What we learned about Nick Sirianni during joint practices with the Patriots, the vast potential of the Eagles’ young group of speedy wide receivers, a Kenny Gainwell prediction and the Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week.
That’s just a small sample of what you’ll get in this week’s Roob’s 10 Eagles training camp observations.
And only 24 days until opening day!
1. One of the most intriguing aspects of joint practices with the Patriots was watching Nick Sirianni going head-to-head with Bill Belichick, a guy who’s been to about as many Super Bowls as Sirianni has run practices. These definitely aren’t the Patriots of old, but Belichick is one of the greatest defensive minds in NFL history, and here’s a rookie head coach putting his brand-new offense up against Belichick’s defense. And Sirianni didn’t back down. He had his team prepared and confident, and really, over the two days the Eagles and Patriots practiced together, Sirianni’s offense got the better of Belichick’s defense. That really speaks volumes about Sirianni’s scheme, his confidence and his ability — and his staff’s ability — to teach this team his offense quickly and efficiently. Really encouraging stuff.
2. I’d like to see three series from Jalen Hurts and at least most of the first-team offense Thursday night. As crisp as practice has been and as effective as Hurts was in joint practices against the Patriots, there’s just something different about playing in a stadium in front of 30,000 people and on live TV in full pads with live rushers, linebackers who can’t wait to tackle someone and corners who can be physical. You still need some of that to get ready for the regular season. There’s something to be said for keeping Hurts safe and healthy, but I do think this is important work for any young quarterback.
3. It’s definitely disappointing that Tyree Jackson got hurt. The kid was having quite a summer. The play he got hurt on was pure effort. He leaped high for a pass in tight coverage in the end zone and landed hard on his back with a loud, sickening thud. It hurt to watch. But the Eagles are in good hands at tight end. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have both had excellent camps, and who knows if Ertz will even be here, but Richard Rodgers is solid as well. Rodgers filled in admirably when Ertz was hurt last year. In five games from Week 7 to Week 12, he had 15 catches for 246 yards and two TDs. Only three tight ends in the NFL had more yards during that five-game span (Travis Kelce 508, Evan Engram 299, T.J. Hockenson 274), and Rodgers’ 16.4 average was highest among NFL tight ends during that stretch. Hopefully, Ertz will be here, but even if it’s Goedert, Rodgers and someone else, that’s two reliable weapons for Hurts to throw to.
4. It’s always dangerous to base projections on things that happened the previous year. Teams change, rosters change, coaching staffs change. Nowhere is that more evident than here. But it is interesting to note that of the Eagles’ 17 opponents in 2021, only four were ranked higher than 16th in scoring offense last year — the Bucs (third), Saints (fifth), Chiefs (sixth) and Raiders (10th). All 13 other opponents were ranked 16th or worse, and nine were ranked 20th or worse.
5. Why is the Eagles’ wide receiving corps so intriguing? Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith are 22 and Quez Watkins is 23. Not once in franchise history have the Eagles had three WRs 23 and under catch 10 passes in the same season. If these guys all stay healthy, they’re each going to catch a lot more than 10 passes. This franchise has just never developed a stable of fast, talented young wide outs. Stable being more than just one or two guys. Reagor, Smith and Watkins have a chance to really develop into something special. And who knows what the future holds for Travis Fulgham, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and John Hightower, but they’re all 25 or younger, as well. Even Greg Ward, the veteran of the group, just turned 26. They still have to do it in games. They still have a lot to prove. But it’s easy to get excited about this entire group, and I don’t know the last time you could say that about Eagles wide receivers.
6. In the last 50 years, the Eagles have only had two rookie running backs with at least 25 catches and 200 rushing yards: LeSean McCoy in 2009 and Miles Sanders in 2019. I’ll be shocked if Kenny Gainwell doesn’t join that group.
7. A lot of people have been asking about what the Eagles have in mind for Landon Dickerson. I’m thinking the plan is to use this year as a physical recovery year. As long as Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks stay healthy, there’s no need to rush Dickerson along. And Nate Herbig — who’s started to get center reps — is a solid guy who can capably back up any of the three inside spots. There’s no urgency to rush Dickerson back onto the field, and considering his long history of injuries, what he needs most right now is to just get his body right. Dickerson isn’t practicing yet, and there’s no word when he’ll start. The Eagles really have the luxury of bringing their vaunted second-round pick along slowly, letting him learn Jeff Stoutland’s technique and just doing a lot of healing. We all want to see him play, but in the interest of his long-term future, it’s best to wait.
8. Here’s a name to remember: Andre Patton. He’s a long-shot wide receiver that the Eagles brought in at the start of camp. Patton has experience in this offense — he was with the Chargers for a year when Shane Steichen was offensive coordinator — and he’s bounced around a few training camps since 2017. He’s actually the oldest WR in camp. The sum total of his NFL experience is 6-for-56 with the Chargers in 2019. But he’s been solid since he got here. You can tell he knows what he’s doing. Runs solid routes, catches the ball well, has good size at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. There isn’t room on the 53 for Patton, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Eagles keep him around on the practice squad and elevate him if they need to. He looks like he can play a little bit.
9. Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week: Hurts is the only player in NFL history with 900 passing yards and 250 rushing yards in his first four starts.
10. Here’s a trivia question very few Eagles fans would get right: What first-round pick in Eagles history had the most career yards from scrimmage? It’s not Steve Van Buren. It’s not Mike Quick. It’s not Jeremy Maclin. The answer, believe it or not, is Keith Byars, who piled up 8,770 career scrimmage yards — some 1,892 yards more than Maclin.
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