Eagles

Eagles minicamp observations, Day 1: Darren Sproles, baby

Eagles minicamp observations, Day 1: Darren Sproles, baby

The Eagles were back at practice on Tuesday and the whole gang was there. 

Every Eagles player who was healthy enough to be on the practice field today was there, including Michael Bennett and Darren Sproles. 

The Eagles cut their practice a little short but not before getting plenty of competitive work in. Let’s start with a couple of anticipated new arrivals:

1. Mighty Mouse was back after skipping the OTAs. The 34-year-old Sproles says he’s 100 percent but coaches are being cautious with him. That explains why he didn’t get a whole lot of reps in his first practice back. 

But what we did see from Sproles wasn’t surprising. He’s still a physical freak. He didn’t do much, but he still obviously has his quickness. 

The most telling thing about Sproles is how he’s already being a leader for his teammates. First day back and even though he wasn’t fielding punts, he was running with the returners and then giving them tips as they waited in line to get their turn. On Monday, Duce Staley said there’s no question: Sproles is the leader of the running back room. 

And while we’re at it, we have seen the same thing from Jason Peters. For some reason, he helped break down the huddle for the third-team offense once and walked across two fields talking with rookie Jordan Mailata (the rugby project). 

Sproles and Peters are still expected to play at a really high level this year, but they bring more than that. 

2. Bennett made his Eagles practice debut. Before the session, head coach Doug Pederson said Bennett would be worked in with the first team over this minicamp, but he wasn’t with the ones today. 

Instead, Bennett was the left defensive end with the second team, while Chris Long and Derek Barnett worked with the starters. That doesn’t mean much yet, but it’s at least a starting point (see story)

Couldn’t see much from Bennett in one practice, but watching him during individual drills, the thing that did stand out were his hands. They looked violent. 

3. As always, I took attendance at practice. Alshon Jeffery was there, but is still not ready to practice. Brandon Graham (ankle) and Tim Jernigan (back) weren’t out there either. 

Sidney Jones missed practice after already missing some time last week. In the locker room, Jones said he’s doing OK, but is being held out with soreness. Haloti Ngata, Chris Maragos, LaRoy Reynolds and Josh Adams were out there, but not participating.  

4. The good news for Donnel Pumphrey was that he was back at practice after missing the last couple of days in OTAs. He needs every possible opportunity to try to prove his worth and he can’t do it on the sideline. He did show a little flash today. He caught a screen pass in the flat and made a quick and impressive move. A long way to go, but I’m interested to see what this kid does in the summer. 

5. Carson Wentz update time: He looks good. 

Still not involved in 11-on-11s, but he’s getting reps in 7-on-7s and individual drills. He had an up-and-down day as a passer, but at least he looks healthy. That’s the most important thing. 

6. The best offensive play of the day came from Wentz. Down in the red zone, the quarterback rocketed a ball into a tight window to a diving Nelson Agholor in the end zone. He beat an outstretched Ronald Darby. It was a great play all around. 

7. The second-best offensive play of the day came in 7-on-7s, when Nate Sudfeld dropped a beautiful deep ball into Dallas Goedert’s arms for a touchdown. It was a perfect pass over linebacker Asantay Brown, but give credit to Goedert too. He just seems to be able to get open. He made a handful of impressive plays today. 

8. Rough day for rookie corner Avonte Maddox. He was beaten twice in three plays for big gains. First by Markus Wheaton and then by Bryce Treggs. He’s going to take his lumps this offseason, but the Eagles don’t need to rely on him this season. 

9. Poor Darby got crushed on a screen pass when Jason Kelce got downfield to block. Darby is listed at 193 pounds, so Kelce has 102 pounds on him. It showed. The center completely obliterated the speedy corner. These aren’t contact drills, but it’s hard to slow down 295 pounds getting out front to block. 

Despite those last two plays, the defense won the day, although the offense rebounded from a really rough start. 

10. Still need to see more, but I’ve been impressed by Wheaton so far. He has looked good this spring and made a few more catches today. Now, it’s important to remember that he’s a veteran oftentimes going against more inexperienced players, but he’s already shown glimpses of being the player he was before injuries derailed his career. The good thing for Wheaton and the Eagles is that he isn’t needed to be a big part of the offense, but as a fifth receiver, he can give the Eagles some incredible depth. 

