Observations from Eagles-Ravens joint practices: Thorson shines; Rodgers lost to injury

Observations from Eagles-Ravens joint practices: Thorson shines; Rodgers lost to injury

It was an extremely hot day at the NovaCare Complex on Monday afternoon, but tempers didn’t flare between the Eagles and Ravens at their first of two joint practices. 

That doesn’t mean tempers won’t flare tomorrow. 

Anyway, the temperature was around 91-92 degrees with a real feel of around 100 when practice began at 1:30 p.m. today. The record in Philly for Aug. 19 is 94, so we were pushing it. 

After practice, a few Eagles were remarking about how much weight they lost during the course of practice. Yeah, one of those days. 

1. A tough scene during 11-on-11s, when tight end Richard Rodgers went down with what seemed like a serious injury. He tried to get up and walk off the field, but couldn’t and eventually needed to be carted inside with what looked like a significant lower-body injury of some sort. Rodgers was visibly upset and put a towel over his head as he was carted into the NovaCare Complex. On Sunday, he returned from a foot injury that kept him out for a couple weeks. He has been injured several times in his time with the Eagles. 

Also leaving practice on Monday were OL Nate Herbig, OT Andre Dillard and LB Zach Brown. Speculating here, but it was hot and their leaving might have been heat-related. 

Wideout Charles Johnson (ankle) missed practice and is day to day. 

2. Clayton Thorson had what I thought was his best practice of the summer. In particular, he made two great throws back-to-back right at the end of practice in the red zone. The first was a pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside over Ravens corner Cyrus Jones in the back of the end zone. The second went to Marken Michel over corner Terrell Bonds. 

It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for a young player. Thorson looks like a different guy than he did early in training camp. 

3. Carson Wentz had an up-and-down day against a really talented Ravens secondary, but his best play on Monday was one of the best plays we’ve seen all summer. He hit Alshon Jeffery down the seam for a deep ball of around 40 yards. Wentz tossed it over two defenders, the second of which was All-Pro Earl Thomas. Wentz released the ball long before Alshon looked back and hit him perfectly in stride. It was a thing of beauty. 

4. Wentz’s worst play of the day came when he didn’t see linebacker Kenny Young in an 11-on-11 drill. Wentz locked in on DeSean Jackson across the middle and Young jumped the route and should have picked it off. The ball bounced off his hands and was incomplete. 

5. Corey Clement got a bunch of first-team reps for the first time all summer. The Eagles’ running back has been worked back in slowly as he recovers from a torn ACL last season. He looked great on Monday. He was explosive and after practice he admitted he’s finally starting to feel like himself. I’ll have more on him later. He isn’t sure if he’ll play in Thursday’s game; but he wants to. 

6. Sidney Jones had a big PBU in the middle of the field in a team drill. He timed it perfectly. He was in coverage on a touchdown to tight end Mark Andrews, but Andrews made a pretty spectacular diving catch. Not much Jones could have done. 

7. Both the Eagles and Ravens worked on fake punts today. On the Eagles’ fake punt, punter/holder Cameron Johnston took the snap and rolled left, finding Josh Perkins with a light flip pass. It wasn’t a great looking throw, but it made it there. 

8. On one play, DeSean Jackson ran a quick hitch against 6-0 corner Marlon Humphrey, who simply stood no chance. Jackson picked up a quick 8-10 yard gain. If the Eagles find him on bigger corners like that this season, they’ll have that play all day. 

9. In his second practice with the Eagles, Josh McCown got first crack at second-team reps and even changed one play at the line of scrimmage. But after that, the second-team reps were split between McCown, Thorson and even Cody Kessler. It seems like it’s pretty clear McCown is the No. 2 right now, but they’re going to mix the other guys in there for a while. 

(Another note: Nate Sudfeld is out of the hard cast. He got it removed yesterday. Still a ways away, but his recovery is going well.)  

10. Perkins has made plays all training camp and now with the injury to Rodgers, he’s probably going to make this team. During 7-on-7s, Thorson ripped a touchdown pass into the end zone to Perkins, who thinks he’s way further along than he was this time last year. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: Practice was happening on two fields at once Monday with the Eagles’ offense facing the Ravens’ defense and vice versa. At one point, Nelson Agholor caught a pass at the exact same moment as Michael Floyd. Is it bad luck if two No. 13s catch passes at the same time? 

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Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Thursday admitted that when he suffered his concussion in Miami two weeks ago, he lied to medical personnel to stay in the game.

He told them he hurt his shoulder.

“I just basically lied to them,” Grugier-Hill said. “I thought it would just go away. Just didn’t really say anything about it. It got to the point where I really couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

The concussion happened on the first play from scrimmage in the game against the Dolphins, when the starting linebacker collided with receiver DeVante Parker. That means he played a total of 54 combined defensive and special teams snaps with a concussion that game.

Eventually, when the headaches didn’t subside, Grugier-Hill reported the concussion symptoms to trainers on Thursday, four days after the head shot. He was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed the Giants game. He has since been cleared and will return to action in Washington this weekend.

Grugier-Hill, 25, said he had never had a concussion before and didn’t know exactly what it felt like. Last week, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles encourage all their players to report concussion symptoms and self police.

Does Grugier-Hil regret his decision?

“No,” he said. “I mean, I wish we would have at least got a win.”

There’s no questioning Grugier-Hill’s loyalty but lying to medical staff about a brain injury is nothing to be praised; it’s dangerous. But at least Grugier-Hill was honest about his decision — plenty of players aren’t.

And this certainly wasn’t the first time — nor will it be the last — that a player decides to stay in a game even though they know they might be concussed.

Back in 2015, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he played through more than an entire half against the Cowboys with a concussion. After eventually getting through the protocol, Jenkins said he felt “foggy” for the entire second half.

That’s the hole in the NFL’s concussion policy. The league has concussion spotters in the press box at every game and has made strides to prevent and detect these head injuries earlier, but players are still willing to put their long-term health on the line to stay in games. And Eagles medical personnel can’t treat a concussion they don’t know exists. It’s a hard problem to fix.

As far as the league has come, concussions are still far too normalized in the sport.

“I think it’s just part of the game,” Grugier-Hill said. “You get rocked a little bit every once in a while.”

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