Eagles

Eagles training camp Day 16 observations: Catch of the Summer

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Eagles training camp Day 16 observations: Catch of the Summer

After a cloudy day to start the weekend, the Eagles were under the hot sun Sunday.

The Eagles will have two more practices before Wednesday's walk-through and Thursday's game against the Bills at home.

Observation time:

1. *Clears throat* injuries: Add Fletcher Cox to the injury report. The Eagles' superstar defensive tackle missed practice Sunday with back spasms. He didn't even come out to the field.

Nick Foles (elbow), Bryce Treggs (sore legs), Paul Turner (shoulder), Wendell Smallwood (hamstring), Ron Brooks (hamstring), Josh Andrews (hand), Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee), Brandon Brooks (ankle) and Anthony Denham (calf) all missed practice again.

Offensive tackle Dillon Gordon (hand) missed the beginning of the day but returned later and even participated in team drills.

2. New cornerback Ronald Darby took the field for the first time with the Eagles on Sunday. He was a spectator at practice Saturday because Jordan Matthews hadn't yet taken his physical in Buffalo so the trade wasn't complete.

The Eagles didn't waste time throwing Darby right into the mix (see story). He worked with the first unit during group install and again in 11-on-11s. He was on his normal left side as the team let him compete in man coverage. He looked good.

In 11-on-11s, Nelson Agholor made a great catch in front of him but Darby had good coverage. In 7-on-7s, he went up against Alshon Jeffery. The two got tangled and Jeffery came down with the ball. Still, Darby looked good. He even showed that closing speed earlier in the day when he was covering Mack Hollins on a dig route.

3. Trey Burton made the catch of training camp during an 11-on-11 period. Matt McGloin's pass was deflected by Mychal Kendricks, but somehow Burton made a spinning, left-handed catch as he was moving away from the ball. It drew some gasps from his teammates and the fans in attendance. It also drew a look of "are you kidding me?" from a grimacing Kendricks.

"It was luck, bro," Burton said. "Just threw my hand out there."

It was a little more than luck. Great concentration from Burton, who could have a big role in the offense this season.

4. Jim Schwartz used a bunch of combinations at corner on Sunday. Darby and Jalen Mills began the day as the starters with Aaron Grymes in the slot. Then Patrick Robinson had some time in the slot before moving outside. Then Malcolm Jenkins went into the slot and Corey Graham came in to replace him at safety. Without Ron Brooks, who is the top slot corner, Schwartz is moving guys around trying to find the best combination.

5. During a 1-on-1 drill, Kendricks was roasted by Darren Sproles. Really, it was unfair. Sproles pulled a super quick double move and put about five yards of separation between him and Kendricks as he ran down the sideline and caught the pass that was lofted in.

6. Overall, the defense won the day. That happens sometimes during training camp. One side of the ball just clearly outperforms the other. A part of that was that Carson Wentz wasn't very sharp for the second day in a row. Not anything to worry about, but that's just the truth. And after that, the team has McGloin and Dane Evans. By the way, Evans has been the better of the two.

7. Corey Clement blocked Joe Walker during a blocking drill and Duce Staley was pumped. He jumped into the air to chest bump Clement in celebration. Often pass protection is what keeps rookies off football teams and off the field. At least Clement is willing. In those same drills, LeGarrette Blount couldn't stop Kendricks, who blew past him.

8. In offensive line vs. defensive line drills, Chance Warmack struggled to block Justin Hamilton and Gabe Wright. That's not a good sign, especially after Warmack didn't have a very good game in the preseason opener. Warmack has been getting a lot of coaching from O-line coach Jeff Stoutland. Right now, Warmack is the starting right guard while Brooks deals with his ankle injury, but it's fair to wonder if the team wouldn't be better with Stefen Wisniewski in there.

9. In those same 1-on-1 drills, Tim Jernigan pulled off a lightning-quick inside spin move. For some guys, that same spin move seems to take forever and they expose their backs to the offensive lineman for too long. Then, that move can end in disaster. But with Jernigan, it happens so quickly, the lineman can't react fast enough.

10. Even after cutting Marcus Smith a while back, the Eagles have some decent depth at defensive end. Recently, last year's seventh-round pick Alex McCalister has been playing better and Steven Means has been consistent too. The team goes six deep at end: Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Chris Long, Derek Barnett, McCalister and Means. As McCalister comes on, the coaching staff might have a tough decision when it's time to cut down to 53 players.

Stupid Observation of the Day: Walker shaved his beard and is probably about five pounds lighter because of it. He no longer looks like football Jesus.

What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

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What you need to know for Eagles-Vikings tailgate

Several parking lots outside the Linc will open as early as 11:30 a.m. Sunday for fans who require extra time preparing for kickoff for the NFC Championship Game.

The Wells Fargo Center lots as well as the M and N lots — located just east of the stadium — and the P lot, next to Citizens Bank Park, are scheduled to open at 11:30 a.m., the Eagles announced.

The Linc's K lot, just north of the stadium, will open at 1 p.m.

The Citizens Bank Park lots are scheduled to open at 3 p.m.

Gates to the Head House Plaza open at 3:30 p.m. and the inner gates to the stadium open at 4:30 p.m. Located on the north end of the stadium, The Head House Plaza offers outdoor bars, food stands, live music and numerous other pregame activities for fans arriving early. It also includes an entrance to the Eagles Pro Shop.

The Eagles and Vikings kick off the NFC Championship Game at 6:40 p.m.

Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

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Eagles-Vikings NFC Championship Game predictions

Another week, another game with the Eagles being the underdog.

After a dominant defensive performance in a 15-10 win over the Falcons in the divisional round, the Eagles will welcome the No. 2 seed Vikings to the Linc for the NFC Championship Game (6:40 p.m. on FOX).

