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Eagles Practice Observations: Philly’s defense dominates the day

Notes from Eagles practice.

SiriusXM At The 2017 NFL Draft Photo by Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM

The Philadelphia Eagles resumed their 2017 OTA practice schedule on Thursday. The session was open to media and I was there to watch it all. Disclaimer: Keep in mind that these are all 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, but here's what I noticed.

• Attendance updates: Jason Peters, Donnie Jones, and Marcus Smith are still missing from practice. Sidney Jones (injured anyway) and Elijah Qualls still aren’t allowed to attend due to the NCAA’s graduation rule. LeGarrette Blount was missing from practice once again after being ruled out with an illness on Monday. Nick Foles, who is expecting the birth of his first child, was also out.

• Injury updates: Timmy Jernigan seems to be completely fine after he sprained his ankle earlier this week. He appeared to be a full participant in practice. Jordan Matthews is still being held out due to knee tendinitis. Prior to practice, Doug Pederson said Jordan Matthews would be fine to practice if this was the regular season. The team continues to take a “conservative approach” with him. Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) is still out. Veteran slot cornerback Ron Brooks returned to practice. Halapoulivaati Vaitai jogged off the field holding his hip after going down on one play and did not return.

• Dominant day from the Eagles defense. You’ll notice that theme throughout day’s notes. Also: just not a good day for Philly’s offense.

• For example, today wasn’t the best Carson Wentz showing. The team’s starting quarterback completed started out 0-9 during a red zone drill before finishing 2-11. To the defense’s credit, they had tight coverage. But some of the throws from Wentz just weren’t great. He threw a low pass over the middle to Darren Sproles. That seems hard to do given the running back’s stature. Another pass meant for Zach Ertz in the back corner of the end zone was tipped away by Malcolm Jenkins.

Wentz threw an interception right at Najee Goode (first team WILL linebacker with Kendricks out) on the first rep of another set of team drills. Not even sure who he was throwing to there because there wasn’t an Eagles target in the area. Wentz almost got picked off three more times:

1) 50-50 ball thrown down the field towards Alshon Jeffery was almost caught by Patrick Robinson instead, but the wide receiver broke up the play.

2) Short throw to Sproles in the flat almost picked off by Jenkins, who got his hands on the ball.

3) One Wentz throw over the middle was almost caught by a diving Jaylen Watkins but the defensive back dropped the ball.

Wentz just hasn’t looked that great to me this spring. I still don’t think it’s time to panic, because it’s still pretty early in the offseason, but it’s certainly not the most encouraging thing.

The positives from Wentz today included a deep bomb to Nelson Agholor for a 50-yard score. Ball was right on the money. Keep in mind Agholor has been working with the first team in the slot with Matthews out. Wentz also floated a pass to Ertz in tight coverage with a linebacker (Nigel Bradham?) underneath and a safety over the top of the tight end.

Another thing Wentz seems to be pretty good at is drawing defenders offside with his hard count. He got Vinny Curry to jump today. I’ve seen him catch a number of guys like this in spring practices so far.

• Alshon Jeffery had an awesome one-handed catch. Click here to watch.

• Agholor continues to look competent. Had that deep over-the-shoulder reception I already talked about. Seemed like he beat Rodney McLeod in zone coverage on the play. Didn’t see any mistakes from him other than a drop on a really tough play. The throw was tightly contested and he almost came up with it in the back of the middle of the end zone. It would have been really impressive if he did but he couldn’t hold on as he fell to the ground.

• Jalen Mills had an active day. No interceptions or anything but broke up some passes and often had tight coverage.

• Speaking of the cornerbacks, Rasul Douglas took some (but not all) first team reps at outside cornerback in Philadelphia’s base defense. Prior to that he was only playing with the first team in nickel packages. Douglas isn’t guaranteed a starting job by any means but he’ll have a chance to be that guy by Week 1.

