The Eagles opened their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. Here are my observations from the session:
1. The Eagles had a power outage at the NovaCare Complex, which threw a monkey wrench into the proceedings. The team moved up practice about four hours and held meetings over at Lincoln Financial Field. Must be nice to have an empty 70,000-seat stadium nearby.
The Eagles had full attendance save for backup quarterback Nick Foles, who was excused to be with his expecting wife. So that meant tackle Jason Peters, defensive end Marcus Smith and punter Donnie Jones were present and accounted for after skipping all of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs). With Foles absent, the team brought Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans in for a tryout and to help fill the void. Villanova linebacker Austin Calitro (6-foot, 239 pounds) was also there for a tryout.
2. At the start of OTAs, Doug Pederson said that Isaac Seumalo would play left guard with the first team. While it might have seemed as if he was giving the second-year lineman the early nod at the position, Allen Barbre’s calf strain also made it convenient for the coach. Since Barbre’s return, Seumalo has mostly split starter reps with the veteran.
The Eagles clearly want to have Barbre ready in case Seumalo isn’t. The remaining starting offensive line remained the same as it was during OTAs, from left to right: Lane Johnson, Seumalo/Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Peters was back, but the 35-year-old left tackle was held out of team drills. The Eagles just want to get him to the starting line on Sept. 10.
3. The first-team defense was essentially as it was during OTAs: Defensive ends Brandon Graham and Vinny Curry; defensive tackles Fletcher Cox and Tim Jernigan; linebackers Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham and Mychal Kendricks; cornerbacks Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson (with Rasul Douglas on the outside and Mills in the slot in the nickel); and safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz opened team drills by having Curry lined up inside and Cox on the outside. The switch seemed to fool the offense’s protections up front, and Curry got in the backfield and disrupted a Darren Sproles carry. Chris Long and rookie Derek Barnett were the second-team ends. Carson Wentz once found Sproles matched up against Barnett out of the backfield and took advantage of the mismatch. The speedy running back broke away from the end and high-stepped into the end zone.
Barnett had gotten the better of Johnson a few times last week, but when pitted against him for a few plays Tuesday, the tackle held his ground. Smith, meanwhile, was blocked into the ground once by undrafted rookie Victor Salako.
Smith told reporters that he missed OTAs under his agent’s advisement. He said he didn’t know why he was told to stay away, but reiterated that OTAs were not mandatory. He said he was still committed to becoming a starter on the Eagles. (Eye roll.)
4. LeGarrette Blount was back after missing last week’s OTAs with what he told reporters was a sickness. He was once met in the backfield by Jernigan for an apparent loss. I can’t get excited either way with how the running backs perform on the ground in practices without pads and contact.
The offense had Donnel Pumphrey lined up in various spots – in the backfield (of course), slot and split wide. On one play, the rookie running back ran a fake jet sweep, but the defense wasn’t fooled and Wentz ultimately tucked the ball and “scrambled.” On another play, Pumphrey motioned through the backfield behind Wentz, but no one bit and Mills streaked in for the “sack.” Pumphrey has been more involved in the offense than second-year running back Wendell Smallwood, but perhaps only because the spring is more of a passing camp.
5. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews (knee tendinitis) and running back Ryan Mathews (neck) weren’t at practice. The Eagles have said that they were being cautious with Matthews. Mathews is still not 100 percent, but once he’s completely healthy, he will likely be released. Defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao (ankle) and defensive tackle Beau Allen (biceps) were also out. Cornerback Ron Brooks (quadriceps) and linebacker Joe Walker (knee) are still limited at practice. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) returned after missing most of last week’s OTAs.
6. Wentz looked a little shaky early, but seemed to settle down and have a productive session. I don’t know what he was working on during individual drills, but three of his four passes during one set were ducks. Wentz wasn’t sharp during the last three OTAs that were open to the media, but there could have been a combination of reasons outside of his control.
The first-team defense has been performing at a higher level, in my estimation, and it could be some time before Wentz and his new receivers and running backs develop sustainable chemistry. For one period, he had little time to throw and was “sacked” twice – by Curry and Graham.
7. Douglas has been getting a lot of praise during his first NFL spring – from Pederson and reporters who have covered the practices. But he was caught flat-footed when receiver Marcus Johnson beat him deep on a straight “go” route. It was just one play, so I don’t want to make a big deal of it, but Douglas was slow to get out of his crouch and couldn’t even catch up to a ball that Wentz underthrew. Johnson still caught it and scored.
Douglas is long, so he’s likely going to have a little more of an issue with turning and getting upfield. He doesn’t run a fast 40, so long speed could be an issue at this level. He came back a play or so later, though, and had tight coverage on a pass that sailed wide and out of bounds. Mills had a pick-six when he jumped an Evans pass to Mack Hollins a little later.
8. Receiver Bryce Treggs had the catch of the day. He got behind the secondary, but Wentz’s pass was once again short. Treggs, though, tracked the ball and made a diving grab. Quarterback Matt McGloin lofted a nice pass to Treggs earlier in practice, but the receiver mistimed his jump and the ball wasn’t caught. Rookie Shelton Gibson has had early struggles, but he was a little more active during team drills. He still occasionally bobbles balls that should be easily caught.
Tight end Zach Ertz has probably been Wentz’s favorite target this spring. The quarterback once rolled to his right, pointed to his left to Alshon Jeffery, who was going deep, and tossed a BB to Ertz instead to his right near the sideline. It reminded me of the times I used to tell my little brother to go deep, he’d run 100 yards, and I’d simply dump the ball to someone else. Or not.
9. Rookies Sidney Jones and Elijah Qualls made their first appearances at NovaCare since rookie camp. The Washington products were not permitted to participate in OTAs because of the NFL’s graduation rule. Jones is no longer wearing a walking boot on his left foot. The cornerback watched parts of practice. He said he will remain in Philadelphia during the summer weeks to rehab his ruptured Achilles tendon with the Eagles’ medical staff.
10. And a few leftovers: Undrafted rookie Greg Ward, who played quarterback in college, took a snap during quarterback-receiver drills. … Jones clearly still has the foot and had booming punts compared to undrafted rookie Cameron Johnston.