10 observations

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Wentz is up-and-down but hits DeSean on a bomb

10 observations from Eagles minicamp: Wentz is up-and-down but hits DeSean on a bomb

With today’s practice in the books, the Eagles have just one more before they break for summer and won’t be back until training camp. 

Today’s practice was a little more exciting than yesterday’s, so we had no trouble finding things to write about. 

Here are 10 observations from today’s penultimate minicamp practice: 

1. The play of the spring came during 11-on-11s today. Carson Wentz heaved up a ball to DeSean Jackson for what was about a 50-yard touchdown catch. Jackson ran a deep post and simply ran past Rasul Douglas in coverage; the Eagles’ defense was in dime. The ball was perfectly thrown from Wentz and he hit Jackson in stride for the touchdown. 

2. Wentz had an up-and-down day. That pass to Jackson was spectacular. 

So were two passes in the red zone on 7-on-7s. One of them was a perfect touch pass to Wendell Smallwood on a wheel route. Tre Sullivan had good coverage, but there was nothing he could do. On the very next play, Sullivan was covering Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone, but Wentz burned the ball in there for a touchdown. Sullivan had tight coverage on both plays but Wentz didn’t give him a chance. 

3. As great as some of his throws were, Wentz also misfired plenty of times and threw two picks. One interception came on a ball intended for Marken Michel, when Avonte Maddox leaped back and picked it off. As Maddox ran back to the huddle, he made sure he rubbed it in to the franchise quarterback. 

Hey, Carson! Thank you for the gift, bro!

The other interception came when Wentz tried to throw the ball across his body, but it was picked off by safety Andrew Sendejo, who jumped the route and was gone the other way for a pick-6. 

Wentz made some tremendous plays but lacked consistency Tuesday. There was another cross-body throw that was dangerous too. 

4. During 11-on-11s, Wentz threw the ball to Jackson in front of Sidney Jones and Jackson simply dropped it. And then Jackson dropped to the ground and did pushups as punishment. 

5. Attendance! 

Working on side fields: Fletcher Cox, Nigel Bradham, Brandon Brooks, Corey Clement

Limited practice participants: Ronald Darby, Rodney McLeod 

Watching practice: Nelson Agholor, Shelton Gibson, Miles Sanders

Gibson is a new addition to the injured group. Agholor has a “lower-body” injury, according to Pederson. Agholor will be ready for training camp and Sanders is expected to be ready too. 

For the second straight day, Mack Hollins practiced. Good sign. 

“It’s exciting,” Pederson said about Hollins. “All along, he’s done a great job this offseason with the progress he’s made and it’s exciting to see him moving around and doing some good things. Again, optimistic about his future.” 

6. Michel, who played the last few seasons in the CFL, caught a pass from Wentz and showed off his speed, breaking away from the pack as he hustled into the end zone for a long touchdown. Michel and Greg Ward are benefiting the most from Agholor’s absence. 

7. Boston Scott made a nice cut in the backfield to avoid a tackler and it drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from his offensive teammates. With his ability to cut, catch out of the backfield and return punts, he has a real shot at making the roster. 

8. During individual drills, we watched JJ Arcega-Whiteside make another tough leaping catch. “He might be good,” I said to a fellow reporter. Where else do you get analysis like that? 

And Roob ended up catching the moment with his phone camera. 

9. For the second straight day, the Eagles have limited Jason Peters and Jason Kelce; they’re taking fewer reps with the first team. The Eagles have done that before and it’s just to keep their reps lower and preserve their bodies. That’s good news for guys who get reps in their place, namely Stefen Wisniewski and Andre Dillard. But Wiz is a vet, so this really helps Dillard. There’s a good chance he’ll need to play at some point this season, so the more reps with the first team, the better. 

10. Alshon Jeffery is just a fun player to watch in practice. He had a sliding catch in the first 11-on-11 period today and yesterday threw Sidney Jones out of the way on a play that was called for OPI. I just like watching Jeffery catch balls during the individual portion of practice. 

 

Stupid Observation of the Day: It was during 7-on-7s when I looked down and noticed about 20-30 black ants crawling on my legs and shoes. Apparently, I was standing on their nest. They began to bite and I spent the next few minutes flicking them off of me. (So, sorry, I missed a few plays.) 

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Eagles vs. Falcons: 10 observations from another thrilling win over Atlanta

Eagles vs. Falcons: 10 observations from another thrilling win over Atlanta

BOX SCORE

They find a way. That’s the best thing about this Eagles team.

They did it last year, and they did it again Thursday night, muddling through some really horrifyingly ugly football to beat the Falcons in the 2018 NFL opener.

The Super Bowl champs are 1-0.

And who cares how?

Here are my 10 observations off the Eagles’ 18-12 opening-day win over the Falcons at the Linc.

