The Eagles held their fifth practice of training camp Tuesday. Here are my observations and notes:
1. The Eagles had their first "live" tackling drills of training camp. Yes, Doug Pederson still has his players go full speed during select periods of practice, unlike so many other head coaches nowadays. It's the best way to get them ready for the preseason, even if the potential for injury is higher. Let's not waste any time and get to the action: The first set pitted the first team offense against the second team defense. Running back Corey Clement turned the corner on an outside zone run and slipped a tackle before getting dragged down out of bounds. Halapoulivaati Vaitai, in place of the resting Jason Peters, took all the repetitions at left tackle. Running back Matt Jones slipped a shoestring tackle attempt by linebacker Corey Nelson and got to the next level. He ran into multiple defenders, though, and wasn't seen again. Jones told reporters after practice that he was fine. Quarterback Nick Foles dumped to tight end Zach Ertz in the flat, but linebacker Joe Walker came up and made the open field tackle. Wendell Smallwood jumped in for Jones, but was denied by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on his first carry.
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2. A few periods later, Foles started off the set by finding Ertz wide open off play-action. Walker was fooled in coverage and the tight end picked up bulk yards after the catch. Cornerback De'Vante Bausby went low to bring down Ertz, but the tackle looked clean to me. Defensive end Steven Means put a nice inside move on Vaitai and was credited with a sack. Means has competition from rookie Josh Sweat for that fifth end spot. The offense countered the blitz with a screen to Clement. It was set up beautifully with Jason Kelce paving the way with a lead block. Is there a better NFL center in space? Mack Hollins skied for a high Foles throw on a comeback route. Donnel Pumphrey – with the Eagles holding Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles out of live drills – took his first handoff with the first unit. He slipped a smidge and ran into a Means-Walker-Nate Gerry wall. Pumphrey caught consecutive passes on the next two plays – a screen and short out – and picked up positive yards. Receiver Mike Wallace dropped a Foles throw. Smallwood had a nice gain when he cut against the grain on an inside zone. End Joe Ostman was credited with a "sack" after he got by Vaitai. I thought Pederson was too generous. Foles overthrew an open Ertz in the corner of the end zone – there might have been a miscommunication – and Bausby had himself an interception.
3. The first unit defense faced the second unit offense in live team drills. With Vaitai called up, Taylor Hart slid over to right tackle and Jordan Mailata manned the left flank. Smallwood picked up a tough four yards before safety Rodney McLeod and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox teamed up for the takedown. Derek Barnett jumped offsides – along with a few other defensive linemen – prompting d-line coach Chris Wilson to bark, "Watch the ball!" On third and two, Smallwood hopped out of a Malcolm Jenkins would-be leg tackle, but Mailata false-started. On the next play, Barnett roasted Mailata with his patented outside speed rush and notched a sack. The rookie tackle bounced back, however, and picked up a Barnett-Cox stunt. Smallwood was stoned dead in his tracks by defensive end Michael Bennett and linebacker Nigel Bradham. Bennett and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata saw their first action with the starters this camp.
4. The first unit defense was near-dominant during the next live period. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld hit Kamar Aiken in stride on a skinny post, but McLeod eased up even though he had the receiver in his crosshairs. "It's live and all, but I couldn't risk injuring a teammate there," McLeod said later. Smart move. Center Isaac Seumalo's snap was almost over Sudfeld's head. The quarterback still managed to hand off to Pumphrey, but he had nowhere to go. On third down, Sudfeld went to Greg Ward over the middle, but cornerback Sidney Jones was over his shoulder and swatted the ball to the ground. Jones is legit.
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5. And the third units went at each other. Pumphrey gave a defender a shimmy move and had a nice gain. Tight end Joshua Perkins had a Joe Callahan heater clank off his hands. Nelson was in coverage. Defensive tackle Bruce Hector motored into the backfield and eased off hitting Callahan. Pumphrey hit a huge hole and burst into the secondary where he was met by safety Ryan Neal. You would love to see him elude a bigger player in space – Neal has a six-inch, 25-pound advantage – but he couldn't and was driven back. Pumphrey looks more confident in his second camp, but he's not the shifty, explosive running back some might have been expecting when the Eagles drafted him. He may end up being serviceable, but I've yet to see any facet of his game that stands out.
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6. Later on, Callahan dumped to DeAndre Carter and Bausby came up and dove at the receiver's thighs to bring him down. "Bausby, make sure your head stays up," defensive backs coach Corey Undlin said. Callahan connected with an open Rashard Davis and the receiver scooted downfield until hustling defensive tackle Winston Craig brought him down from behind. The quarterback ended practice with the pass of day: He rolled to his left and squeezed a bullet to a tightly-covered Carter – Neal was the safety – for a touchdown.
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7. Carson Wentz was held out of team drills for the second straight practice (the Eagles were off on Monday). On Saturday, the quarterback did more than he had up until that point, but Pederson said that Sunday's regression was all part of the plan for Wentz. I'd imagine the same held true a day later. Wentz otherwise participated in the rest of practice or he worked on a separate field with trainers. He was picked off by safety Tre Sullivan during passing drills, but was accurate on throws to receivers Shelton Gibson (a nice sideline snag), Nelson Agholor, Tim Wilson (a BB), and Hollins (a one-handed catch). Agholor's catch came against Jones. Their matchups have been great theater. A day after Agholor turned defender to deny Jones an interception, he held onto a pass that grazed by the cornerback.
8. Brandon Brooks was back at practice after missing Sunday's session with an illness. Brooks said that he had to go to the hospital because of dehydration. Gibson left midway through practice when he collided with a defender and lost his helmet. A Sudfeld pass glanced off his hands and was nearly deflected to Bausby. Tight end Adam Zaruba and cornerback D.J. Killings weren't at practice with unspecified injuries. Defensive end Brandon Graham (ankle), receiver Alshon Jeffery (shoulder), defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back), safety Chris Maragos (knee) and receiver Bryce Treggs (knee) remained sidelined.
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9. The Eagles worked on blitzes during their first team "thud" contact drills. Jones was back as the slot. When the Eagles went with three safeties, Sullivan got the call. Bennett tipped offsides during a first team rep. Grugier-Hill had an A-gap blitz that Smallwood was late to pick up. Sudfeld had to get rid of the ball fast and threw short of Davis. The third unit offense tried to counter the blitz with a screen to Smallwood, but Hector read the play and Callahan's pass was off. Hector has stood out. Foles and Ajayi bumped into other during one exchange and the ball popped out. Bennett picked up a sack. Aiken turned cornerback Rasul Douglas around on a corner route.
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