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Eagles Training Camp Practice Notes: Zech McPhearson rules the day

Our latest observations.

NFL: JUL 30 Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today marked the sixth 2021 Philadelphia Eagles training camp practice. Here’s what I observed! UPDATE: Today’s BGN Radio practice recap podcast is also live.

PRACTICE NOTES

JALEN HURTS UPDATE:

Let’s do things a little differently and look at Hurts through his different phases of practice.

Position drills:

Hurts didn’t excel here. The following clip shows him throwing badly missing the intended target:

This is just one rep, yes, but Hurts missed the mark on every attempt that I saw. Now, I’m pretty sure the hoop isn’t going to be playing games for the Eagles this season. But these struggles do nothing to assuage concerns about Hurts’ accuracy.

Routes on air:

Hurts overthrew Zach Ertz (6’5”) and Hakeem Butler (6’5”) here.

1-on-1 (WR vs. DB):

Hurts was picked off cleanly by Josiah Scott on a throw meant for J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. The cornerback had very sticky coverage on the play. Then again, JJAW isn’t exactly the best separator.

7-on-7

Hurts threw a little wide of John Hightower, who had to make a diving catch towards the sideline despite generating some separation.

11-on-11

Hurts had a good 20-yard completion over the middle to Greg Ward in stride. Good to see since there are questions about Hurts’ ability to work that area of the field. Of course, it helped that he had an especially clean pocket and Ward was wide open. Hurts had another good completion over the middle to Zach Ertz.

No real big ‘highlight’ throws from Hurts at any point. But no real big mistakes in team drills, either.

EAGLES INJURY REPORT: DeVonta Smith (knee sprain) got some JUGS work in before practice. His presence at practice (as opposed to being absent like other injured players) seems like a positive sign. He didn’t appear to be limping or anything.

Andre Dillard appeared to be dealing with a hand/finger injury late in practice.

Davion Taylor (quadriceps) may have returned to practice too soon because he left early today and didn’t come back.

Ryan Kerrigan (thumb) is day-to-day after getting hurt on Monday.

Michael Walker (foot) is day-to-day after getting hurt on Monday.

Nate Herbig was a full participant today after getting banged up late in Monday’s practice.

LEFT TACKLE BATTLE: I’ve already been ready to call it but I’m making it official. After today, I’m not using the term “left tackle battle” because it should already be decided that Jordan Mailata is the starter.

For his part, Mailata has looked good. He actually pancaked Brandon Graham (!) at one point today before then later bowling over a linebacker at the second level. Mailata did get driven back into Hurts by Derek Barnett on one rep but he doesn’t get beat nearly as quickly as Andre Dillard does.

Speaking of Dillard, he got absolutely destroyed by Josh Sweat on one rep. Just straight up flattened into the ground. Part of that is Sweat continuing to have a good summer, sure. But Dillard’s anchor issues are hardly new. We saw him get pancaked like this by Joe Ostman in last year’s camp. Just can’t be happening.

I imagine the Eagles are going to drag out this left tackle decision longer than needed but I fully expect Mailata to be the winner whenever it’s finally called.

(Also, I’ll get more into this in tomorrow’s updated 53-man roster projection, but I don’t think Dillard deserves to be kept around.)

ZECH MCPHEARSON! Can we all agree that ‘Z McP’ is a good nickname for the Eagles’ 2021 fourth-round pick? Yes? Okay, great! Z McP really had himself a day. I had him down for FOUR pass breakups, which is a lot.

One was a near-pick on a Nick Mullens checkdown to the flat. The rookie corner realized the quarterback had nothing to work with elsewhere and broke quickly on the throw to knock it down.

One came after a receiver (didn’t see who) initially caught the ball but McPhearson instantly punched it out before possession was established.

One came in the developmental period after the full team practice. McPhearson tipped a ball thrown over the middle and into traffic up into the air to be picked off by Grayland Arnold.

McPhearson also stood out by laying the wood on Jason Huntley during a running play. That big hit drew praise from his fellow defensive backs. “I see you, two seven!”

This wasn’t just one good day from Z McP; he also intercepted Mullens on Monday. I don’t see him unseating Darius Slay, Steve Nelson, or Maddox just yet but he might be a quality backup in the short-term and a future starter. Especially if he can turn some of these PBUs into actual interceptions!

