Eagles practice observations: WR depth issues? Matthews strikes back; Beau Allen shines

The Eagles were back at it again at the NovaCare Complex for their eighth practice of training camp. They wore pads for the sixth straight practice. Let’s get to the highlights:

-- The Eagles had a wide receiver depth issue with Riley Cooper (ankle/foot), Jeff Maehl (ankle/foot) out for another practice, and after Jeremy Maclin sat out the last portion on Monday. There isn’t long-term concern about their availability – Maclin said he was fine afterward – but the drop from the first to second team is considerable and it affected the starting offense’s performance.

Ifeanyi Momah has been getting a ton of first team reps over the last week, and when Maclin stepped out, B.J. Cunningham stepped in on the opposite side. Under normal circumstances, the Eagles would probably just kick slot receivers Jordan Matthews or Brad Smith outside, but they stuck to the depth chart and just bumped up the backups. Still, receiver depth on the outside is a concern.

Nick Foles had a heck of time finding open receivers during one stretch of team drills. He dropped four straight times in one series and had to dump to running backs LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles on the first two passes, found tight end Brent Celek downfield on the third, and hooked up with Celek for a screen on the fourth. The Eagles have talent across the board, but losing Maclin or Cooper for multiple games would be unwelcome news.

-- Despite missing a few guys, the receivers got the better of the defensive backs during one on ones, although it should be pointed out again, that they have a distinct advantage in these situations. Maclin’s injury came during his first rep. He beat Cary Williams on a dig, but seemed to pull something. Here were some other moments of note:

1.  Matthews had a drop earlier during 7 on 7s (call off Canton!), but he showed why the Eagles love his upside despite concerns about his ability to get separation on deep vertical routes. Safety Malcolm Jenkins had tight coverage, but Mark Sanchez threw the ball nice and high, where only Matthews could get it, and he went up and pulled it after a slight bobble. Jenkins could do nothing but applaud.

2. Brandon Boykin broke up a pass intended for receiver Quron Pratt, but came up lame. He sat out a few plays once the Eagles started practicing special teams. He returned, though, and later broke up a throw to Pratt with a karate chop.

3. Nate Allen had good coverage on Damaris Johnson, who couldn’t get separation despite a speed advantage. Johnson doesn’t run the crispest routes.

4. Momah had one pass go right through his hands. The 6-foot-7 receiver is better a year later -- as I and others have noted -- but today wasn’t his best effort.

-- I haven’t written about the backup quarterback competition – if there is one – in some time. Sanchez is firmly entrenched in that spot ahead of Matt Barkley even if he didn’t have his best showing on Monday. He drove the second unit down inside the five-yard line during one series. On third down he lofted a jump ball to Zach Ertz in the corner of the end zone, and the tight end came up with a one-hander, but the throw was wide and out of bounds.

Barkley continues to have his moments working with the third team. He tossed a 20-yard strike to Kadron Boone on a corner route during 7 on 7s. Barkley is throwing with more authority during camp than he did in the spring. Friday’s game against the Bears, when he should get at least one quarter, will tell us a lot more about his development.

-- There was a lot of action during DL-OL one on ones. Some highlights:

1. Vinny Curry rushed from the edge against Jason Peters. Curry was quick off the snap, but Peters just ran him into the backfield. Peters, without much fanfare, just soilders along. I think he needs maybe two more high level years to be considered Hall of Fame-worthy, but it’s something he wants, along with, of course, finally winning a Super Bowl, and I think it’s within his reach.

2. Mychal Kendricks got an opportunity to rush. The inside linebackers are typically working elsewhere, but he made the best of his opportunity and took the corner on Lane Johnson.

3. Center David Molk should be nicknamed “Shoulder Pads” for the number of times the top part his equipment comes out from under his jersey. He poked Damion Square in the eye during one matchup. That’s one way to protect the quarterback. Square returned.

4. Marcus Smith struggled during his two chances. He got some push against Donald Hawkins, but lost his footing and tumbled on top of the rookie tackle. Smith tried to go outside on Allen Barbre, but the tackle held him off with one hand.

5. With Bennie Logan still slowly returning from a hamstring injury, Beau Allen has been making the best of his chances. He beat rookie Josh Andrews like a rented mule and then displayed impressive strength against Jason Kelce. I’ve been saying this since the Eagles drafted Allen in the seventh round – don’t be surprised if he’s the starting base nose by the end of the season.

6. Rookie tackle Kevin Graf has been struggling in pass pro, but did well against Joe Kruger and then outside linebacker Travis Long. During team drills, though, Long ran Graf over and placed him on his back. Impressive. A play later, Long dodged Graf and got to Barkley.

-- Important as one on ones are, the Eagles pass rushers have to transition to game action. The first team was strong during one set of plays.  Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin split a “sack” on first down and then Barwin came back the next play and was rewarded for “sacking” Foles, who held onto the ball too long.

-- A few quickies … The Eagles shook up the safety depth chart again. Jenkins and Chris Maragos were with the first team, while Allen and Earl Wolff ran with the twos. … I haven’t spoken much about Kendricks but he is silently having a strong camp. He had tight coverage on Momah downfield and Foles threw incomplete. …  Rookie tight end Trey Burton has talent. He’s smooth catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t know much about his blocking. … Cornerback Nolan Carroll sat out practice for the first time this camp. His injury is unknown. Aside from Cooper and Maehl, Chris Polk, Jake Knott and Julian Vandervelde were also out with injuries.