10 observations

Eagles training camp Day 15 observations: Blount finds no room in live periods

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Dave Zangaro | CSNPhilly.com

Eagles training camp Day 15 observations: Blount finds no room in live periods

Two days after the preseason opener in Green Bay, the Eagles were back on the practice field in Philadelphia … without Jordan Matthews. 

Saturday, of course, was the first day since the big trade that sent Matthews and a third-round pick in 2018 to Buffalo and brought cornerback Ronald Darby to Philly. 

Without wasting time, here are 10 observations from Day 15 at training camp: 

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Nick Foles (elbow), Bryce Treggs (leg soreness), Paul Turner (shoulder), Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), Ron Brooks (hamstring), Aaron Grymes (personal reasons), Josh Andrews (hand), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Anthony Denham (calf) did not practice. 

Vaitai injured his knee during Thursday's game. It initially looked like a scary injury but he had just a sleeve on his leg Saturday. Head coach Doug Pederson said they're expecting Big V to just miss a couple days of practice. Ron Brooks injured his hamstring in the game but said after practice Saturday keeping him out is just precautionary. 

Trey Burton and Chance Warmack left practice early with undisclosed injuries. 

2. The Eagles had their third and final live period (tackling to the ground) of training camp. It seemed like a pretty long and tough practice for two days after the first preseason game, but that was the plan all along. 

Pederson wasn't swayed to make it tougher because of sloppy play against the Packers. 

"I just wanted to do it after a ball game just because the starters didn't play a ton in that game," he said. "Wanted to give them a day, then come back with a spirited, live period practice."

3. LeGarrette Blount missed the live periods earlier in training camp, so Saturday offered a chance to see him in real football situations. He didn't do very well. In the game Thursday, Blount had four carries for nine yards. It was more of the same at practice. 

He had several carries but gained just a few yards. Maybe we won't really see what he has left until the season starts. 

4. Shelton Gibson has turned things around. He made another great catch near the sideline over C.J. Smith in 11-on-11s, but he's not completely over his troubles. He had a pretty egregious drop in the game Thursday. And on Saturday, he crossed the middle of the field and made an awkward jump catch when he didn't need to jump. He's going in the right direction but isn't there yet. 

5. With Matthews gone, Nelson Agholor settled into the top slot receiver position as expected. Agholor didn't just work with the first team Saturday, he worked with the twos and even the threes as well. It's clear the Eagles are now working to get him a ton of reps in the slot to prepare him for the season. He's going to need to spend a lot of time there. Others will be worked in the slot as well. Mack Hollins had an active day in the middle of the field. 

6. With Ron Brooks' hamstring injury, the Eagles had Malcolm Jenkins work as the nickel cornerback Saturday. That's exactly what the team did in 2016 when Brooks was lost for the year after rupturing his quad tendon. Jenkins likes playing in the slot, but it really weakened the team on the back end. 

On Saturday, though, it was newcomer Corey Graham who filled in for Jenkins at safety when Jenkins moved up to slot corner. Graham is already ahead of Jaylen Watkins and Terrence Brooks for the third safety slot. The Eagles will probably feel more comfortable moving Jenkins into the slot cornerback spot if needed with Graham as his replacement. 

7. Donnel Pumphrey fumbled a ball during an 11-on-11 rep Saturday. Not a good sign for the young rookie, who struggled in his preseason debut Thursday night. He had trouble securing the ball in that game. Rookies who put the ball on the ground have a hard time getting on the field. 

8. Carson Wentz didn't have a very sharp day. His best pass of the morning went to a streaking Torrey Smith, who snuck behind Jalen Mills in coverage. It'll be fun to see Smith go up against Ronald Darby once the new corner is practicing. Wentz kind of seemed sluggish Saturday; in fact a lot of the team did. Perhaps it was a sort of hangover after losing Matthews in the trade. He was a favorite in the locker room and, while some don't want to believe it, football players are people with emotions. 

9. Defensive end Alex McCalister has started to pick it up over the last week. He still might have an uphill battle to make the team, but he's really been improving. He made a few plays in the game — against the third team, but still — Thursday night. And he kept it going Saturday. He showed an impressive move inside that was obviously set up by the fact that offensive tackles need to respect his speed. He made a quick move inside and the tackle was left flat-footed as he got in on the QB. 

10. Jordan Hicks has the unbelievable ability, especially for a linebacker, to just always be around the ball. On Saturday, he broke up a pass he probably should have caught in the first 11-on-11 drills but redeemed himself later. In a red zone period, he floated back and picked off Matt McGloin in the middle of the end zone. He just has a knack for making big plays. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: Blount seemed so happy to get his No. 29 back, but as he came out of the NovaCare Complex for practice, he had his jersey rolled up so no one could see the number.

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.