ronald darby

Eagles leaning toward playing Alshon Jeffery, Ronald Darby on Thursday

Eagles leaning toward playing Alshon Jeffery, Ronald Darby on Thursday

It looks like the Eagles will unwrap two of their biggest additions on Thursday night at the Linc. 

Head coach Doug Pederson on Tuesday said he's leaning toward playing receiver Alshon Jeffery and cornerback Ronald Darby in the second preseason game of the summer. It will be the first time either player will suit up with the Birds. 

Jeffery was held out of the first preseason game by Pederson, who has been limiting the star receiver's practice time over the last couple weeks. Jeffery had a shoulder injury but even after he healed wasn't a full participant in practice for about another week. Jeffery finally took 11-on-11 reps Monday. 

"I am leaning toward playing [Jeffery], yes," Pederson said. "He feels comfortable, we've talked about it, so I'm comfortable with it."

This will offer Carson Wentz his first opportunity to play with Jeffery in game action. The two have worked hard to build chemistry while at practice and away from the field. Jeffery was a part of the group that went to North Dakota to work out with Wentz during the offseason. 

"It seems like it's been a long time coming with [Jeffery]," Wentz said. "I'm not sure if he'll play or not or how much, but hopefully he does and hopefully we can start getting that chemistry, that relationship out on the field in live situations."  

The Eagles didn't trade for Darby until last Friday, so this will be his first chance to play in a game with his new team. By pure coincidence his first game as an Eagle will come against his old team, the Bills. 

"Yeah, it will be a little weird knowing I was just there a few days ago," Darby said earlier this week, "but that's just how the league works." 

While Darby will likely play on Thursday, his counterpart in the trade, Jordan Matthews, will not. Matthews suffered a cracked sternum in his first practice with the Bills on Sunday. 

Meanwhile on Sunday, Darby practiced with the Eagles for the first time and was immediately thrown into action with the starters at left cornerback. It's likely that's where he'll play on Thursday night. 

"Same thing [as with Jeffery]," Pederson said. "Give him an opportunity to play and [it will] be exciting to watch him in live action."

Pederson said while the plan wasn't definitive, he'll probably play Wentz and the starters for just a series or two against the Bills. He just wants the starters to stay in game shape while avoiding injury. 

"You know how it is, you get in the middle of the game and it starts flowing and you get a feel for when it's right," Wentz said. "I trust he'll make the right decision. Obviously, I want to play as much as he thinks is fit and we'll roll with that." 

Brandon Brooks (ankle) and Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) will be game-day decisions. Both have been back at practice after missing the preseason opener but aren't guaranteed to play this Thursday. If Brooks doesn't play, Chance Warmack will make his second straight start at right guard. 

Jason Peters was excused from practice Tuesday for personal reasons. In his absence, Lane Johnson took over at left tackle and Matt Tobin filled in at right tackle because Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It's unclear if Peters will be back in Philly in time for the game. 

If nothing else, putting Johnson at left tackle is good practice if something were to happen to Peters during the season. 

"Lane obviously worked at left tackle all spring (during OTAs)," Pederson said. "Big V obviously at the time was right tackle. But this will be a good opportunity if something were to happen and they have to do that at least this Thursday."

Eagles training camp Day 17 observations: Ronald Darby vs. Alshon Jeffery

Eagles training camp Day 17 observations: Ronald Darby vs. Alshon Jeffery

Monday was the last real day of training camp.

Tuesday's practice will be a light 10/10/10 and training camp is technically over after the second preseason game. So this is the last training camp observations of the summer. Try not to shed a tear.

Let's get into it:

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Brandon Brooks (ankle strain), Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) and Nick Foles (elbow) all returned to practice on Monday, although all three were limited and didn't participate in full-team 11-on-11 drills.

Fletcher Cox (back spams) missed practice for the second straight day.

WR Paul Turner (shoulder), CB Ron Brooks (hamstring), OL Josh Andrews (hand), OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) and TE Anthony Denham (calf) also missed practice again.

2. It's just two days in, but it's already pretty clear that Ronald Darby is the Eagles' best cornerback. Yeah, that didn't take long.

Darby has offered really solid coverage during his two days at practice. On Monday, he played Mack Hollins perfectly during 1-on-1 drills and picked off Carson Wentz's pass. There aren't many interceptions during that drill because it's really hard on DBs, but Darby played it perfectly. Later on, he knocked down a pass intended for Torrey Smith.

And it's been really fun to watch him go against Alshon Jeffery. When those two are matched up, all eyes are on them.

"It's great to have competition," Jeffery said. "He's got great closing speed, breaks on the ball. He's a great player."

3. Speaking of Jeffery, he participated in 11-on-11 drills for the first time in a while on Monday. Jeffery is completely over his shoulder injury, but Pederson has still been holding him out at his own discretion. But Jeffery's practicing nearly in full on Monday might be a sign that he'll play in the game on Thursday night.

After practice, Jeffery said he didn't know if he'll play. But he wants to.

"I would like to," he said. "But at the same time, we'll see."

4. Jeffery did make one great catch on Monday. He rose over Rasul Douglas and was able to get his feet down in the end zone for a touchdown.

5. The offense wasn't sharp again on Monday. Wentz had a shaky showing for the third consecutive day. Sometimes that happens; he just needs to snap out of his funk. The offensive line had a few false starts, and the entire unit then ran sprints after practice. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich tried to claim the running was about team-building.

