The Eagles held the first of two joint practices with the Dolphins at the NovaCare Complex. The players wore full pads, there was “thud” contact – no tackling – and the workout lasted about two hours. (Training camp is formally over, but here are links to observations from Days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). Here’s what I saw on Monday, in the form of a running diary:
1. Just when the Eagles seemed to be getting healthy, they had a few notable injuries. Linebacker Jordan Hicks left practice with an apparent injury, although there were no immediate details. Defensive end Brandon Graham also went inside early. Trainers looked at his left arm before he departed. He walked off under his own power. Wide receivers Bryce Treggs (calf) and Paul Turner (shoulder) and offensive lineman Josh Andrews (hand) were still out. Linebacker Najee Goode (injury unknown) also watched practice from the sideline.
2. The Dolphins arrived about 30 minutes before a scheduled 10 a.m. start. They flew in yesterday and are staying downtown. The teams warmed up and had individual drills on separate fields before converging for about 90 minutes of team and seven-on-seven drills. It was the Eagles offense vs. the Miami defense on one field and vice versa on another. Only the first and second units participated, although deep reserves mixed in at various points. Truth be told, it wasn’t that spirited of a practice, at least in comparison to the intersquad workouts the Eagles had when Chip Kelly was coach.
3. I split my time between the offense and defense. Of the plays I saw on offense, quarterback Carson Wentz looked rather sharp. He checked down a fair amount, but Miami seemed to be playing a fair amount of Cover 2. In other words, he took what the defense was giving. Wentz spent a lot of time in the spring working on his hard count. He got the Dolphins defensive line – defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the initial guilty party — to jump into the neutral zone on two of three early plays. Wentz hit tight end Zach Ertz off a play-action bootleg and ex-Eagles linebacker Kiko Alonso came up and gave his former teammate a little pop that knocked him to the ground. Wendell Smallwood got a lot of action with the starters. Talk of his demise has been premature. Backup quarterback Nick Foles also got the anxious Dolphins to jump on multiple occasions. Defensive end Terrence Fede left first. “Watch the [expletive] ball,” a Dolphins coach yelled. A play later, defensive tackle Jordan Phillips bit on Foles’ hard count and was promptly yanked.
4. Kicker alert! Caleb Surgis has been money the last two days, although he hardly ever attempts field goals from beyond 50 yards. He was good from 33, 35, 37, 41, 43, 45, and 46 yards. A 39-yard attempt was aborted after a bad snap/hold exchange. Holder Donnie Jones yelled, “Fire,” rolled out and hit Brent Celek, although I couldn’t tell if he made the first down. Sturgis’ camp field-goal numbers: 60 of 68 for 88 percent.
5. Seven-on-seven drills typically favor the offense and it was no different on Monday. Wentz tried a back-shoulder pass to receiver Alshon Jeffery in the red zone and Dolphins corner Xavien Howard was flagged for holding. Torrey Smith, who has been relatively quiet of late, caught a “touchdown” pass on a four-verticals pass play. Foles dropped a dime into the arms of Ertz, who tiptoed inbounds. Former Eagles corner Byron Maxwell had some early success keeping tabs on Jeffery. Slot receiver Nelson Agholor later caught an outside pass under the soft, zone-playing Maxwell. The Eagles offensive line opened a hole for Smallwood. “Hit it!” running backs coach Duce Staley demanded. Smallwood obliged.
6. Jeffery caught a short slant under Maxwell. Darren Sproles was met in the backfield by linemen Andre Branch and Davon Godchaux. I thought that maybe Wentz should have checked to a pass against a stacked box. He was pinpoint, though, on passes to Jeffery, after the wideout turned Howard around, and Agholor, who won a contested pass against slot corner Bobby McCain. Foles was sacked when he looked downfield for Shelton Gibson, but the rookie receiver was run blocking. I wasn’t sure who got his signals crossed there.
7. With Hicks and Goode out, Joe Walker took first-team repetitions at middle linebacker. Derek Barnett, who missed Sunday’s practice with a thigh bruise, was back and filled in for Graham at left defensive end. The Eagles secondary had its work cut out against quarterback Jay Cutler and a trio of solid receivers (Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry). Say what you want about Cutler, but the guy has a cannon and he still can spin a football. He was accurate on this day, too. I thought he did a good job of finding the weakest spots in Jim Schwartz’s scheme from play to play. For instance, he knew to go to receiver Leonte Caroo when the Eagles blew a coverage. He hit tight end Anthony Fasano off a bootleg that caught a late-arriving linebacker (not sure which one). And he lofted a strike to Stills, who beat safety Malcolm Jenkins on a deep crosser.
8. Jenkins tackled Stills to the ground and the receiver jumped up and got in his face. There was some brief jawing and the two had to be gently separated. It was the only time, as far as I saw, that things got a little heated. Jenkins was later called for holding in the red zone. And Cutler, who had already connected with Landry for a touchdown, found his slot receiver again when he released late and caught Walker napping. Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan was disruptive on several plays. Defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao was credited with a “sack” of backup quarterback Matt Moore. Defensive end Chris Long sacked Moore, too.
9. Wentz tossed back-to-back touchdowns to Ertz and Smith during red zone drills. Ertz toasted Alonso on an inside slant. Smith got open after he lost Maxwell with a double move. I’m not sure whether Wentz would have had as much time in the pocket under normal circumstances. Foles took advantage of his red jersey and hooked up with tight end Trey Burton for a score. He finished red zone drills with a nifty little toss low and away to tight end Anthony Denham, who planted just over the goal line. Wentz, during his last set, drew the Dolphins to jump again. On one play, the Eagles lined up Jeffery and Celek in the backfield, along with Smallwood, before the first two motioned to the line. The pre-snap change didn’t fool the Dolphins, whose defense resulted in an incomplete pass. Foles threw an ill-advised pass to a double-covered Marcus Johnson. It should have been intercepted.
10. And a few leftovers … Maxwell and Alonso weren’t the only former Eagles making their return to Philly. Safety Nate Allen, who is currently starting for the Dolphins, was in-house. … There were many bold-faced ex-athletes in attendance — Charles Barkley, Don Mattingly, Billy Cunningham and Marvin Harrison were the headliners. Does Freddie Mitchell deserve mention? Too late.