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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