Despite the Eagles being the No. 1 seed and having home-field advantage, Minnesota is the favorite to advance and play the Super Bowl on their home field in Minneapolis.

Our analysts all had the Birds winning last week. This week, we’ll see who has the Eagles advancing to Super Bowl LII.

Reuben Frank (15-2)
Two great defenses blah blah blah. Underdogs blah blah blah. Carson Wentz got hurt blah blah blah. Forget all the storylines you've heard this week, and say these 16 words out loud with me: "Case Keenum is not going to come into the Linc and win the NFC Championship Game." OK, LOUDER: "CASE KEENUM IS NOT GOING TO COME INTO THE LINC AND WIN THE NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME." Maybe I'd feel differently if the Vikings were home or if a future Hall of Famer like Drew Brees were coming to town, but you're talking about a relatively inexperienced quarterback who plays his home games in a dome coming into South Philadelphia and dealing with crowd noise, changing weather, a hostile environment and a ferocious defense that's allowed five touchdowns and 9.2 points per game in its last six home games. I don't think Case Keenum can handle what he's about to face Sunday afternoon. I think we're all headed to Minneapolis. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 9

Dave Zangaro (14-3)
I never thought this day would come, if I'm being honest. If you told me in the summer the Eagles were going to be in the NFC Championship Game, I wouldn't have believed you. 

If you would have told me they were going to be in the NFC Championship Game without Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Jordan Hicks, Darren Sproles, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis, I would have told you that you were crazy. 

Now, I'm the crazy one. Because despite all of that and despite the Eagles' technically being the underdogs in this game, I think they're going to win it. 

Had the Saints won last Sunday, I probably wouldn't think that. The thought of Brees coming to town would have been enough for me to pick against the Birds. But then the Minnesota Miracle happened and as great as it was for the Vikings, it could end up being great for the Eagles too. 

Sure, the Vikings are a really good team and maybe they have the best statistical defense in the league and maybe Case Keenum will never come back to Earth. But the Eagles have a pretty good defense too, a good defense that's even better at home. Nick Foles doesn't need to be Wentz, but he will need to make some big-time throws Sunday; I think he does. I think the defense clamps down at home. I think this improbable run somehow keeps going. 

I think the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl. 

Eagles 18, Vikings 13

Derrick Gunn (14-3)
These two teams mirror each other so much. Both are guided by quarterbacks who were backups on their depth charts when this long journey began. Both have defenses that can clamp down on opposing offenses. Both with identical records. And both have never won a Super Bowl (Vikings 0-4, Eagles 0-2). 

For Foles, it's imperative that he stays within himself. Stick to the short, high-percentage passing game and hopefully get some much-needed help from the run game. 

Against the Falcons, the Eagles had 49 yards rushing in the opening quarter but only 47 the rest of the game against Atlanta's ninth-ranked run defense. 

Minnesota's defense is ranked No. 1 overall, No. 2 against the run, No. 2 against the pass and No. 1 in points allowed. 

The Eagles' defensive front has to get to Keenum before he can find Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Both are excellent route runners with exceptional hands. What a matchup up this is. Pat Shurmur's offense against Jim Schwartz's defense. 

I've gone back and forth all week on who will win this game in what could be your basic backyard brawl. So what I came up with is this: In the final seconds of the game, the Eagles will be down one point when Jake Elliott gets the call and nails a 50-yarder as time expires. Eagles win and dance their way to the Super Bowl.

Eagles 23, Vikings 21

Ray Didinger (15-2)
Offenses are scoring at a record pace and yardage totals keep mounting. The typical NFL Sunday is all about the point totals climbing and fantasy owners cashing in. But now we're in the post-season and this is when the defense flexes its muscles. This is when scores go down and hitting picks up.

When the Eagles and Vikings meet for the NFC championship, it will be all about defense. The Vikings allowed the fewest points (15.8 per game) and fewest yards (276 per game) during the regular season. The Eagles allowed the fewest yards rushing (79 per game) and allowed just 26 points in the last three games, including the 15-10 win over Atlanta in the divisional playoff.

The Vikings had the best defense in the league on third down allowing 25.2 percent conversions. The Eagles defense was equally stingy at home (26.6 percent). The key to winning this game on the offensive side will be avoiding negative plays. A sack, a penalty, anything that creates a third-and-long situation will kill a drive. A five-yard run will be a big play in this game.

I think the Eagles pressure will eventually get to Keenum and that will be the difference.

Eagles 16, Vikings 13

Andrew Kulp (14-3)
The Vikings are a vastly better team than the Falcons in 2017-18, so I'm not sure I quite understand the confidence in the Eagles locally. Nonetheless, I tend to agree with the notion that it's hard to pick Keenum at Lincoln Financial Field in the NFC Championship.

Home-field has and will continue to be a big advantage for the Eagles. The crowd will rattle Keenum the way it did Matt Ryan last week, while simultaneously allowing Foles and the Birds' offense to communicate protection calls against the Vikings' exotic pressure packages.

Compare the two rosters side by side, and they're relatively close in terms of talent. It's pretty much a coin flip. The fans are what move the needle here. Plus, the way this entire season has gone, how can anybody around here possibly pick against the Eagles?

Eagles 26, Vikings 17

Corey Seidman (12-4)
Equal QBs. Eagles have the run game advantage. Vikings have the better WR group. Eagles have the better TEs and offensive line. Vikings have the better secondary. 

This one feels like an extremely close game. But with homefield advantage and a better kicker, I’m 52 percent confident the Eagles pull it out and advance to the Super Bowl. 

(Wouldn’t it be the most Philly thing ever, though, if the Jaguars upset the Patriots, Eagles fans go crazy, and then the Birds lose?) 

Eagles 13, Vikings 10