• Third straight practice that Quez Watkins has done some good things. Had a nice hands extended catch in stride over the middle from Joe Flacco in 11-on-11. Displayed good body control to make a tough catch on a ball thrown a little high by Mullens. Ran a really sharp route that bought him separation against Craig James in 1-on-1. (James was vocally frustrated after losing that rep.)

• So far, not seeing a completely different Jalen Reagor from Year 1 to Year 2. He got jammed and knocked off his route by Nelson in 1-on-1, which prompted a talking-to from passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo. Reagor and Hurts were out of sync on another 1-on-1 rep. Reagor did have a solid reception on a slant, his most effective route that we’ve witnessed. Outside of that, though, just not much impact. Looking for him to at least flash in the way that Watkins has.

• Fulgham gave Darius Slay some trouble in 1-on-1. He beat Slay down the right sideline for to make an over-the-shoulder catch on a throw from Flacco. Fulgham got open against Slay again and dropped the pass but there was a flag on Slay for defensive pass interference.

• Joe Flacco has rebounded a bit after a bad start to camp. He had a nice ‘YOLO, sling it across my body’ throw to hit a wide open Jhamon Ausbon on the opposite hash down the field in 7-on-7. Also dropped the ball right in the bucket deep along the right sideline to Hightower in 1-on-1.

• Nick Mullens has now fumbled in the pocket twice in camp. Mullens fumbled six times in 10 games last year.

• Anthony Harris has flown under the radar in terms of people writing or tweeting about him. He showed up today by putting a big pop on Fulgham after the receiver caught a short pass over the middle. The limited amount of fans in attendance liked that big hit.

• Good showing from Maddox in 1-on-1s. First, he broke up a short throw to Greg Ward. Then he basically ran Ward’s route for him and was in position to pick a ball that ended up getting deflected instead.

• Derek Barnett sniffed out a designed QB run by Hurts and played it really well. He was in a position to make a tackle for loss or no gain. Sweat’s getting a lot of hype this summer, and deservedly so, but Barnett has been looking good, too.

• Miles Sanders dropped a short pass over the middle. Not his only drop of camp.

• Jason Huntley had another long run where he went untouched and was gone as soon as he found daylight. The Eagles have some interesting decisions to make at running back. Huntley is making a strong case to be on the roster between being an explosive runner and having a good kick return track record.

• Kenny Gainwell continues to flash more as a receiver than a runner. The rookie looked natural catching a swing pass and picking up some yards after the catch.

• Another practice, another T.Y. McGill highlight. The veteran defensive tackle managed to “sack” Hurts again. Deserves to be on some team’s roster if not the Eagles’.

• Nick Sirianni got really fired up after the Eagles’ offense struggled to get lined up properly on one 11-on-11 rep. He pulled the players away from the drill for a moment to really get on them about it. Again, Sirianni isn’t one to let things slip. Here’s an example of his hands-on approach, which was recorded after Fulgham presumably made a mistake in routes on air:

DEPTH CHART NOTES - SPECIAL TEAMS: Huntley and Kenny Gainwell were back as the only two kick returners. Huntley was a good returner in college (25.8 average, 5 touchdowns) and should be the favorite for that job.

The first team kickoff coverage unit: Marcus Epps, Kevon Seymour, T.J. Edwards, Genard Avery, K’Von Wallace, Grayland Arnold, Jordan Howard, Richard Rodgers, Craig James, and Avonte Maddox.

The second team kickoff coverage unit: Josiah Scott, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Joe Ostman, Shaun Bradley, Elijah Riley, Boston Scott, Hakeem Butler, Richard Rodgers, Travis Fulgham, Michael Jacquet.

• Some Jake Elliott redemption. After going 4/6 on Saturday, the Eagles’ kicker went 6/6 on today’s field goal attempts. His makes were from 33, 36, 39, 41, 44, and 47 yards out.

• Charlie Manuel and Larry Bowa briefly attended this morning’s practice. Funny experience to be looking down at my phone as I’m walking on the path to the practice fields and looking up to see Cholly passing by. I miss when the Phillies were actually good and fun.

UP NEXT: Another 10:00 AM practice start time on Wednesday.