Eagles training camp Day 6 observations: Wentz, offense look crisp in pads

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Eagles training camp Day 6 observations: Wentz, offense look crisp in pads

The Eagles were originally supposed to practice at the Linc on Saturday morning, but the threat of bad weather postponed the open practice until Sunday.

Instead, the team practiced at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday afternoon.

And the pads came out!

Players wore shoulder pads and leg pads for the first time this training camp, so it's beginning to look a lot like football in South Philly.

"It felt great," Zach Ertz said about being back in pads. "Obviously, it's been a long time coming. It feels like forever since we played the Cowboys back in January."

Let's hop into today's observations:

1. We'll start with injures (an homage to Andy Reid). Nick Foles was on the field but didn't practice. He has some soreness in his elbow and is expected to miss at least a couple practices.

Randall Goforth (knee) and Alex McCalister (hamstring) missed Saturday's practice. McCalister said he expects to be back on the field Sunday.

Alshon Jeffery went down during the 1-on-1 portion of practice and had his shoulder looked at but he returned a little later and seemed fine.

Elijah Qualls went down in pain during offensive line vs. defensive line drills and then got berated by defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Qualls left practice early. Later in the afternoon, he was walking around the locker room with a noticeable limp, but said he was just sore.

2. Carson Wentz was extremely sharp today, so it's no surprise the offense as a whole looked great in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.  

"Today was a very good day for the whole offense," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "We had a few snafus here and there, but it was a good day. I thought in the pass game in particular we executed really well. It's only one practice so I'm not getting too excited, but that's probably as well as we've executed in the past year since I've been here."

Ertz was heavily involved during the team portion of practice and 7-on-7s. He made a lot of catches. Jordan Matthews had a big day too. He and Wentz connected on several nice plays.

3. It's a little thing, but Wentz's hard count was impressive on Saturday, getting a few guys to come across the line of scrimmage throughout the day.

4. One of Wentz's best plays came when he avoided pressure from Destiny Vaeao, rolled to his right and found a crossing Matthews. Wentz just always looks so comfortable when he starts rolling and throwing on the run. It seems like it helps him get into rhythm. That's not just an observation about today; that's an observation about Wentz from the time he arrived in Philadelphia.

5. Saturday was the first time we got to watch 1-on-1 drills with offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen in pads. Those battles are my favorite to watch at training camp.

Brandon Brooks vs. Fletcher Cox was a pretty good one. I'll give a slight edge to Brooks, but it was a great battle between two of the strongest players on the team. Back when I briefly covered the Houston Texans, I'd watch Brooks battle similarly against J.J. Watt.

6. In those same drills, Tim Jernigan showed that pass-rush prowess we've heard so much about. He got up under Isaac Seumalo and beat him for a would-be sack. Jim Schwartz praised Jernigan earlier in the week and it's clear that Jernigan is a pretty good rusher.

Meanwhile, Derek Barnett didn't look great in the 1-on-1s. He was stood up by Matt Tobin and Dillon Gordon on his consecutive plays.

7. Patrick Robinson had a bounce-back day after getting burned by David Watford on Friday. He was involved in the defense and broke up several passes. That's encouraging.

8. Terrence Brooks has been everywhere over the first week of camp. The reserve safety just seems to have a knack for being around the ball and he looked at home when the pads went on Saturday. He looked ready to pop someone.

9. Marcus Johnson, the second-year player from Texas, might end up becoming the true darling of training camp this year. He's been making plays every day and even got some run with the ones on Saturday. He's improved a lot from last training camp. 

10. Sunday morning's practice at Lincoln Financial Field is open to the public. Practice starts at 10 a.m. Gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Parking will be free in lots A, D, G, K, M and N until 10:30 a.m. No ticket is required and seats are first-come, first-serve. 

"We're excited for tomorrow," Ertz said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere. The fans are going to be excited, we're going to be excited playing in front of them for the first time. I think now we're just really looking forward to it."

Stupid Observation of the Day: Lane Johnson wore the blonde wig for the entire practice on Saturday. I give him credit for really committing to a joke.

LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

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LeGarrette Blount has found a new home

A big piece of the Eagles’ 2017 Super Bowl season is moving on. 

Running Back LeGarrette Blount has signed with the Detroit Lions. Blount's deal will be for one-year, $4.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport

Blount, 31, was scheduled to visit the Lions on Friday and he didn’t leave without a new deal. He’ll reunite with Lions head coach Matt Patricia, who was the defensive coordinator in New England when Blount was there; the familiarity probably helped. 

