Eagles

Eagles training camp 2020 observations Day 9: A huge day for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

Eagles
(Pool Photo) Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Eagles were back in pads on Wednesday after a walkthrough yesterday. They’re expected to go live (tackling to the ground) on Thursday before a day off. 

I got through the temperature check with a 97.7 today.

Let’s get to it: 

1. The J.J. Arcega-Whiteside Hype Train officially left the station on Wednesday morning. If you don’t want to buy into the hype, I can’t blame you. But JJAW had a tremendous day on Wednesday, hauling in three impressive touchdown catches in the end zone.

- The first touchdown came from Nate Sudfeld, who threw a beautiful ball in the back left corner of the end zone to Arcega-Whiteside, who beat Rasul Douglas and then tapped both toes in the end zone.

- The second touchdown was in the back middle of the end zone on a pass from Carson Wentz. Wentz fired it in there and again JJAW dove, caught it and stayed in bounds. 

- The third touchdown was the best of the day. Heck, it might have been the best catch of training camp this summer. Wentz threw an absolute bullet through traffic (the third-team defense was out there) and I’m not even sure he was targeting Arcega-Whiteside, but the second-year receiver was able to reach back his hand to snag the pass. It wasn’t a clean catch but he pulled it in with his right hand and then snagged it with both as he toe-tapped for a touchdown. 

 

“It’s always good to catch touchdowns,” Arcega-Whiteside said. “Catching the ball, making the first down, that’s a totally different feeling that putting six up on the board.”

In the open field, JJAW has looked faster, but these catches are all about his size, athletic ability and body control. These are the things we expected him to excel in as a rookie and it didn’t really happen. If he can do these things in games, he’ll at least be a threat in the red zone. 

2. The Eagles dodged an absolute disaster during a team rep. Left tackle Andre Dillard was put on roller skates by Joe Ostman. Dillard was pushed back into Wentz’s legs and the franchise QB ended up on the ground. Wentz was fine and returned but that’s the most dangerous situation for any team in practice, watching someone go into the QB’s lower leg area. 

It was a horrible rep from Dillard, who worked hard this offseason to add bulk and strength. I have seen that strength work for him at times during this camp but it’s not a good sign to see him get beat on a power move from a 259-pound edge rusher. 

3. While the Eagles avoided disaster on that Wentz play, they did have one serious injury on Wednesday. Pass rusher Genard Avery went down with what looked like a right knee injury. He was in significant pain and had to be carted off the field as he wiped away tears. While he was on the ground, he was visited by several players, head coach Doug Pederson and GM Howie Roseman. 

Lane Johnson was still missing at practice. DeSean Jackson had a veteran day off. 

Sidney Jones returned to practice but I didn’t see him do any team drills. Rasul Douglas and Craig James were the second-team corners. 

4. Overall, it wasn’t a very sharp day for Wentz. He started to make some better throws late in practice, but he was off early. Several overthrows on Wednesday. Wentz worked to add strength this offseason and got up to 250 pounds. I don’t know if there’s a causation, but some of his passes could use more touch. 

5. Couple of great blocks from tight ends on Wednesday. One came from rookie Noah Togiai, who erased rookie safety K’Von Wallace from a play down the field. 

The other came from Zach Ertz, who sent Trevor Williams to the ground in the red zone. It was such a good block on the smaller corner that it prompted Malik Jackson to run from the other sideline and tell Ertz to try to do that to him. 

6. Nickell Robey-Coleman continues to make big plays in training camp. He picked off Wentz early in practice on a high pass attempted for JJAW. Robey-Coleman leaped up to snag it and then took it the other way. He’s really good. 

 

7. After muffing a few punts earlier in training camp, Jalen Reagor has looked much smoother back there in recent practices. All that work with Darren Sproles must be paying off. Although, Reagor did get yelled at once for not being vocal enough with his blockers to let them know the ball was rolling around their feet.  

8. Deontay Burnett made a circus catch on a ball in the middle of the field on a pass from Wentz that was behind him. Burnett was able to reach back his one hand and tip the ball to himself. He caught it on the ground. 

9. I spent part of Wednesday watching OL vs. DL 1-on-1 drills. Some notes: 

- Dillard had a good rep against Josh Sweat. He stood him up on a power move. Dillard just needs to do that more consistently. 

- A good battle between rookies Casey Toohill and Prince Tega Wanogho. Toohill beat him on consecutive reps early but then later in the drill Tega stuffed him on two. 

- Great rep from Isaac Seumalo, who got Malik Jackson to the ground. 

- Watching Brandon Graham go against rookie Jack Driscoll is unfair in these drills. Even though Graham is a big fan of “Jake” the rookie was no match today.  

10. I really tried to watch Jason Peters in team drills today because it was a pretty competitive practice. He’s going against Fletcher Cox on almost every play and JP is holding up fine. Right now, he’s still much better in the run game than in pass protection, but going against Cox every play will certainly help him get ready. 

The Eagles are still managing Peters, meaning he isn’t taking every rep. When he comes out, Nate Herbig is going in. That’s likely because Matt Pryor is at right tackle in place of Lane Johnson for now. 

11. Rasul Douglas finally made a play. He picked off a pass from Sudfeld and took it the other way. Between the 5 and 10-yard line, Douglas lateralled the ball to Craig James, who dove into the end zone just before the pylon. 

12. Avonte Maddox dropped an easy interception. The pass from Wentz hit him right in the hands. Maddox was furious at himself. 

13. It was a play that got called back for a holding penalty but Jalen Hurts was able to avoid traffic, speed to his right and then throw a rocket pass across his body into the middle of the field. He has skills you can’t teach. 

14. New receiver Travis Fulgham doesn’t have much of a shot to make the team but he helped himself with a diving catch on the left sideline.  

15. Most of Wentz’s deep balls on Wednesday were misfires but he did hit John Hightower for a deep touchdown early in practice. Hightower caught the ball over 5-foot-9 Maddox. 

 

16. Sudfeld had a brilliant series in the red zone. He threw three passes and two of them were touchdowns. One to JJAW, one to Quez Watkins. And the third pass to Watkins was another perfect touch throw that Watkins wasn’t able to pull in because of tight coverage from Cre’Von LeBlanc. But Sudfeld placed it perfectly. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: The Eagles recently brought back cornerback Trevor Williams today and he was on the practice field in a No. 41 jersey. Under that were the biggest shoulder pads I’ve ever seen a defensive back wear. He’s the anti-Michael Bennett.