Eagles

Eagles training camp Day 1 observations: At least some of the team is here

Eagles training camp Day 1 observations: At least some of the team is here

The Eagles took the field for the first time for training camp Monday morning. 

At least some of the Eagles. 

Quarterbacks, rookies and select veterans had their first practice at the NovaCare Complex. That meant 34 players were on the field, creating a media-to-player ratio of about 2 to 1. 

The rest of the Eagles won't report for camp until Wednesday afternoon and the first full-team practice of camp isn't until Thursday morning. And even that's just a light 10-10-10 practice. 

No surprise: Carson Wentz was the first player on the field Monday. He arrived at 8:31 a.m. for the 8:50 practice. 

With so few players, there weren't many observations to choose from, but we were still able to piece together a list of 10. Here they are: 

1. Among the few select veterans on the field were cornerback Ron Brooks and linebacker Joe Walker, who are both coming back from significant injuries. 

Brooks was the Eagles' slot cornerback in 2016 before suffering a ruptured quad tendon in October. He played a lot before the injury and when he went down, Malcolm Jenkins was forced into the slot. 

"He's right there in the mix," head coach Doug Pederson said about Brooks. "He's obviously our nickel defender, nickel corner."

Walker, a seventh-round pick from a year ago, suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and missed his entire rookie year. He was the Eagles' backup middle linebacker before the injury and could play a big role as a reserve in 2017. 

Both players participated in 7-on-7 drills. Brooks has a sleeve on his right leg, but Walker wore no kind of support. The team did not do any 11-on-11 drills Monday. 

2. The first true completed pass of training camp (against the defense) was from Wentz to second-year receiver Marcus Johnson, who was on the practice squad in 2016. Johnson is a name to watch as training camp rolls on. With a year of experience under his belt, Johnson had a really solid spring. 

3. Draft pick Shelton Gibson changed his number from 80 to 18 (DGB's old number) but didn't find better results Monday. He dropped several passes, which was a problem for him during OTAs and minicamp. Pederson said he's not concerned about Gibson's drops but did admit the young WR isn't where the team or Gibson himself wants him to be. 

4. Beau Allen is on the Active/Non-football Injury list, but the big defensive tackle was on a side field working out as he recovers from a torn pec he suffered in the spring. Pederson wouldn't put any kind of timetable for his return. Allen was tossing around a heavy-looking medicine ball up and down the unlined field. 

5. Mack Hollins, the wideout from North Carolina, dropped a deep pass early in the day but recovered to have a really good practice. He still isn't wearing receiver gloves, for those wondering. 

6. Hollins isn't wearing gloves, but Sidney Jones (Achilles) is. The injured cornerback was just a spectator on Monday but decided to wear some gloves anyway. The Eagles are clearly trying to keep him involved with the team and his fellow defensive backs even while he can't be on the field working. 

7. The play of the day came from undrafted receiver Greg Ward out of Houston. The former quarterback leaped up over former CFL All-Star Mitchell White to pull in a one-handed grab in the end zone on a pass from Nick Foles. Ward also changed his number from 4 to 89 for training camp. 

8. Brooks made a really solid play Monday while working from his slot position. He broke up a pass intended for Ward in the end zone. The ball fluttered in the air and Gibson was almost able to make a diving catch. But it fell incomplete. 

9. At one point there was some confusion with the linebackers in 7-on-7. It seemed like Nate Gerry and Don Cherry were out of sorts a little bit, but they got it corrected. A little later, Cherry had trouble covering Donnel Pumphrey, which shouldn't be a surprise. Pumphrey is going to be a tough assignment for any linebacker. 

10. If it sounds like a practice with 34 players might lack some excitement and enthusiasm, well, you're kind of right. But defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz wasn't sleeping. He was plenty vocal in the team's first practice. He's already in mid-season form. 

Stupid Observation of the Day: With so few players, it's hard to get too competitive. During offensive drills, Foles needed to take some handoffs from the other quarterbacks. And tight ends coach Justin Peele has just one player in camp right now: Billy Brown from Shepherd. Brown is going to get some 1-on-1 training for the next couple days. 

How will Alshon Jeffery benefit from addition of DeSean Jackson?

How will Alshon Jeffery benefit from addition of DeSean Jackson?

