Eagles Observations: What kind of training camp is Jalen Hurts really having?

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In Roob's Observations: What kind of camp is Hurts really having? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The truth about Jalen Hurts, one position that still concerns me and revised expectations of Jordan Davis.

Here’s my 10 random Eagles observations from the first week of training camp:

1. There’s been so much nonsense written and said about Jalen Hurts since the start of training camp — much of it by people who haven’t been to a single practice — so let me be very clear about this: Jalen Hurts has had three very good days, one shaky day and one average day, and the sum total of these first five practices is somewhere around a solid B performance for the 23-year-old quarterback. Tuesday — the first day in full pads — was his best day yet. He spun it down the field beautifully, hit A.J. Brown in stride on slants, made good decisions in the pocket and did much of it against the first defense. No quarterback is perfect in every practice. Donovan had bad days. Randall had bad days. Carson had bad days. This is a process. It’s a long preseason and this goes for everybody … you can’t isolate one good or bad play and start drawing conclusions. You look for consistency, steady improvement and stacking together a string of positive days. Hurts had a poor practice Friday, but he’s been much better since. We’ve still got 5 1/2 weeks until opening day. Overall, I’m encouraged.

2. It’s also important to note that this upgraded defense is giving Hurts and the offense much better work than last year. Hurts noted how much more the corners and linebackers have challenged him and the receivers this year and how much he likes it because that’s how you improve. And it’s really true. The linebackers and defensive backs are so much more active and around the ball than last year, and it’s really raised the level of practice. And you want that. You don’t want one side of the ball dominating every practice. You want high-level competition and both sides taking turns making plays, because that’s how everybody gets better.

3. When the Eagles signed Kyzir White and drafted Nakobe Dean, I thought that meant T.J. Edwards would go back to his old role as a situational linebacker and a core special teamer. But Edwards so far has been — by far — the Eagles’ best linebacker in camp. He’s always been physical, but he’s just so smart and his recognition and processing have been truly impressive and allowed him to become even more of a playmaker. Edwards doesn’t have great speed, but he’s so instinctive and has the ability to process plays as they happen, and that enables him to get into position to make plays. I also think in their second year together, Jonathan Gannon has a much better idea what Edwards’ strengths and weaknesses are, and that should enable him to use him in situations he’s best suited to. Strong camp so far for T.J.

4. I often wonder what a full season of Miles Sanders would look like. He’s running the ball so well right now and just looks explosive. He seems more motivated than ever as he goes into a contract year. It’s crazy that with his talent — and that 5.1 career rushing average, eighth-highest in NFL history by a running back with 500 carries — he’s never rushed for more than 867 yards in a season, thanks to injuries and two coaches who at various times tended to forget he was on the roster. I don’t know how much the Eagles are going to run the ball this year, but let’s say Sanders gets 13 ½ carries per game at 5.1 yards per carry over 17 games; that’s nearly 1,200 yards. Every conversation about Sanders invariably begins with “If he stays healthy.” I’ll even go this far: If Sanders plays 15 games this year, he’s a Pro Bowler.

5. Jordan Davis is wayyyyyy more advanced than I expected. I thought he might be a 20-to-25-snap guy this year. Figured the Eagles would bring him along slowly since they have so much depth on the interior of the defensive line and there were questions about his conditioning. But I’ll tell you what, he looks fit and athletic on that 6-6 frame and has clearly spent the last few months really focused on his conditioning. After seeing him in action these first five practices, I’ll be shocked if he doesn’t make a significant contribution this year. He doesn’t seem like a project to me. He's ready to go.

6. Zech McPhearson might be the most improved player on the team.

7. It’s been three years now, and Jalen Reagor still doesn’t get it. Every minute he spends trying to pick fights on social media is a minute he’s not focused on trying to make the football team. His first two years, he had the luxury of being a first-round pick and didn’t have to worry about a roster spot. Now, his margin for error is zero. If he’s not completely focused on football, he’s not going to be in the league very long. Everything my colleague John Clark tweeted from practice the other day was accurate — nobody is fairer than Clarkie — and for Reagor to lash out at John after a poor series of plays immediately after practice shows he hasn’t learned a thing since he got here. He should be catching balls from the JUGS machine after practice or throwing with his teammates or meeting with his coaches — or doing anything to give himself a better chance to make the roster than engaging in the same juvenile Twitter nonsense he’s been doing for three years. Time to grow up.

8. Hopefully Andre Dillard is OK after leaving practice early Tuesday. Now in Year 4, Dillard has been really good this first week of camp. He’s looked solid both in team and 1-on-1. Definitely significantly improved. What that means for his future I don’t know. If he goes out in the preseason games and plays well, I could definitely see him having some trade value. But unless they can get serious assets back – maybe a third-round pick – the Eagles might prefer keeping him around. Either way, give him credit. He’s been through a lot — gotten benched, gotten hurt, dealt with the bust tag, lost his job to a rugby player. And he never stopped grinding. I’m convinced Dillard can play in this league and at some point he’ll get that chance.

9. I’m still concerned about safety. Marcus Epps has been terrific so far, but none of the other safeties have jumped out. Jaquiski Tartt has been OK and is still learning a new system so that takes time, but I haven’t seen anything out of Anthony Harris or K’Von Wallace that inspires confidence. It’s early, but after a week of practices, I just haven’t seen enough.

10. The early returns on Quez Watkins in Year 3 have been impressive. It’s important to remember this is a sixth-round pick who was very raw coming out of Southern Mississippi, and it was always going to take time for him to find his way. But he made enough plays last year to solidify that WR3 spot and certainly made the most of his opportunities. Watkins last year averaged 10 yards per target, sixth-highest in the NFL (minimum 50 targets) and fifth-highest by an Eagle since 1992, when they started tracking this stuff. I don’t know how many teams have the corners to cover Brown, DeVonta Smith and Watkins. Somebody is going to be open, Hurts just has to find that guy and get him the ball. The Eagles have never had three receivers with 700 yards in a season, but I could see it happening this year.