Eagles

Eagles training camp observations, Day 7: Fun in the red zone

Eagles training camp observations, Day 7: Fun in the red zone

The Eagles had a lengthy practice in pads that lasted from 9:15 to around 11:45 a.m. on Thursday.

Despite the long practice, there was just one injury. Miles Sanders left briefly after hurting his foot, but said he’s fine. 

Plenty of observations before a day off Friday.

Let’s get right to it: 

1. The Eagles did a ton of red zone work today in 11-on-11s, 7-on-7s and even 2-on-2s, so that’s where a lot of today’s observations will come from. 

We’ll start with the first 11-on-11 period in the red zone that was dominated by the defense. Carson Wentz had two incompletions to Charles Johnson on the first two plays. After Jordan Howard punched in a touchdown, Wentz threw a short pass to Richard Rodgers who couldn’t get in the end zone and then threw an interception to Sidney Jones. It looked like there was a miscommunication and Rodgers never looked back. 

2. Let’s talk about Jones. He's been great, but it’s not just him either. All three starting corners (Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox) have played well this summer. But Jones is really standing out to me. He’s making big plays every day and that interception wasn’t even his best moment of Thursday’s practice. That came in a later 11-on-11 period, when he read Wentz and jumped a pass in front of Nelson Agholor. It was nearly picked and he would have had a lot of green in front of him. Still, a huge play. I'm beginning to think he never gives that starting spot back. 

3. After struggling a bit in the first red-zone period, Wentz dominated 2-on-2s in the red zone. He threw three pretty incredible touchdown passes to Agholor. The first was just on a rope on a slant. The second came after Agholor put a nifty move on Orlando Scandrick and Wentz hit him over the top. And the third was another perfect pass where only Agholor could get it and he did, leaping over a defender to haul it in. 

During that period, Wentz also hit JJ Arcega-Whiteside on a fade. This wasn’t Wentz’s best day in team drills (he actually had a poor day there), but he dominated this period. 

4. A late entry for the training camp hero of 2019 is 6-foot-6 receiver Carlton Agudosi, who made a few impressive plays today. He even got a shoutout from Doug Pederson following practice. During 7-on-7s, Agudosi came down with three touchdowns as he made catches over DBs. The first was a questionable ruling from the “back judge” because it looked like his momentum took him out of the back of the end zone, but we’ll count it. It was a perfect throw from Nate Sudfeld. The next one came over Jeremiah McKinnon in the back left corner of the end zone. And the third came on a catch over Jay Liggins in the right side of the end zone. 

What impresses me about the Rutgers product is his spacial awareness. A lot of times these big receivers know how to use their bodies but don’t know how to get their feet in bounds. It seems like Agudosi always knows where he is. He doesn’t have much of a shot to make the roster, but could be a practice squad guy.  

5. During defensive install (without linemen), the Eagles had Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nigel Bradham and Zach Brown out there. This is the first time I’ve seen Brown work with the ones in camp (although I’m told he was with the ones during install earlier in camp). The interesting thing was that it looked like Bradham was at the MIKE position. I’m not sure how this shakes out, but these three were the three I assumed would be the starters, but Brown has been working with the twos during team drills. Nate Gerry has been with the starters over him. 

6. Just after Agholor and Wentz dominated the 2-on-2 period, they came back in 11-on-11s from the 20-yard line and tried a deep ball. Agholor got separation and Wentz threw an incredible pass, but Agholor couldn’t come down with it. It hit his hands, but Douglas might have knocked it away late. After the ball hit the ground, Agholor landed on Douglas and fake punched him a few times. 

7. Grugier-Hill had another interception today. This one came in 7-on-7s, when he leaped up to snag a Wentz pass that had some velocity. Earlier in 7-on-7s, he broke up a pass on Greg Ward and nearly had another pick. KGH makes plays every day. 

8. After the offense struggled for a bit to get into the end zone, Wentz hit Darren Sproles on a short slant and Sproles navigated his way across the goal line through a few flying bodies, one belonging to a charging Andrew Sendejo. He might be 36 now, but Sproles still gets up for this stuff. After he scored the touchdown, he popped to his feet and emphatically spiked the ball. 

9. At times, I’ve seen Jordan Howard not look natural in a pass catcher role, but he made a nice grab today. Running down the right sideline, he plucked a ball out of the air over linebacker Joey Alfieri on a really nice toss from Wentz. Probably a 20-yard-or-so gain. 

10. The funniest moment of Thursday’s practice came when Josh Hawkins knocked away a pass intended for Dallas Goedert near the right sideline. The ball hit the ground and the fans on that sideline (the practices at the NovaCare Complex have select fans invited) didn’t make a sound. So Hawkins asked for a little and they began to cheer. One even shouted, “Big play, Hawk!” 

On the next snap, Hawkins was beaten for a touchdown on an inside move by Arcega-Whiteside, who got him leaning. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: This is some of my finest work ever with my iPhone. Had to utilize the slow-motion feature. 

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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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John Hightower patterns his game after 1 particular NFL star receiver

John Hightower patterns his game after 1 particular NFL star receiver

If there’s one NFL receiver Eagles 5th-round pick John Hightower patterns his game after it’s Stefon Diggs. 

Throughout the last few months, I’ve heard Hightower say that several times, both before and after he got drafted. But on a Zoom call last week, I got a chance to ask Hightower a question. 

Why Diggs? 

“Stefon Diggs’ routes are phenomenal,” Hightower said. “He makes great cuts, he catches the ball very well. He’s an intelligent player.” 

Fair enough. 

While Diggs has never been a Pro Bowler, he has become one of the best and most consistent receivers in the NFL, known for his route-running and technique. 

Like Hightower, Diggs was a 5th-round pick. Diggs came out of Maryland in the 5th round in 2015, made an immediate impact as a rookie and put together five really impressive seasons in Minnesota before getting traded to the Bills this offseason. 

Take a look at the comparison between Diggs coming out in 2015 and Hightower this season: 

Aside from their physical similarities and getting drafted in the same round, Hightower and Diggs both grew up in the same area, in the DMV.

Diggs is from Gaithersburg, Maryland, and went to Our Lady of Good Counsel and Hightower is from Landover and went to Riverdale Baptist. 

“It’s really good to see that,” Hightower said of watching a guy from his area make it the way Diggs has. “Obviously someone from the area making it to the place the Stefon Diggs made it to. Pretty much growing up everybody knew Stefon Diggs was going to be who he is today. It was great to see him from high school to college and then now in the league to still do what he’s been doing.”

Hightower hopes to continue following Diggs’ path. 

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