The Eagles opened their 2017 training camp Monday with rookies, quarterbacks and selected veterans. Here’s what I saw on Day 1:
1. There were 34 players at today’s session. Aside from quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Nick Foles and Matt McGloin, there were non-first year players such as cornerback Ron Brooks, linebacker Joe Walker, defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao, tackle Dillon Gordon, linebacker Don Cherry and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Brooks (ruptured quadriceps) and Walker (torn ACL) are coming back from major injuries and were limited in the spring. Every rookie was present, including cornerback Sidney Jones, who mostly watched practice in sneakers and safari hat. The Eagles, as expected, placed their second-round draft pick on the non-football injury list. Jones, who is recovering from an Achilles tendon rupture suffered in March, won’t be ready by the start of the season. That isn’t a surprise and it’s still a long shot that he will be on the 53-man roster this season. Roughly the same group will be at the next two days of practice until the rest of the full squad reports for Thursday’s relatively light workout.
2. Wentz and the other quarterbacks (Foles, McGloin, Dane Evans) were the first Eagles to hit the fields at the NovaCare Complex. Practices are closed to fans until Friday, when the full squad will partake in its first regular session. Doug Pederson said in June that he plans to have three days with full contact drills during camp. The first will be Aug. 1. Today’s workout was light. Players were in shorts and shells. The numbers didn’t allow for full team drills and can make it difficult to pull off some basic individual periods. Wentz, for instance, took a handoff from McGloin during a quarterback-running back drill. What a team guy.
3. While Wentz took by far the most snaps in the spring and will beginning Thursday, repetitions were evenly split among the quarterbacks. Wentz’s best pass during 7-on-7s was dropped – cue the skipping record. Receiver Mack Hollins beat cornerback Mitchell White on a deep post. He had him by a step. And Wentz tossed a laser about 45 yards downfield that hit Hollins in stride. But the rookie saw the ball bounce off his fingertips. “It was a perfect ball,” he said. “I knew I should have had that.” After he jogged back to the offensive side of the field, Hollins dropped to the ground and did punishment push-ups. He did another set earlier in practice after he dropped a toss during individual drills. Hollins said push-ups are something he’s done to atone for drops. He didn’t have his best day, but Hollins, it should be noted, has often made at least one strong grab per practice.
4. The same can’t be said for Shelton Gibson. The rookie receiver continues to be plagued by unnecessary drops. He had two during individual drills when he wasn’t facing a defender. A Foles pass hit him squarely in the hands and he couldn’t hang on, and another Foles attempt was slightly behind Gibson, but it still hit him in the hands and he dropped it. Pederson said after practice that Gibson wasn’t where the team wants him to be. But it’s early. The players have yet to wear full pads. Gibson, who changed his jersey number from 80 to 18 during the break, has plenty of time to work out the kinks.
5. Brooks didn’t seem the least bit annoyed at having to report early. Obviously, he wants to get the quad back to 100 percent, but he might have been one of the more active participants on this day. He’s one of the few veterans at cornerback, and if healthy, he should have a roster spot. Pederson, when asked about Brooks, focused on his role in the slot. Brooks was the Eagles’ primary nickel corner until his injury last season. During the spring, Jalen Mills moved into the slot with the first-team nickel defense. On Monday, Brooks took some reps on the outside, and he once broke up a pass in the back of the end zone intended for rookie receiver Greg Ward. With the competition open opposite Mills – and realistically at both corner spots – I wouldn’t rule out Brooks as a starter. He’s a favorite of defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and has more experience in this defense than any other corner on the team.
6. During 7-on-7 red-zone drills, Wentz threw to a slanting Billy Brown, but was intercepted by Randall Goforth. The ball fell into the corner’s lap. Brown might not have gotten to the spot Wentz was expecting him to be at on what is a timing throw. Some other highlights/lowlights: Ward made a leaping, body-altering, one-handed grab on a Foles corner fade in the end zone. Ward, who played quarterback in college, had a solid practice and was targeted throughout. Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey must have caught about a dozen passes alone during 7-on-7s. Most were of the “dump-off” variety, but he didn’t drop a single one and did a decent job of getting upfield before “touch” contact.
7. And some leftovers: Undrafted rookie corner Jomal Wiltz knocked down a jump-ball pass to Ward. … McGloin threaded a zinger to Hollins with linebacker Nate Gerry draped all over him. … It was difficult to see DL-OL one-on-ones – and it’s not often worth much attention with the players in only shorts and shells – but rookie defensive end Derek Barnett had a few impressive rushes vs. tackles. Gordon got the best of him, though, when Barnett tried an inside move.