They kept trying and they kept failing.
Darius Slay had a pass breakup on Jalen Reagor. Anthony Harris knocked down a pass for Dallas Goedert. Steve Nelson batted down a couple passes intended for Travis Fulgham.
For five straight plays, Jalen Hurts dropped back and delivered the football, and a defender smacked the ball away.
Usually, training camp practices are back-and-forth affairs. Sometimes, one side of the ball will have a good day. But it’s rare to see the kind of dominance the Eagles’ defense showed on Saturday morning.
This was ugly.
“I think we started slow, we started slow, we had some opportunities man-to-man to make some plays,” Boston Scott said. “We just have to continue to work on our fundamentals. … We just have to keep working on those things. I felt like we started out slow and we have to come out firing.”
They started out slow and finished slow. This might have been the most lopsided practice I’ve ever seen.
And it wasn't just the 1's. Every defensive group dominated. The offense just couldn't do much at all.
“Good teams are talented but great teams are able to resort to fundamentals under pressure and do it right every single time and be consistent,” Scott said. “That’s what separates the great teams from the good teams.”
Now, for context, keep in mind that DeVonta Smith, Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo are all out, and the starting defense — which got Alex Singleton back Saturday — is at full strength. And with Nate Herbig getting second-team reps at center, the Eagles lined Sua Opeta up with the 1’s at left guard and Jack Driscoll at right guard. And since it was Andre Dillard’s day at left tackle, that meant Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson were the only regular linemen working with the first unit.
Still … this was terrible.
The defense has won most days of camp so far, but this was a blowout.
And with each pass breakup or “sack,” the defensive sideline got louder and louder and more and more energized. It was clearly enjoying the afternoon.
“It’s definitely contagious,” Avonte Maddox said. “Once you make one [play], you want to be the next guy to make another one. When you’re playing ball like that, it starts to roll on because you get five stops [in a row] and people making plays on the ball.
“It’s exciting to see that because everyone is pushing each other to be the best they can be, and when you’re out there making plays with each other, it’s exciting, it’s contagious, you have energy, you’re jumping around then it keeps rolling on and it makes practice that much easier. It definitely was fun to see that.”
Hurts didn’t have his best day, but it wasn’t just Hurts. The receivers struggled to get open, and when they did, they struggled to catch the ball. There were penalties, drops, turnovers, missed assignments … you name it.
“I don’t see it as struggling,” Miles Sanders said. “We go against a pretty good defense. Giving us those looks in those situations is good for us. We’re competing every day. There’s nothing bad going on with the offense, we’re just competing against a very tough defense, and I believe that and it’s just getting us better every single day.”
Should Eagles fans be encouraged that the defense has looked better than expected or discouraged that the offense has been inconsistent?
Maybe a little of both?
“We have a good defense,” Scott said. “Big guys up front, secondary looks good, and that’s part of a great team as well. There’s going to be that back and forth. There’s going to be that trade-off. You’re in trouble if just one side is making all the plays. I think it’s good to look at, but if you go back to the film and look at the fundamental things, you’ll see we’re just a little bit off on our alignment here, we’re just a little bit off on our steps here. That’s all it is.”
Usual caveat: It's early. We're still five weeks from opening day.
And this is a much more experienced defense than offense, especially when you look at the skill guys.
And Jonathan Gannon isn’t making it easy for the offense, throwing different looks, different alignments and different concepts at the offense.
“We’re just going out there trying to give different looks, not make everything look predictable, stuff like that," Nelson said. "And at the same time it’s giving our offense a good chance to see different things.”
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