Eagles Camp Observations: Tough day for Josh Huff

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Eagles Camp Observations: Tough day for Josh Huff

The bad news: The Eagles are "a little short" at wide receiver, says offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. More on that here.

The good news: They're not short at cornerback, as Curtis Marsh (remember him?) has come out of nowhere and is making plays. More on him here.

More observations from Day 9 of camp:

Rising stock
Aside from Marsh, Malcolm Jenkins and Cary Williams put forth strong practices. He broke up a touchdown pass in 7-on-7s and smothered the elusive Damaris Johnson down the right seam in 1-on-1s to force an incompletion. Williams kept towering wideout Ifeanyi Momah in check down the left sideline on a deep pass from Foles down the left sideline in 7-on-7s.

Falling stock
Rookie receiver Josh Huff had a tough time making routine catches and getting separation. He dropped a real easy one at the 5-yard line from Mark Sanchez in 11-on11s with Marsh in front of him. Must have heard those footsteps. Also got out-muscled by Brandon Boykin in 11-on-11s, which Boykin turned into a pick. Huff did have a nice third-down reception along the left sideline that appeared to be out of bounds, but he was given the benefit of the doubt.

Reminder of the Day
Brent Celek might be behind Zach Ertz on the targets totem pole for tight ends, but he’s still a dangerous weapon in the end zone. He caught a 5-yard touchdown from Nick Foles. Celek beat DeMeco Ryans to bring in Foles’ quick hit.

Throws of the day
Tie between Mark Sanchez's threading a small window in the end zone to find a sprawling Damaris Johnson and Nick Foles’ back-shoulder touchdown toss to Brad Smith on a back-shoulder throw at the goal line along the right sideline with Brad Fletcher covering.

Critic of the Day
Lito Sheppard, an intern coach and former playmaking corner from the Super Bowl team, hardly praised Davon Morgan for his breakup on a Hail Mary at the end of an 11-on-11 drill. After hearing Morgan strut his stuff, Sheppard chided the rookie corner for not getting the pick.

Tips of the Day
Inside linebacker Emmanuel Acho stretched high to break up Matt Barkley’s toss to James Casey in the right corner of the end zone. A few plays later, safety Malcolm Jenkins did the same to disrupt G.J. Kinne’s pass to Emil Igwenagu.

Duel of the Day
The highlight of practice was the slot battle between Boykin and receiver Jordan Matthews. Boykin played tight and physical with Matthews, who’s adapting to the slot and asked Boykin to give him his best shot.

Boykin jammed the ball away from Matthews during a 1-on-1 breakup. In another 1-on-1, Boykin started his press before the ball was even snapped, jarring Matthews so early the play had to be restarted. Matthews then beat Boykin across the middle for a nice catch. Later, in 7-on-7s, Boykin again got physical to break up a Nick Foles pass to Matthews on the left side.

Blow-up of the Day
Defensive end Cedric Thornton capitalized on a blocking miscommunication and barreled through scrimmage before the running play play could develop.

Keep an eye on …
Offensive tackle Andrew Gardner. He’s been running at second team left tackle. The team needs a third reserve offensive lineman behind Matt Tobin and Julian Vandervelde (or third-string center David Molk) while Lane Johnson serves his four-game suspension. Gardner, in his fifth season, has held his own at camp and stands to be that guy, at least until Johnson returns.

The team is allowed a roster exemption for the first four weeks. Gardner, a 2009 sixth-round pick by Miami, has signed with five different teams in his career before coming to Philly. He played three games in 2011 and three more in 2012 with Houston.

Henery vs. Murderleg
It wasn’t even close. Alex Henery made all five of his attempts, including two from beyond 50, while Cary Spear hooked three of his five wide left.

Injury update
Bryan Braman took a few plays off after colliding with Darren Sproles on kick-return duty. Looked like got the wind knocked out of him. Read here for the rest.

Up next
The Eagles have a light walkthrough on Wednesday as they prepare for Friday’s preseason game against the Bears. They usually have a walkthrough two days before a game and do some running and special teams work the day before.

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Snap counts: Dorial Green-Beckham's playing time continues to increase

Wendell Smallwood played just seven snaps and had just three carries coming into Sunday's game against the Steelers. 

In his third game, the rookie fifth-rounder from West Virginia led the Eagles in snaps and rushing attempts. 

