10 observations

Eagles-Packers: 10 observations

Eagles-Packers: 10 observations

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Carson Wentz was perfect, Derek Barnett showed why he was the 14th pick and a rookie running back had a rough first game in the Eagles' 24-9 loss to the Packers on Thursday night in the preseason opener (see Instant Replay)

The Eagles will play again next Thursday night at home against the Bills at 7 p.m. 

Here are 10 observations from the preseason opener: 

1. Wentz wasn't in the game long, but he did everything the Eagles wanted him to do. He went 4 for 4 for 56 yards and a touchdown, to go along with a perfect 158.3 passer rating. The touchdown pass was his most impressive play of his short night. He had Clay Matthews grabbing around his ankles, but Wentz was able to shake him off and find Mack Hollins in the middle of the field for what ended up being a TD. 

Wentz's strength and ability to extend plays is sometimes overlooked but it's that ability that makes him have a chance to be a special player. That's what has worked for so long in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. 

2. Give C.J. Smith credit. The second-year cornerback was burned by a pretty weak double move from wide receiver Jeff Janis for a 20-yard touchdown just a couple plays after giving up a 10-yard pass to Geronimo Allison in the first half. On the touchdown, Smith just bit way too hard on the first move. He had safety help from Jaylen Watkins but it came too late and, to his credit, quarterback Brett Hundley threw a perfect pass into the end zone. 

But he rebounded. Smith came back on the next series and did what corners need to: He forgot about the last play, breaking up a pass near the sideline. He also broke up a pass late in the third quarter and nearly picked it off. 

3. Hollins has looked good in shorts in the spring and then good against his own team in training camp. We just needed to see it in an actual game. Hollins showed what he can do on Thursday night. He caught a pass from Wentz across the middle of the field and did the rest. He was aided by some shabby tackling from Packers defenders but managed to hug the sideline and get into the end zone. He then ran toward the bleachers and acted like he was going to do a Lambeau Leap but held up. Still, a nice play for the rookie. 

4. Donnel Pumphrey is still a work in progress when it comes to punt returning. The first punt he saw, he decided to field it even though there were a few Packers in his area. He caught it, but it was an adventure and could have been disastrous. The second one he saw, he called for a fair catch, but muffed it, luckily recovering his own fumble. Pumphrey was not used as a returner in college, so this is new for him. He's looked relatively smooth during practice, but doing it in a game is a different animal. 

On offense, Pumphrey got a ton of touches but was completely ineffective. He had nine touches for 17 yards. 

5. Barnett picked up his first sack in an Eagles uniform, and it was a beauty. After getting pretty good pressure on his first series, Barnett used an inside move to toss Packers tackle Jason Spriggs out of the way. Spriggs is 6-foot-6, 301 pounds, but Barnett tossed him aside like he was nothing. 

And that was just the beginning for Barnett. Working from the right defensive end spot, he was just too hard to handle for Spriggs, who was a hot name coming out of last year's draft. After a less-than-stellar start to his training camp, Barnett had a good showing in his preseason debut. He did what he was supposed to: dominate second- and third-team players. 

6. After the Eagles' first-team defense left the field in the first half, two players from the starting unit remained: Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson. Mills had a good day and even Robinson broke up a pass. But their still being in the game late is a reminder about how fluid the situation is at corner. That competition is far from over. 

7. Matt McGloin made a pretty good tackle on Thursday night, which tells you about how the play started. McGloin threw a pass directly to linebacker Joe Thomas, who took off for 30 yards before McGloin brought him down. McGloin just didn't have a very good night and hasn't looked good throughout training camp. Unless he really turns it around in the next couple preseason games, he's not going to have a roster spot. 

Doug Pederson inexplicably allowed McGloin to throw 42 passes before taking him out of the game for Dane Evans. McGloin completed 28 of those for 205 yards. His long was a 38-yarder. 

8. Eagles receiver Marcus Johnson has had a really good training camp. He's been so good that plenty of folks have already called him a roster lock. But on Thursday, Johnson didn't play after having a hamstring injury earlier in the week. And while Johnson didn't play, another receiver fighting for a roster spot did. 

Bryce Treggs had a really good game. He and McGloin seemed to mesh in the second quarter. Treggs, known as a speedster, ran right past second-round draft pick Kevin King. Treggs had five catches for 75 yards in the first half, finishing with seven catches for 91 yards. 

9. Halapoulivaati Vaitai went down in the second half with a left knee injury and didn't return. While he was on the ground, everyone started to remember that the Eagles can't afford to lose him. He's their best backup tackle. After him? The team has Dillon Gordon and Matt Tobin. All offseason the talk about the offensive line has been about interior depth, which the Eagles have. But the tackle depth is lacking and Big V's injury is a reminder of that. 

