Eagles training camp observations, Day 15: Zach Ertz comes up big in red zone

Eagles training camp observations, Day 15: Zach Ertz comes up big in red zone

Training camp is over … even though it doesn’t really feel like it. 

Technically, today was the final day of training camp, but it all sort of runs together ever since the team moved back from Lehigh. And next week the Ravens are in town, so we’ll be able to watch those practices in full too. 

But the official end of training camp came on a gloomy and cool day in South Philly. It even rained a bit. 

Let’s get to it: 

1. The best play of the day came in 7-on-7s when Carson Wentz fired the ball into the arms of Zach Ertz, who somehow got two feet in bounds in the back of the end zone. When it was ruled a touchdown, the defense and defensive backs coach Cory Undlin took exception as Duce Staley, the instigator, began yelling “touchdown!” Undlin lovingly gave him the ol’ one-finger salute. 

Ertz, who has 16 touchdown catches over the last two seasons, is a tough matchup in the red zone. Earlier in 11-on-11s Tuesday, he caught a ball in front of Malcolm Jenkins, who couldn’t navigate around the big body of the Eagles’ Pro Bowl tight end. 

2. I thought Wentz was a little sharper today than the past few days. He began practice with a deep ball to DeSean Jackson and then had a great throw on the run to Alshon Jeffery. As I’ve noted before, Wentz hasn’t done a lot of rolling out of the pocket this training camp. I asked him about it after practice today and he said that will still be a part of their game this season. 

3. I want to see more of Miles Sanders in the second preseason game because he’s just so shifty. He made a few guys miss on one play today. He might not be the Eagles’ best running back right now, but I think he might be their most talented. 

4. During a red zone drill, Cody Kessler identified a mismatch at the snap as JJ Arcega-Whiteside was iso’d against Josh Hawkins. He threw up a fade and JJAW went up to get it and brought in a touchdown pass. The Eagles’ rookie receiver had a somewhat slow start to his camp, but those signature plays have become pretty frequent over the last week and a half. 

5. In one of the red zone periods today, rookie linebacker T.J. Edwards got reps as the only linebacker with the starting dime package. That’s good for him as he tries to make the team. 

6. The Eagles have done a ton of red zone work this summer, but for just the second time during training camp, they did a backed up period. The highlight of this period of practice was a ball that Malik Jackson tipped at the line of scrimmage. He didn’t get enough to bat it down, but he really changed the trajectory. In a game, that could lead to an interception. 

7. Nelson Agholor made a great touchdown catch in the end zone during 7-on-7s, leaping up to snag a ball high out of the air. It was the play after Ertz’s touchdown, so Duce ribbed Undlin again, asking if that one was a touchdown. 

8. Veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick made an impressive diving interception on a quick out from Kessler to Marken Michel. Scandrick has looked a lot better than I expected him to. 

9. After missing a few practices with a shoulder injury, Daeshon Hall was back for today’s session. So were Jason Kelce and Rodney McLeod after getting veteran days on Monday. 

The Eagles also re-signed DT Aziz Shittu, who has been with them in previous camps. He first got here as an undrafted player in 2016. He is wearing No. 67. The Eagles waived Blake Countess with an injury settlement to make room. 

10. I was watching 7-on-7s when it happened, but apparently Andre Dillard was involved in his third scrap in two days. This one happened in OL vs. DL drills. 

After yesterday’s scuffles, Dillard had a long chat with Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman following practice. Today, he had a long chat with OL coach Jeff Stoutland.  

Stupid Observation of the Day: Because I’m a crazy person, I tracked which visor Pederson wore all 15 days of training camp. He wore a black visor over 50 percent of the time (8 of out 15 days). He wore the army green one on Military Night at the stadium. But here’s a full breakdown:  

Day 1: Black
Day 2: Black 
Day 3: White 
Day 4. Black 
Day 5. Green
Day 6. Green 
Day 7. Black
Day 8. Gray (pink trim) 
Day 9. Army green 
Day 10. Black 
Day 11. Black 
Day 12. Black 
Day 13. Gray (pink trim) 
Day 14. White 
Day 15. Black 

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Eagles add wide receiver Greg Ward, place Jordan Mailata on IR

Eagles add wide receiver Greg Ward, place Jordan Mailata on IR

With DeSean Jackson out for Sunday and Alshon Jeffery questionable, the Eagles on Saturday signed wide receiver Greg Ward from the practice squad to the active roster.

To make room on the 53-man roster, they placed second-year offensive tackle Jordan Mailata on injured reserve for a second consecutive year with a back injury.

This is Ward’s first time on a 53-man roster, but he’s been in camp with the Eagles the last three summers and gotten better each year.

Ward is mainly a slot receiver, so if he does get on the field on offense Nelson Agholor would be outside. 

Earlier this week, Ward spoke about how he prepares, regardless if he’s going to play or not.

“Honestly, I stay ready every week, because you never know,” he said. “Whenever my name is called, it’s called. If it’s not this week, if it’s not next week, I’m still going to prepare like I’m playing  every single week. It doesn’t really matter to me.”