• I really like what I’ve seen from Derek Barnett. He doesn’t look like your average 20-year-old rookie. Barnett beat Lane Johnson cleanly quite a few times. The No. 14 overall pick notched a couple would-be sacks on Wentz’s blindside. It’s not just Barnett’s pass-rushing that’s stood out. He showed great awareness to sniff out a screen during one first team rep today. If he continues to look this good, it’s going to be hard for the Eagles to keep Barnett off the field.

• So now that you’ve seen me write about how Barnett was beating Johnson, you’re totally gonna be like “Oh great, Lane sucks!” aren’t you? Relax. Basically any OTA observation is a combination of one player looking better than the other. Johnson has had a good spring. Prior to practice, Pederson specifically mentioned Lane as one of the players who has stood out the most during OTAs.

• One rookie who hasn’t looked good: Shelton Gibson. The West Virginia wideout continues to struggle with catching the ball. He had three drops during individuals drills (see for yourself in the video below). Wide receiver coach Mike Groh did not get down on him, though. Instead, he had the rookie continue to rep the drill until he caught the pass. Groh and the rest of the Eagles receivers then gave Gibson some encouraging words and an applause. Emotional intelligence!

• FIGHT! Well, a verbal fight. Jason Kelce absolutely leveled new Eagles defensive tackle Gabe Wright with a blindside block after Wentz took off scrambling. Kelce offered Wright help to get up by Wright didn’t take his hand and instead slapped Kelce real hard on the helmet after getting up. The two got in each other’s face a little bit before the rest of the team broke them up. No punches were thrown, but it was the most heated moment of OTAs so far.

• Donnel Pumphrey took a handoff for a nice gain after juking Mills out of his shoes.

Brandon Graham led the pre-practice huddle. Everyone respects BG.

Allen Barbre and Isaac Seumalo seem to be splitting first team reps at left guard. If the competition comes down to who has the best hair, Seumalo is a lock for the job. His fro is huge.

• Aaron Grymes broke up a red zone pass intended for Paul Turner. Grymes is picking up right where he left off last offseason. Looking good, should figure to compete for a depth job at corner.

Matt McGloin hasn’t looked bad this spring. Not especially impressive or anything, but not bad. And maybe even better than Nick Foles.

• A few notable drops: Trey Burton wasted a chance to score a touchdown. Paul Turner couldn’t come up with a red zone pass with no defense on him. Same thing for Greg Ward. Wendell Smallwood dropped a short pass over the middle during team drills.

Steven Means continues to get good pressure. Could be the fifth defensive end behind Barnett, Graham, Curry, and Long.

• Kamu Grugier-Hill had a nice pass breakup during red zone drills. The former safety looks good in coverage.

• Speaking of former-safeties-turned-linebackers, Nate Gerry doesn’t look ready to see a lot of playing time to me. He just looks slight compared to the other backers. He also doesn’t wear gloves. That doesn’t have anything to do with why I don’t think he’s ready, it’s just a random observation for you.

• Fellow rookie Mack Hollins also goes gloveless. Hollins had a nice short catch for a touchdown today.

• Pederson doesn’t come off as a mean guy at all but he’ll yell at his players with attitude from time to time. Today he felt like players were crowding the sideline while watching team drills so he yelled: “Sideline, guys! Get your ass on the sideline right now!”

• Who said Caleb Sturgis wasn’t versatile? The Eagles kicker was practicing returning punts.

• Shoutout to McDonald’s for catering lunch for Eagles reporters following today’s practice. They had a lot of different options but I went with the Big Mac.

• Check out video from Eagles practice via the Bleeding Green Nation Facebook page (click here or watch below)

LIVE FROM EAGLES PRACTICE IN PHILLY!!!

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Thursday, June 8, 2017

Up next: The Eagles will hold their final OTA practice tomorrow, but it’s not open to the media. Philadelphia’s mandatory minicamp begins next week on Tuesday, June 13. The entirety of minicamp will be open to reporters.

Remaining offseason workout schedule

OTA Offseason Workouts: June 8-9.

Mandatory Minicamp: June 13-15.

BGN Coverage: The following practices are open to the media: June 13-15.