With training camp beginning Thursday, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn and Barrett Brooks continue their countdown of the 10 most important Eagles for the 2019 season.

Alshon Jeffery comes in at No. 7.

In his third season with the Eagles, how will Jeffery benefit from the addition of DeSean Jackson?

“He’s going to get a lot of single coverage and single coverage with him, even when he’s covered, he’s not covered," Brooks says.

Gunn and Brooks discuss more in the video above.

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Darren Sproles isn't done just yet, will return to Eagles on one-year deal

Darren Sproles isn't done just yet, will return to Eagles on one-year deal

The Eagles just got a little bit older and a lot more exciting.

The Eagles on Friday evening re-signed 36-year-old running back Darren Sproles, who was mulling retirement when last year ended but apparently wants to play one more year (at least).

"My heart is in Philly," Sproles said on the team's web site. "That's where I want to end my career. That team, the city is like a family. I really want to go out on top. That's what I really want to do. I can't wait to get back with the guys."

Sproles, who became an unrestricted free agent when last year ended, spent the last five years with the Eagles and made the Pro Bowl in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before being limited by injuries to just nine games over the last two seasons.

Although he ranks sixth in NFL history in all-purpose yards, Sproles was limited in 2017 to just three games and 22 touches and missed the Super Bowl run thanks to a broken arm and torn ACL he suffered against the Giants and last year was limited to just six games and 44 touches because of a nagging hamstring injury.

He did return last year for the postseason but averaged just 1.6 yards on 16 carries with 5-for-35 receiving and one punt return for minus-one yard in the games against the Bears and Saints.

In his first three seasons with the Eagles, Sproles netted 1,084 rushing yards, 147 catches for 1,202 more yards and 14 offensive touchdowns along with four punt return TDs.

Because the Eagles are deep at running back, it’s likely Sproles’ main role will be as a punt returner.

He led the NFL with a 13.0 average in 2014 and his 12.1 average since the start of 2014 is highest in the NFL among returners with at least 50 returns.

The Eagles also re-signed DeSean Jackson this past offseason, and Jackson — like Sproles — is a former NFL punt return leader (with the Eagles in 2009) and also has four career punt return TDs. But he’s not expected to be their full-time punt returner.

Only seven players in NFL history have four career punt return touchdowns and 8,300 career yards from scrimmage, and the Eagles now have two of them in Jackson and Sproles. (The others are Joey Galloway, Antonio Brown, Reggie Bush, Henry Ellard and Steve Smith).

Sproles ranks sixth in NFL history with 19,520 all-purpose yards. He trails only Jerry Rice (23,546), former Eagle Brian Mitchell (23,330), Walter Payton (21,803), Emmitt Smith (21,564) and Tim Brown (19,682). All are Hall of Famers except Mitchell (who should be).

Sproles has 3,486 rushing yards, a 4.9 average, 547 catches, 4,816 receiving yards, a 9.6 average with seven touchdowns on punt returns and a 25.2 average with two touchdowns on kick returns.

Of the 48 players in NFL history with 3,000 rushing yards and 3,000 receiving yards, Sproles’ 4.9 career rushing average is highest.

His nine combined punt and kick returns are tied for sixth-most in NFL history behind Devin Hester (19), Mitchell (13), Dante Hall (12), Eric Metcalf (12), Josh Cribbs (11).

Sproles enters a crowded backfield that also includes rookie second-round pick Miles Sanders, former Bear Jordan Howard, who was acquired in a trade, Super Bowl hero Corey Clement, 2018 Eagles leading rusher Josh Adams, former Saint Boston Scott and 2016 fifth-round pick Wendell Smallwood.

The Eagles are scheduled to report for training camp at the NovaCare Complex on Wednesday with the first practice following on Thursday.

Sproles originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick out of Kansas State in 2005. He was with the Chargers for six years and the Saints for three before signing with the Eagles in 2014. 

If Sproles scores a touchdown this year, he’ll become the oldest player in franchise history to do so.

The oldest Eagle ever to score a touchdown is Irving Fryar, who was 36 years and 76 days old when he scored against the Cards on Dec. 13, 1998.

Sproles will be 36 years and 100 days when the Eagles open the regular season against the Redskins on Sept. 8.

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