On what was a beautiful day to be at Lincoln Financial Field for the second (and final) open practice held by the Eagles, fans in attendance got a first-hand look at some of the storylines developing in training camp. Below are the top 7 observations from today’s gathering.
7: Alshon Jeffrey Returns – The big man returned in limited fashion today in front of nearly 37,000 strong at LFF Stadium after missing the last 3 days of practice with a sore shoulder. Jeffrey participated in everything except contact drills including 1-on-1, 7-on-7, and 11-on-11. However, he did run some routes in offensive drills without a defense. The team seems to be easing him back in, knowing his health is a priority for week one in Washington. *Foles was held out of practice.
6: Running Back Committee? – It was tough (at least from our vantage point) to tell who the starter is going to be in the backfield. Today’s practice featured everyone except RFA Corey Clement as a first string back. LeGarrette Blount returned after missing multiple days this week due to personal reasons. Pumphrey, Smallwood, Sproles, and Blount all saw first team reps.
5: Nelson Agholor – Nelson has a different swagger about him. He made some really nice catches today including one by the tips of his fingers on the sideline where the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he sprinted up the boundary after beating his man. There has been some talk about him possibly winning the starting slot job over Jordan Matthews who is still ailing with knee soreness and is in the last year of a deal. However, practice is one thing. Agholor needs to show up when it matters. Good to see his confidence is back though after metal struggles last season.
4: Zach Ertz’s ability to catch in traffic – One thing that really stood out today was Ertz’s ability to fight off the defender and hold onto the ball. He won the position on slant patterns in early 1-on-1 drills and had few leaping grabs. At one point he caught a ball in between the corner back and safety and got twisted up a bit, but after taking a quick break returned to practice.
3: Young guns contributing – Mack Hollins is, in fact, a special teams stud. He’s great on the outside getting down field or preventing gunners on kick/punt return close enough to even touch the returner. He’s a big body and even used it a few times today in pass catching. Seemed like of the 5-6 catches he made, he got popped immediately as the ball was arriving but still held on. Shelton Gibson also had two really nice snags after some fans were determined to give up on him. Pumphrey continues to develop as do the young corners. Rasul Douglas ended practice on a pick that probably would have been returned for a touchdown in a game.
The play of the day was a beautiful interception by Jalen Mills in 1-on-1 drills against Torrey Smith. Smith had a step on Mills after a hesitation “go” route as Wentz lofted a 30-yard pass to the right end zone line. Mills closed quickly and leaped up in front of Smith as they both went for the ball, but Mills snagged it from the veteran wide receiver and landed on his back in the end zone. The crowd went nuts.
2: Patrick Robinson’s Struggles – Robinson is as bad as advertised. He lacks confidence and technique. After practice, while most players stuck around to sign autographs, he put his head down and walked into the tunnel knowing he was awful. Torrey Smith flew right past him in a 7-on-7 drill and he had to make a shoestring tackle to save the touchdown. There’s a legitimate possibility of him being shown the exit before the season starts as he continues to fall down the depth chart.
1: Carson Wentz Looks Sharp
Wentz was dropping more dimes than T.J. McConnel today. He put a lot of throws right on the money where there was a defender lurking including two or three intermediate post routes to Jordan Matthews and Zach Ertz that were just out of reach of the covering defensive player’s hands but with enough space for Matthews/Ertz to toe-tap the sideline.
Wentz looked good on the run, completing all but one pass to LeGarrette Blount where he felt some pressure and threw off his back foot and the ball fell incomplete as Blount may have slowed up a bit at the end of the route. One of the best throws of the day was a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor reminiscent of the one he threw to Agholor against the Browns in the opener of last season. Agholor beats the coverage and Wentz put it right in the breadbasket for Nelson but it fell through his hands and to the ground.
All in all, it was a great opportunity for fans of all ages to get a glimpse of a team who returns to live action this Thursday against the Packers. It’s clear the wide receivers have gotten the better of the cornerbacks so far this camp and it will be on the weak spot of the team. Time to start looking for options.