The Eagles held their 17th practice of training camp on Monday. Here’s what I saw:
-- After two days of padded practices, the Eagles practiced in shells and shorts for a two-hour 10-10-10 session. The first team offensive line – as it prepares for the possibility of losing Lane Johnson for the first 10 games of the season – looked the same as it did for the previous two days. Allen Barbre was at right tackle in place of Johnson, and rookie Isaac Seumalo was at the vacated left guard spot. If you watched any of Thursday night’s preseason game, you might be asking yourself, “How could Seumalo have earned a promotion after that performance?” You’re not alone. Stefen Wisneiwski played first-team right guard during Brandon Brooks’ early camp injury, but the six-year veteran didn’t get the call up at left guard – at least for now.
“I hope at some point to get there, but I’m not there yet,” Wisniewski said. “I think they’re definitely moving some people in different positions right now. I think they’re trying to see if people can play at those positions. I don’t think the line is set at this point.”
The Eagles apparently want to give Seumalo, who was drafted in the third round, the opportunity to earn the spot. He appears to have a lot still to learn. He had a few decent run-blocking moments, but mostly, he looked confused against the Bucs. The Eagles have other on-the-roster options if Johnson is suspended. They could promote Matt Tobin to right tackle and simply keep Barbre at left guard, where he’s more comfortable. But Tobin is staying at second-team left tackle – for now -- which must mean he feels more comfortable on that side.
Dennis Kelly and Andrew Gardner did little to instill confidence in their ability to step into Johnson’s shoes after their showing Thursday night. There are some former starters on the street, but those free agents are unsigned for a reason. Former New York Giants tackle Will Beatty recently worked out for a few teams and is still available. The pickings are slim.
-- The other notable depth-chart shakeup has been at cornerback. Nolan Carroll has moved ahead of Ron Brooks on the side opposite Leodis McKelvin. He had been filling the spot in the nickel defense after Brooks moved into the slot, but the current lineup might have been how Jim Schwartz always envisioned cornerback. Carroll may have just needed some time to recover from his broken ankle before he took the full workload. Brooks has experience in the slot, and playing both inside and out was going to be a lot to put on his plate. Jalen Mills has been out of practice with a hamstring injury since Saturday. It seems unlikely that Mills or Eric Rowe will push for a starting spot before the opener.
-- With Monday’s practice essentially devoid of competition, here’s a brief summary of some other position/roster battles:
1. Wide receiver. This group, with Jordan Matthews out against the Bucs, had a rough night. Matthews is the slot and will play some outside and the bulk of receiver snaps. This we know. But the rest is up for grabs. Nelson Agholor will likely start on one side, but he’ll be there by default. He has not stood out this offseason. Chris Givens gives the Eagles some speed, but there’s nothing special there. Rueben Randle probably has the most talent and the best NFL resume after Matthews, but he looks disinterested at times. Josh Huff isn’t reliable receiver. Undrafted rookie Paul Turner might earn a roster spot, but that is likely only if the Eagles keep six receivers.
2. Third safety. Who will be next up if Malcolm Jenkins or Rodney McLeod goes down? Schwartz has been giving all four backups -- Ed Reynolds, Jaylen Watkins, Chris Maragos and rookie Blake Countess – a shot. Reynolds can tackle, but he’s a click slow. Watkins can cover, but he can’t tackle consistently. Maragos is probably the best of the four, but the Eagles might not want to put too much on the four core special teams ace. Countess hasn’t stood out much, at least yet.
3. Fourth defensive end. Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham and Connor Barwin are the undisputed top three. Steven Means has taken advantage of Marcus Smith’s absence (concussion) and has emerged as the leading candidate for the fourth spot. He had impact plays against both the pass and run in the Bucs game. When has Smith ever come close to matching that production? Smith’s a former first-round pick, but it might be time to finally cut the cord – unless the Eagles keep five defensive ends. And in that case, would they keep Smith over seventh-round rookie Alex McCalister? Probably.
4. Fourth defensive tackle. Mike Martin had clearly taken the horns of the third spot – after starters Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan – but he suffered a knee injury and has been out for an extended period. He’s pretty much penciled into that spot. Beau Allen and Taylor Hart are likely the two leading contenders for the fourth spot. Undrafted rookies Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu are in the mix. Allen is a big-bodied tackle and might appear to be strictly a 3-4 nose, but he has some surprising athleticism and pass-rush ability. The Eagles also could use one big dude on short yardage. Hart flashed against the Bucs and shot through a gap or two. He’s likely best suited to play 3-4 end, but he might squeeze onto the roster.
5. Third running back. Ryan Mathews is the starter, and Darren Sproles will be his complement. But what happens if either gets hurt? Wendell Smallwood, a fifth-round rookie, is virtually guaranteed a roster spot. But can he beat out Kenjon Barner for the No. 3 role? He needs to improve his blocking if he’s to have any shot. He missed two weeks of camp with a quadriceps injury, so it’s difficult to say if he’s much of a runner or pass catcher, either. He appears to have some talent. Barner is a borderline NFL player. But he’s managed to stick around – mostly because the Eagles don’t have much else. Undrafted rookies Byron Marshall and Cedric O’Neal have struggled to adjust to the NFL.
6. Kicker. Both Caleb Sturgis and Cody Parkey made all five of their field-goal attempts on Monday. Overall, Sturgis is 39 of 43 (90.7 percent) during camp, and Parkey is 33 of 43 (76.7 pct.). Sturgis, who booted a 42-yard field goal against the Bucs, has been more accurate and has had a stronger leg both on field goals and kickoffs. Parkey has been better of late.
-- And a few notes: Quarterback Carson Wentz (ribs), Matthews (knee), linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring), Martin, Mills and receiver Hunter Sharp (hamstring) didn’t practice. The Eagles reported no new injuries. … Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Dillon Gordon took reps at fullback again. Gordon was a blocking tight end at LSU. He’s done a fairly decent job at tackle.