After a light day on Wednesday, the Eagles were back in pads and helmets on Thursday as the they get ready to go live (tackling to the ground) on Friday to finish out the week.
That will be exciting.
But there was plenty of stuff to observe and note on Thursday too. (I got through the temperature check with a 97.9 today.)
Let’s get to it:
1. Today’s practice belonged to 5th-round pick John Hightower. While Quez Watkins has done a little more in the first few days, Hightower shined on Thursday.
Hightower made a diving grab in the early portion of team drills and wasn’t done there. He impressed during WR-CB 1-on-1 drills, even against Darius Slay.
But the biggest play of the day came in 7-on-7s later in practice. Hightower beat the coverage from Slay and Jalen Mills for a 40-yard touchdown from Jalen Hurts. It was a beautiful ball from Hurts that hit Hightower perfectly in stride.
“It was a good pass,” Mills said before a little grin. “Held it kind of long, but it’s 7-on-7, it’s an offense thing.”
2. Even though Doug Pederson confirmed on Thursday morning that Nate Sudfeld is still the No. 2 quarterback, Sudfeld and Hurts are definitely splitting reps. Hurts had that beautiful deep ball. But he was also picked off by undrafted Army DB Elijah Riley.
3. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside appears to be over whatever minor injury kept him out of practice earlier this week (he called it lower body soreness). He was a full participant on Thursday and lined up with the starters at the X position. He made some plays. He had a really nice grab across the middle on a rocket from Wentz. And later in the day, he had a great catch on a deep ball from Wentz. JJAW rose over a defender deep down the field to pluck it out of the air. It didn’t count because Wentz was “sacked” but I won’t take away the effort from Arcega-Whiteside. He also dropped a short pass on Thursday.
For now, it appears like JJAW is splitting reps with Jalen Reagor at the X position, but he’s getting the first crack.
4. For the first time in a padded practice this summer, Jason Peters took reps at right guard. That means the entire OL was together for the first real practice of summer: Andre Dillard, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Peters, Lane Johnson.
Overall, the OL wasn’t great today. They didn’t keep the pressure away from Wentz. But I’ll reserve judgement on Peters until I see a little more.
5. Injury update: Sidney Jones, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Dallas Goedert, Javon Hargrave and Derek Barnett were not practicing today. All of them are injured. Josh Sweat missed practice with an illness.
More on injuries here.
Without the two running backs, Corey Clement was the top guy. And Joe Ostman got some run with the first team at DE.
6. It’s fun to watch Marquand Manuel during practice. The Eagles’ new defensive backs coach has a ton of energy. And the 41-year-old former NFL DB even laces up cleats for practice.
That rubs off on the secondary.
“It’s definitely a plus,” Mills said. “You know this camp is totally different than any other camp. We’re going six days straight. And sometimes you might have those dog days where you’re tired or you might have a sore back or your knees are aching right now. But you got a guy like Coach M, he’s coming in the building, in our meeting and he brings the energy. You have no choice but to match it.”
7. I watched some OL vs. DL drills today. Hassan Ridgeway looked really good, slicing through Matt Pryor and Luke Juriga; nice day for Ridgeway.
But the most impressive rep of the drill was Kelce going against Anthony Rush. Rush is a 6-foot-5, 327-pound defensive tackle but Kelce (6-3, 295) was able to stand him up on a bullrush. Kelce’s understanding of technique and leverage is really incredible to watch.
8. Nickell Robey-Coleman made an impressive diving pass breakup deep down the field during 7-on-7s. Wentz threw an impressive pass across his body to DeSean Jackson deep down the field but NRC was there to knock it away at the last second.
The addition of Robey-Coleman is the move from the offseason that we probably haven’t talked enough about.
9. With the Eagles light at running back, undrafted rookie Adrian Killins Jr. got some time with the first-stringers today. Killins has also worked at receiver some during camp. On Thursday, Wentz tried to hit him on a deep wheel route in 7-on-7s, but rookie linebacker Davion Taylor kept with him the whole way and got a pass breakup. Impressive speed from the linebacker to keep up with the lighting-quick Killins. That speed is what made Taylor a 3rd-round pick.
10. Keep an eye on Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills this season and how they work in the secondary with one another. In the last four seasons, it was normally McLeod playing the role of free safety and Malcolm Jenkins in the box, closer to the line. But in the first few days of training camp, we’re seeing McLeod and Mills switch off a little more.
11. Nice PBU from K’Von Wallace, who dove to get between the receiver and a pass from Sudfeld.
Stupid Observation of the Day: It was cool to see DeSean and Marty Mornhinweg chopping it up at practice for a bit. Mornhingweg was Jackson’s offensive coordinator for the first four years of his career.