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) Rasul Douglas v. Markus Wheaton/Mack Hollins/other guys
The second team defense got a lot of run today, which means a ton of Rasul Douglas. From my vantage point near the 40, he was quite close to me for 15+ reps. But with a lot of Douglas comes a lot of Cory Undlin, the DB coach who is undoubtedly the most entertaining coach to listen to during camp.
Defense runs a nickel blitz into a bubble screen. Undlin yells out "Well, if you're gonna run the same f****** play every time!"— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) July 31, 2018
He was heavily focused on Douglas and Avonte Maddox, the rookie often playing in the slot to Douglas’ side. In the West Virginia defense, Douglas played frequently right up into the line of scrimmage. Super angle-y and long, Douglas fits that mold of a press corner, who can get up and harass you.
But he took a ton of his reps in camp today in off coverage, starting anywhere from 5 to 8 yards off the ball. He’d read through the receiver’s route to the quarterback in a backpedal and only look to open late if threatened deep. Undlin from behind him constantly barked reminders—“Slow...slower!...slower!...now! Go go go!”—as Douglas went from backpedaling to exploding into the break.
It’s a transition for Rasul, in terms of how he reads the field, what his landmarks and keys are when dealing with routes, and how much of the game is now won with his eyes and his mind. He had a nice rep against Markus Wheaton on the “Pinch” route, which looks like a post for about three steps, then snaps back to the sideline. He didn’t overplay the initial break and was able to hinge his hips and drive to the football. Then, a shaky one against Mack Hollins on a curl route—Mack pushed him upfield with good vertical burst, Sul started flipping his hips, and Hollins slammed on the breaks to separate. Undlin talked with him again about his pacing through his backpedal, which should help him stay connected in and out of breaks.
Sul had another rep that stood out in a positive way: down at the goal line, he and Maddox switched off a rub concept beautiful. Douglas immediately recognized the route pairing and started directing Maddox, screaming “Underneath! Underneath!” to warn Maddox that the slant route was coming in from the outside. Foles looked for separation, couldn’t find it, and ended up throwing the ball away.
Play #2) De’Vante Bausby v. Zach Ertz
I think it’s a big deal that Bausby made a play over Zach Ertz, and here’s why.
Because if I were an offensive coordinator, and I had a tight end like Zach Ertz, and I saw a slot cornerback like Bausby...I’d want that match-up. I’d seek it out. Smart OCs are going to get Bausby into those situations, if/when he sees the field in the regular season. If Bausby can win reps against far bigger opponents like that, it will bode well to his ability to stay on the field.
The play was an interception in the end zone—kinda an important play, I would say. It happened on the far side of the field and it was difficult to see the full rep, but Bausby out-leaped Ertz for a ball that was pretty decently overthrown by Nick Foles. It was a backside isolation route w/o any safety help—again, the match-up you want as an offensive coordinator—so Bausby really had to make a high-quality play.
“Yeah, it was in a zero coverage, so a lot of guys coming. I know the ball’s coming fast. Ertz ran a double move on me and I didn’t bite. Eyes on the quarterback, ball came right to me.”
That’s a tough discipline play to make. Ertz runs some good double moves (ask Harrison Smith) (okay whatever it wasn’t really a double move) (the idea is the same) and, in a situation in which you’re expecting a quick pass, you may want to jump that route. Good on Bausby to know his leverage and play safely, but still get aggressive with the ball in the air.
It’s tough to say who’s better at this juncture at the nickel spot—Sidney Jones or De’Vante Bausby. Both make some solid plays; both get beat every so often. There’s no Patrick Robinson here, that’s for sure—neither the awful camp version or the strong season version. Nickel CB still an important position to watch.
Play #1) Donnel Pumphrey (2018) v. Donnel Pumphrey (2017)
Very low bar but Donnel Pumphrey definitely showing more than he did last year at this time. #Eagles— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) July 31, 2018
Here we are.
Pumphrey had his first day of full contact practice in about a year, after being stashed in IR in September. No longer dealing with a nagging hamstring and with much better weight added on—he weighed in today at 186 lbs—Pumphrey’s ability to handle NFL contact is vastly improved. “Last year when I used to come up and hit, I felt all of it. Now I feel like I got a little bit of weight under myself, I feel like I can be the one to come up and be aggressive.”
But Pumphrey’s willingness to hit will never be how he provides value to the team. It will be what he does with the ball in his hands, and especially when working in space. During 11-on-11 drills with full contact, I saw three runs that made it into the third level—1 was Wendell Smallwood, and the other 2 were Donnel Pumphrey. Both of Pump’s came on zone concepts in which he was working between the tackles and was able to knife through gaps to explode through the linebackers and into the secondary.
The improvement for Pumphrey has been his pre-snap understanding of where to expect flow and space. “Last year I didn’t really know what to read and where the line was going. This time around this year, I’m able to see things a lot better, know exactly where the hole’s gonna hit depending on what defensive front they’re in. I just feel a lot more comfortable.”
Pump’s ability to quickly knife upfield is likely the product of a lot of film work on Darrren Sproles’ runs within the Philadelphia zone scheme. He seems to make decisions far quicker than he ever did at San Diego State, and when he’s leaking through little creases behind that big offensive line, it’s tough to get a hand on him. He finished his runs falling forward today and almost busted a big screen play if not for a nice shoestring tackle by DE Steven Means.
Again, Pumphrey is standing out with quality reps in practice. It was especially nice to see on the first day of contact. I think there’s some cautious optimism deserved in his projection moving forward.