and humidity. Day 1 is in the books, and it was a rousing success from the Eagles’ standpoint.