Howdy folks! As every day of training camp rolls by, there will be threads of live analysis as well as posts of practice notes here at Bleeding Green Nation. I’ll be providing commentary and analysis on three plays that stood out to me as noteworthy reps, with some notes from the players as well on their performances. Please note that these are just practice reps, and not worthy of overreaction.
Play #3) Avonte Maddox v. Nelson Agholor
Avonte Maddox, the fourth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in April’s NFL Draft, sure looks the part. The Eagles’ cornerback room is currently studded with smaller, thinner, quicker guys—not to mention, an impressive array of dreadlocks. He fits in snugly, showing his characteristic agility as a cover man and on special teams reps in today’s light day of install; but his read-and-react ability are left wanting.
Manned up with Nelson Agholor in the slot, Maddox was tasked with off-man coverage from about five yards out. He had no opportunity to bump Agholor’s release—just make a flat-footed read on his break, as well as the quarterback’s drop, to mirror the route into space.
Boy, did Nelly gave him the goods. Maddox’s greatest weakness as a player in college was his tendency to bite on fakes and lunge, playing out of control and limiting his ability to recover. That issue will likely get worse before it gets better, as NFL play necessitates stricter discipline against better route-runners. With a nice move at the top of his route, Agholor won leverage over Maddox, and with another shimmy, Agholor sent Maddox flying in the wrong direction. Easy completion.
Cory Undlin didn’t have too much to say to Maddox after the rep, but certainly was watching Maddox’s performance on the Eagles’ best route-runner and the QB’s primary read. That slew of smaller, shiftier corners before Maddox may end up hurting him, as players of his prototype put out better reps in the preseason, pushing Maddox down the depth chart.
Play #2) Sidney Jones v. Markus Wheaton
I was surprised with how much run Wheaton got. Jeffery is down, which meant Mack Hollins saw a lot of first-team reps—makes sense. But after Hollins and Agholor, I’d say Wheaton and Mike Wallace saw snaps just about evenly. That being said, Wheaton didn’t do anything terribly exciting, while Mike Wallace showed off the burners early, on a long underthrow from Nick Foles.
There was a significant rep in which Wheaton, from the slot, ran a little double move against Sidney Jones. Jones has little to no significant experience as a slot cornerback, though his frame and play style lend themselves well to the responsibilities thereof. Against the stutter-go from Wheaton, Jones showed a ton of discipline to sit on top of the route, keep his hips into the receiver, and only open once Wheaton truly declared his intent. It was a clean route and an even better coverage rep—Jones stayed directly in Wheaton’s hip pocket all the way down the seam, forcing an attempted spot throw that went too long.
Jones saw the majority of first-team nickel reps in this, the first day of practice, and sure did look swell. I will say, Jones’ calves and Achilles are paper thin. It’s not a huge surprise—he’s a thin guy generally—but it isn’t something you’d like to see on a player who just rehabbed back from an Achilles injury.
Play #1) Jeremy Reaves v. Nate Sudfeld
Man, day of the DBs today. I’ll try to spice things up tomorrow.
Jeremy Reaves v. Tre Sullivan v. Chris Maragos for significant safety reps is one of the most interesting training camp battles to keep an eye on. Sullivan got more significant reps than Reaves today, but it was the South Alabama product who made the noteworthy play: an interception of Nate Sudfeld which would have gone for 6 in live game action. I diagrammed the play below; I’m sure we can agree that it is flawless.
From his slot alignment, Reaves had flat responsibilities in a Cover 3 look. After staying connected with the vertical stem of the slot receiver for a beat, he drove to the flat release of the running back, with good instincts and a quick break on the ball.
“I tried to play through the window of the Bang-8,” Reaves told me, smiling as he recollected the play. “I played off the quarterback: the Bang-8 passed through the window, [the quarterback] looked off, so I worked short into the flat ... I was kinda playing it slow. I know if the back comes immediately to the flat, someone’s behind me, so just played through the window and made a play.”
It’s good situational awareness by Reaves, who essentially was baiting the quarterback into the flat throw, and took advantage when it came—that’s smart stuff. Reaves has two season of cornerbacks, in both the slot and the boundary, but he finished his career as a box safety. The Eagles rotated him from high to box safety, giving Reaves an opportunity to prove his versatility across the defensive back end. I like him for a roster spot, but he has a steep hill to climb as a rookie UDFA. Today was a good start.