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Eagles training camp observations: Brown shows off his strength originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
The Eagles held their third practice of training camp on Saturday before their first off day on Sunday.
Practices have gotten longer as the week has gone on. Day 1 was 58 minutes, Day 2 was 1:15 and Day 3 was 1:30. Today was Military Day at the NovaCare Complex. Great to see players signing for military folks after practice.
To the observations:
1. As always, we’ll start with a few housekeeping notes:
• Three players did not practice on Saturday: Zach Pascal (illness), Keric Wheatfall (COVID progression), Milton Williams (elbow). Williams’ injury is the first of training camp. No word on how severe it is just yet; Nick Sirianni spoke before practice and before we knew about Williams’ absence. Pascal has missed the first three days after dealing with food poisoning, but the last two days he’s been a spectator.
• Rookie tight end Grant Calcaterra left practice early with a lower-body injury. He walked off the field with a trainer to the tent and then eventually into the building. This injury came late in Saturday’s session.
• Receiver John Hightower got banged up during 7-on-7s. But after taking a while to get up, he returned to practice. He might have just gotten the wind knocked out of him.
2. After a really rough Day 2, the Eagles offense got off to a good start on Day 3 and that included Jalen Hurts. During his first 11-on-11 session of Saturday, Hurts was getting the ball to his receivers who were making grabs on contested balls. But then Hurts had his worst play and decision of camp. It’s even more notable because it’s something he’s really struggled with.
Hurts rolled to his left and threw the ball across his body on a pass that was picked off by Andre Chachere. It was a bad decision and a poor throw. Aside from that, Hurts had his ups and downs on Saturday but was mostly sharp. Some underthrown balls but he also had some really good completions to his receivers and tight end Dallas Goedert. He was better on Saturday than he was on Friday; much sharper.
But this is also interceptions in back-to-back practices from Chachere, who picked off Gardner Minshew on Friday. The veteran safety has been known more as a special teams ace but he’s presumably in a competition with K’Von Wallace for a roster spot. Not only has Chachere picked off passes in back-to-back days but he also got some first-team reps on Saturday.
Overall, the defense won Saturday but it was closer than it was in Day 2. It’s not uncommon to see offenses a little behind early in camp.
3. A positive for the offense: We really got to see A.J. Brown’s functional strength at work on Day 3. The 6-1, 226-pound Brown has the frame to box out defensive backs and haul in tough passes. He did that on Saturday a few times. His first catch of the day came in the first team portion of practice against Darius Slay. Slay had tight coverage but Brown was able to out-muscle him and come down with the ball. Brown is giving Slay all he can handle.
4. Good day for the Georgia boys. Jordan Davis got his first first-team reps of the summer and was making some plays. And even though Nakobe Dean is still working with the second team, he started to flash. The third-round linebacker blew up a screen in the flat and also got off a block from Sua Opeta in the second level. That’s something to watch. Dean is obviously undersized so his ability to shed blocks from offensive linemen will be important.
5. Before practice, Sirianni downplayed the fact that Miles Sanders didn’t get any first-team reps on Day 2 of practice, saying Sanders is still “our guy.” And on the first play in team on Day 3, Sanders took a handoff and exploded through the hole for a big gain. He has looked like a powerful runner this summer.
6. Like Hurts, Minshew has had an up-and-down camp thus far too. But Minshew really seems to excel on those intermediate routes. He’s accurate and throws heaters in there. One of them on Saturday saw Minshew burning one over the linebacker in coverage to a streaking Deon Cain in the middle of the field.
Minshew didn’t join the Eagles until just before the start of the 2021 regular season, so this is our first look at him in camp.
7. A couple special teams notes:
• Jake Elliott made all six of his field goal attempts: From 27 yards, 36, 39, 26, 40 and 45.
The kick returners in order of their appearances: Jason Huntley, Devon Allen, Hightower, Britain Covey. Worth noting that neither Jalen Reagor, Kenny Gainwell nor Quez Watkins lined up with that group. Those were the top three kick returners from 2021.
8. A couple good throws from Hurts:
• During 7-on-7s, Hurts threw a beautiful deep ball to Watkins but it was just out of his reach. It hit Watkins’ fingertips but he couldn’t haul it in. Watkins had a step on Slay, who was gassed after the play.
• The best play from Hurts on Saturday came after a blitz up the gut from Kyzir White. Hurts was flushed out of the pocket, rolled right and hit Goedert with a laser beam on the right sideline.
9. The Eagles finally had some 1-on-1s between receivers and corners on Saturday. Here are a few notes:
• James Bradberry, who is having a solid camp, had a big PBU on Brown down the field. Held his own against a bigger target.
• Reagor beat Zech McPhearson on a go route for a long completion. Reagor is quietly playing well this summer as expectations wane.
• Watkins gave Avonte Maddox a really tough time in these drills. It’s impressive that after just one season in the slot, Watkins looks this smooth in there. His type of speed is often utilized outside but it’s unique to have a player like him in there. It creates matchup problems.
• I was really looking forward to watching Allen in these drills, thinking he’d fly past DBs. Didn’t happen. In fact on his 1-on-1 with Tay Gowan, Gowan stayed right with him as the ball dropped incomplete.
• Hurts and Brown were off on their timing on a back shoulder throw. They’re still working those things out.
• Nice PBU for Josiah Scott on an under thrown ball to Greg Ward.
10. Now a tight end, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside made an eye-popping grab near the end of practice. The ball was tipped in the air but JJAW was able to adjust mid-air and pull it in.
Stupid Observation of the Day: After matching up with Watkins on a deep ball in 7-on-7s, Slay was completely gassed. He waved to the coaches to get a sub in there for him and he squatted next to the sideline near some fans. Despite being short of breath, when those fans called him Darius, Slay quickly corrected them and said, “… Slay” through heavy breathing. He’s committed to that bit.
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