10 observations from Eagles minicamp: The return of Mack Hollins ... sorta

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: The return of Mack Hollins ... sorta

The Eagles kicked off their three-day mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. They have practice each of these three days until they part ways for the summer. After Thursday, they won’t be back until training camp. 

Head coach Doug Pederson said every player reported to the mandatory camp, but not every player practiced. 

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday’s practice: 

1. Sound the alarms! Mack Hollins practiced! 

The Eagles’ fourth-round pick from 2017 missed all of the 2018 season with a long and somewhat mysterious groin injury. Pederson previously said he expected Hollins to be ready to practice at training camp, but Hollins came back in a limited fashion a little earlier. 

On Tuesday, Hollins didn’t participate in team portions, but he did join in for wide receiver drills. During OTAs, Hollins was spotted working out on a side field, so things have been trending in the right direction. 

It might not sound like much, but this is the most we’ve seen Hollins do in a long time. And he looked pretty good. 

2. Attendance time: Every player reported to camp but not every player is practicing just yet. Nelson Agholor was not at practice and presumably has some kind of injury. He has been in the building and was around for photo day on Monday. Miles Sanders also didn’t practice (see story)

This group worked on a side field: Fletcher Cox, Corey Clement, Nigel Bradham, Brandon Brooks (Cox, Bradham and Brooks hadn’t been working on a side field during OTA practices).

Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod and Hollins did some individual drills. 

Lane Johnson, Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery and Malcolm Jenkins were back after skipping OTAs (they at least skipped the four days reporters were there). 

Blake Countess and Paul Worrilow returned to practice after missing some time with their respective injuries. 

3. We’ve talked about Carson Wentz’s arm strength but the $128 million man showed off his touch today on a few passes. One was a beautiful deep ball in 7-on-7s to Marken Michel, who was covered by Avonte Maddox. Maddox had good coverage, but Wentz dropped it in the bucket. He then hit JJ Arcega-Whiteside deep down the sideline for about a 25-yard gain. 

He can make every throw; that’s why he was the No. 2 pick and that’s part of the reason he just got paid. 

4. We mentioned Michel, so let’s talk about him a little more. He made a few nice grabs today. That deep ball from Wentz was one. He also came back to a ball thrown by Nate Sudfeld near the sideline and leaped up to get it. Even though Michel hasn’t returned punts this spring, special teams coordinator Dave Fipp mentioned him as a possibility for that role. Michel’s story is an interesting one. He’s the older brother of Patriots running back Sony Michel and has spent the last few years in the CFL. 

5. Like he was during OTAs, Halapoulivaati Vaitai was working as the first-team right guard. This now seems less like simple cross-training and is now into the territory of preparing Vaitai for the possibility of being a backup guard or even starting in the event that Brooks isn’t ready for the start of the season. Pederson even mentioned the importance of Vaitai and Johnson learning how to play next to each other. 

6. Here was the first-team offense: 

OL: Jason Peters, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Vaitai, Johnson

QB: Wentz; RB: Jordan Howard; WR: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, (Greg Ward Jr. in 11 personnel)

TE: Zach Ertz (Dallas Goedert in 12 personnel) 

Here was the first-team defense: 

DL: Brandon Graham, Tim Jernigan, Malik Jackson, Vinny Curry

LBs: Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nate Gerry, (Paul Worrilow in base) 

CBs: Rasul Douglas, Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones (outside in Nickel)

S: Malcolm Jenkins, Andrew Sendejo, (Tre Sullivan in dime)

Note: On offense, Brooks and Agholor aren’t practicing. On defense, Derek Barnett, Jalen Mills, Nigel Bradham, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod aren’t practicing. 

7. It was interesting to see Greg Ward Jr. get first-team reps in the slot in Agholor’s absence. We also saw Ward get used in some different ways. On one fake punt, he ended up with the ball. And the Eagles also ran a trick play on offense with him. They pitched the ball to Ward, a former college QB, who then threw it to Michel. Ward has been around for a while now and came back after his time in the AAF. He has a better chance of making the 53-man roster than I originally thought. 

8. Dallas Goedert caught a touchdown pass. You’ve heard it a lot this spring and you’ll probably hear it a lot during training camp. This time, he caught a ball that somehow went through the hands of Josh Hawkins during 7-on-7s. I mean, like, it really looked like it went through his hand. Hawkins held out his palms to make sure they still worked. 

9. The three guys who did most of the punt returning on Tuesday were Boston Scott, DeAndre Thompkins and Donnel Pumphrey. DeSean Jackson got worked into the mix a little too. The Eagles are preparing for Jackson to be used as an occasional punt returner this season. 

“We'll pick our spots with him,” Pederson said. 

Meanwhile, I tried to watch the gunners on the punt team today. The top unit was Sidney Jones and Shelton Gibson. Then Cre’Von LeBlanc and Charles Johnson. Then Deiondre' Hall and Michel. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.  