1. I can’t explain Nick Foles. I can’t explain how a guy who can shred a Bill Belichick defense in a Super Bowl can look so out of sorts at home against the Falcons. But the thing about Foles is that when he has to make a play, he makes a play. There’s a reason he hasn’t lost a home game that he’s started and finished since 2013. There’s a reason he’s now 19-5 as the Eagles’ starter since opening day 2013. There’s a reason he’s a Super Bowl MVP. I’ll tell you what, I’d rather have a guy who wins ugly than one who loses pretty. Foles must have some serious internal strength to overcome such a horrific start Thursday night and make enough plays to will the Eagles to this win. Maybe it was the lack of work with the other starters. Maybe it was the Super Bowl hangover. I have no clue. But I know he wins. And really, that’s all I care about.

2. What a tremendous performance by the Eagles’ defense, especially down at the goal line. It had three goal-line stands, which is insane. Two in the first quarter and then the magical one at the end of the game. The Falcons had drives to the 1-, 3- and 5-yard lines and got three points out of it. That’s a ton of pressure to put on a defense, but the unit was brilliant when the game was on the line. Chris Long, Ronald Darby and Fletcher Cox in particular were massive Thursday night. It gave up some plays. It started to wilt late. The last couple minutes were scary. But just like Foles, it always seems to find a way. It found a way again Thursday night.

3. Here’s what I love about Doug Pederson running Philly Special II. It wasn’t to show off or be funny or show up the Falcons. It was to jump-start a stagnant offense, and it worked, leading to the Eagles’ first touchdown of the game. Before Nelson Agholor’s pass to Foles, the Eagles had netted 102 yards on 40 plays. It’s hard to be that bad.

4. I didn’t understand making Darren Sproles the centerpiece of the offense in the first half. I love Sproles, but to me he’s a change-of-pace guy, a situational guy. Not to mention, he’s 35 years old and hadn’t played a game — regular season, postseason, preseason — in 11½ months. The Eagles ran 28 plays in the first half, and nine of them involved Sproles. He was 4 for 5 rushing and was targeted five times in the passing game, catching two short passes for seven yards with a bad drop in there, too. Sproles made a couple plays in the second half as a changeup guy, which is where he’s best. There’s still a role for Sproles, but that was just too much too soon.

5. I didn’t get why Jay Ajayi had only three carries in the first half. Pederson finally got him going in the second half, and once Ajayi started picking up yards, the offense really got into a rhythm. Ajayi finally got going in the second half and really ran strong, finishing 15 for 62 with two touchdowns and a really sweet two-point conversion after the Eagles’ fourth-quarter touchdown. But the numbers don’t really show how well he ran. He ran tough. He moved the chains. He got the offense into a rhythm. I understand limiting Ajayi’s touches, but three in the first half just isn’t enough.

6. We really saw a lot of mistakes from some of the Eagles’ young players. Derek Barnett had two offsides penalties that negated huge third-down sacks by Long and Cox. Tre Sullivan got way too close to a punt, giving the Falcons possession. Dallas Goedert was unable to control a pass that was probably catchable and wound up getting intercepted to set up the Falcons’ only touchdown. Costly mistakes, and those are all promising players who you expect to have good careers, but they’re inexcusable mistakes, especially Barnett simply lining up offsides and Sullivan not getting the heck away from a live football. The Eagles have a ton of young players in the mix, and they’re going to have to grow up fast.

7. Rasul Douglas’ fourth-quarter interception really demonstrates the depth of the Eagles’ cornerback stable. Darby gets nicked and comes out of the game briefly, and Douglas takes his spot and makes a huge interception off Matt Ryan inside the 5-yard line. Darby is 24. Douglas is 23. Jalen Mills is 23. Sidney Jones is 22. They’re going to make mistakes, but this is really an incredible group of young corners.

8. Rough night for Zach Ertz, who never drops passes but had three against the Falcons, two of them on third downs that would have given the Eagles a first down. Ertz caught 5 for 48 but you just expect a guy with his pedigree to drop three passes in a month, much less a game. With Alshon Jeffery out, the Eagles need Ertz to be great.

9. Impressive NFL debut for Cameron Johnston. The rookie Aussie has a tough act to follow, trying to replace Donnie Jones — who was at the game Thursday night — but he began his career with punts of 56, 65, 58, 38, 50 and 46 yards and finished the night a remarkable average of 52.2 and net average of 50.3.

10. This was an ugly game filled with penalties and mistakes, but I thought the energy and toughness and spirit the Eagles showed after a short offseason was fantastic. It’s really not an easy thing to do, bouncing back after winning a championship and a short offseason and winning football games. It doesn’t matter how the Eagles did it, they did it, beating a potential NFC playoff team in a game with huge playoff implications. Speaks volumes for the job Pederson did this offseason guiding the team through the pratfalls of the Super Bowl hangover. This is a hungry team. This is a motivated team. And this is a talented team. It's not going away any time soon.

