The Eagles held another organized team activity – otherwise known as “practice” — Thursday. Here are my observations from the session:
1. The Eagles had a spirited session. Typically, the media attends the last practice of OTAs on Friday, but the team moved up access a day. Lucky for us. There were plenty of highlights, most of the positive ones on the defensive side of the ball. OTAs are supposed to have no contact, but the Eagles – especially Jim Schwartz’s troops – appeared to push the boundaries. And when that happens, things tend to get a little chippy. For instance, midway through practice, center Jason Kelce took defensive tackle Gabe Wright to the ground. Kelce said something like “My bad.” But after Wright, who was signed earlier this week, was helped to his feet, he slapped Kelce across the helmet. It wasn’t a love tap. Kelce barked back, “That’s [expletive] up,” and walked toward Wright and had some words. There wasn’t further contact, as Kelce’s set was done, but the veteran center was clearly upset. Later, after he finished “blocking” Wright, Kelce had a little more to say to the former Lion and Brown, as did coach Doug Pederson during a break. Wright took more first-team repetitions than usual after Destiny Vaeao left with an apparent injury. Tim Jernigan was back at practice after leaving early Monday with an ankle sprain.
2. Carson Wentz might want to forget this day. He and the offense struggled throughout. Maybe it had something to do with the defense pushing the envelope, but the quarterback had trouble hooking up with his receivers. He had eight straight passes during one 7-on-7 set that were incomplete, although two were dropped. He overthrew a covered Alshon Jeffery and threw low to a crossing Darren Sproles, safety Malcolm Jenkins broke up a pass to Zach Ertz, Jalen Mills knocked a toss to Torrey Smith away, and Wentz threw too inside to Trey Burton. The drops came when Wendell Smallwood looked away on a short flick and when Nelson Agholor couldn’t hang onto a BB in the back of the end zone.
3. Other Wentz lowlights: He tossed an ill-advised bomb to a covered Jeffery that cornerback Patrick Robinson easily knocked away. He threw an interception right into the hands of linebacker Najee Goode. He was nearly picked off when he went to a not-even-looking Sproles in the flat. Wentz connected with Agholor on a 50-plus-yard “touchdown,” but the ball was short and was caught only after the ball was tipped into the receiver’s hands. Wentz’s best moment came when he lofted a strike to a crossing Ertz. It’s way, way, way – WAY – too early to hit the panic button on Wentz. But he hasn’t been sharp – at least for the last three practices I’ve attended. The Eagles still have one more OTA and three minicamp practices next week before breaking for the summer.
4. Quarterback Nick Foles wasn’t at practice. His was with his wife, who is expecting a child, the Eagles said. With Foles absent, Matt McGloin got additional opportunities under center. Like Wentz, he had some problems finding open receivers. But he showed that he can add a little extra mustard to his passes. McGloin zipped a “TD” pass to receiver Mack Hollins during 7-on-7s and he once squeezed a quickie to tight end Brent Celek over the middle. I’m not sure if the Eagles will keep three quarterbacks on the roster – my gut says no – but McGloin should be on an NFL roster this season.
5. Derek Barnett continues to make waves. The rookie defensive end took some first-team reps later in practice, and twice beat left tackle Lane Johnson. Some of the full-team drills, by nature, benefit the defense, but Barnett showed a variety of moves during the set, and got Johnson off balance when he faked outside and burst inside for a “sack.” Wright and defensive end Steven Means were also awarded “sacks” during team drills. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox once stormed into the backfield for a “TFL."
6. Before practice, Pederson was asked to name players who have stood out so far in OTAs, and the first one he mentioned was cornerback Rasul Douglas. The rookie might have been foremost on the coach’s mind because Douglas ran mostly with the first team ahead of Robinson on Thursday. Douglas had been getting snaps with the starters in nickel personnel with Mills moving into the slot. But he was outside both in base and nickel on this day. He didn’t seem to get much action overall, which could be considered a good thing since Wentz hardly saw a reason to go his way. We’ll see how Douglas does once the pads go on and the corners press, but he’s off to a good start.
7. Donnell Pumphrey drew a reaction from onlookers when he took a draw and juked Mills out of his jockstrap. Mills just stood there shaking his head. Later, I was third party to a conversation between Wright and Pumphrey in which the former gave the latter perhaps the best compliment one could imagine: “For a second there, I was like, ‘Is that Sproles?’ "
8. I’ve touched on Shelton Gibson before in my observations, but the rookie is still having problems catching the ball consistently. He dropped three passes during individual drills. At one point, receivers coach Mike Groh yelled, “Eyes to the ball.” Gibson did the drill again and caught the pass. It’s only June, but you can sometimes tell as early as the first camp whether receivers will be able to contribute at this level. I recall seeing former sixth-round pick Marvin McNutt for the first time and thinking that there’s no way he gets off the line quickly enough to make it at this level. It’s way – WAY – too early to rule out Gibson, but he’s clearly behind Hollins at this point.
9. Jeffery has done something each practice I’ve attended that makes you go, “wow.” During passing drills, he caught a Wentz throw with one hand, which isn’t necessarily a difficult thing, but the way he did it was breathtaking. The ball was high, Jeffery was turned opposite the way it was thrown, but he still somehow contorted his body to turn, reach up with one hand, pull it into his pouch and get both feet in the corner of the end zone. Wow.
10. And some leftovers: Receiver Jordan Matthews (knee tendinitis) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) were out again with injuries. Pederson said the Eagles are being cautious with Matthews. Running back LeGarrette Blount was out again. He was sick, per the Eagles, on Monday. There was no immediate explanation for his absence Thursday. … Tackle Jason Peters, defensive end Donnie Jones and defensive end Marcus Smith are still sitting out OTAs. … Tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai appeared to suffer a hip injury on one play and had to be replaced by Matt Tobin, but he said he was fine after practice.