Last offseason, Blount took his time deciding where he’d land. He didn’t sign with the Eagles until May and his contract was worth around $1 million. He apparently showed enough during 2017 to get a bigger deal this time around. 

After beginning the season as the Eagles’ primary runner, he eventually saw his role diminish after the Birds added Jay Ajayi through a trade. Still, Blount played in all 16 games and rushed for 766 yards during the regular season. More importantly, he had 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl LII. Blount had a rushing touchdown in all three playoff games after having just two during the regular season. 

Perhaps more important than his contributions on the field, it was Blount’s unselfish nature that seemed to rub off on his teammates. When he and Alshon Jeffery were on board with that unselfish mindset, it seemed like the rest of the team followed. 

As recently as late February, Blount indicated he wanted to return to Philadelphia, where he really seemed to fit in the locker room and under running backs coach Duce Staley, whom Blount clearly respects. 

"Obviously I like it a lot there,” Blount said in February on NFL Network. “They like me a lot there. It's a mutual respect and a mutual agreement thing about how we feel about each other. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about the team, the guys; I love those guys.”

While Blount said he wanted to return to Philly, it was unlikely the Eagles could have (or would have) offered him the type of contract he’s getting from the Lions. 

Meanwhile, the Eagles still have Ajayi and Corey Clement under contract from last season. Kenjon Barner is a free agent. The running back position still seems up in the air, but the Eagles have a few months and a draft to figure it out. 

Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

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Looking back at trio of Eagles' 2016 extensions

Back in early 2016, just after Howie Roseman had been reinstated to his post of power, he pulled out some moves from the classic Joe Banner playbook. 

He tried to find value in projection. 

Within a nine-day span in early 2016, the Eagles signed Vinny Curry, Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson to lucrative five-year extensions. Since then, Ertz and Johnson have grown into Pro Bowl players, rendering their contracts relative bargains. 

Curry simply remained a good player, which is why he was cut on Friday afternoon

While Curry finally became a starter in 2017, he had just three sacks and the team drafted Derek Barnett and traded for Michael Bennett who was cheaper and better. It’s certainly not really a knock on Curry, who had his best professional season during the Eagles’ Super Bowl year. 

When Curry signed his five-year, $47.25 million extension in February 2016, he was just two years removed from his nine-sack season and was seen as a much better fit in the 4-3 scheme Jim Schwartz was bringing to town. So the Eagles paid Curry like he was going to play at a Pro Bowl level and it never happened. In that first year, the Eagles tried to peg him in as a starter opposite of Connor Barwin, but Brandon Graham outplayed him. After Barwin was gone, Curry became a starter, but was just good; not great. 

Meanwhile, the two other big contracts handed to Ertz and Johnson have clearly worked out. Cutting Curry really speaks more to the nature of NFL contracts these days than it does to the level of his play. 

Sure, Curry never played to the level of his contract, but the deals for Ertz and Johnson look much better. And unlike Curry, both of them had one year left on their rookie deals when the Eagles tried to gain value in re-signing them early. It’s worked out. 

Ertz was the first of the three to sign his five-year extension. His was worth $42.5 million and as a Pro Bowler in 2017, he’s beginning to outplay it. He’s now the fifth-highest-paid tight end in the league and he’ll continue to drop on that list as he plays out the next four years of that deal. The best part of Ertz’s contract is it wasn’t heavily backloaded, which has allowed the Eagles to restructure with him the last two offseasons to create some cap room. 

The second of the three big five-year extensions based on projections went to Lane Johnson. His deal was worth $56.25 million. Of course, Johnson’s suspension in 2016 was tough, but he rebounded to have an incredible 2017. He’s the highest-paid right tackle in football, but he’s 10th among all offensive tackles, which is a good value. 

Twenty days after Curry signed his deal, Malcolm Jenkins also got a five-year deal, but at that point he had already been a Pro Bowler, so his deal was more based off of production than projection. 

During that entire offseason, every single time Roseman was asked about the moves he made that offseason, he continually said the most important ones were the moves they made to keep their own players. That obviously included the projection deals for Curry, Johnson and Ertz. 

Sure, only two of the three ended up being bargains with tenable contracts. But even Curry was useful during the two years he played of his extension before the Eagles took the out they built into the deal. That’s not a bad hit rate.