The Philadelphia Eagles held their third and final day of mandatory minicamp practice on Thursday. The session was open to media and I was there. Remember that these are still non-contact drills at this point. Players aren't allowed to wear pads yet. There's only so much to be gleaned from players running around in shorts, so take these observations for what they're worth. Here are my practice notes.
• Today’s practice was very light compared to the last two days. I’m still going to be posting a bunch of observations here, however, because a lot of my notes from June 14 got wiped out somehow. I’ll start with today’s notes (Thursday) and then write about what took place yesterday (Wednesday).
• Injury update: No practice for Jordan Matthews (knee tendinitis), Dorial Green-Beckham (foot), Destiny Vaeao (calf). Fletcher Cox (neck strain) was limited. Nick Foles is still out due to the birth of his child. Matthews said he expects to be ready for training camp despite missing almost every spring practice.
• Another sharp outing from Carson Wentz. Wentz struggled in red zone drills earlier this spring but he looked real accurate today. One of his best passes was a dart to a leaping Nelson Agholor in tight coverage. Wentz also really caught my attention on one play where we caught a high snap above his head with one hand and then immediately rifled it to Zach Ertz for a touchdown. The kid is far from perfect but he can do some special things.
• Darren Sproles threw a touchdown to Trey Burton during a group install drill. The veteran running back received a toss from Wentz and hit Burton in the back corner of the end zone from 25 yards out.
• Interesting: Aaron Grymes got a look at first team nickel corner with Jalen Mills and Patrick Robinson lining up on the outside. Previously it’s been Mills in the slot with Rasul Douglas coming in to play at outside. Grymes has had a good spring (more on that later) so maybe he’s pushing for playing time.
• Another interesting first team note: 2016 undrafted free agent wide receiver Marcus Johnson spent some time with the starters today. Seemed like the Eagles were resting Alshon Jeffery a little bit. Johnson makes some tough catches. Wonder if he might sneak on the roster over, say, Shelton Gibson. At the very least, keep an eye on Johnson as a practice squad candidate.
• Jalen Mills — The Good: Broke up a contested pass to Trey Burton. Earned praise from the Eagles coaching staff. — The Bad: Got flagged for defensive holding on Johnson in the end zone.
• Speaking of holding ... not a great day for Douglas. The rookie got flagged at least three time for grabbing too much. Cory Undlin chewed out Douglas at one point. Douglas showed some promise this spring but he’s hardly ready to be a bonafide answer at cornerback.
• Jordan Hicks continues to look great in coverage. It’s often not worth throwing to the guy he’s covering because he’ll break it up or pick it off.
• Jaylen Watkins dropped a pick on a deep pass. Wide open, should have had it. Terrence Brooks has outperformed him this spring, in my opinion.
• Zach Ertz made a real nice contested catch on a slant. The defender was all over him but he used his size to his advantage and held on.
• Nate Gerry sighting! The rookie linebacker cleanly picked off a Matt McGloin pass thrown over the middle of the field. That got the defense fired up. Gerry almost had another pick six when he jumped a short route but the ball went right through his hands. Gerry looks sound in coverage, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given he used to play safety. He’ll need to prove he can hold up when the pads go on and things get more physical.
• In a tribute to Andy Reid, the Eagles practiced the shovel pass on one rep.
• Mack Hollins, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton practiced long snapping. Burton also got some reps as a holder.
• Check out video from Eagles practice via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page (click here or watch below)
LIVE LOOK AT THE LAST EAGLES MINICAMP PRACTICE!Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Thursday, June 15, 2017
WEDNESDAY LEFTOVER NOTES
• Wentz didn’t just look good as a passer yesterday. He also juked the crap out of Mychal Kendricks after taking off running up the middle. The move from Wentz drew some “oooooooh!” reactions from teammates.
• Former Ravens teammates Torrey Smith and Terrence Brooks got involved in a little trash talk after the veteran wide receiver made a nice catch down the field. Brooks asked Smith if he can still run. Smith replied: “I’ll smoke your ass!” I like Torrey.
• Eagles defensive line coach Chris Wilson yelled at Alex McCalister after a ref flagged the defensive end for being offside. McCalister got yanked out of the drill in favor of Chris Long.
