Eagles practice observations: Barnett changes positions; Wentz smokes 'em
Jeff McLane, STAFF WRITER
Updated: Sunday, August 6, 2017, 4:29 PM
The Eagles continued training camp on Sunday. Here’s what I saw from Day 12 (Links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11):
After a day off, the Eagles were back in action for the second and last open practice at Lincoln Financial Field. The team announced a crowd of 36,000. The players were in full gear and went for about two hours. Let’s get to it, once again, in the form of a running diary:
Alshon Jeffery, who hadn’t practice since last Sunday’s open workout, was back in full uniform and participated in individual drills. The wide receiver did little else, however, and it would appear to be unlikely that he plays in Thursday’s preseason opener in Green Bay. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks (quadriceps), running back Donnel Pumphrey (hamstring) and defensive end Chris Long (over-30 day off) were also back at practice. Quarterback Nick Foles (elbow), receiver Paul Turner (groin), guard Josh Andrews (hand), and tight end Adam Zaruba (concussion) were still out. Tight end Anthony Denham joined the watchers with an unknown injury.
Corey Graham made his Eagles debut at camp. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said before practice that the 32-year-old defensive back, who was signed last week, would start off at safety. He also said that Graham will get an occasional repetition at cornerback. Graham didn’t stand out much during team drills, but I thought he looked technically sound during one-on-one drills vs. receivers, which is essentially playing press-man corner. Graham used his hands effectively to slow Greg Ward off the line and knocked a short Matt McGloin pass away. He looked a little grabby covering Torrey Smith underneath, but he was effective enough to thwart the receiver’s pattern on a pass that sailed wide.
Carson Wentz had another strong practice. His throws during one-on-ones were impeccable. He connected with Jordan Matthews on a deep strike over safety Malcolm Jenkins. He dropped a beauty into Nelson Agholor’s mitts, but the receiver dropped or had corner C.J. Smith knock the ball away at the last second. Either way, Agholor should have secured the ball. It may have been his first drop of camp. Shelton Gibson made two nice grabs. The rookie receiver sprung for a Wentz pass and dove over the goal line, and he later snagged a ball thrown slightly behind him. Some other highlights: Receiver Mack Hollins reeled in a deep toss from McGloin after corner Rasul Douglas looked back for the ball a touch too early. Aaron Grymes bodied up Marcus Johnson out of the slot. Corner Jalen Mills went up and intercepted a long pass to Torrey Smith. McGloin’s attempt was underthrown, but Mills made a solid play on the ball.
The starting lineup hasn’t changed on either side of the ball. Mills and Patrick Robinson are still the starting outside corners. Ron Brooks is still in the slot. Derek Barnett lined up on the left rather than right, where he had been since being drafted. It could be just a one-day switch, but it’s worth noting. Barnett had been backing up Vinny Curry. Now he’s behind Brandon Graham, who should play more than Curry this season. Long swapped sides with Barnett. If Barnett stays on the left, he’ll have a better chance to succeed facing right tackles.
Contact during team drills was relatively light. During the first-unit portion, linebacker Nigel Bradham snuffed out a misdirection screen to running back Wendell Smallwood. Jordan Hicks took most of the reps at middle linebacker. He’s almost all the way back after hand surgery.
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan twisted Isaac Seumalo with a series of moves that ultimately forced the guard to grab his jersey during one-on-ones. Barnett, now on the left, tried his outside speed rush on Halapoulivaati Vaitai, but the tackle tossed him to the turf. The rookie end pulled out his spin move on his next rush, but Vaitai kept his hands inside and contained him. Long’s stutter-step move from the right had tackle Dillon Gordon beaten. Dallas Thomas drove rookie defensive tackle Elijah Qualls to the ground. Center Aaron Neary did essentially the same to Qualls.
Of the seven-on-seven drills I glimpsed — I mostly observed the line drills during this phase — Wentz was on target. He carried that accuracy over into the final team drills. He hit Agholor on a slant in front of Robinson. He tossed a dart to tight end Trey Burton inside the Bermuda Triangle of Najee Goode, Jaylen Watkins, and Terrence Brooks. Watching Watkins and Brooks the last week, I’m starting to understand why the Eagles signed Graham. Wentz’s pass was impressive, though. He then hooked up with tight end Zach Ertz and Hollins on consecutive passes to end his day.
Defensive end Alex McCalister has been back in the lineup for several days after missing about a week with a hamstring injury. He hasn’t stood out, so I devoted my attention to him during his last set of team drills. McCalister has said that he added weight, but he doesn’t look much bigger than before he spent last season on injured reserve. He doesn’t have a pass rush move he can rely on. When he tries to go outside, he’s not fast enough to turn the corner on NFL tackles. When he tries a bull rush, he isn’t powerful enough. McCalister backed a blocker into McGloin on one play, but when I looked to see the blocker, it was tight end Billy Brown. He should win those matchups.
And some leftovers: Douglas had a late interception on an errant Dane Evans … Ertz briefly left for the trainer’s table, but he returned.