6. The most fun part of practice on Monday was the battle between Nelson Agholor and Malcolm Jenkins. After Agholor beat Jenkins in a 1-on-1 drill for the second time, Jenkins gave him a little shot and Agholor didn't seem to like it. The two jawed a little bit as Agholor ran back to the offensive side of the field. The next time the two were lined up against each other, Jenkins popped him at the line of scrimmage and then knocked the ball away from him when it came. The two exchanged a few more words after that play. It was a little heated.

7. After a day of trying different combinations at slot corner, Patrick Robinson spent his day in that role on Monday. Darby took most of the first-team reps at left corner and Jalen Mills took the field at right corner. Even when Rasul Douglas came in to replace Darby at one point, Robinson stayed in the slot. That's interesting. Ron Brooks is out right now with an injury but perhaps Robinson could find a role as a slot corner with the Eagles. Earlier in his career, he had success there.

8. Every time Donnel Pumphrey gets hit during practice, it normally draws gasps from the crowd just because at 176 pounds, he normally goes flying. Sometimes it's actually difficult to tell what hits are actually hard. But give Pumphrey credit — every time he gets hit, he pops right back up.

9. Glassboro's Corey Clement has looked good over the last couple weeks. He's still a work in progress as a pass-catcher, but the big running back just seems to hit holes hard. He might not have a great shot at making the team, but he's been impressive.

10. Give credit to Mychal Kendricks. He's not happy with his role on the team and he hasn't been shy about that. But he has had a good attitude throughout training camp and has played pretty well when he's been on the field. On Monday, he blew up a screen pass intended for Darren Sproles in the red zone.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Ron Brooks was standing on the sideline, punting a football up to himself and making it flip end over end a few times before he caught it. He made it look much easier than it probably was.

Ronald Darby thrown in with starters on 1st practice day with Eagles

Ronald Darby thrown in with starters on 1st practice day with Eagles

After a couple of whirlwind days, new Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby finally felt at home Sunday morning. 

On a football field. In man coverage. 

"Yeah, it was a stress reliever," Darby said after his first practice with his new team. "I had a lot built up, trying to get the playbook down, trying to learn. I made a few mistakes on some of the plays. But go in there, learn from it, get better each day."

Darby, 23, was at practice Saturday morning but wasn't allowed to participate because Jordan Matthews, his counterpart in Friday's trade, hadn't yet taken his physical. 

So Sunday offered the first chance for Darby to take the field in his No. 35 Eagles uniform and it offered his teammates and coaches the first chance to see him in action. 

And the team didn't waste any time. 

During group install and 11-on-11 drills, Darby lined up as the first-team cornerback on the left side, while Jalen Mills manned the right. Darby didn't take every first-team rep but it's pretty clear he's already a starter for Jim Schwartz's defense. 

"Yeah, it was a little bit of pressure because [the other corners have] everything down," Darby said. "Me just coming in and trying to figure everything out. Just trying to study and get better every day."

Darby took part in individual drills before having a big role in team portions of practice. He showed off his trademark speed and coverage skills and seemed to look pretty good.  

"Well, we were just trying to get him out there," Schwartz said. "It’s tough when you come in and you've got one day to try to get up to speed, and there were a couple signs of that where we had a miscommunication. It really wasn't a miscommunication, it's just he's not up to speed on a lot of the calls. But we tried to limit it, mainly a lot of man-to-man just so it would stay that way."

So how did Darby look?  

"Hard to really say," Schwartz said. "I mean, I'm watching all 11 guys on defense. You guys are only watching one. You've got to admit, that is the only one you guys were watching, right?"

(Yeah, Schwartz was kind of right.) 

For his first practice, Darby lined up on the left side only. That's where he played the first two years of his career in Buffalo and he clearly feels more comfortable there. But during training camp with the Bills before the trade, Darby had been playing on the right side. That's good news for Schwartz, who sometimes likes to flip his corners. 

While in Buffalo, Darby lined up opposite Stephon Gilmore, so there was no reason for them to switch and Darby never shaded the other team's best receiver. But there's a chance that's what happens this season. Schwartz said Sunday that it was too early to determine that. 

"My last two years, I had Gilmore on the other side," Darby said. "We really didn't stress it. If a receiver came to the left side, I was on him. If he went to the right, Gilmore was on him."

During the 7-on-7 portion of practice, Darby lined up 1-on-1 against Alshon Jeffery. The two got tangled on the rep and Jeffery came down with the ball. Darby said going against players like Jeffery will help him prepare for some of the other big receivers he'll play this season. 

Aside from that play against Jeffery, Darby also gave up a completion to Nelson Agholor on a dig route, but Agholor made a great play near the ground after Darby offered tight coverage. 

"He's definitely a good player from what I know and from what I've seen," safety Rodney McLeod said. "It's just going to take him some time to get the communication and scheme down. I think that's the main thing. But I think he did well today. He was competing. He had some tight coverage on Alshon and some other guys. He's going to be a good addition to this group."

With how quickly the Eagles tossed Darby into action with the starting group Sunday, it seems very possible he'll get a chance to play Thursday against this old team when the Bills come to town. 

It will probably be a weird night for him. 

"Yeah, it will be a little weird knowing I was just there a few days ago," Darby said, "but that's just how the league works."