Eagles Observations: An eye-opening start for James Bradberry

·7 min read

In Roob's Observations: An eye-opening start for James Bradberry originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

A critical throw Jalen Hurts is getting better at, Britain Covey’s roster chances, a Devon Allen update and Greg Ward’s future.

We're in the thick of training camp, and it's time for another Roob’s 10 Random Eagles Observations.

1. James Bradberry is better than I realized. I knew he was an upgrade, and I knew he made a Pro Bowl a couple years ago, and I knew he’s picked off 10 passes over the last three years. But he’s been awfully consistent this camp and one of the true standouts on a vastly improved defense. If he can play at the same level he’s been practicing, the Eagles are going to have a scary-good 1-2 punch at corner — or 1-2-3 punch if you want to include slot Avonte Maddox. Bradberry is just solid. Quiet, steady, business-like. The polar opposite of Darius Slay, who's loud, brash and hilarious. Bradberry has had some great battles with DeVonta Smith, and he’s won more of those than he’s lost. That’s important work for Smith, and it shows just how talented Bradberry is.

2. One throw Hurts has been focusing on in camp is the quick slant to A.J. Brown. It’s a throw that requires anticipation, timing and chemistry, and it’s a throw Hurts did not make consistently last year. But he seems to be making progress with it. Hurts has never had a receiver like Brown, who is plenty fast but is really a tough, physical receiver who has a great feel for inside routes in traffic. Brown is such a weapon with the ball in his hands and so good at moving in space that if the Eagles can find ways to get him the ball quickly and in rhythm in the short game, he can get some big yards after the catch. The value of these routes is that they’re high-percentage plays that can potentially lead to big plays. If Hurts and Brown can connect consistently on these, they're going to be a big part of this offense.

3. I’m starting to like Covey’s chances of making the roster as a returner and sixth receiver. Covey has been sure-handed fielding punts, but he’s also looked surprisingly good with his wide receiver reps. If he shows some zip in the return game in the preseason games, I’m not sure if the Eagles can afford to let him go. They desperately need some firepower in the return game, and Covey can bring it. I’m really impressed with his mentality. A lot of undrafted free agents don’t have the swagger of someone who feels like they belong here. Covey has a ton of it.

4. I still haven’t seen Anthony Harris make a play this summer.

5. If you’ve listened to our Eagle Eye podcast since camp began, you know my favorite camp drill is the 1-on-1 o-line vs. d-line. There’s no hiding in 1-on-1’s. You don’t get any help. You’re out there by yourself with all the other linemen watching your every move. You can learn a ton about guys from watching. Five quickie takeaways from 1-on-1’s so far:

Brandon GrahamB.G. is 34 and coming off a torn Achilles, and if anybody had an excuse to take off a rep or give a little less than 100 percent here or there, it would be B.G. But this dude just brings it every snap, and he’s looked terrific so far this summer. He's giving the young linemen everything they can handle. Inspiring.

Cam Jurgens: I expected a small, smart, athletic interior lineman who knows how to use leverage to win battles at the line of scrimmage. And all that is true. But the thing about Jurgens that really jumps out at you is his power. He’s not just a quick, athletic, leverage guy. He’s powerful. He gets beat here and there, but for a rookie going up against some monster interior linemen, he really holds his own in 1-on-1’s.

Jordan Davis: Nobody wants to go up against this guy. He’s a flat-out beast. His combination of speed and power is frightening. If he can take what he’s shown in 1-on-1’s and apply it in a game, yikes.

Isaac SeumaloDoes not look like a guy at a new position and coming off a severe foot injury. Isaac’s been really solid. Encouraging first week and a half.

Marvin WilsonThe one-time big-time draft prospect is huge — 6-foot-5, 305 pounds — and powerful. An intriguing guy. Wilson spent last year on the Eagles’ practice squad after being released by the Browns in training camp. He’s still not consistent enough, but on the reps where he’s able to combine his power and athleticism, he’s tough to stop.

6. I get asked a lot about Allen, and there’s not much to say. He really doesn’t get many reps on offense. This is a guy who hasn’t played organized football since 2016 and hasn’t played regularly since 2014, and the transition is just really hard, and it was never going to happen overnight. We know Allen has world-class speed, but he hasn’t been able to use that speed to get off the line of scrimmage against seasoned, experienced corners when he does get reps. A positive is that he has been OK fielding kicks. Allen will play a lot in the preseason games, and that will be an opportunity for him to show how much he’s progressed since camp began. But he has a long way to go, and that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody.

7. I’ve always admired Ward. Undrafted out of Houston, switched from quarterback to wide receiver when the Eagles signed him, released six times from 2017 through 2019, caught a team-high 53 passes in 2020 when nobody else could catch a pass. Steady, smart, tough. Total team guy. Unfailingly unselfish. Natural leader. Will catch a five-yard pass on 3rd-and-3 every time. Has carved out a nice career for himself as a reliable slot and returner. But I just don’t see where he fits in on the 2022 Eagles. Nick Sirianni likes a more vertical presence in the slot than Ward, whose 8.7 career yards-per-catch is eighth-lowest in NFL history by a WR with 50 or more catches. With Brown, Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal locked into four spots, Jalen Reagor still around and Covey’s roster hopes gaining steam, I don’t see a spot for Ward.

8. At practice Thursday, the Eagles held a blitz pick-up drill between linebackers and running backs, and on a blazing-hot day near the end of practice, the drill was chippy and physical and competitive. It’s easy to imagine that sort of session leading to a couple fights. That’s what’s been happening at training camps forever. But not only did no fights break out, when the drill was over each running back took a moment to high-five or embrace each linebacker, and you could hear them greeting each other with, “Good work” and “Great job.” This team is different. Sirianni has been preaching “connecting” since he got here, and you see it every day. It’s not just some cornball phrase that the players roll their eyes at. They believe it and live it and it really means something to them. Watching those guys after the blitz pick-up drill just shows how seriously they take that message.

9. Watching Le’Raven Clark play left tackle with the first offense while Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard have been sidelined with concussions makes me think it’s probably a good idea not to trade Dillard.

10. One of the sweetest defensive plays of camp came Saturday courtesy of Josh Jobe, the undrafted rookie corner out of Alabama. Gardner Minshew spotted a seemingly open Deon Cain in the middle of the end zone and fired what looked to be a perfect strike toward Cain. But Jobe showed some impressive make-up ability, lunged at the last possible second and swatted the ball away just before it was in Cain’s hands. There’s really terrific competition among all the young corners and plays like that help guys separate from the pack.