The Eagles held their ninth practice of Phase 3 of spring workouts – otherwise known as organized team activities (OTAs)– on Wednesday, open to the media. Here are some observations and notes:
1. While Carson Wentz has drawn most of the attention among Eagles players returning from significant injury – and rightfully so – Jason Peters’ progress since suffering a torn ACL in October has been only slightly less impressive. The left tackle has been a regular during spring workouts and has participated in all aspects of practice aside from team drills. Right tackle Lane Johnson said two weeks ago that he thought Peters could do everything if need be, but the Eagles are taking their time with him. Even if he were healthy, the 36-year old’s involvement would probably be limited. Peters’ pre-practice warm-up session looks the same as it has the last few years. While the rest of the team ran through a variety of warm-ups, Peters received individual attention from a trainer, who stretched him out. He then participated in individual drills with the rest of the offensive linemen, and when the install period began, he took his usual spot with the first team. Peters even jumped in later with the third-team unit. Halapoulivaati Vaitai filled his left-tackle spot during team drills, however. All signs point to Peters being ready by Week 1. The Eagles are gambling a bit, considering his injury and age, but even Peters at this stage of his career should be better than most options at his position.
2. There were a few additions to the injury list, most notably cornerback Sidney Jones. It’s too early to be concerned. The fact that he was on the field watching suggests that the injury isn’t serious. Nevertheless, considering that he missed almost the entire 2017 season with an Achilles tendon rupture, Jones’ health will be closely monitored. Jones was unavailable for comment afterward. Donnel Pumphrey made a return visit to the sideline with an unspecified injury. Receiver Marquess Wilson sat out. Continued to be sidelined were safety Chris Maragos, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, linebacker Joe Walker, linebacker LaRoy Reynolds, and running back Josh Adams. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, who is recovering from an Achilles injury, was limited.
3. Doug Pederson confirmed that defensive end Michael Bennett and running back Darren Sproles were still absent from OTAs. Defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back) have yet to make an appearance on the practice field, even though they are rehabbing at the NovaCare Complex. Pederson didn’t list defensive tackle Fletcher Cox or linebacker Nigel Bradham among those who opted to skip Wednesday’s workout, but neither practiced. Every player is obligated to attended next week’s mandatory three-day minicamp.
4. Receivers and defensive backs tend to stand out more in the spring because practices are noncontact – at least, they’re supposed to be – and because there is more passing than running. Cornerback De’Vante Bausby continued the stellar play we saw in the two previous open workouts. He was back in the slot with the first-unit defense. He intercepted both Nick Foles and Nate Sudfeld during team drills, stepping in front of Sudfeld’s pass and taking it the other way. Bausby is a long corner at 6-foot-2, and his 31 1/4-inch arms give him additional range. He later reached for a Sudfeld toss and batted it incomplete. Bausby’s ascension could make one of the Eagles’ other cornerbacks expendable, say, Ronald Darby, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract.
5. Pederson gives his assistants autonomy when it comes to individual drill work. Every quarterback coach spends time on footwork and evading the rush. Former assistant John DeFilippo used to run at his quarterbacks with his arms raised to simulate an unblocked rusher. His replacement, Press Taylor, had Wentz, Foles, Sudfeld, and fourth stringer Joe Callahan dodging giant exercise balls. Taylor, who was promoted after DeFilippo became the Vikings offensive coordinator, has introduced a few other exercises. Pederson, new offensive coordinator Mike Groh, and former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich have raved about Taylor’s preparedness and his future as an emerging offensive mind.
6. The Eagles cut one field in half and split the offense and defense during passing drills. The offense had a decided advantage without a rush, even though the numbers were slanted in the defense’s favor. Wentz and Sudfeld worked at the far end, so I didn’t have a good view, but Foles and Callahan threw in my direction. Receiver Rashard Davis — all 5-9 of him — sailed for a sideline toss. Rookie Avonte Maddox knocked away a Callahan seam pass to receiver Tim Wilson. Foles found the turkey hole in a Cover 2 and connected with receiver Bryce Treggs for a “touchdown.” Rasul Douglas drew a flag when he held receiver Nelson Agholor after a double move. But the second-year corner ran step-for-step with rookie receiver Anthony Mahoungou on an overthrown deep toss. “Hell no,” he declared.
7. Here’s a play-by-play (of sorts) from drills involving the first team units: With Cox absent, there wasn’t one projected starter on the defensive line. Derek Barnett and Chris Long were the first team ends, and Destiny Vaeao and Elijah Qualls were the tackles. Corey Nelson, Kamu Grugier-Hill and Nathan Gerry were the first-team base linebackers. I can’t imagine that front seven would elicit much fear in opposing offenses, but we’re three months from actual football. Foles had a couple of impressive downfield throws to tight end Richard Rodgers during 7-on-7s. Running back Jay Ajayi dropped a dump off from Foles during team drills. Dallas Goedert pulled in a Foles pass that was slightly behind him. The rookie tight end has looked agile.
8. The second team: Sudfeld connected with receiver Shelton Gibson on a deep corner fade for a “touchdown.” Some defenders signaled that Gibson had stepped out of the back of the end zone, but the offense celebrated. Wentz took second team reps during 7-on-7s. That amounted to all of four plays. He hooked up with the familiar hands of Zach Ertz on his first two tosses, found Goedert on a crosser, and hit receiver Mike Wallace on a slant. Sudfeld jumped back in with the second unit during team drills and was stymied by Bausby and the unblocked Grugier-Hill, who also batted a pass to the ground.
9. The third team: With only four running backs suited up, Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement, and Matt Jones took snaps. Smallwood tried to cut on a run up the middle but slipped and fell. Mahoungou alligator-armed a Callahan pass over the middle. The throw wasn’t perfect, but it’s not as though the receiver had to worry about absorbing a hit.
10. And a few quickies: The Eagles’ use of Isaac Seumalo during practices remains a mystery. The offensive lineman once again just snapped the football during 7-on-7s and didn’t participate in team drills. Are the Eagles trying to keep him out of harm’s way for a specific reason? Seumalo, as usual, wasn’t in the locker room after practice. … Rookie tackle Jordan Mailata was wearing a larger knee brace on his left knee. I don’t recall seeing him wear the brace during the first two open practices. It could just be a preventive measure.