10 observations from Eagles' minicamp: Gerry impresses as team breaks for summer

10 observations from Eagles' minicamp: Gerry impresses as team breaks for summer

I felt like blaring Alice Cooper from my car as I left the NovaCare Complex on Thursday afternoon. 

School really is out for summer. 

Thursday wrapped up the Eagles' three-day mandatory minicamp on Thursday with a shorter-than-usual practice. Afterward, a bunch of players were nearly sprinting to get out of the building to make their flights to locations across the country. 

The team won't be back together again until late July for training camp. 

Here are 10 observations from the last practice of minicamp: 

1. As always, we'll start with the guys who weren't practicing. Jordan Matthews (knee) was held out again, missing all three days of the minicamp. He said after practice that he expects to be ready to go once training camp arrives but declined to go into details about his knee. 

Dorial Green-Beckham (foot) and Destiny Vaeao (calf) missed practice again on Thursday. Beau Allen missed all of minicamp as he recovers from a pec injury. Ryan Mathews hasn't even been in the building. Pederson said this week that Mathews has been excused to rehab elsewhere but didn't know where off the top of his head. 

Jon Dorenbos wasn't at practice on Thursday. The veteran long-snapper posted on his social media channels that he was on his way to Cabo for his wedding.

Fletcher Cox was back at practice after leaving Wednesday with a neck strain. He was limited (didn't participate in team portion) but should be good for training camp. 

2. The defensive star of Thursday's practice was fifth-rounder Nate Gerry, who is making the transition to linebacker after playing safety at Nebraska. 

During the 7-on-7s, Gerry first jumped a pass attempted for Paul Turner and made a great diving interception. Just after that, he had a huge pass breakup in front of fellow fifth-round draft pick Shelton Gibson. 

"Each day, with the transition, I'm just trying to make one less mistake than I did the day before," Gerry said. "Progress every day. I feel like after today, I feel much more comfortable at my position. A lot of learning experiences for me, but now I feel like I'm in a spot where I can settle down and play a lot faster." 

3. While Gerry took a big step forward on Thursday, rookie cornerback Rasul Douglas didn't have a good day at all. With referees on the field this week at practice, the rookie from West Virginia was called for defensive holding three times. 

After the third, which came against Alshon Jeffery, Douglas tried to argue the call, which got defensive backs coach Cory Undlin fired up. 

The thing Douglas has going for him is his size and long frame. Part of his game is going to be his physicality against receivers. But he's going to need to learn how to walk that line. 

4. The nicest offensive play of the day came on a pass from Carson Wentz to Nelson Agholor in the red zone. Agholor high-pointed the ball over cornerback Aaron Grymes and came down with an impressive touchdown. 

The Eagles' spring MVP has undoubtedly been Agholor. Obviously, this might not mean anything. Agholor still has a ton of work to do just to save his NFL career, but it's impossible not to notice him at practice. 

"On the field, he's always been an explosive guy," Wentz said this week. "But, boy, it sure seems like he might have gotten quicker and more explosive this offseason. He's out there, he's getting open. He's getting open, making plays, and it's good to see." 

5. Grymes was beaten by Agholor on that one play but has played well this spring. The former CFL All-Star has gotten more and more reps inside at the team's nickel corner. There seems to be a decent chance for Grymes to make the team and maybe even earn some time in the slot this year. 

6. Thursday was the first day that Jason Peters worked with the first-team offense during full-team drills. He didn't take every rep, though, and Lane Johnson slid over when he came out. 

For the second straight day, Isaac Seumalo took some first-team reps at center. That's been going on throughout the spring. It's clear the Eagles want to keep him ready at both the center and guard positions. 

7. Seumalo had one bad snap in a red zone drill on Thursday, but Wentz handled it perfectly. He leaped to grab the ball and set almost immediately as he hit the ground. He then found Zach Ertz in the end zone for a touchdown. 

On Wednesday, I spotted Wentz practicing bad snaps. The coaching staff was throwing them high or rolling them low. The drill was designed for Wentz to retrieve the ball and get into his throwing motion as quickly as possible. His ability to make something out of nothing is already there, but the coaching staff clearly wants him to embrace it. 

8. Without Cox, who didn't do team drills on Thursday because of that strained neck, the Eagles were pretty light at defensive tackle. Remember, Allen (pec) and Vaeao (calf) were also missing practice. That meant relatively recent free-agent pickup Gabe Wright took snaps next to Tim Jernigan with the first team. Not much to report on Wright; he didn't stand out good or bad. But at least the team is getting a chance to see if there's anything there. 

9. The Eagles' offense practiced a trick play going against air. Darren Sproles got the ball and threw about a 20-yard pass to Ertz toward the corner of the end zone. 

10. Nick Foles missed the minicamp because of family reasons, so the team had Tulsa QB Dane Evans in for a tryout. And the young QB looked pretty good. Good enough that Pederson said Evans will likely be the fourth quarterback the Eagles bring to camp. That would mean they will need to find an extra roster space for him. Perhaps that will come when Ryan Mathews is released. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: All week, when the offense is working by itself, the Eagles have used new offensive tackle Taylor Hart as a scout team defensive end. The guy has actually played defensive tackle in the NFL, but instead of lining him up inside, they've kept him as a faux edge rusher.  

Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play

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Raiders beat Chiefs in thriller with touchdown on final play


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Wins have been so hard to come by for the Oakland Raiders that it took three tries at the final play for them finally to pull this one out and possibly save their season.

Derek Carr threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree on the final play after the game was extended by two straight defensive holding calls and the Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak with a 31-30 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night.

