This is the week in Training Camp when one phase (NovaCare Complex practices open to a select crowd) ends, one phase (joint practices in Cleveland) begins, and another phase (preseason games) continues, this time on the road.
The Eagles held a spirited practice on Sunday in full pads, and the rest of the week looks like this: Walkthrough practice, film work, and conditioning on Monday; full practice day with walkthrough on Tuesday; travel day to Cleveland on Wednesday; and joint practices with the Browns on Thursday and Friday before the day-before-game walkthrough on Saturday. At 1 PM – odd for a preseason game, yes, but a chance for the Eagles to go through their routine for 1 PM regular-season games – on Sunday, it's go time against Cleveland.
Let's get you caught up on everything happening with the Eagles as we're less than four weeks away from the opener in Detroit ...
1. Cam Jurgens is the next … Cam Jurgens
It's so preposterously unfair for anyone to say that rookie lineman Cam Jurgens, who started on Friday night at center, is the next anyone. The media have portrayed him as a player who "looks like" Jason Kelce, and there is no doubt there are similar traits. But let's pump the brakes on the idea that Jurgens is the "next Jason Kelce." That's the message from Head Coach Nick Sirianni.
"He played a good game. Obviously, I don't want to compare him to Jason Kelce at this particular time. Jason Kelce has been playing at a high level for so long," Sirianni said. "There definitely are comparisons, and we saw that. Any time you evaluate a guy on college tape, you try to make a comparison to paint a picture of what you see. So that was the comparison we saw at Nebraska. And of course, yes, the way he kind of moves around, pulls, gets to the second level, a lot of similarities."
Jurgens is in line to start again in Cleveland, so he has a big week ahead.
2. Jalen Hurts plays in and out of the pocket
Jalen Hurts was perfect on his lone drive on Friday night, completing all six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He did it in a lot of ways – rolling right and throwing on the run, escaping the pocket and using his legs and winning from the pocket. Sirianni liked what he saw from No. 1 when it came to decision-making.
"I thought he was great," Sirianni said. "He made plays in the pocket when he needed to make plays in the pocket and when he needed to escape, he escaped. I think it's interesting; I think it's also to be known that leaving the pocket isn't just something that you see when the protection breaks down. I think that people think like, oh, we left the pocket early, and the protection was good. Well, sometimes nobody is open. And sometimes the defense calls a good play and it's not a good look in the coverage.
"So, it's not as easy to say that the protection broke down, so he left, because that's obvious. I think the thing that is not as obvious is, again, what I said, somebody slipped on a route out or the defense played a good coverage and there wasn't anybody open and he's trying to create with a scramble. I thought he did a great job of that. I thought he played a good football game, first drive, and we'll just look to build on that."
3. Bumps and bruises department
It was great to see wide receiver DeVonta Smith back on the field after missing five days of practices with a groin injury. Guard Landon Dickerson sat out Friday night's preseason opener with foot soreness, but he practiced on Sunday and running back Kenneth Gainwell was back on the field after missing some time with a hip injury. Also back on the practice field: safety Jaquiski Tartt, who had been out for personal reasons. Tight end Grant Calcaterra and offensive tackle Le'Raven Clark remain out with hamstring injuries and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave is out with a toe injury that is not expected to linger into the regular season. Jason Kelce is still sidelined after having a routine procedure to clean out his right elbow. Wide receiver Greg Ward remains out with a toe injury and running back Boston Scott is still out with a concussion. Running back Miles Sanders didn't practice on Sunday because of leg soreness.
4. Bring on the Browns!
The Eagles felt they gained so much from joint practices last summer with the Jets and Patriots, so on Thursday they start with joint practices against Cleveland – the Eagles travel to Miami the following week for joint practices against the Dolphins ahead of their preseason game. And, yeah, they're excited to get it going.
"It's good competition and it's good going against a different team," safety Anthony Harris said. "I think it's going to be great."
Said Sirianni: "I actually thought obviously the joint practices are giving you in-game experience, controlled game experience for two days in a row at practice to work on things that you want to work on and the other team wants to work on and you don't get your quarterback hit, stuff like that. It's not live to the ground. So, it's a controlled experience.
"As far as going away, I think that's good. I felt last year that there was some good bonding and some good connecting going on in the hotel when we were against the Jets. So that was something that when – we wanted to do one home and one away game, and it just didn't work out that way. But I'm looking forward to this opportunity to get closer as a football team while we're away in the -- it's not dorms, I know, we'll be in nice hotels, but I think it's a good opportunity for us to connect and be together."
5. Starters for preseason game No. 2?
It's early in the week, but Sirianni was asked if he plans on playing the starters – who played one series on Friday – in Cleveland. The answer: no decision yet, but …
"I don't have to make that decision quite yet and so still discussing," he said. "We are going to be in those joint practices and those will be two hard days of work, so if I feel like they have gotten enough in those joint practices and I feel like the work that we needed to get done, we'll play everything by ear. But if I feel like that, then I wouldn't play them in those games but again I haven't made any of those decisions yet."
6. Quez Watkins with some "Toe-Drag Swag"
Wide receiver Quez Watkins opened Friday's game by hauling in a Jalen Hurts pass along the right sideline, tippy-tapping his feet inbounds, a very nice display of body control, great feet, and concentration to make the catch. Watkins said the 2021 season in which he caught 43 passes and averaged 15 yards per reception helped his confidence a great deal. He knows he can play at a high level in the NFL. Last year's mission heading into the season was to add strength, which Watkins accomplished. Now?
"It's to put everything together, bring my game to a new level," Watkins told me in an interview for the Eagles Insider Podcast. "I think I've done that and I want to be a complete receiver now and win with my routes and my strength and speed. I feel like I'm playing that way now."
As for the sideline catch on Friday, Watkins was pleased.
"Yes, definitely," he said. "That was some toe-drag there. It felt good to come down with it."