Eagles practice observations: Offense outpaces defense; Robinson struggles; Peters raises bar

The Eagles continued training camp on Sunday. Here’s what I saw from Day 7 (Links to Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6:

Poll

Which newcomer will have the biggest impact on the Eagles’ defense?

The first of two open practices were held at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles estimated a crowd of 23,000 that watched a 2-1/4-hour workout on a sun-splashed day. The players wore pads for the second straight session and there was some “thud” contact. There will be live tackling Tuesday after a day off. Once again, because there was a lot going on, I’m going to recount the action in the form of a running diary:

  1. The Eagles worked on their kick-return units extensively during the first portion of practice. The following players took turns returning kicks: Wendell Smallwood, Nelson Agholor, Donnel Pumphrey, Byron Marshall, Torrey Smith, Shelton Gibson, and Bryce Treggs. Jordan Matthews and Darren Sproles were also hanging around, but I never saw them field a kick. There was little contact during the drills, but Agohlor’s return – HE. TOOK. IT. TO. THE. HOUSE! – drew a loud ovation. There were other moments throughout the day when fans were enthusiastic about the receiver who has often been on the receiving end of jeers and not cheers. Agholor may have a shot to win the kick-return job, but my educated guess is that Smallwood gets the nod. Alshon Jeffery and LeGarrette Blount don’t participate in special-teams drills, but the new Eagles seemed to have a nice conversation as the rest of their teammates practiced.
  2. The ever-popular one-on-on receiver-defensive back drills highlighted the reconstructed receiver group. The drills typically favor the offense, but the performance of the cornerbacks did little to assuage concerns about the unit. On quarterback Matt McGloin’s first pass, receiver Jordan Matthews managed to tip the ball back to himself. Safety Malcolm Jenkins motioned to the official that he was pushed off. He didn’t seem pleased with the explanation he received. McGloin hit receiver David Watford deep for an easy touchdown against Rasul Douglas. The rookie corner’s technique was sloppy at the break and he didn’t have enough burst to catch up to Watford. Douglas seems to do better in tight spaces, but he also grabs his share of jerseys. Corner Jalen Mills was whistled for holding Jeffery on a sideline route. Agholor toasted corner Patrick Robinson with a double move. Robinson might want to forget Sunday’s one-on-ones. He ate Smith’s dust after the veteran receiver smoked him deep and pulled in a Carson Wentz pass.
  3. The secondary did have a few moments. Jenkins shifted Matthews off his route and when Wentz’s throw arrived, his receiver was out of position. Corner Mitchell White broke up a deep toss to Shelton Gibson. The rookie receiver has had a case of the dropsies, but he appeared to pull in every catchable pass on this day, including a Wentz BB over the middle vs. White. But the receivers ruled the drill. Jeffery turned Mills around. Agholor burned corner Ron Brooks deep out of the slot. And rookie receiver Mack Hollins pulled in a low pass.
  4. Team drills opened with Wentz throwing to tight end Zach Ertz off play-action. The pass wobbled a bit and Jenkins came over to knock it away. Smith caught a short hitch, but when Robinson bit and slipped, the receiver took off downfield. Mills swatted away a short pass to Agholor. The corner then broke out his strutting, “I’m awesome” pose. Confidence! A few plays later, though, receiver Marcus Johnson picked up a first down with a slant vs. the soft-covering Mills. No strut. No pose.
  5. During second-team drills, tight end Brent Celek caught an intermediate crosser ahead of the trailing Don Cherry. McGloin found an uncovered Paul Turner deep and tossed what I thought would be a catchable pass. But Turner just didn’t have the jets to run it down. Tight end Anthony Denham caught a downfield pass on a seam route. Linebacker Nate Gerry shed a block to stop Pumphrey at the line. Guard Josh Andrews was spotted at the trainer’s table having what appeared to be his hand looked at.
  6. I had to pop back and forth between drills in different locations, but some of the highlights from seven-on-sevens: Wentz lofted a beauty to Smith, who had gotten behind Mills, but the receiver couldn’t reel it in. New tight end Adam Zaruba had a Dane Evans pass sail through his hands and into his helmet. Oy. But he rebounded later and snagged a semi-difficult pass down the middle. Rookie cornerback Jomal Wiltz made a diving interception of an Evans pass. He popped off the turf and ran the other way. Wentz, who went 15 for 15 during Saturday’s seven-on-seven period, according to offensive coordinator Frank Reich, found a wide-open Agholor. McGloin threw into double coverage and safety Terrence Brooks scored an interception.
  7. The offensive line appeared to win the day in one-on-ones. Jason Peters said after practice that he thinks the Eagles offensive line is among the top five units in the NFL. Having tackle Lane Johnson for a full 16 games should help. He owned defensive end Brandon Graham on their first encounter. He crossed his arms in a waving motion to signal his victory. Center Jason Kelce gave little ground to defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who struggled during team drills a day earlier, centered up Graham and blocked him to the ground. Tim Jernigan and Chance Warmack – two new guys – faced off and I had a tough time figuring who got the nod. Warmack was driven back a few steps, but that was all he gave. Tackle Taylor Hart (!) tied up Chris Long, who then proceeded to take his angst out on Vaitai and Matt Tobin with devastating moves. Derek Barnett continued to work on a counter move. Tackle Victor Salako didn’t bite on his outside-in fake, but he also couldn’t contain the rookie end on a speed rush. Tackle Dillon Gordan fared much better and stood up Barnett. Guard Isaac Seumalo was an immovable beast against defensive tackle Justin Hamilton.
  8. Wentz opened the final set of team drills by finding Ertz, who slid to the ground after his catch. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox jump offside and Wentz had a free play, but his deep pass to Jeffery was broken up by Robinson. Celek couldn’t secure a high Wentz toss. But he would later catch two in a row from the starting quarterback. Agholor turned the corner on an end around. Matthews dropped a Wentz pass.
  9. Pumphrey caught a dump pass from McGloin but he pulled up lame and grabbed the back of his thigh. He didn’t return. Tight end Trey Burton caught back-to-back attempts from McGloin. Linebacker Mychal Kendricks blitzed off the edge and batted one of the quarterback’s passes to the grass. Marshall took a handoff outside and was met by Douglas, who lost his helmet as he tackled the tailback to the ground. No tackling!
  10. And some leftovers … Backup quarterback Nick Foles missed his second straight practice with elbow soreness. Doug Pederson said he shouldn’t be out long. Defensive tackle Elijah Qualls sat out with a groin injury. Defensive end Alex McCalister has a hamstring injury. Randall Goforth tore his ACL the other day. The undrafted rookie’s season is over. … The Eagles celebrated Military Appreciation Day by wearing camo jerseys, honoring select members of the armed services and having the players give their uniforms to the men and women.