Eagles

Eagles training camp observations, Day 11: Rodney McLeod looks on track for Week 1, Carson Wentz plays it safe, more

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Eagles training camp observations, Day 11: Rodney McLeod looks on track for Week 1, Carson Wentz plays it safe, more

It was a hazy but warm day at the NovaCare Complex, where Eagles training camp continued on its 11th day — the team’s final practice before its preseason opener.

There was plenty to like on both sides of the ball as they head into Thursday night’s exhibition game against the Tennessee Titans.

1. It was only Rodney McLeod’s third full practice of 2019, but the veteran safety made his presence felt on Tuesday. Early on, McLeod met Darren Sproles in the backfield to force what would’ve been a big loss, then toward the end of practice, he pulled down an interception and tapped both feet in bounds on an apparent miscommunication between Carson Wentz and DeSean Jackson.

McLeod is still sporting a big, bulky brace on his right knee and was running sprints off to the side during special teams drills, but it appears he’s on track to contribute Week 1.

2. Speaking of Wentz and Jackson — another day, another deep ball. This time, Jackson got past Rasul Douglas on a 60-yard bomb thrown perfectly in stride. Not sure if there was a miscommunication in the secondary or not, but at this point, the Eagles' defense should be well aware of where the Pro Bowl wide receiver is at all times.

3. Just prior to the Jackson touchdown, Lane Johnson was replaced at right tackle by Jordan Mailata. The second-year player fended off defensive tackle Malik Jackson with little issue to help give Wentz time to push the ball downfield. Mailata stepped in for Johnson with the first-team offense on at least one other occasion in what was possibly a scripted change.

4. Wentz wasn’t the only quarterback throwing bombs out there. Rookie Clayton Thorson delivered what many are calling his best throw of training camp, hitting Greg Ward in stride over Deiondre’ Hall for a 50-yard score. It might have been busted coverage, but Thorson hasn’t had many big moments like this since he was selected in the fifth round, so credit where credit is due.

5. One last Wentz note: at one point during a 7-on-7 drill, the fourth-year signal caller found nobody open, so he threw the ball out of bounds. Why did this stand out? There was no pressure, not even the illusion of a pass rush, yet he made the decision to chuck it when time ran out on the play.

This is the type of maturity Wentz needs to show this season if he’s going to make it through 16-plus games. Too often, he’s held the ball too long or refused to give up on a play that wasn’t there and paid the price of an unnecessary hit as a result.

6. There was a Mack Hollins sighting in 7-on-7s, as well. The oft-injured wideout caught a lone pass for a short gain over the middle, though it’s more than we’ve seen him from since his latest malady. If Hollins can get healthy and stay that way, he’s still the frontrunner for the fifth receiver spot — but that remains a big if.

Interestingly, and potentially related, Charles Johnson is getting some first-team reps at receiver.

7. The Eagles like to deploy a dime package with three safeties, which we saw a little bit of today. Only with all the injuries and roster moves, it was kind of interesting to see who was actually in that package.

For now, Andrew Sendejo is in the role of the third safety along with McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins, with Nathan Gerry as the sole linebacker on the field. One would assume Nigel Bradham will take over for Gerry once he’s healthy. The real question will be whether newly signed Johnathan Cyprien can supplant Sendejo in the secondary before the calendar turns to September.

8. Josh Hawkins has had an up-and-down camp, but he was arguably the most impressive cornerback on the field on Tuesday. At one point, he came up with back-to-back pass breakups, knocking a pass away from towering rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside then dropping a potential interception intended for Carlton Aguodosi.

Hawkins is probably still a long shot to make this roster, but with Jalen Mills and Cre’Von LeBlanc still not practicing with injuries, efforts like this are increasing his odds.

9. From the opening install period at the beginning of practice to the very end, the Eagles' offense got a lot of work starting pinned at its own 1-yard line. Not much really stood out from this work, other than it was obviously a point of emphasis for Doug Pederson.

10. With Boston Scott currently out with an ankle injury, Donnel Pumphrey is getting much more of a look, particularly on special teams. Pumphrey was the second punt returner behind Darren Sproles on Tuesday. Then, interestingly enough, wide receiver Marken Michel got a look on returns — though he misjudged a punt that Cameron Johnston skied right over his head. Michel didn’t return much in the CFL or college, so it appears to be an attempt to increase a camp darling’s value.



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How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

How the NFL’s perception of Carson Wentz has changed

Two years ago, Carson Wentz came in at No. 3 on NFL Network’s list of the top 100 players in the league.

All he’s done since then is throw 48 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, complete 66 percent of his passes and fashion a 96.7 passer rating.

And drop out of the top 100.

It’s stupid, of course. We all understand Wentz should be in the top 100. He’s a really good player. But instead of complaining about it, let’s consider what it means.

Because it didn’t just happen. Nobody was out to get Carson. His fall out of the top-100 may be ridiculous, but it happened for a very real reason and represents a very real national perspective.