10. Practice ended today with an interception. Rookie Clayton Thorson threw an ugly pass to end practice. He airmailed a pass and it landed in the arms of safety Godwin Igwebuike. Thorson has been shaky the last couple of practices, but a few times on Tuesday he showed off his speed as a runner. He has more wheels than I thought. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: There was one play when Kelce’s snap flew way over Wentz’s head and the play was whistled dead but not before one defensive player shrieked on his way to the ball. It was loud and shrill. I think it was Nate Gerry but it was hard to tell. 

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Zach Ertz's urgent message if there's no high school football

Zach Ertz's urgent message if there's no high school football

Pennsylvania high school football is in jeopardy, and Zach Ertz wants to make sure all the kids who are likely to miss out on the experience are OK.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday “strongly recommended” that high school football – and all interscholastic sports state-wide – be postponed until Jan. 1, 2021, at the earliest.

The Pennsylvania Scholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for Pennsylvania high school sports, met Friday and decided to delay the start of fall sports until Aug. 24 but has not yet decided whether all sports will indeed be cancelled for the rest of this calendar year.

During a Zoom call Friday, Ertz brought up the situation without being asked and emphasized how important it is – based on his own experiences as a teenager – that if high school sports are cancelled for kids to be provided other opportunities to learn, to grow, to develop and to keep them off the street.

I just want to talk a little bit about high school football and my experience,” Ertz said. “I was 15 years old, my parents separated, I was the oldest of four boys, and the only thing that I knew how to do, the only way I could express myself -- I was so frustrated inside -- the only thing I could do was play football. All I did was lift weights, play football, play basketball, and that allowed me to kind of release my internal stress and pressure that I had built up. 

“And Tom Wolf  came out with the recommendation that there is no fall football or fall sports in general. And the adversity I faced when I was 15 is about 1-1,000th of what many kids in this state in particular are going to be facing if they don’t have an outlet, if there is no football in the fall for these kids, and I would just really challenge everyone if the decision is no football, there’s got to be an alternative where we (don’t) just allow these kids to go about their days with no guidance, with no further investment. 

“Obviously, football costs money. So if they were to disband football, where is that money going to go? I’d love to see it invested in these kids to make sure that they’re OK and taken care of and not on the streets from 3 to 7. Because that’s what I was fortunate enough to do. I had organization after school with football and basketball and I couldn’t imagine the path that I would have gone down if I didn’t have football to express myself. 

“I want kids to be healthy, first and foremost, that is the primary goal, and if that is the decision to really think outside the box and how we can keep these kids safe.

Ertz grew up in Danville, Calif., and played football and basketball at Monte Vista High School. He earned a scholarship to Stanford, where he spent three years before joining the Eagles in 2013.

He ranks 13th in NFL history among tight ends with 525 receptions.

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The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

The 10 greatest NFL players who became irrelevant Eagles

They’re all-time NFL greats. And they’re former Eagles.

But they were never both at the same time.

We thought it would be fun to come up with a list of the 10 greatest NFL players who finished their careers in obscurity as Eagles.

Two rules: They weren’t allowed to spend more than one season with the Eagles and their final NFL game had to be in an Eagles uniform.

That eliminates guys like Mark Bavaro, Roy Green and Greg Townsend.  

But there are some pretty notable players - including three Hall of Famers - who finished their brilliant NFL careers as mediocre and forgotten Eagles.

Interesting to note that seven of the 10 played for the Eagles between 1993 and 1997!

Tomorrow, we'll do the opposite top-10 list ... the 10 greatest players who began their career in obscurity with the Eagles! 

1. DE Richard Dent

Before he was an Eagle [1983-1996]: Four-time Pro Bowler with the Bears and an all-pro and Super Bowl MVP in1985. One of only six defensive players named Super Bowl MVP.  Ranked 3rd in NFL history with 133 sacks through 1996 (behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith). One of only four players in NFL history with consecutive 17-sack seasons (White, J.J. Watt and Mark Gastineau are the others). Was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

As an Eagle [1997]: Had 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games with no starts playing for a 6-win team. Finished third on team in sacks, behind Rhett Hall [8.0] and William Thomas [5.0]. 

2. WR James Lofton

Before he was an Eagle [1978-1992]: Eight-time Pro Bowler with Packers and Bills. 

Held NFL record with 13,821 yards when he signed with Eagles and ranked 3rd with 750 catches [behind Art Monk and Steve Largent]. Had 18.4 yards-per-catch average, 4th-highest in NFL history. Had 6th 1,000-yard season at 35 years old. One of seven players in history to average over 20 yards per catch four times. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2003.

As an Eagle [1993]: Played nine games. Caught 13 passes for 167 yards and no TDs. Final career reception was 32-yarder from Bubby Brister against 49ers on final day of 1993 season.