Smallwood carries 17 times on his 24 snaps — many as the Eagles worked to run out the clock. Smallwood rushed for 79 yards and a touchdown, impressing his teammates along the way (see story). It was the best rushing performance for an Eagles rookie since Bryce Brown in 2012. 

Smallwood and Sproles each had 24 snaps. Kenjon Barner had 12 and starter Ryan Mathews had just eight. After the game, head coach Doug Pederson said Mathews was being evaluated. The running back had an ankle injury not long ago. 

As far as the rest of the offense, the entire starting line and Carson Wentz played all 65 offensive snaps. 

Jordan Matthews led the way for the wide receivers with 55 snaps. Dorial Green-Beckham continues to be more involved, going from 32 percent to 46 percent to 49 percent of offensive snaps on Sunday. He appears to be ahead of Josh Huff in many cases. 

The poor Eagles defense had to play 60 snaps on Sunday after two straight weeks with 52. Last year, the Eagles' defense averaged over 74 snaps per game. 

The Eagles have held the ball for 34-plus minutes in three consecutive games for the first time since 2008. 

What really stands out on the defensive snap counts is that Mychal Kendricks had just nine snaps on Sunday. Kendricks, who came into the game with a broken nose and a quad injury, is still a starter but has been demoted. He's no longer in the team's nickel package. And because the Eagles got up big, the Steelers needed to throw, which kept Kendricks off the field. 

Another interesting note is that while Vinny Curry began the spring practices as a starter, he was overtaken by Brandon Graham. Now Graham is playing so well it's hard to take him off the field. Connor Barwin led the defensive ends with 47 snaps on Sunday, followed by Graham's 42. Curry had just 26. Curry got a big contract in the offseason, but is clearly the third D-end. 

Through three games, here are the snap counts for the Eagles' top three defensive ends: 

Barwin — 124

Graham — 115

Curry — 74

Meanwhile, Destiny Vaeao picked up 19 snaps as he continues to show he's a solid depth piece. And Stephen Tulloch got 11 as Jim Schwartz continues a little rotation at linebacker. 

Here are full snap counts from Sunday's game: 

Offense

Allen Barbre: 65 snaps (100 percent)

Brandon Brooks: 65 (100)

Lane Johnson: 65 (100)

Jason Peters: 65 (100)

Jason Kelce: 65 (100)

Carson Wentz: 65 (100)

Jordan Matthews: 55 (85)

Nelson Agholor: 52 (80)

Brent Celek: 45 (80)

Trey Burton: 33 (51)

Dorial Green-Beckham: 32 (49)

Josh Huff: 26 (40)

Wendell Smallwood: 24 (37)

Darren Sproles: 24 (37)

Matt Tobin: 12 (18)

Kenjon Barner: 12 (18)

Ryan Mathews: 8 (12)

Beau Allen: 1 (2)

Stefen Wisniewski: 1 (2)

Defense

Malcolm Jenkins: 60 snaps (100 percent)

Rodney McLeod: 60 (100)

Nolan Carroll: 60 (100)

Ron Brooks: 58 (97)

Nigel Bradham: 56 (93)

Jalen Mills: 53 (88)

Jordan Hicks: 49 (82)

Connor Barwin: 47 (78)

Brandon Graham: 42 (70)

Fletcher Cox: 41 (68)

Bennie Logan: 29 (48)

Vinny Curry: 26 (43)

Destiny Vaeao: 19 (32)

Beau Allen: 17 (28)

Marcus Smith: 13 (22)

Stephen Tulloch: 11 (18)

Mychal Kendricks: 9 (15)

Steven Means: 6 (10)

Jaylen Watkins: 3 (5)

Najee Goode: 1 (2)

Wendell Smallwood takes 'step forward' vs. Steelers, impresses teammates

Wendell Smallwood takes 'step forward' vs. Steelers, impresses teammates

A win over the Steelers may have been a pleasant surprise, but Wendell Smallwood getting the bulk of the carries for the Eagles' ground attack was virtually impossible to predict.
 
The fifth-round draft pick saw by far his most extensive action Sunday, leading the Eagles with 17 carries for 79 yards. Smallwood also scored his first NFL touchdown, punching one in from the goalline during the third quarter of a 34-3 route (see Instant Replay).
 
