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Eagles Training Camp Notes: Marcus Johnson and Wendell Smallwood step up as tackling begins

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Observations from Eagles practice.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles-Minicamp Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Today marked the eighth day of 2017 Philadelphia Eagles training camp practice. The Birds had pads on for the team’s first live tackling session. Let’s get right to my notes.

PRACTICE NOTES

• Injury updates: A number of notable Eagles didn’t practice today. Alshon Jeffery, who hurt his shoulder on Saturday, practiced on Sunday but the Eagles probably didn’t want him getting hit today. Torrey Smith didn’t practice due to back spasms. LeGarrette Blount was excused for personal reasons. Donnel Pumphrey tweaked his hamstring on Sunday and didn’t practice today. Nick Foles is still out with a sore elbow. Elijah Qualls is out with a groin injury.

• Today’s practice was very physical. The pads were on and the Eagles were tackling to the ground for the first time. It was also very hot out today, so it was a grueling practice to start the week.

• Carson Wentz had another good practice overall. He threw two picks, but those were the only bad plays that really stood out. The first interception sailed over Zach Ertz’s outstretched arm in the middle of the field and into the waiting arms of Jaylen Watkins. There may have been some miscommunication on the play but to me it looked like the ball just went too high. Wentz made a poor decision to throw into double coverage on his second interception. Rasul Douglas easily picked him off. Wentz was frustrated with himself after the play.

Now for the good. Wentz connected with Marcus Johnson, who had a great day, for two deep touchdowns. Johnson burned Patrick Robinson on the first play and Rodney McLeod on the second. He made great over-the-shoulder catches in both instances. Wentz’s ball placement was perfect; he dropped the pigskin right in the bucket. Wentz also threw a deep touchdown to Mack Hollins, who benefited from Robinson falling down in coverage. (Yikes.)

Wentz made two very impressive throws on the last drive of practice. He threw a pass with laser accuracy to Jordan Matthews 30 yards down the field but the receiver dropped it. Brutal. Wentz led the team down the field anyway and capped off the final play of practice with a nice touch pass to Zach Ertz in the back corner of the end zone. The tight end tapped his toes for the touchdown.

• Johnson is certainly making the case for the Eagles to keep six wide receivers. If he can prove he can contribute on special teams, his roster spot should be a lock.

• Wendell Smallwood really took advantage of the absences of Blount and Pumphrey. The 2016 fifth-round pick looked fast and ran hard. He was helped by good run blocking, of course, but he did his part as well. Smallwood picked up a big gain with a no-nonsense run that featured him trucking Terrence Brooks (who isn’t a lightweight by any means). Smallwood also looked good on a screen play drawn up for him. I feel like Corey Clement, who’s also looked good in camp, will have an uphill battle unseating Smallwood.

Vinny Curry, Tim Jernigan, and Brandon Graham all did a nice job generating pressure at various points of practice. Curry got by Jason Peters on one rep to force Wentz into scrambling for a run. Graham had some good run stops, as did Jernigan. Graham also beat Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Darrell Greene pretty soundly.

• The Eagles ran some looks with Curry and Fletcher Cox as the defensive ends with Graham and Jernigan lining up at defensive tackle.

• McGloin has been about what you’d expect out of a backup of his caliber. He’s had some nice throws, though, such as a ball to Matthews he placed in a tight window between two defenders along the sideline.

• C.J. Smith broke up a McGloin pass on a curl route. Keep an eye on Smith in the cornerback battle.

• Aside from one bad drop, Hollins turned in a good practice. The gloveless rookie wide receiver made some tough grabs with his arms extended. Matt McGloin threw a ball a little too far in front of him but he made the play anyway. Hollins does a nice job catching the ball with his hands (as opposed to relying on body catching).

• The Eagles’ new starting left guard has some nasty in him. Isaac Seumalo straight up drove Derek Barnett into the ground as the rookie tried to get around him. Loved that play.

• Terrence Brooks made at least one standout play in practice every day. Today he ripped the ball out of Ertz’s hands after the tight end caught a pass over the middle. Forced incompletion. He’s playing too well for the Eagles to not mix him in to the safety rotation.

• Bryce Treggs had a nice day for himself. The second-year receiver made some tough catches, including a grab along the sideline. He also looked fast on a jet sweep that went for at least 10 yards or so.

Steven Means recorded a “sack” by pushing Matt Tobin back into the quarterback. Means got a fistful of Dane Evans’ jersey to end the play.

Anthony Denham had a couple drops. That’s good news for Billy Brown.

• Daily Shelton Gibson update: The struggling receiver had at least three drops in individual drills and group install combined. He also dropped a punt. And then he had at least one more drop while running wide open in the middle of the field. The guy just hasn’t been able to consistently catch the football. On a more positive note, Gibson did burn both Robinson and Malcolm Jenkins in one-on-one drills for deep receptions.

• I dropped my phone as I went to tweet about one of Gibson’s drops today. It’s contagious, people.

Najee Goode ran up to Gibson after he made a catch and stepped out of bounds. The veteran linebacker stared the rookie down and shouted “YOU GON’ GET IT! YOU GON’ GET IT!”

• Dick Vermeil attended practice today. He’s usually around for at least one practice every camp.

• The Eagles have a Rita’s water ice stand at practice, as they do every summer. Here’s how I’d rank the four flavors:

1 - Swedish fish

2 - Mango

3 - Lemon

4 - Blue raspberry

There’s a big gap between three and four. Also I ordered swedish fish last week and I was given cherry, which isn’t very good. There isn’t a lot of flavor and the flecks of cherry skin in it just make the experience worse. Sour Patch Kids red is still the GOAT Rita’s flavor, followed by green apple.

• Speaking of Rita’s ...

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

LIVE FROM EAGLES TRAINING CAMP! Tackling today

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Tuesday, August 1, 2017

• Check out Carson Wentz’s post-practice press conference (click here or watch below).

CARSON WENTZ! Eagles QB speaking after practice

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Tuesday, August 1, 2017

• Check out Doug Pederson’s post-practice press conference (click here or watch below).

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson talking after practice!

Posted by Bleeding Green Nation: For Philadelphia Eagles Fans on Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Up next: The Eagles are right back at it with another training camp practice starting at 8:15 AM tomorrow. Stay tuned here to Bleeding Green Nation.