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Roob's 10 Observations: Crazily underrated Eagles LB, Matthews' future and more

ap_eagles_william_thomas_jordan_matthews_lane_johnson.jpg
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Roob's 10 Observations: Crazily underrated Eagles LB, Matthews' future and more

Comparing the Eagles' 2004 and 2017 Super Bowl offensive lines, a drastically underrated Eagles linebacker, Jordan Matthews' future and more in the neverending parade of Nick Foles stats!

Somebody must have ordered Roob's 10 Random Eagles Observations! 

1. One of the biggest differences between the 2004 Super Bowl and the 2017 Super Bowl was the performance of the Eagles' offensive line. The Eagles' line in Super Bowl XXXIX in Jacksonville got brutalized. The interior of the line in particular — guards Jermane Mayberry and Artis Hicks and center Hank Fraley — was destroyed by Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel, who hit Donovan McNabb repeatedly, forced him to rush throws, sacked him four times, recorded eight tackles for loss and limited the Eagles to 2.6 yards per rush.

Compare that to the performance of Stefen Wisniewski, Jason Kelce and Brandon Brooks, the interior of the 2017 O-line this time around against the Patriots. The line was monstrous, controlling the line of scrimmage, keeping Foles clean (no sacks on 44 pass attempts) and paving the way for the Eagles to average 6.1 yards per carry. That 2004 O-line was a pretty good one, with three Pro Bowlers (Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, Mayberry), but they just got destroyed in Jacksonville.

The 2017 group? Their play was superhuman despite losing a Hall of Fame left tackle. Lane Johnson, Brooks and Kelce all showed they're as good as anyone in the game. And Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Wisniewski, two guys that didn't even start the season in the starting lineup, were beasts down the stretch and in the playoffs. It's a group that's smart, physical and athletic and plays so well together. Best of all? They're all back. The team that brought you Ben Tamburello, Mike Schad, Steve Everitt, Ron Solt, Ian Beckles, Max Jean-Gilles, Jeff Dellenbach, Lonnie Palelei and a freaking 26-year-old rookie who wanted to ride around tooting the horn on a firetruck has the best O-line in football, and they're not going away any time soon.

2. I know Doug Pederson said Jay Ajayi will be the Eagles' lead back this year, but I still don't expect him to get more than 200 carries. The Eagles have been clear about their concern with his chronic knee issues, and with the talent they have at running back there's no reason to give Ajayi 20 carries a game. But, man, he can make a huge impact — and stay healthy — with 13 or 14 carries and two or three catches.

3. William Thomas was so underrated. Maybe it's because he was drafted in 1991, as the whole Reggie / Clyde / Seth / Jerome / Wes / Andre defense was unraveling. But Willie T. had 27 interceptions and 37 sacks in his career, and only five others in NFL history had 25 sacks and 25 INTs — including Dawk, Ray Lewis and Rodney Harrison. In fact, Willie T. and Lewis are the only linebackers ever with 25 and 25.  

4. I know everybody disagrees, but I still think Jordan Matthews is pretty good, and I expect him to have a solid season in New England.

5. Another reason to love Doug Pederson: The Eagles' 29 fourth-down attempts last year are the most on record (the NFL began tracking fourth-down attempts in 1991). The Eagles were an insane 20-for-29 on fourth down, including some fairly important ones. It was amazing watching Doug evolve last year into such a fearless play-caller. 

6. Nick Foles' stats on third down in the 2017 postseason are so ridiculous I double-checked them three times because I didn't think they could possibly be correct. But they're correct: 27-for-33 for 400 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 156.8 passer rating. Yep, only two more incomplete passes than touchdowns. This is insanity.

7. The more time goes by, the more astonishing Foles' postseason seems to me. 

8. Only three players in Super Bowl history have caught a touchdown pass on fourth down: Irving Fryar when the Patriots were trailing the Bears 44-3 late in the fourth quarter in 1985, Don Beebe when the Bills were trailing the Redskins by 20 late in the fourth quarter in 1991 and Foles just before halftime of a three-point game. Conclusion: Foles is the only player in NFL history to catch a meaningful fourth-down touchdown pass in a Super Bowl.

9. I have no idea what really happened at NRG Stadium after Super Bowl LI. But I find it extremely difficult to believe that in this day and age when every single thing anybody does is caught on videotape, that not one video camera picked up the incident Michael Bennett is alleged to have been involved in. With all the security at major events these days? There was no video camera? At an entrance to the field? After a Super Bowl? Not buying it.

10. We haven't had a Zach Ertz stat in a while, so here ya go: Ertz is the only player in Eagles history with three straight seasons with 70 or more catches and 800 yards. Only two others have had two straight: Fryar and Matthews.

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