3. WR Art Monk

Before he was an Eagle [1980-1994]: Held NFL record with 934 receptions when he signed with Eagles and ranked 4th with 12,607 receiving yards. Set NFL record with 106 catches in 1984 all-pro season. Won two Super Bowls. Had over 1,000 yards in postseason. Named to NFL team of the decade for the 1980s. Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2008. 

As an Eagle [1995]: Played in three games. Caught six passes for 114 yards. Final career reception was a 36-yarder from Rodney Peele in Christmas Eve loss to Bears at Soldier Field. Monk broke his arm on the play while being tackled by Mark Carrier. He never played again.

4. PR-KR Mel Gray

Before he was an Eagle [1986-1997]: Three-time all-pro and three-time Pro Bowl returner with the Lions. Had six kick return TDs and three punt return TDs. Led NFL in kick return average in 1991 and 1994 and in punt return average in 1987 and 1991. One of four players in NFL history to average 10 yards per punt return and 24 yards per kick return and one of only four players with 3 TD returns on both punts and kicks. Was named to the team of the decade for the 1990s second team as both punt returner and kick returner.

As an Eagle [1997]: Played in three games. In his first game called for a fair catch of a Brad Maynard punt at the Eagles’ 5-yard-line.  Returned two punts for an 8.5 average and one kickoff for 8 yards. 

5. WR Mark Duper

Before he was an Eagle [1982-1992]: Had 511 catches for 8,869 yards and 59 touchdowns with the Dolphins, made three Pro Bowls, had five straight years averaging at least 18 yards per catch and as of the end of the 1992 season had a 17.4 yards-per-catch average, 6th-highest in NFL history.

As an Eagle [1993]: The Eagles actually signed him on Aug. 18, two days after Carter retired. He was released 12 days later (along with Casey Weldon, Siran Stacy and Ephesians Bartley). 

6. DT Michael Carter 

Before he was an Eagle [1984-1992]: Three-time Pro Bowler and all-pro defensive tackle with 49ers. Starter on three 49ers Super Bowl teams. Olympic silver medalist in the shot put in 1984.

As an Eagle [1993]: Signed with the Eagles on July 15 and retired on Aug. 16. 

7. DT Haloti Ngata

Before he was an Eagle [2006-2017]: Ngata made five straight Pro Bowls as a Raven and two all-pro teams.  He was a starter on the Ravens’ Super Bowl-championship team in 2012. His teams made the playoffs in 9 of his 13 seasons. His 19 career playoff games are 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive lineman (Vince Wilfork played in 24). He’s already been inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor. 

As an Eagle [2018]: Played in 13 games starting nine for the 2018 Eagles. Played 368 snaps and had 17 tackles. Retired after the season.

8. RB Chris Warren

Before he was an Eagle [1990-2000]: Warren was one of the most accomplished running backs in the NFL in the 1990s. He made three straight Pro Bowls for the Seahawks, had four straight 1,000-yard seasons and during the 6-year span from 1992 through 1997 was the 3rd-leading rusher in the NFL, behind only Hall of Famers Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. 

As an Eagle [2000]: With Duce Staley out for the season and the running game ineffective, the Eagles signed Warren late in the 2000 regular season. He rushed for 42 yards in the regular-season finale against the Bengals, then was 22-for-85 in the playoff win over the Bucs - the Eagles’ first playoff win under Andy Reid. In Eagles history only Wilbert Montgomery has more carries in a playoff game. Warren ran for 11 yards against the Giants a week later in his final NFL game.

9. DT Keith Millard 

Before he was an Eagle [1985-1992]: Two-time all-pro defensive tackle for Vikings. Had 54 sacks as an interior lineman. Set NFL record for defensive tackles with 18 sacks in 1989. His 51 sacks remains 2nd-most in NFL history by a defensive tackle in his first five seasons (behind Aaron Donald’s 59 1/2). 

As an Eagle [1993]: Played in 14 games, starting six on a defensive line with Andy Harmon, William Perry, Mike Floes and Clyde Simmons. Played his final NFL game on final day of 1993 season - also Lofton’s final NFL game. Sacked Steve Bono on the final play of his career.

10. WR Carlos Carson

Before he was an Eagle [1980-89]: Caught 353 passes for 6,372 yards and 33 touchdowns with the Chiefs and made the Pro Bowl in 1983 and 1987. Had three 1,000-yard seasons, and in 1983 finished second in the NFL to Mike Quick with 1,351 yards. Piled up 6,431 scrimmage yards in a Chiefs uniform.

As an Eagle [1989]: In his first game as an Eagle, against the Redskins at the Vet, he dropped a perfectly thrown pass from Randall Cunningham that would have been a long touchdown. He finished the season with one 12-yard catch and minus-nine yards on an end around for three scrimmage yards.

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