It's a subtle difference that not a lot of fans take into account, but the Eagles ended their Training Camp schedule on Tuesday. It means that there is no more public access to any practices at the NovaCare Complex. It means that the media must leave practice once the individual periods end. It means that the hour-to-hour camp routine is over.
The Eagles are now operating in regular-season mode.
With that, and with the September 6 opening game closing in, let's have an Awards Section here to catch up on the three weeks of Eagles football at the NovaCare Complex.
BEST PLAYER: It's hard to pick out a single player in a camp in which there were only two days of "live" practice, but how about a vote here for wide receiver Nelson Agholor? He caught every pass that came his way, showed great quickness and burst in his routes, and was simply terrific before being sidelined with a lower-body injury. Agholor is going to be OK for the opener against Atlanta and he's going to be a matchup nightmare for defenses. It's amazing to think how far Agholor has come since the 2016 season. He's a big-play machine.
BIGGEST CONCERN: There isn't a lot of uncertainty when it comes to this roster and evaluating the players, because the Eagles have a lot of competition across the board. It's just a good, good team on paper. But there are also some key players who aren't yet cleared to play football and there isn't any word on when players like defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back), wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (rotator cuff), quarterback Carson Wentz (knee), and defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) will return. So, as you think about Atlanta and September 6, that's the biggest concern. How healthy will the Eagles be for that game?
MOST IMPRESSIVE ROOKIE: It didn't take long for tight end Dallas Goedert to make an impression. He looked comfortable in the offense from the first couple of weeks after the draft and he's picked up steam ever since. Goedert is a natural pass catcher, a good route runner, a fine athlete, and a willing blocker. He's Zach Ertz, 2.0. And Goedert is going to fit very nicely into the offense as a complement to Ertz.
MOST AHHHHHH MOMENT: Every time Darren Sproles touches the football. He's just a freak in the way he's conducted himself throughout the course of his NFL career and, in the last 10 months, how he's come back from a torn ACL and a broken arm. Sproles looks every bit as quick and dynamic now as he was before his injury. Sproles ran away from defenders in Training Camp and the crowds responded each time he had the ball in his hands. Plus, Sproles' versatility is going to be a huge plus in this offense. He's lining up all over the formation. Good luck to defenses trying to match up against him.
BEST POSITION COMPETITION: Boy, these cornerbacks are battling each other. It's been an impressive group working against the Eagles' offensive passing game each day in camp. Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby are the starters outside, but every time a Sidney Jones or a Rasul Douglas takes reps, they are also right on the football. And the competition for the nickel cornerback position has been everything defensive backs coach Cory Undlin hoped it would be. Jones has been impressive. De'Vante Bausby has been good. Rookie Avonte Maddox is on the come. D.J. Killings is going to get his reps inside. Top to bottom, this is the best group of cornerbacks the Eagles have had in a camp in a long, long time.
MOST DISAPPOINTING: In his second season, running back Donnel Pumphrey expected to show up a new man for this Training Camp. And he was better early in camp than he had been as a rookie, showing more burst, more elusiveness. But Pumphrey suffered a hamstring injury and has been out for more than a week. He's on track to miss his second preseason game Thursday at New England. It's going to be extremely difficult for Pumphrey to make this team with Wendell Smallwood, Matt Jones, and Josh Adams taking reps every day and seeing game action in New England.
MOST IMPROVED PLAYER: There were times last summer when it was painful to watch wide receiver Shelton Gibson struggle through the basics of catching the football. He tried so hard, struggled so much, and clearly was down on himself. But the Eagles stuck with Gibson, a fifth-round draft pick. He played sparingly on special teams, but at least worked his way into the gunner picture on kicks. And then Gibson made sure to attack his offseason, and he did just that. The result is that Gibson is in a totally different place now. He's been much more consistent catching the football. He's playing faster. The confidence is apparent. Gibson's 63-yard touchdown catch in the preseason opener was a big moment for him. An Agholor-like turnaround could be in store for Gibson.
BEST GRIN: Middle linebacker Jordan Hicks walked off the field after the first practice of Training Camp as if it had been the first practice of his life. "Who knew that practice could be so much fun?" Hicks said in the locker room afterward. "It felt so great to be back out there." Hicks suffered a torn Achilles tendon in Week 7 last season and missed the playoff run. He's back, he looks great, and there isn't a player happier to be out on the field.
DEEPEST POSITION: From the looks of it in camp, the defensive line is going to live up to the hype. Even without Jernigan and Graham, the Eagles have been scary-good up front along the defensive line. They're deep, they're experienced, and they're explosive. Rookie Josh Sweat is an intriguing player to watch as he develops and follows the veteran leadership ahead of him. This group is good, very good, and there can't be a deeper defensive line, end to end, in the NFL.
MOST SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT: Raise your hand if you thought the Eagles would add a linebacker or two in the preseason? I know it crossed my mind, and it certainly still could happen, but the coaching staff just raves about the depth at linebacker. Joe Walker has come a long way now that he's healthy. LaRoy Reynolds had a good game against Pittsburgh and played well all camp. Nathan Gerry and Kamu Grugier-Hill are neck and neck in their battle for the starting WILL job. Hicks looks healthy and fluid and Nigel Bradham is just a darn good football player. Add it all up and the linebackers, as a group, emerge from Training Camp a much better unit than some, myself included, thought they would be.
BEST NEWCOMER: He wasn't around much during the voluntary Organized Team Activities, so Michael Bennett didn't have a chance to establish himself on or off the field with the Eagles. But since he's been here, Bennett has been great, just great. On the field, he's a pro's pro who can play inside or on the edge. He uses his hands well, sets up blockers with deceptive body movement, and has a veteran's anticipation. Off the field, Bennett is a thoughtful, intelligent player who respects his position in the locker room and on the team. The Eagles appear to have hit again in free agency with wide receiver Mike Wallace and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata taking first-team reps as camp ended, but the trade for Bennett looks like it could turn out to be the best move of all. He's legit, and he's going to help the defense a ton.