Eagles

Eagles training camp observations: Quez Watkins hauls in a deep ball

Eagles

After a players day off on Sunday, the Eagles were back at practice for another 10 a.m. session on Monday morning.

This was another relatively quick practice, but Tuesday should be a lot of fun. That’s when the team goes to full pads for the first time this summer.

Here are 10 observations from today’s session:

1. A few housekeeping items:

• DeVonta Smith missed practice on Monday with a knee sprain. The Eagles say he’s week to week, which means he’ll miss significant time and possibly all of the preseason. This obviously isn’t good news but Smith is a mature young player, so maybe it won’t be too bad.

• Brandon Brooks (hamstring) is still out after his injury but it sounds mostly precautionary. He spoke after practice and made it seem like he’ll be fine soon enough.

• Davion Taylor (quad) returned to practice after missing Saturday. Shakial Taylor (lower body) was also limited on Monday. Jason Croom (knee) is day to day. And Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) is still week to week.

• Ryan Kerrigan left practice early after suffering what appeared to be an injury to his right hand. Nate Herbig got up slow on one play and was replaced on the first-team offense by Sua Opeta.

2. The play of the day on Monday came on a beautiful deep ball from Jalen Hurts to Quez Watkins, who got past veteran corner Steve Nelson on a go route in 7-on-7. Watkins dealt with a non-COVID illness that slowed him down early but without Smith over the next few weeks, he'll will have plenty of opportunities.

 

As for Hurts, we’ve seen him air it out a few times already during camp. He has a pretty good deep ball and he had great touch on this one, similar to the one he had to Smith a couple days ago. Offensive coordinator Shane Steichen on Monday talked about the importance of Hurts hitting receivers in stride on those deep passes:

“To be able to throw the deep ball and hit guys in stride, that's an 80-yard touchdown instead of a 60-yard gain,” Steichen said. “So, really impressed with how he throws the deep ball right now.”

3. The pads come on tomorrow and maybe that will help Andre Dillard. Because he didn’t have a very good day on Monday. He was beaten a few times in O-line/D-line 1-on-1s and then got beat by Derek Barnett during 11-on-11 drills.

In a 1-on-1 rep against Brandon Graham, Dillard even had a well-timed kick but still lost to Graham, who is always a tough test. In that team rep, Barnett was able to bend under Dillard, who ended up on the ground.

Today was Dillard’s day with the first-team offense but it has been pretty clear that he’s behind Jordan Mailata in that battle for the left tackle job. He needs to catch up soon.

4. Jalen Reagor got his first work in team drills on Saturday and today he finally mixed in with the first team. He made some plays including one on a designed quick throw to him from Hurts. Quick passes designed to get the ball to playmakers are going to be a staple of Nick Sirianni’s offense and Reagor has the skills to take advantage.

5. Rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson had his first interception of the summer late in Monday’s session. It came on a pass that was woefully underthrown by third-stringer Nick Mullens down the left sideline. But still good recognition and a nice leap from McPhearson, who rose up to grab the ball at its highest point.

6. Hurts has been throwing a lot of passes to his running backs in camp and he’s looked very smooth hitting Miles Sanders and especially Boston Scott in stride. As important as it is to hit deep balls in stride, it’s even more important on those short throws because there’s less time to adjust. Hitting a running back in stride can the difference between a drop and a big gainer.

7. Huge tight end Tyree Jackson (6-7, 249) had a nice day. He had one catch down the seam on a perfectly placed ball from Joe Flacco. K’Von Wallace had tight coverage but the 5-11 safety would have needed a stepladder to get this ball. Jackson caught it in stride for a big gain.

 

8. We talked about some reps from Dillard, but here are some other notes from O-line/D-line 1-on-1 drills:

• Sometimes Fletcher Cox is taken for granted but he had a rep against Nate Herbig on Monday and it was just unfair. Herbig came back later and had a nice one against Milton Williams, but Cox just went right through him.

• Barnett got the best of Jack Driscoll with a spin move that left the second-year tackle on the ground.

• Javon Hargrave was able to get under Matt Pryor and get some quick pressure. He’s had a nice camp, also blowing up a play during a team period.

• Joe Ostman had a great speed move to get around Brett Toth. Ostman, a favorite of his teammates, heard a big cheer from them after that one.

9. It has been a relatively quiet training camp from rookie running back Kenny Gainwell but he’s starting to look more comfortable. On one particular play in 7-on-7s, he caught a pass in the flat and made a very quick juke move to lose the first defender. He has some obvious shiftiness and I’d get used to seeing him catch balls out of the backfield.

10. The Eagles had a long punt return period on Monday. The punt returners in order: Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward Jr., Scott, Gainwell, Avonte Maddox. Typically, Smith would have been a part of this group, but now he’s injured.

Reagor looked pretty smooth fielding punts. He is the Eagles’ home run threat in the punt return game but they used him situationally last year because he’s not as sure-handed as Ward.

By the way, I clocked hang time on the punts from new punter Arryn Siposs: 4.75, 4.51, 4.27, 3.66, 4.62. That 3.66 was a bit of a shank. Later on, the Eagles were working on directional punts and he had a few nice ones. On one, he should have gotten credited for downing one at the 1-yard line but John Hightower flubbed the cover.

Stupid Observation of the Day: The Eagles use these giant poles (probably around 5-6 feet) for some of their drills and Jordan Mailata typically brings out the one for the offensive line group. There’s something menacing about a 6-foot-8 dude carrying a giant stick.

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