Doug Pederson held a third straight 2-1/2-hour practice. The players wore pads up top and only shorts down low, but it was another exhaustive workout. Tuesday’s session is scheduled to be lighter, following by Wednesday’s walkthrough before the second preseason game against the Bills. Here’s what I saw on Monday:
1. I’m ditching the running diary because I can’t bury what I thought was the lead of the day: Malcolm Jenkins and Nelson Agholor facing off in the slot during red zone 1-on-1 drills. It was like a three-act play. On their first meeting, Agholor ran what looked like three moves before quarterback Carson Wentz easily hit him in the back of the end zone. Jenkins waved his hand dismissively as if to say, “Yeah, like you’re normally going to have enough time and space to make that many moves.” Receiver-defensive back 1-on-1s almost always favor the offense. There’s no pass rush and an unrealistic amount of space. Having this set in the red zone shortened the field and balanced the scales a touch, but Jenkins was still at a disadvantage.
2. On the second meeting, Agholor again turned the safety around with an outside-in move toward the post. But Jenkins had much tighter coverage this time and after Agholor caught the ball, he gave him a little extra shot that hit his face mask. The receiver yelled, “Come on, man!” Jenkins didn’t back down and there was some jawing back and forth, but that’s as far as it went. Jenkins is a prideful player and one of the fiercest competitors on the Eagles. The drills were held near fans and there was a lot of cheering after Agholor’s completions. My guess is Jenkins didn’t want to get shown up in drills that don’t favor defensive backs. But he also made it clear after last week’s trade that he was looking for a “new Jordan Matthews” — a slot receiver he could practice against that would, pardon the coach cliché, sharpen his iron. Jenkins seemed to be challenging Agholor, who has practiced well this camp, but has big cleats to fill.
3. Before the third and final meeting, as I saw Agholor getting ready for his turn, I said to a nearby reporter, “Please let Jenkins cover him again.” My wish was granted because I knew the veteran would bring it. The safety jammed the receiver at the line – with a little extra mustard – but Agholor had a step inside. Wentz’s pass was on target and it looked like a catch. But Jenkins closed and swatted at the ball a few times before he knocked it free. He then gave Agholor a little extra nudge and the two exchanged pleasantries as they ran to the next drill. If I’m a coach, I love that kind of competitiveness. Frankly, we haven’t seen enough chippiness in camp. Ultimately, it should help prepare both for Sundays, although I’m not sure Agholor saw it that way. Every team should have a Jenkins.
4. Ronald Darby seems to be already up to speed, at least when he’s in man coverage. Jim Schwartz had his new cornerback playing on both sides a day after lining him up just on the left. The defensive coordinator typically moves his corners around in camp, but he may be inclined to have Darby follow a top receiver during the season depending upon the opponent. Darby fronted receiver Mack Hollins and intercepted a Wentz fade during 1-on-1s. His best moment of the day came later during team drills. Wentz tried for receiver Torrey Smith on a slant in the red zone, but Darby got a hand in and batted the ball away. His closing speed was impressive. No other corner on the team can move that quick. Patrick Robinson spent more time in the slot with Jalen Mills mostly opposite Darby. When Ron Brooks (hamstring) returns, Robinson could move permanently to the second team defense.
5. Alshon Jeffery participated in team drills for the first time since early in camp. Earlier, during 3-on-5 drills he slowed down on a deep route only to have Wentz go in his direction. The ball sailed long. But Jeffery flashed skills that would make most receivers salivate when he plucked a Wentz fade over safety Rodney McLeod and got both feet inbounds for a “touchdown.” Agholor, I should note, had a strong practice after his tiff with Jenkins. Wentz hit him in the back of the end zone when there was a blown coverage. Receiver Bryce Treggs (calf) returned to practice, although I didn’t seem on team drills.
6. Guard Brandon Brooks (ankle), running back Wendell Smallwood (hamstring) and quarterback Nick Foles (elbow) returned to practice. All of them were limited. Foles took some snaps with the second unit during team drills. The Eagles are easing back in after missing two weeks. He won’t play in Thursday’s game and I wouldn’t expect Brooks, Smallwood or Treggs to either. Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (back spasms), tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), receiver Paul Turner (shoulder), tight end Anthony Denham (calf) and offensive lineman Josh Andrews (hand) were still out.
7. Some other highlights/lowlights from practice: Lane Johnson had a false start on the first team drill. Aaron Grymes bodied up a receiver from the slot during 1-on-1s. He may be the Eagles’ second best option inside, but he doesn’t play much outside, which could hurt his chances of making the team. Center Stefen Wisniewski had two bad snaps. Tight end Zach Ertz caught two touchdowns during team red zone drills. Defensive end Derek Barnett “sacked” quarterback Matt McGloin.
8. Wentz and the first team offense were up and down again. The quarterback was solid during 1-on-1s and 7-on-7s, but struggled as practiced waned. Wentz tried for receiver Marcus Johnson deep, but the pass was short and Mills knocked the ball away. He was sacked on three straight plays – obviously not all his fault – when defensive end Vinny Curry, linebacker Jordan Hicks and a blitzing McLeod tagged him in the backfield. Pederson had the entire offensive unit run three gassers – the width of a football field – after practice. He was clearly not pleased with the effort of his offense.
9. And a few leftovers … Wentz stayed after practice and worked with Jeffery, Agholor and Ertz for about an additional 15-20 minutes. He then signed about an additional 20 minutes-worth of autographs. … The Eagles work a fair amount on three-tight end sets. … Tight end Adam Zaruba beat linebacker Joe Walker for a touchdown during 7-on-7s. … Tuesday is formally the end of camp. The Eagles will have two joint practices with the Dolphins next Monday and Tuesday.