First the elephant in the room— COVID variants are very much on the minds of players in training camp, especially after the news of Lamar Jackson going down with his second case of the virus, and the Phillies-Nationals dealing with an 11-player outbreak across the street. Following practice, GM Howie Roseman said the Eagles roster is over the 90% mark with vaccinations. He clarified that those numbers are of the players who have at least started the vaccination process. QB Jalen Hurts confirmed that he was vaccinated prior to camp.
Linebacker Alex Singleton, safety Andrew Adams and defensive end Matt Leo were all put on the COVID-19 list and were not seen on the field. Wide receiver Jalen Reagor was limited in the workout and did not take part in team drills, due to lower-body tightness.
Now off to harvest the observations by media reps who were at the actual practice on Wednesday…players were in shells and shorts as they took part in a light-contact workout. The media was allowed to watch the practice in its entirety:
Consensus observations agreed Zach Ertz did not hold back any effort despite his supposedly ambiguous relationship with the front office. Ertz looked like he’s in good shape and was smooth running routes as he switched back and forth with the first-team offense with Dallas Goedert. The Eagles used 11 (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) and 12 (1 RB, 2 TEs, 2 WRs) personnel groups during practice, as noted by Mike Kaye of NJ.com.
Following practice, Howie Roseman said he expected Ertz to be on the Week 1 roster. HC Nick Sirianni said having Ertz on the team doesn’t box the play-calling into heavy 12 personnel looks. Sirianni thinks having Ertz gives the Eagles more options when it comes to personnel groups because of his versatility. How much of this is posturing for trade value? We’ll know soon enough.
Devonta Smith got some WR reps but mostly in red zone drills, so the speedster didn’t have an open field opportunity to showcase. Smith went up against Darius Slay most of the morning and the cornerback proved to be a tough assignment. Slay showed phenomenal body control on a pass breakup during the first-team red-zone period, knocking a Hurts pass away before Smith could snatch it in the back of the end zone. If you ask me, it’s more assuring to see Slay make a big play than anything you’d expect to see from Smith at this stage.
According to Chris Franklin at Advanced Media/NJ.com, Hurts had some good plays and some bad plays to start camp, as one would expect in the first practice of the summer.
“He held onto the ball for too long at times and threw into crowded spaces during team drills. In 7 on 7 red-zone drills, Hurts targeted running back Kenny Gainwell at the tip of the end zone, but he was surrounded by multiple defenders. Gainwell and second-team nickel corner Josiah Scott caught the ball at roughly the same time and Scott ended up winning a quick tug-of-war for the ball and the interception. Hurts wasn’t completely at fault for the pick, as Gainwell had it snatched out of his grasp, but the decision to throw it to the rookie in tight coverage might have been a bit overzealous.
“Hurts used his running backs well in the passing game, though he had an off-target pass to Boston Scott. It also felt like he ran around a bit too much, relying on his legs when he could have won with his arm.”
Hurts’ highlight play was a practice-capper touchdown to Smith in the red zone drills. (read more about Hurts in Chris Franklin’s daily QB breakdown).
Notable observations on the defense included a glimpse of a hybrid formation on Wednesday, switching things up with some 3-4 looks.
The first-team nickel defense looked like this:
DE: Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, DT: Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox
LB: Eric Wilson, Davion Taylor (reminder: Singleton is on COVID-19 list)
CB: Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox (NCB)
S: Anthony Harris, K’Von Wallace (reminder: McLeod is on PUP)
The first-team offensive line looked like this:
LT: Jordan Mailata/Andre Dillard (they rotated for equal time), LG: Nate Herbig (replacing Seumalo), C: Jason Kelce, RG: Brandon Brooks, RT: Lane Johnson
Mike Kaye explains some of the surprises up there:
“While Herbig replacing Seumalo wasn’t a stunner, Taylor, last year’s third-round pick, playing over T.J. Edwards with the first-team defense was interesting. As NJ Advance Media has previously reported, the new staff is pretty high on Taylor, who has the ability to play in coverage and blitz. With the Eagles using more of a hybrid defense, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon could be looking to take advantage of Taylor’s athleticism. That said, Edwards had an excellent pass breakup over in the middle on a throw from QB Joe Flacco during team drills.”
And you can decide for yourself if as a coach you would reward this play: during 7-on-7 drills, third-string QB Nick Mullens completed a pass across the middle to QB-turned-TE Tyree Jackson. Almost immediately after the catch, Jackson lowered his shoulder and trucked linebacker Rashad Smith. The play ended shortly after the hit-and-run, but Jackson certainly set the tone in what was supposed to be a light-contact practice. I wasn’t there so I’m missing the full context of what could have been just an accidental collision. My first instinct is I don’t want my guys beating up my guys!
Sirianni brought up the potential for a “speed 21″ personnel package after practice. A normal 21 personnel grouping would consist of a running back, a fullback and a tight end. In a speed 21 package, typically referred to as a “pony” package, there are typically two running backs and tight end. With Gainwell, Boston Scott and Miles Sanders having so much potential in the passing game, especially on screens, having two backs out there could be dangerous for opposing defenses.
Safety Rodney McLeod (knee) and offensive tackle Le’Raven Clark (Achilles) were seen working on a side field as they were placed on the Physically Unable Perform/Active list ahead of practice. The Eagles can take either player off the reserve list at any point before the season starts. McLeod and Clark both count against the 90-man roster, but if they are still on the PUP list in Week 1, they’ll be lost for the first six games of the season, and not count against the 53-man regular-season roster. Second-round lineman Landon Dickerson was put on the non-football injury list. He suffered his torn ACL in college at Alabama in December, so he was not eligible for the PUP list. The Eagles can take Dickerson off the list at any point during training camp. Dickerson was seen on the field watching practice.