• Speaking of Long, he did a nice job of bending the edge and getting around Halapoulivaati Vaitai to force Wentz into throwing a wobbly pass down the field. Vinny Curry, meanwhile, got stood up by Big V on one rep.
• Rodney McLeod picked off Wentz on a deep pass where either: 1) Wentz overthrew Smith, 2) Smith broke off his route too early, or 3) both. Can’t say for sure.
• McLeod also broke up a deep pass intended for Bryce Treggs. The wide receiver got his hands on the ball but McLeod was right there to knock it down.
• I wrote this about Grymes on Tuesday:
“Aaron Grymes came up with pass breakup on an out route meant for Burton. Feels like Grymes makes at least one good play like that in every practice.”
Well, guess what. He did it again. In addition to breaking up that aforementioned wobbly Wentz pass, Grymes also stripped the ball out of Nelson Agholor’s hands on a short catch over the middle. The refs ruled it incomplete since Agholor didn’t establish possession. Oh and Grymes also had a “sack” on a corner blitz.
Grymes should have a strong chance to be the fourth or fifth corner on this team, at least.
• Grymes isn’t the only depth corner impressing. C.J. Smith had a nice pick on a pass thrown by Matt McGloin.
• No doubt about it: Agholor has had a very encouraging spring. He looks like a competent NFL wide receiver. Now, there’s plenty of time for that to change. We still need to see how things go when the pads come on. But at the very least it’s a good sign that Agholor isn’t dropping passes like he used to. He’s done a real nice job of burning the Eagles’ defense on multiple occasions. With that said, I still wouldn’t be drafting Agholor for your fantasy team just yet.
• Zach Ertz had a number of good catches on Wednesday. It’s official: this is going to be his breakout year!
• Mike Groh appears to big upgrade over Greg Lewis. It’s too early to say for sure, but Groh just gives the impression he knows what he’s doing. The Eagles wide receiver coach has his players doing more nuanced drills than I was used to seeing during the Lewis and Bob Bicknell eras. For example, Groh had his wide receivers work on their blocking technique. (Somewhere, Chip Kelly and Riley Cooper just smiled.) Groh also had his group working on a hand-eye coordination drill by catching/throwing tennis balls at each other while most of the rest of the team just stood and watched field goal drills.
• Interesting thing: Isaac Seumalo took some first team reps at center. The Eagles are still splitting Seumalo and Allen Barbre with the starters at left guard.
• Mack Hollins does a real nice job of making hand catches as opposed to being a body-catcher. He plucks the ball out of the air with his gloveless fingers.
• Eagles legend Paul Turner made a real nice leaping grab on a pass thrown too high. Beat out tight coverage to make the play.
• Marcus Johnson made a nice contested catch over the middle of the field with Mitchell White draped all over him. White got flagged for defensive holding on the play.
• Patrick Robinson and Randall Goforth both recorded diving pass breakups.
• Alshon Jeffery was among Eagles wide receivers working on the JUGS machine after practice. Jeffery doesn’t drop passes, so it’s not like he needs the extra practice, but he put in the extra effort anyway.
• Eagles players handling kick returns: Wendell Smallwood, Nelson Agholor, Torrey Smith, Donnel Pumphrey, and Darren Sproles.
• Eagles quarterback coach John DeFilippo had his quarterbacks practice handling bad/off-target snaps. Jason Kelce has had an issue with his snapping accuracy so this drills makes sense.
• Gabe Wright, who was signed last week, has been taking a lot of first team defensive tackle reps. Fletcher Cox left practice early with a strained neck. Beau Allen is hurt and Destiny Vaeao has missed some reps as early.
• FIGHT! OK, not a fight. More like a small scuffle. Steven Means and Anthony Denham exchanged some heated words and shoved each other. But then they shook hands and made up.
• Dwayne Gratz dropped an over-the-shoulder interception despite being pretty open. He yelled a word that rhymes with “LUCK!!!!” after doing it.
• Marcus Smith is buried on the depth chart. There are six defensive ends getting reps ahead of him. Have to imagine this was his last week of practice with the team.
Up next: Minicamp is over! The Eagles are off until training camp begins later this summer. Rookies, quarterbacks, and select veterans report on Monday, July 24. The rest of the team will report on Wednesday, July 26. The first full-team practice is scheduled to begin on Thursday, July 27.
Stay tuned here to Bleeding Green Nation for daily Eagles content to pass the time until camp begins.