Eagles

Eagles training camp Day 6 observations: Wentz, offense look crisp in pads

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Eagles training camp Day 6 observations: Wentz, offense look crisp in pads

The Eagles were originally supposed to practice at the Linc on Saturday morning, but the threat of bad weather postponed the open practice until Sunday.

Instead, the team practiced at the NovaCare Complex on Saturday afternoon.

And the pads came out!

Players wore shoulder pads and leg pads for the first time this training camp, so it's beginning to look a lot like football in South Philly.

"It felt great," Zach Ertz said about being back in pads. "Obviously, it's been a long time coming. It feels like forever since we played the Cowboys back in January."

Let's hop into today's observations:

1. We'll start with injures (an homage to Andy Reid). Nick Foles was on the field but didn't practice. He has some soreness in his elbow and is expected to miss at least a couple practices.

Randall Goforth (knee) and Alex McCalister (hamstring) missed Saturday's practice. McCalister said he expects to be back on the field Sunday.

Alshon Jeffery went down during the 1-on-1 portion of practice and had his shoulder looked at but he returned a little later and seemed fine.

Elijah Qualls went down in pain during offensive line vs. defensive line drills and then got berated by defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Qualls left practice early. Later in the afternoon, he was walking around the locker room with a noticeable limp, but said he was just sore.

2. Carson Wentz was extremely sharp today, so it's no surprise the offense as a whole looked great in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s.  

"Today was a very good day for the whole offense," offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. "We had a few snafus here and there, but it was a good day. I thought in the pass game in particular we executed really well. It's only one practice so I'm not getting too excited, but that's probably as well as we've executed in the past year since I've been here."

Ertz was heavily involved during the team portion of practice and 7-on-7s. He made a lot of catches. Jordan Matthews had a big day too. He and Wentz connected on several nice plays.

3. It's a little thing, but Wentz's hard count was impressive on Saturday, getting a few guys to come across the line of scrimmage throughout the day.

4. One of Wentz's best plays came when he avoided pressure from Destiny Vaeao, rolled to his right and found a crossing Matthews. Wentz just always looks so comfortable when he starts rolling and throwing on the run. It seems like it helps him get into rhythm. That's not just an observation about today; that's an observation about Wentz from the time he arrived in Philadelphia.

5. Saturday was the first time we got to watch 1-on-1 drills with offensive linemen vs. defensive linemen in pads. Those battles are my favorite to watch at training camp.

Brandon Brooks vs. Fletcher Cox was a pretty good one. I'll give a slight edge to Brooks, but it was a great battle between two of the strongest players on the team. Back when I briefly covered the Houston Texans, I'd watch Brooks battle similarly against J.J. Watt.

6. In those same drills, Tim Jernigan showed that pass-rush prowess we've heard so much about. He got up under Isaac Seumalo and beat him for a would-be sack. Jim Schwartz praised Jernigan earlier in the week and it's clear that Jernigan is a pretty good rusher.

Meanwhile, Derek Barnett didn't look great in the 1-on-1s. He was stood up by Matt Tobin and Dillon Gordon on his consecutive plays.

7. Patrick Robinson had a bounce-back day after getting burned by David Watford on Friday. He was involved in the defense and broke up several passes. That's encouraging.

8. Terrence Brooks has been everywhere over the first week of camp. The reserve safety just seems to have a knack for being around the ball and he looked at home when the pads went on Saturday. He looked ready to pop someone.

9. Marcus Johnson, the second-year player from Texas, might end up becoming the true darling of training camp this year. He's been making plays every day and even got some run with the ones on Saturday. He's improved a lot from last training camp. 

10. Sunday morning's practice at Lincoln Financial Field is open to the public. Practice starts at 10 a.m. Gates will open at 8:30 a.m. Parking will be free in lots A, D, G, K, M and N until 10:30 a.m. No ticket is required and seats are first-come, first-serve. 

"We're excited for tomorrow," Ertz said. "It's going to be a great atmosphere. The fans are going to be excited, we're going to be excited playing in front of them for the first time. I think now we're just really looking forward to it."

Stupid Observation of the Day: Lane Johnson wore the blonde wig for the entire practice on Saturday. I give him credit for really committing to a joke.

At least Eagles realize they need to get Dallas Goedert involved

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At least Eagles realize they need to get Dallas Goedert involved

I was ready to write a column saying the Eagles would be crazy if they don’t find a way to get Dallas Goedert more involved in the offense. 