10. For the last few years, the Eagles' special teams has been among the best units in the league. But the unit wasn't great on Thursday. The Packers' punt return touchdown in the first half was a mess. First, Ron Brooks was the first guy down the field and couldn't make a play (he left with a hamstring injury). Then Terrence Brooks and Najee Goode, two good special teamers, couldn't make a play either. The refs probably missed a block in the back against Chris Maragos, but seeing that touchdown probably didn't make Dave Fipp very happy. Then, Joe Walker was called for holding, a call that negated a nice Pumphrey return. And then Caleb Sturgis bounced a 46-yarder off the right goal post. 

Eagles training camp Day 10 observations: A fight at the goal line

Eagles training camp Day 10 observations: A fight at the goal line

The Eagles had a long, padded practice under the hot summer sun on Thursday and even went live (tackling to the ground) for the second time in camp. 

Friday's practice will be a light 10/10/10 before an off day on Saturday. 

Without wasting time, let's get to today's observations: 

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Nick Foles (elbow), Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), LeGarrette Blount (personal reasons), Paul Turner (shoulder), Donnel Pumphrey (hamstring) and Josh Andrews (hand) and Mychal Kendricks (quad) missed practice. 

This is the third straight day missed for Blount and Jeffery. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich said keeping Jeffery out is "more just precautionary." 

Elijah Qualls (groin) and Alex McCalister (hamstring) both returned to practice. This was the first day Kendricks has missed. 

2. Fight! For the first time during this training camp, tempers started to flare. Really, it's to be expected with the competition and the heat. On Thursday, the Eagles were doing live goal-line drills when Wendell Smallwood was stuffed short of the goal line. But then the real action started. Jason Kelce and Rodney McLeod exchanged a few words and shoves. 

"I'm a smaller guy but I try to hold my own," said McLeod, who is listed as 100 pounds lighter than Kelce. "It was just guys sticking up for one another, sticking up for their side of the ball."

McLeod said it's fun to be in those short-yardage situations and sometimes things get heated. 

That's OK. Just ask Reich. 

"It is a good dynamic right now," Reich said. "I think Coach (Doug) Pederson has done a good job of setting the tone and having it be very competitive. I think guys need to know, and they do know, you really have to know how to compete your butt off but still take care of each other. Tempers flare a little bit, and that's just part of it and everybody knows it. You gotta compete hard and still be mature enough to know how to do that and take care of each other." 

3. The goal-line drills started with the second-team offense vs. the first-team defense. On the first play, Corey Clement got into the end zone. Then Matt McGloin threw an incompletion when he targeted Billy Brown in the back of the end zone. Then Clement was stuffed by Brandon Graham. On the final play, Clement got in behind the lead block of Dillon Gordon, who was playing fullback. 

Then the first-team offense lined up against the second-team defense. First, Smallwood was stuffed. Then Byron Marshall couldn't get in; he was tackled by Joe Walker and Steven Daniels. The third play was a great pass from Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone for a touchdown. The final play was when Smallwood got stuffed and it started the scuffle. 

The third teams had just two plays, and Dane Evans got the offense in the end zone both times. The first time he passed to Anthony Denham in the end zone. The second Marshall ran right for the touchdown. 

"There's no room for error down there," McLeod said. "You literally have two yards of space. You have to come downhill and bring it. Both sides are doing a great job. It's a great competition. You like to see guys just giving it their all and playing with a little chip on their shoulder." 

4. The Eagles used offensive tackles Gordon and Halapoulivaati Vaitai in different ways during the offensive install portion of practice. Gordon got several reps at fullback and Vaitai got reps as a tight end. The Eagles spent a lot of their practice Thursday working on short-yardage, so those two players got to show off their versatility. 

5. The offensive play of the day came on the final snap. Wentz threw a beautiful deep pass to Nelson Agholor, who caught it in front of Rasul Douglas for a touchdown. From there, Agholor had the rest of his offense line up like bowling pins, and he knocked them down with the football. That's how practice ended. 

6. For the second time in three days, the Eagles had live tackling periods. They won't have another until after the game next week. Smallwood is a completely different animal in these periods. With Blount missing, Smallwood has been getting extra reps and making the most of them. He's been running hard and running defenders over. 

7. In the 1-on-1s between receivers and defensive backs, Agholor's quick steps near the line of scrimmage are hard for defensive backs to combat. He's just been really good over the last few days. 

8. While those 1-on-1s are really much easier for the receivers, give credit to Jalen Mills and C.J. Smith. They both made great stops. First, Mills broke up a deep pass to Torrey Smith. Then, Smith broke up a pass on a hitch to David Watford. Smith might be the Eagles' second-best outside cornerback right now. 

9. Terrence Brooks wiped out Clement a little too late Thursday. The play was already over and the whistle had blown, but it's hard to stop Brooks from hitting. Jim Schwartz had to send him to the sideline for a few plays. 

10. A good sign: middle linebacker Jordan Hicks was in for live goal line drills. Hicks still has his surgically repaired broken hand wrapped over his glove, but he appears to be fine. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: After "Big V" scored a rare touchdown, he put his hands up in the air and jumped two times. It looked like a little-kid touchdown celebration. 

10 observations from Eagles' minicamp: Gerry impresses as team breaks for summer

10 observations from Eagles' minicamp: Gerry impresses as team breaks for summer

I felt like blaring Alice Cooper from my car as I left the NovaCare Complex on Thursday afternoon. 

