The Eagles welcomed the Patriots to the NovaCare Complex on Monday morning for the first of two joint practices with Bill Belichick and company.
It was a fun and competitive practice that lasted around two hours, making it the longest practice of the Nick Sirianni era.
A very broad generalization: The Eagles looked very good on both sides of the ball against the Patriots. If Sirianni wants to name a winner after practice, I’d give the day to the Eagles.
Let’s get to the observations:
1. A few housekeeping notes:
• DeVonta Smith (knee) returned to practice today for the first time since Day 4 of training camp. He was in full pads but didn’t participate in 1-on-1s or team drills. But he was out there for individual drills. Good sign.
• Also returning to practice on Monday: Receiver John Hightower (groin) and safety K’Von Wallace (groin), who were both previously week-to-week.
• Limited today: Smith (knee), Hightower (groin), Wallace (groin), Grayland Arnold (hamstring), Genard Avery (groin), Jason Croom (knee), Isaac Seumalo (hamstring), Le’Raven Clark (ramping up after PUP list).
• Day-to-day: Jason Huntley (ribs), Craig James (foot), Ryan Kerrigan (thumb), Joe Ostman (concussion)
• Week-to-week: Andre Dillard (knee), Kerryon Johnson (knee), JaCoby Stevens (hamstring), Davion Taylor (calf), Casey Tucker (biceps)
• Darius Slay collided with Avonte Maddox during team drills late in practice and was slow to get up. But he never left the sideline and seemed fine after practice.
2. The biggest hit of the day came in 11-on-11 team drills when Derek Barnett dropped into coverage and then leveled Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse on a short pass. LaCosse was clearly shaken up and Barnett immediately apologized and stayed next to the scene of the hit until LaCosse was helped to his feet.
This was a scary moment though. It was a loud crunch.
After practice, Eagles DC Jonathan Gannon called it a “bang-bang” play and was happy that Barnett actually held up some so that the collision wasn’t worse. Gannon said Sirianni talked to the team about keeping everyone safe in these practices.
3. The two teams started the day with split fields but came together late in practice for the most competitive period of the day because they were doing situational work with the rest of the teams watching.
When the Eagles’ first-team offense went against the Patriots’ first-team defense, the Eagles moved the ball well and nearly capped it with a touchdown. Jalen Hurts took a snap in the red zone and sprinted right, finding Jalen Reagor in the front corner of the end zone. But the official ruled that Reagor stepped out first, so no touchdown.
What did Hurts think of the play?
“As far as I’m concerned,” Hurts said, “I rolled out to the right and hit him on a touchdown.”
Overall, I thought Hurts had a very good day of practice, which is a good sign in this joint practice setting. These days are as important — if not more important — for the evaluation process than preseason games. It wasn't a perfect day for Hurts, there were a couple picks in 7-on-7s on balls that went on his receivers' hands, but his good outweighed his bad. He was the best quarterback on the field today.
The offense showed out well except for a few pre-snap penalties in one period. Those won’t make Sirianni happy.
4. The ensuing drive from the Patriots’ first-team offense against the Eagles’ first-team defense ended on an Eric Wilson interception in the end zone. With 7 seconds left on the clock, Javon Hargrave got great push to speed up the play and Cam Newton tossed the pass right to Wilson in the end zone. Wilson has had a few interceptions this summer. He had three last season with the Vikings.
Hargrave continues to have an excellent summer. He’s someone to watch this season.
And, overall, it was a good day for the Eagles’ defensive line. That’s still the clear strength of that defense. The Eagles made it tough for Newton and the Patriots to get much going, although Mac Jones did hit N'Keal Harry for a touchdown against the Eagles' second team.
5. The Eagles’ second-team offense finished their drive with a fade from Joe Flacco to Andre Patton in the back right corner of the end zone. Patton beat cornerback Michael Jackson Sr. in coverage. Nice ball, nice catch.
6. A few notes from WR-DB 1-on-1 drills:
• Harry was a handful in these drills. The 6-foot-4, 225-pounder beat Zech McPhearson (5-11) and Avonte Maddox (5-9) deep.
• Old friend Nelson Agholor dropped one early but then looked good in 1-on-1s and had a nice overall practice; he had a nice catch down the sideline after beating McPhearson. But most of his big plays came against the Eagles’ second-team corners. Darius Slay and Steve Nelson clamped down today.
• Newcomer Marken Michel made a nice grab over Jonathan Jones.
• Jalen Reagor had a deep catch down the left sideline. He bobbled it but pulled it in.
7. Reagor had a similar catch in team drills. Hurts hit him on a deep shot down the field and Reagor caught it after a bobble over Devin McCourty and J.C. Jackson. You’d like to see him make those catches a little cleaner, but they’re still big plays.
8. Quez Watkins had another nice grab in team drills and continues to get more first-team reps. He was out there today with Reagor and Travis Fulgham on the first team. We’re seeing Watkins get some slot reps. That meant that Greg Ward Jr. has been relegated to the second team. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Smith returns to team drills. I think Fulgham might be the next guy to lose snaps because Watkins deserves to be with the ones. I’d go with Smith and Watkins outside and Reagor in the slot, but Sirianni will mix it up.
9. Miles Sanders, who has been working on his hands all summer, had another drop on Monday. This one came in the flat on team drills. His struggles to catch the football are becoming a little worrisome.
10. Overall, the Eagles’ defense looked pretty good today, but they left some plays out there. Alex Singleton dropped a couple picks in 7-on-7s and Andrew Adams dropped a couple in team drills later in practice. They didn’t finish the play but those were three big pass breakups.
Stupid Observation of the Day: Patriots right tackle Trent Brown (6-8, 380) is one of the largest humans I have ever seen in person.
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