Yet it wasn't the touchdown or Smallwood's longest run of 13 that had his coaches and teammates talking after the game. It was having the wisdom to stay in bounds and keep the clock running while converting on 3rd-and-7 late in the final minutes.
 
"Great game for him," center Jason Kelce said of Smallwood. "My favorite play of the day was, we were in a four-minute offense and we run a little draw play to the outside, and he knows exactly where the chain is, gets the first down and comes down right in bounds to keep that clock moving.
 
"That's something a lot of rookies don't have the wherewithal to do. I thought it was an incredibly smart play by Wendell. A lot of times those kind of go unnoticed, but in our world, especially in clock management, even though the score was pretty much out of reach at the time, let's say it's a closer game, that's a big play for us."
 
"To get first downs, to be smart about the end of the game, to get the first down and stay in bounds as a rookie is tremendous," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It’s a great step forward with his development, but I’m very happy with what he did."
 
Smallwood's heady play drew rave reviews, but so did the rest of his game. The 22-year-old had four runs over 10 yards, including two on the touchdown drive alone. Gains of 14 and 12 set up his one-yard score two plays later, his first trip to the end zone since his college days at West Virginia.
 
"It was a long time coming," Smallwood said. "It felt good to get in and get my first touch, since I don't know how long, probably since late December, November.
 
"It just felt great, especially in a big game, as much as this game meant to us and everything that went into this week preparing for it. To get in the end zone and get the guys going, it felt like a dream come true out there."
 
Ryan Mathews started at running back for the Eagles, but disappeared early on with an undisclosed injury and never returned. Postgame, coach Pederson acknowledged something happened to Mathews, but had no update on the veteran's status.
 
That led to an increased role for Smallwood, who entered Sunday with three total touches on seven snaps. The Wilmington, Delaware, native also missed a bunch of time during training camp and the preseason, appearing in only one exhibition game.
 
Despite his inexperience, Pederson and the coaching staff showed tremendous confidence in Smallwood, even after he was stuffed on his initial goal line attempt — a feeling the rookie ballcarrier admitted to feeding off of.
 
"I really thought they were gonna send someone in because I couldn't get in, but they left me in," Smallwood said of the touchdown run. "It continued to show the confidence they have in me and how much they believe in me. They probably believe in me more than I believe in myself, so it just boosts my confidence and makes me want to go harder for them.
 
"He’s the same type of runner that we felt he was coming out of college and what we saw in preseason," Pederson said. "He’s a big, powerful guy. He’s a downhill guy. He’s a one-cut runner. He did a great job for us."
 
Smallwood also said the increased workload helped him find a rhythm as an NFL player, something he previously had not been able to do in such limited action.
 
"It just felt good to finally start getting a flow, getting comfortable with the game and not just being like out there like a deer in the headlights," Smallwood said. "It felt good to start getting a role, getting comfortable with the offense and getting the whole flow of the game. Instead of a couple plays, I was actually getting series."
 
With Mathews' status up in the air and Smallwood's emergence Sunday, it will be interesting to see whether this could lead to an increased workload moving forward. Although if running backs coach Duce Staley was telling the truth, this certainly could have been the beginning of things to come.
 
"Duce told me every game they're just going to keep working me in slowly, and the better I do, the more I'm going to play, so just keep getting those guys to believe in me and believe I can go out there and make plays," Smallwood said. "As long as I'm doing that, I think I'm going to play more."
 
Smallwood's Sunday might've been difficult to see coming for outsiders. Apparently, there are people inside the organization who have foreseen this.
 
In addition to Staley, Smallwood revealed backfield-mate Darren Sproles had a premonition of sorts that the kid might be relied upon heavily against the Steelers. And when you have a tutor like Sproles, a 12-year veteran and two-time Pro Bowler, you probably tend to listen.
 
"He's great, not only as a receiver, but as a person and as a running back," Smallwood said of Sproles. "All the things he taught me even this week, even (Saturday) before we went to the hotel, he texted me like, 'Hey, get in your playbook, we might need you this game. We might lean on you this game.' And hey, it ended up happening."
 
Smallwood came ready to play Sunday, averaging better than 4.7 yards per attempt, punching one into the end zone, securing the ball on 17 touches and being aware of situations. With that kind of talent, production and instinct, his being an integral part of the game plan won't be a secret or surprise for much longer.

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