Eagles practice observations: New receiver look; mistakes abound during grueling session

The Eagles continued training camp on Saturday. Here’s what I saw from Day 15 (Links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14):

Just two days after they lost to the Packers, 24-9, in their preseason opener in Green Bay, the Eagles were back in pads for a 2-1/2-hour practice that had “live” hitting periods. The players looked sluggish, in my opinion. Several noted afterward that the team was “down” as a result and after the front office traded wide receiver Jordan Matthews — one of the most popular players in the locker room. I’ll have more in a separate column on the potential repercussions — both good and bad — following the exchange that brought cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles. But first, let’s get to the action on the field, again, in the form of a running diary:

  1. The Eagles’ injury list continued to grow, as expected, following the Packers game. Cornerback Ron Brooks (hamstring) and tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) left the game early and didn’t practice. Receiver Bryce Treggs also watched the session from the sideline. He said he had soreness in his calf. All three said they didn’t expect to be out for very long. Cornerback Aaron Grymes was excused for a personal reason. The following players remained inactive: guard Brandon Brooks (ankle), quarterback Nick Foles (elbow), running back Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), receiver Paul Turner (shoulder), tight end Anthony Denham (calf), and offensive lineman Josh Andrews (hand).

 

  1. The starting receiver lineup on the first-team drill had Torrey Smith and Mack Hollins outside and Nelson Agholor in the slot. Alshon Jeffery continued to sit out team drills. The Eagles may have plans to rest him again for the second preseason game on Thursday. Darby couldn’t practice because Matthews had yet to take and pass his physical with the Bills. He walked out to practice with Brooks, a former Buffalo teammate. Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson were still the first-team corners, but it’s only a matter of time before Darby supplants the latter. With Brooks out, safety Malcolm Jenkins played the slot in nickel personnel. New safety Corey Graham was the fifth defensive tackle and is clearly the third safety ahead of Jaylen Watkins and Terrence Brooks.

 

  1. Kamu Grugier-Hill intercepted quarterback Dane Evans on the last play of the first set of team drills. It was an ugly pass, but he made a nice play on the ball. The linebacker easily got by running back Corey Clement during blocking drills. Grugier-Hill has had a nice camp. He made several plays later  in practice – tackling LeGarrette Blount in the backfield during the live portion, and “sacking” Evans. I  have him solidly on the 53-man roster.

 

  1. Blount had trouble picking up  yards on most, if not all, of his carries during live drills. Graham was in on three stops of the running back. Carson Wentz threw a short pass basically into the arms of the waiting Jordan Hicks. The linebacker, though, couldn’t secure the interception. Clement found a crease between Chance Warmack (still at right guard for Brooks) and Lane Johnson and picked up about 13 yards. There was simply a lot of sloppiness on offense. About  half a dozen times receivers or tailbacks lined up in the wrong spots, only to be corrected. There were a rolled snap and few other off-target exchanges. The defensive backs were whiffing on open-field tackles. Corner Mitchell White got juked by running back Donnel Pumphrey. Watkins took a bad angle after Wentz completed a swing pass to Blount.

 

  1. Alex McCalister, who had a sack in the opener, dropped Pumphrey in the backfield for a loss. The second-year defensive end has performed better of late, but I’m not sure if he’s a scheme fit. His length can make it difficult for him to bend and get under the pads of tackles. Pumphrey had another fumble when linebacker Steven Daniels gave him a little pop. There was a collision, but the rookie was carelessly holding the ball. Wentz found tight end Trey Burton all alone in the corner of the end zone for a “touchdown.” Matt McGloin, who has had a difficult camp in my estimation, tried to go to tight end Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone, but he didn’t see Hicks, who jumped the route for a pick.

 

  1. Jeffery participated in seven-on-seven drills for the first time in weeks. Wentz went to him twice, but each time the pass was broken up. The quarterback tried a back-shoulder toss to Jeffery, but Mills came up and easily batted the ball away. Wentz then threw to his receiver over the middle, but corner Rasul Douglas easily knocked the pass away. Neither Wentz nor McGloin would attempt another throw to Jeffery during the set. Wentz has said that he isn’t worried about the lack of playing time he has had with the Eagles’ new receiver, but he has also said that ideally he would practice more with Jeffery before the start of the season.

 

  1. The first-team offense – now in non-tackling team drills — ran an end-around to Agholor. It worked much better than it did  Thursday, when, you know, contact was permitted. Wentz completed a pass to Hollins over the middle, and Hicks, perhaps forgetting himself, drilled the rookie receiver. Hollins tried to get up, went down, but then a teammate pulled him to his feet. That isn’t exactly the protocol for treating a possibly concussed player. The receiver shook it off and would return several plays later. Running back Darren Sproles, who has been held out of tackle drills, dropped a short pass over the middle from Wentz. Ertz pulled in a dart downfield from No. 11.

 

  1. Burton left practice around this time. I didn’t see what happened and he was unavailable afterward. Warmack walked off with a trainer a few moments later. McGloin tried to hit receiver Shelton Gibson twice – both throws were a little off target – but the rookie couldn’t pull in either. Defensive end Chris Long treated Matt Tobin like a turnstile on consecutive rushes. Tobin is usually at left tackle, but with Vaitai’s injury he was on the right opposite Dillon Gordon. Smith went down toward the end of practice. He tried to walk off the injury, but had to stop several times and bend over before a trainer came over. He eventually got up, but never went back in.

 

  1. And a few leftovers … I have to give Ron Brooks credit. The guy is injured, but he still played ball boy during individual defensive back drills. … The Eagles had several jersey number changes: Blount went from No. 35 to 29, Terrence Brooks went from No. 29 to 24, and Darby took No. 35. Ryan Matthews still officially wears No. 24. The Eagles are permitted to have the same number on both  sides of the ball.