The Eagles continued training camp on Friday. Here's what I saw from Day 5:
The full squad gathered for the second straight day of practice, but unlike Thursday the session was held early in the morning. Most of the workouts over the next two weeks will similarly begin at 8:15 a.m. at the NovaCare Complex. Select fans and sponsors were in attendance for the first time. They got their first in-person glimpse of the Eagles' new wide receivers and were likely pleased by what they saw. Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith had some dazzling moments. On the second play of 7 on 7s, Carson Wentz dropped and fired a bullet to a slanting Jeffery. Jalen Mills had tight coverage. You could say he didn't do a single thing wrong. But Wentz tossed a dime into a tight window and Jeffery never lost concentration. Those are the types of passes that should become commonplace – and, quite frankly, were absent last season – with a true No. 1 outside receiver. Jeffery would later pluck a toss that was just a shade behind him, but he made it look effortless. His best moment may have come when he didn't even catch an intended Wentz pass. The quarterback threw downfield, but the ball was considerably behind his target. Jeffery, though, contorted his body to get a hand on the ball, and as he fell twice tipped the ball to himself. But the effort – while drawing deserved applause — was all for naught and the ball hit the grass.
Smith may have had the best day of any offensive skill position player, particularly during team drills. On the first 11-on-11 play, Wentz went to a curling Smith underneath. Mills went for the "tackle" – the players were in shorts and shells again and contact was limited – but Smith slipped him and picked up an additional 20 yards after the catch. A play later, Wentz got the defense to show blitz with his hard count. Linebacker Nigel Bradham backed off at the snap, but safety Malcolm Jenkins rushed off the edge and Wentz threw to that side. Smith was covered and the pass was a touch high, but he skied for the ball and snatched it out of the air. Smith is known as a speed guy, but he's flashed a dependable set of hands since the spring. I don't know if Jeffery and Smith will deliver upon lofty expectations, but I think it's fair to say the Eagles have significantly upgraded at receiver.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz was asked if having to defend Jeffery and Smith will help the Eagles' young cornerbacks. "I think the competition helps them. Whether it helps them to develop quicker, I don't know," he said. "But I know that competition is going to bring out the best in them. If they make a mistake in technique, it will show. You can't cover it up against a veteran player." Mills gave up some early completions to the vets, but he fared better when pitted against the reserve units. The second-year corner ran step for step with receiver Marcus Johnson on a deep heave that Wentz through long. And he broke up a Matt McGloin attempt over the middle to tight end Anthony Denham. Mills popped up with his trademark finger wag. I like his confidence, but I'm not sure if denying a pass to the slower tight end warranted a finger-wagging.
Wentz appeared to have a solid, productive day. He wasn't perfect, of course. But he had more success than failure. He hooked up with Jordan Matthews when he found his slot receiver alone running down the seam. Matthews ran out the play, all the way to the end zone like he normally does, but he still doesn't seem to have the typical spring in his step. In fact, when he headed to the sideline I noticed that he was walking with a slight hitch. Knee tendonitis kept Matthews out of most of the spring, and he has been reluctant to give more detail, but seems to be something more going on in regards to his health. He finished practice and didn't appear to take any snaps off, but his condition bears monitoring.
There were some dropped passes, however. Tight end Zach Ertz couldn't hang onto a Wentz pass in team drills. Receiver Shelton Gibson had a difficult time securing the ball during individual drills. At one point the rookie dropped two passes in a row, and after the second the coaches ran the play again so he would get it right. I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm picking on Gibson. He's been putting the extra work in. He was among the first and last on the field Thursday. And it's not like he's the only receiver dropping passes. Even Smith bungled a pass during individual drills. But it's clear that the rookie is struggling and has been since his first NFL practice.
Nick Foles had a difficult day by any estimation. Gibson had gotten behind cornerback Mitchell White on a fly route, but Foles short armed the bomb and White knocked the ball away. A play or so later, the backup quarterback threw wildly behind receiver Bryce Treggs right into the waiting arms of corner Aaron Grymes for an interception. Later, Foles ill-advisedly lofted a pass to running back Donnel Pumphrey that corner Rasul Douglas nearly picked off. It would have been a sure pick six had he caught it. McGloin was sharper. He floated a bull's eye to receiver David Watford for about a 30-yard completion down the sideline. First-team corner Patrick Robinson was covering.
Some other highlights/lowlights from practice: Najee Goode, who's been taking most of the injured Jordan Hicks' (hand) snaps at first team middle linebacker, broke up a short Wentz pass to Ertz. Pumphrey continued to be used in a variety of ways. He was lined up outside bunched with Jeffery and receiver Nelson Agholor, who blocked for the tailback after he caught a bubble screen. Defensive tackle Destiny Vaeao was flagged for a neutral zone infraction. White was called for pass interference on a McGloin jump ball pass to Gibson. I thought it was clean.
Rookie defensive end Derek Barnett didn't match up against starting left tackle Jason Peters as often as he did the day before. But his initial rush against the Pro Bowler on Thursday drew praise from Schwartz. "He had a really good rush against JP yesterday," Schwartz said of Barnett. "Now maybe one out of four, but it still was, you know, it still was there, and we're excited about it."
And some leftovers … Rookie cornerback Randall Goforth suffered a knee injury early in practice when he aggressively tried to break up a pass to receiver Paul Turner. The team didn't have an update on the severity as of this writing. … The recently-acquired Adam Zaruba was at his first practice. The former Canadian rugby player was signed to a three-year contract on Monday, but he needed to get a visa before he could fly to Philadelphia. … Lane Johnson, who routinely gets teased about his hair or lack thereof by teammates, wore a blonde wig under his helmet at the start of practice. He took it off at some point because he said it had become a nuisance. … The open-to-fans practice at Lincoln Financial Field that was scheduled for Saturday has been postponed to Sunday because of the weather forecast. The Eagles will instead practice at NovaCare on Saturday afternoon.