When he got hurt in L.A. late in the 2017 season, Wentz was 24 years old and the best young quarterback in football. Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were rookies and Lamar Jackson was still at Louisville. 

Now Wentz is 27 and going into Year 5, and he’s just as talented as ever. His numbers considering his lack of receivers are crazy. That 96.7 passer rating throwing to Nelly, Mack Hollins and Alshon is 9th-highest in the NFL over the last two years. Yet he’s dropped from No. 3 entirely off the list.

It's all about perception.

Carson is no longer seen as this hot young quarterback taking the league by storm. He’s now perceived as injury prone and incapable of carrying a football team from opening day through a deep playoff run.

It’s amazing how perception can change so quickly, but that’s what happens. This year’s Next Biggest Thing is next year’s Washed-Up Has-Been.

The reality for Wentz is somewhere in between. When he’s been healthy, he’s been really good. But he’s going into Year 5 and the sum total of his postseason career is a 3-yard completion to Boston Scott.

So it’s really hard to fairly rank Wentz because he’s 27 and hasn’t won a playoff game. Hasn’t even finished one.

And this is a fickle business. 

Kyler Murray had a nice rookie year and I think he’s going to be really good, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz. Josh Allen did some exciting things last year, but he has no business being ranked ahead of Wentz.

But people look at those guys now the same way they looked at Wentz two years ago. Young, exciting, improving, full of potential. Part of a new wave of NFL quarterbacks.

And when you look at the big picture, there’s a sense that young QBs are leaving Wentz by the wayside.

Mahomes and Watson are three years younger than Wentz. Jackson is four years younger. 

They’re now the hot young QBs. Now they're the future.  

That’s just natural.  Maybe it’s not fair that while you’re out there throwing 48 TDs and 14 INTs your reputation takes a hit, but that’s life.

I liked Carson’s answer when I asked him last week about not being in the top 100

“You can always use anything and everything as just a little bit of extra motivation,” he said. “I'm not going to let that cause me to lose any sleep or anything, but I do look forward to going out this year and showing what I can do.”

I’m glad he’s pissed. Or as close to pissed as Carson gets. I want angry Carson. 

Because you can hang your head and feel bad about being snubbed by somebody’s list or you can shrug it off and go do something about it and win some games and get to the playoffs and prove you really are one of the 100 best players in the league or maybe one of the 10 best.

In the end, only Carson truly controls how he's perceived. In the end, Carson's vote is the only one that counts. 

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Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Fletcher Cox spills details from Eagles D-line getaway at his ranch

Eagles defensive tackle Bruce Hector grew up in Tampa, Florida, and went to college at South Florida. Bruce Hector is 6-foot-2, 296 pounds. 

Bruce Hector had never ridden a horse. Of course he hadn’t. 

That changed in May when Fletcher Cox hosted most of his defensive line teammates at his ranch in Texas. 

Hector and Derek Barnett rode horses for the first time. The guy shot skeet — “everybody sucked at first until about 20 minutes into it,” Cox said — and Malik Jackson, whom Cox affectionately referred to as a “Cali Kid” got to spend some quality time with mosquitos and flies. 

It was one of those things, it was very important to me that I did that, to let those guys know ‘hey, I’m here for you, let’s all get together and get it done,’” Cox said. “Once the guys got there, we had everything laid out, food, places to stay. And guys enjoyed it.

In addition to all the activities Cox’s ranch has to offer, the Eagles’ defensive linemen also worked out together while trying to stay safe during COVID-19. 

Aside from the horses who had to support 300-pound linemen, the real MVPs of the getaway were Stephanie and Sue, two women who work on Cox’s ranch and were in charge of making sure everything was clean for the Eagles as they got together during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Eagles’ Pro Bowl defensive lineman said Stephanie and Sue “really stayed on top of it.” 

“I asked them, ‘hey when guys wake up go in their room, make sure you’re spraying everything down, make sure you’re washing the bedspread, making sure that everything is getting sprayed every day,’” Cox said. 

And they did. 

Aside from that, the only people working out on the fields were Cox and his teammates. In an offseason where the Eagles lost all of OTAs and minicamps, Cox felt like he had to step up and get the group together. Without those workouts, the Eagles’ defensive line wouldn’t have been together until training camp this month.  

“I knew I had the place to get all the guys down to my place in Texas,” Cox said. “I reached out to all the guys. I told the guys, ‘hey if you feel safe coming down, let’s all get together as a group, as a D-line unit and try to knock some things out.’ Let’s get a couple days where we can get some work in and just kind of hang out and be around each other.”

Cox, 29, has really grown into his role as a leader on the team, similarly to Carson Wentz, who got a group of receivers together this offseason in Houston. 

On Wednesday, Cox said the defensive line will need to lead the Eagles in 2020 and he’s probably right. That makes his role even more important. He’s the leader of the group that has to lead the team. 

Give him a lot of credit for getting his teammates together during a difficult and unusual offseason. Give that horse a ton of credit too. 

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