School really is out for summer. 

Thursday wrapped up the Eagles' three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday with a shorter-than-usual practice. Afterward, a bunch of players were nearly sprinting to get out of the building to make their flights to locations across the country. 

The team won't be back together again until late July for training camp. 

Here are 10 observations from the last practice of minicamp: 

1. As always, we'll start with the guys who weren't practicing. Jordan Matthews (knee) was held out again, missing all three days of the minicamp. He said after practice that he expects to be ready to go once training camp arrives but declined to go into details about his knee. 

Dorial Green-Beckham (foot) and Destiny Vaeao (calf) missed practice again on Thursday. Beau Allen missed all of minicamp as he recovers from a pec injury. Ryan Mathews hasn't even been in the building. Pederson said this week that Mathews has been excused to rehab elsewhere but didn't know where off the top of his head. 

Jon Dorenbos wasn't at practice on Thursday. The veteran long-snapper posted on his social media channels that he was on his way to Cabo for his wedding.

Fletcher Cox was back at practice after leaving Wednesday with a neck strain. He was limited (didn't participate in team portion) but should be good for training camp. 

2. The defensive star of Thursday's practice was fifth-rounder Nate Gerry, who is making the transition to linebacker after playing safety at Nebraska. 

During the 7-on-7s, Gerry first jumped a pass attempted for Paul Turner and made a great diving interception. Just after that, he had a huge pass breakup in front of fellow fifth-round draft pick Shelton Gibson. 

"Each day, with the transition, I'm just trying to make one less mistake than I did the day before," Gerry said. "Progress every day. I feel like after today, I feel much more comfortable at my position. A lot of learning experiences for me, but now I feel like I'm in a spot where I can settle down and play a lot faster." 

3. While Gerry took a big step forward on Thursday, rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas didn't have a good day at all. With referees on the field this week at practice, the rookie from West Virginia was called for defensive holding three times. 

After the third, which came against Alshon Jeffery, Douglas tried to argue the call, which got defensive backs coach Cory Undlin fired up. 

The thing Douglas has going for him is his size and long frame. Part of his game is going to be his physicality against receivers. But he's going to need to learn how to walk that line. 

4. The nicest offensive play of the day came on a pass from Carson Wentz to Nelson Agholor in the red zone. Agholor high-pointed the ball over cornerback Aaron Grymes and came down with an impressive touchdown. 

The Eagles' spring MVP has undoubtedly been Agholor. Obviously, this might not mean anything. Agholor still has a ton of work to do just to save his NFL career, but it's impossible not to notice him at practice. 

"On the field, he's always been an explosive guy," Wentz said this week. "But, boy, it sure seems like he might have gotten quicker and more explosive this offseason. He's out there, he's getting open. He's getting open, making plays, and it's good to see." 

5. Grymes was beaten by Agholor on that one play but has played well this spring. The former CFL All-Star has gotten more and more reps inside at the team's nickel corner. There seems to be a decent chance for Grymes to make the team and maybe even earn some time in the slot this year. 

6. Thursday was the first day that Jason Peters worked with the first-team offense during full-team drills. He didn't take every rep, though, and Lane Johnson slid over when he came out. 

For the second straight day, Isaac Seumalo took some first-team reps at center. That's been going on throughout the spring. It's clear the Eagles want to keep him ready at both the center and guard positions. 

7. Seumalo had one bad snap in a red zone drill on Thursday, but Wentz handled it perfectly. He leaped to grab the ball and set almost immediately as he hit the ground. He then found Zach Ertz in the end zone for a touchdown. 

On Wednesday, I spotted Wentz practicing bad snaps. The coaching staff was throwing them high or rolling them low. The drill was designed for Wentz to retrieve the ball and get into his throwing motion as quickly as possible. His ability to make something out of nothing is already there, but the coaching staff clearly wants him to embrace it. 

8. Without Cox, who didn't do team drills on Thursday because of that strained neck, the Eagles were pretty light at defensive tackle. Remember, Allen (pec) and Vaeao (calf) were also missing practice. That meant relatively recent free-agent pickup Gabe Wright took snaps next to Tim Jernigan with the first team. Not much to report on Wright; he didn't stand out good or bad. But at least the team is getting a chance to see if there's anything there. 

9. The Eagles' offense practiced a trick play going against air. Darren Sproles got the ball and threw about a 20-yard pass to Ertz toward the corner of the end zone. 

10. Nick Foles missed the minicamp because of family reasons, so the team had Tulsa QB Dane Evans in for a tryout. And the young QB looked pretty good. Good enough that Pederson said Evans will likely be the fourth quarterback the Eagles bring to camp. That would mean they will need to find an extra roster space for him. Perhaps that will come when Ryan Mathews is released. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: All week, when the offense is working by itself, the Eagles have used new offensive tackle Taylor Hart as a scout team defensive end. The guy has actually played defensive tackle in the NFL, but instead of lining him up inside, they've kept him as a faux edge rusher.