Remember, it was just a couple years ago that receiver was a sore spot for the Eagles. Now, they’re really deep with Jeffery, Mike Wallace, Agholor, Mack Hollins, Wheaton, Shelton Gibson, etc. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: This one came from our own Andrew Kulp as we watched impressively-fit punter Cameron Johnston boot a few: “I never realized this, but the punter is jacked.” 

More on Eagles

• Eagles know exactly when celebration will end

• Staley confirms Eagles will have lead running back

What's helping Mailata transition from rugby to NFL?

Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

Eagles' holding just 1 open training camp practice is an insult to devoted fans

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at West Chester and the unforgettable memories, like Herschel Walker standing at the top of the steps on the west end of the practice field signing autographs in the blazing heat (with his helmet on) for an hour, until every kid had gotten something signed.

I could go on and on about how much I loved training camp at Lehigh and how fans could stand literally six feet from the practice field and hear the thud of contact and interact with the players as they stood on the sideline.

But I’m not going to do that because those days are gone forever and no amount of me crying about it is going to bring it back.

And I understand why the Eagles — and more and more NFL teams every year — are holding practices in their own year-round facilities instead of remote college campuses. It makes sense to practice where your film library is stored, where your modern medical and training facilities are housed, where all your equipment and gear is, where your immaculately maintained practice fields are located.

I get it.

What I don’t get is just one open practice for the fans.

One. In a year.

That’s inexcusable.

The Eagles moved from Lehigh to the NovaCare Complex in 2013, when Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid. The Eagles scheduled five open practices that first summer, then three in 2014 and two each from 2015 through 2018.

And now just one.

Yeah, the $10 ticket fee for the Eagles’ one open practice this summer goes to a great cause. Every penny goes to the Eagles Autism Challenge, a cause that’s close to Jeff Lurie’s heart. The Eagles Autism Challenge raised $3 1/2 million this year, and it’s a terrific event that I’ve participated in the last two years.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the Eagles have an opportunity to put on a show for their fans two or three times during training camp, and for reasons they haven't explained, they’ve chosen not to.

The Eagles had no comment on why they've reduced open practices to just one this summer, but I assume it’s because it’s a logistical nightmare loading up all that equipment and moving it across the street for a glorified walkthrough.

It’s a hassle — and presumably an expensive one — for Doug Pederson to lose a valuable practice day in the cozy environment of the NovaCare Complex so Jake Elliott can play catch with fans, Brandon Graham can sign autographs for every kid he can find and everybody can watch in person while Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson light it up.

But this is a franchise worth close to $3 billion, according to Forbes, and these are fans that devote their lives to this football team, buying their jerseys, snagging every ticket the instant it’s available, traveling to their games.

They deserve more than one open practice.

They deserve more than one day to watch their football team with their own eyes.

We all know how hard it is for the average fan to get tickets. If you don’t know someone or already have season tickets of your own or have a whole big pile of money, you’re not going.

The open practices are the only remaining opportunity most fans have to see their heroes up close. To interact with them. To feel like they’re a part of everything.

It’s a long preseason. Training camp starts July 25 and really continues until Aug. 21, when joint practices with the Ravens wrap up.

I find it hard to believe the Eagles can’t find one more day to move their operations across Broad Street for all the people who've helped make this franchise worth close to $3 billion.

We’ve gone from five to three to two and now to one. You can see what direction this is trending. I’m afraid of what’s coming next.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles

Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles to charge for 1 open training camp practice, proceeds going to autism research

Eagles players will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 24, and the first practice will take place on July 25 at the NovaCare Complex. 

All but one practice will be held at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles will hold just one open practice for fans at Lincoln Financial Field, but this year will charge admission. 

The open practice will be on Aug. 4 at 7 p.m.; it will also be Military Appreciation Night. 

Tickets will be $10 and all proceeds will go to the Eagles Autism Challenge. Tickets can be purchased on TicketMaster.com and went on sale at 10:30 this morning. 

For years, most of the Eagles’ training camp practices were open to fans at Lehigh University and even since the team moved camp to the NovaCare Complex, select practices have been open to fans for free at the Linc. This is the first year the Eagles will charge admission to a training camp practice. Parking for the open practice this year will still be free. 

Last year, the Eagles had two open practices at the Linc. Tickets were required, but they were free of charge. 

According to ESPN, there was internal debate about whether or not to charge admission to practice this year, but, "Ultimately, the desire to further the team's charitable efforts won out."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Eagles