Once the Eagles practiced Wednesday without adding an outside receiver it seemed like a lock that Ward would get the promotion, because he was able to practice all week and get the same reps whether he was on the 53 or the practice squad.

Without Ward, the Eagles had only three healthy receivers on the roster — Agholor, Mack Hollins and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Ward, a quarterback at Houston, first joined the Eagles in 2017 and spent the season on the practice squad. He was in camp again in 2018, then spent this past winter in the Alliance of American Football, catching 22 passes for 214 yards in eight games. When the AAF folded, he rejoined the Eagles.

Ward caught six passes for 87 yards and a 38-yard touchdown from Clayton Thorson in the preseason.

He was released with the final roster cutdown and signed to the practice squad as soon as he cleared waivers.

As for Mailata, it was really the smartest move for the Eagles, since the only alternative was releasing a player they didn’t want to release.

Depending on how he’s doing and depending also on other injuries, he would be a candidate to rejoin the 53-man roster after eight weeks on IR.

Mailata, like Ward, has never played in an NFL game.

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Nick Foles, Andre Dillard, Josh Adams in Roob's random points

Nick Foles, Andre Dillard, Josh Adams in Roob's random points

Josh Adams vs. Miles Sanders, Nick Foles’ future, Philly Special, Rodney McLeod and lots more in a must-win edition of 10 random Eagles points! 

1. We’ve spoken so much about the Eagles’ slow starts, and at this point it sure seems like it’s in their heads. They come out early in games and it looks like they’re fighting themselves. They don’t look loose or fluid or relaxed until they’re down 10-0 or 14-0. Then all of a sudden they spring to life. They’re just not the same team in the first quarter and it has to be mental. How else do you explain an NFL-worst 41 first-quarter points and an NFL-high 12 scoreless first quarters since opening day last year? They’ve led after the first quarter just FOUR TIMES in their last 18 games. They’re 4-0 in those games, 6-8 when they haven’t. Since last year began, the Eagles are the seventh-highest scoring team in football after the first quarter. Whatever’s going on, Doug Pederson has to figure it out. 

2. Josh Adams had more than twice as many yards as Miles Sanders on his first 21 career rushing attempts (107 to 53).

3. Watching that Jaguars-Titans game the other night I couldn’t help wonder what’s next for Nick Foles. Maybe he gets healthy, gets his job back later in the season and Gardner Minshew II goes back to the bench. But in three games since Foles got hurt, Minshew has completed 74 percent of his passes with 5 TDs, 1 INT and a 110.6 passer rating. No rookie in history has put up those numbers in his first three starts. He’s 23, and he’s the Jaguars’ future. If he keeps playing like this, Foles may be looking for a new home once again.

4. The Eagles are going to finish playing at 4 p.m. Sunday and get on a plane for Wisconsin about 70 hours later. Thursday night games should not exist.

5. How are the Lions going to attack the Eagles Sunday? Here’s a hint: The Eagles are third in the NFL in rushing yards allowed and 30th in passing yards allowed. They’re only the third team in NFL history to allow more than 650 passing yards and fewer than 90 rushing yards through two weeks. Hmmmmm.

6. I wonder how long a leash Doug Pederson will have with Isaac Seumalo. I like the way Seumalo played throughout camp, but Sunday was a catastrophe. Without Stefen Wisniewski waiting in the wings, the options are Big V, who worked at right guard throughout camp, undrafted rookie Nate Herbig and Matt Pryor. May be time to think about moving Jason Peters to left guard with Andre Dillard at left tackle. If you want your five best linemen on the field, that would be the way to go.

7. It’s impossible not to root for Raheem Mostert, who began his career in 2015 as an undrafted rookie running back with the Eagles. He’s since been released by the Eagles, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns, Jets and Bears, and once he finally got a chance to play, last year with the 49ers, he broke his arm. But he is a talent. He’s got 191 yards from scrimmage in the 49ers’ first two games this year – 11th-most by a running back in the NFL -- and his 6.7 career rushing average is highest in NFL history by a running back with at least 50 carries. In his first 30 career games Mostert had 50 yards from scrimmage on 15 touches. In the last seven, he has 460 yards on 58 touches. 

8. Out of all the guys who got hurt last year, missed time in training camp but still made it onto the field by opening day — Ronald Darby, Fletcher Cox, Rodney McLeod, Nigel Bradham and Brandon Brooks — McLeod is the only one who really looks like himself so far.

9. There is no way there are nine better plays in NFL history than the Philly Special. I’m not sure there are any.

10. The Eagles have gone a league-long 35 straight games without a 100-yard rusher:

• Their last one was LeGarrette Blount, who had 136 yards against the Chargers Week 4 of the 2017 season. 

• The 35-game streak is the Eagles’ longest without a 100-yard rusher since a 43-game stretch between Cyril Pinder’s 128 yards against the 49ers at Kezar Stadium on the final day of the 1969 season and Tom Sullivan’s 100-yard game against the Giants at Yankee Stadium in Week 2 of the 1973 season.

• They’ve gone 23 straight home games since Ryan Mathews had 109 yards against the Falcons in 2016.

• The only active player in the NFL who’s had a 100-yard game in an Eagles uniform is LeSean McCoy.

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