I was ready to write that my head might explode if I see Josh Perkins continue to get more run with the Eagles’ offense than the guy the Eagles used their first pick on in this last draft. 

I was ready to write that it would be malpractice if Doug Pederson and the Eagles’ offensive coaches refused to switch things up and get out of 11 personnel to get him involved more. 

But it turns out they agree with me. 

Here was offensive coordinator Mike Groh on Tuesday: 

We have a talented player in Dallas, and we need to find more ways, as you stated, to get him involved. We need to get him involved more. We had some extenuating circumstances the other day, for a variety of reasons. He just wasn't in there in the spots where we were getting the ball to. We're going to continue to try to monitor that and make sure that he is going to help us win games here.

It was probably pretty infuriating for fans Sunday to watch Perkins get more snaps than Goedert. After the game, I asked Pederson why that was and he gave me a pretty long and confusing answer (see story).

Basically, the gist of the reasoning was that Perkins is a converted wide receiver, so when Mike Wallace went down, the Eagles felt more comfortable letting him run those routes in that version of 12 personnel. That makes some sense, but I’d argue that you gotta get your best players on the field and if an injury happens, you’d be better off adjusting. 

Whatever, though. Week 2 is gone. Nothing we can do about that anymore. 

But in Week 3, no matter who the Eagles bring in at wideout, it makes sense to get Goedert more involved. Through two weeks, the talented rookie has one catch on just three targets. That’s not enough. 

The good news is that it would stand to reason that, as the Eagles game plan this week without Wallace, Goedert will be more involved offensively. 

“I think there’s a good chance that all three of us play quite a bit this week,” Goedert said. “But like I said before, it’s ultimately coach’s decision. I just have to do what I can when I’m on the field.”

For what it’s worth, Goedert said he feels pretty comfortable about his ability in the NFL; he didn’t think the game is moving too fast or anything. And he also thinks he’s on the same page with Carson Wentz, who will make his 2018 debut Sunday. 

The Eagles could help Wentz out by getting their best players on the field. That should include Goedert.

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With Carson Wentz back, you can feel the buzz in Philadelphia

With Carson Wentz back, you can feel the buzz in Philadelphia

The buzz inside the Eagles’ NovaCare Complex is already palpable this week. It’s the kind of buzz that comes with the news that the franchise quarterback is ready to go.

That feeling inside the building in the two days since the announcement is pretty much the same feeling outside it. Forget the other injuries and holes on the roster, there’s just a ton of energy around the return of No. 11.

So much so that the Eagles lost a tough game Sunday … and you couldn’t even tell. It really didn’t even seem like it mattered. 

A few players already told me there was a similar sense inside the locker room. Even though the Eagles were disappointed about losing a game, the optimism was already winning out just the day after the 27-21 loss in Tampa. 

It’s almost the complete opposite of the feeling last Dec. 10 when Wentz went down with the torn ACL and LCL. In that game at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the Eagles actually clinched the NFC East but it didn’t feel like it. Eventually, the Birds snapped out of their misery and regrouped in time for the playoff run, but it was a long plane ride home back to Philly. 

That’s the kind of juice Wentz brings to the city, inside and outside of the locker room. Win, but lose him, and everyone’s down. Lose, but get him back, who cares about the loss? 

And now that we know Wentz will make his 2018 debut, it’s like the entire locker room, the entire city is re-energized. 

“Get that energy back, get that swagger back,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “We know what kind of a player he is, more of a leader in the locker room for us. When he’s out there doing his job, it just energizes the whole team.”

There are some obvious questions about what kind of player Wentz will be in his return after a 9½-month wait. Even Doug Pederson admitted there will probably be some rust. Johnson disagrees; he expects Wentz to hit the ground running. 

That’s the type of optimism that follows this guy around. 

Toward the end of last season, the Eagles’ identity as a team became centered around the idea of being the underdogs and that didn’t happen until they lost Wentz for the season and folks started counting them out. But before that, the team’s identity was Wentz. He was the reason they got off to such a hot start. His swagger rubbed off on the entire team. 

Jason Kelce was asked if he expected the Linc to have more juice this week because of Wentz’s return. The veteran center said the Linc is always buzzing. 

But it might be just a little different in the stadium Sunday. 

It certainly is everywhere else in the city this week.

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