"We didn't give up," Crabtree said. "We got a team full of fighters. We believe. ... No matter how hard the game was, we believed. We came out with the W and I'm excited. It's a good way to win, a great way to win."

With their season on the line following the recent slump, Carr led an 85-yard touchdown drive in the final 2:25 to give the Raiders (3-4) the thrilling comeback in a game they trailed by nine points heading into the fourth quarter.

Carr finished 29 for 52 for 417 yards and three touchdowns, with Amari Cooper catching 11 passes for 210 yards and two of the scores. The Raiders had struggled to get the ball downfield while being held to 17 or fewer points in four straight games but Carr repeatedly beat the Chiefs with deep passes.

"No. 4 kept making plays," coach Jack Del Rio said. "This is a special, special win."

Alex Smith threw for 342 yards and three touchdowns but it wasn't enough for the Chiefs (5-2). They lost consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 11-18, 2015, and had their 12-game winning streak in the AFC West snapped in a thrilling finish.

"I've never been part of a game that came down so dramatic," linebacker Derrick Johnson said. "But, still had a chance to win. Period. Just have to make a play. One play. One play."

The Raiders had an apparent go-ahead touchdown pass to Jared Cook with 18 seconds left overturned when replay ruled he was down at the 1. An offensive pass interference on Crabtree wiped out another touchdown on the next play.

But holding calls on Ron Parker and Eric Murray set the stage for the final play. Carr hit Crabtree in the front corner of the end zone to tie it at 30. Giorgio Tavecchio won it with the extra point , setting off a celebration on a wild night that included Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch getting ejected in the second quarter for shoving an official.

Hot tempers
The game took an odd turn midway through the second quarter after Kansas City's Marcus Peters hit Carr late, angering the Raiders. Offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn confronted Peters and Lynch sprinted off the Oakland sideline to join the fray. Lynch, a close friend of Peters, ended up shoving line judge Julian Mapp and getting ejected . Peters also was called for a personal foul on the play. Lynch congratulated his teammates in the locker room after the game but didn't speak to reporters.

"I was disappointed he ran out because I knew we had a 15-yard penalty and we'd be in good shape," Del Rio said.

Long drive
After Marquette King pinned the Chiefs at their own 1 with a perfect punt early in the second quarter, Kansas City needed little time to turn the momentum. Smith hit Demarcus Robinson on a 33-yard pass on the first play of the drive. After a short run, Tyreek Hill beat David Amerson for a 64-yard touchdown pass that gave the Chiefs their first 99-yard drive since doing it Dec. 3, 2006, against Cleveland.

Deep connection
Carr had not connected on a single deep ball to Amari Cooper all season before the two teamed twice for long TDs in the opening quarter. On the first, Cooper appeared to push Terrance Mitchell but the officials picked up the flag and gave Cooper the 38-yard TD . Later in the quarter Carr and Cooper connected on a 45-yard score, making Cooper the first Raiders receiver with two TD catches in the first quarter since Mervyn Fernandez in 1989.

Kicking woes
The Raiders were hurt last week when a bad snap by Jon Condo led to a missed extra point by Giorgio Tavecchio in a 17-16 loss to the Chargers. That was Tavecchio's first missed kick of any kind this season but he then had a 53-yarder blocked and missed a 45-yarder wide left in the second quarter. Tavecchio also had a false start on an extra point in the third quarter.

Up next
Chiefs: Host Denver on Oct. 30.

Raiders: Visit Buffalo on Oct. 29.

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

Carson Wentz feels 5-1 Eagles 'just wired different this year'

There's something special going on around here, and Carson Wentz isn't afraid to say it.

“We’re made different this year," Wentz said after practice Thursday. "We have a different character makeup in that locker room, and nobody’s going to ever settle for anything less than greatness. So we’re going to go out there every day and attack it.”

The Eagles, 5-1, go for their fifth straight win Monday night against the Redskins, who they beat on opening day at FedEx Field.

Wentz, in only his second season, has elbowed his way into the NFL MVP conversation (see story). His emergence as the unquestioned leader of this team has mirrored the team's emergence as one of the NFL's elite teams.

Wentz spoke Thursday about how he sensed something different, something special, as far back as spring workouts.

“You could just see it, even going back to OTAs," he said. "You could see the competitive nature, even in practice. You couldn’t wear pads. You couldn’t even press cover outside. You could just see the competitive nature.

"And then through training camp, it just kept getting elevated even more. You could just see it from the leadership on down. We’re just wired different this year.”

When Wentz tells his teammates to strive for greatness, they listen, because here's a kid who in just 22 career games has established himself as one of the NFL's best young quarterbacks. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions this year and has posted a passer rating of 90 or higher in five of six games.

“It’s something that we always strive for," Wentz said. "And really, in everything we do in life, you strive for greatness.

"When we’re sitting where we’re at right now, we can just never let that slip. We can never let that slip from our preparation in the film room, the meeting room, the weight room, in practice, so that’s just something I feel like we have to always keep focusing on.

"Never settle, never settle, and just keep striving for that greatness.”

Wentz said he didn't feel anything lacking last year, when the Eagles went 7-9 and missed the playoffs for a third straight year.

It's just that head coach Doug Pederson is in Year 2, coordinators Frank Reich and Jim Schwartz are in Year 2 and Wentz is in Year 2.

The whole program is in Year 2 and there's a confidence, an attitude, a swagger that was nowhere to be found last year or really the last few years.

“I think it was just a natural growth," Wentz said. "You go back and look at last season again. We were so close in so many of those ballgames but [it's] just the natural growth that’s taken place both from coach and just really all of us being in this together and having a year under our belt."