Eagles training camp 2021 observations, Day 2: Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith connect on deep ball

·8 min read

Eagles training camp observations: Deep ball from Hurts to Smith highlights Day 2 originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles held their second day of training camp practice and went a little longer on Thursday than they did on Day 1.

Thursday’s session was a little more evenly matched. We’ll get into some depth chart notes, the biggest plays of the game and even OL vs. DL drills.

Let’s get to it:

1. We’ll start off with some housekeeping. All three players on the Reserve/COVID-19 list — LB Alex Singleton, S Andrew Adams and DE Matt Leo — are still not practicing. Same goes for S Rodney McLeod and OT Le’Raven Clark on Active/PUP and OL Landon Dickerson on Active/NFI. McLeod looked good working out on a side field for the second straight day.

WR Travis Fulgham (lower body) was added to the injury report and was listed as day-to-day after being a full participant on Day 1. Also in that day-to-day group: WR Quez Watkins (non-COVID illness) and CB Shakial Taylor (lower body).

WR Jalen Reagor (lower body tightness) was limited on Thursday, as was Greg Ward Jr. (non-COVID illness), who missed Day 1. Starting left guard Isaac Seumalo is still listed as week to week with a hamstring injury.

During practice, starting right guard Brandon Brooks left with a hamstring injury. He walked off the field with a trainer into the medical tent and eventually inside. The Eagles said he was being evaluated for “precautionary” reasons. We’ll have to see how much time he misses.

2. Offensive depth chart notes:

• Without Seumalo or Brooks, the first-team guards were Nate Herbig (left) and Matt Pryor (right). It is slightly interesting that Pryor got the nod ahead of Sua Opeta.

• Jordan Mailata was up with the first team at left tackle on Thursday. He and Andre Dillard are in the middle of an important training camp battle. Yesterday was Dillard’s day up first and today was Mailata’s. More on them shortly.

• The first-team receivers on Thursday were DeVonta Smith, John Hightower and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside in the slot. Remember, the Eagles are dealing with a few injuries at the position.

• We saw some 12 personnel (two tight ends) on Thursday with Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert sharing the field.

3. Defensive depth chart notes:

The Eagles really mixed and match at a few different positions defensively on Thursday.

• An interesting change from Day 1 was that LB Eric Wilson worked with the second unit. Even when the team split fields — first team on one, second team on another — Wilson was with the twos. That left second-year linebacker Davion Taylor and Shaun Bradley out there with the ones and then T.J. Edwards mixed it.

• The Eagles also used Genard Avery, Joe Ostman and Patrick Johnson as the third linebacker on occasion as DC Jonathan Gannon tries to figure out what that off-ball linebacker/stand up rusher is going to look like.

• To start the team portion of practice, Anthony Harris was lining up with Marcus Epps as the top safeties instead of K’Von Wallace, who got all the first-team reps on Day 1. Wallace eventually rotated in.

• While Gannon didn’t want to call Josh Sweat vs. Derek Barnett a competition, Sweat was out there first with the 1s on Wednesday and Barnett got the nod with the 1s on Thursday.

• The top corners were still Darius Slay, Steve Nelson (he prefers Steve over Steven) and Avonte Maddox. Craig James got in there to spell Slay and Nelson, making it seem like he might be the next guy on the depth chart at outside corner.

4. The biggest play of the day came in 7-on-7s, when Jalen Hurts unleashed a beautiful deep ball down the left sideline to a streaking DeVonta Smith. Smith beat Nelson on a go route and Hurts hit him in stride for a ~60-yard touchdown. The offense was going toward the end zone closest to the NovaCare Complex building, which meant Smith scored directly in front of the select fans in attendance. It created the loudest cheer of the early summer and was the play everyone was talking about even after practice.

Unfortunately, there’s no video of it because it happened after reporters and photographers were no longer able to shoot. To make up for that, here’s a video from earlier of Hurts throwing to Smith.

5. Overall, Thursday was a much better day for the offense. Because on Day 1, it wasn’t close. The defense was way ahead, which isn’t uncommon early in training camps. But Lane Johnson even revealed that Nick Sirianni gives a nod to either the offense or defense after every practice. The defense got it on Wednesday and Lane was hoping for a win on Day 2.

If the Eagles’ offense got that win, then it was because Hurts looked much better today than yesterday. He was just more accurate and also got to show off his legs.

There was one play in particular where Hurts avoided a pass rush, scrambled and then fired a great pass on the run.

6. While most of the team went through 7-on-7 drills, the offensive and defensive lines had their 1-on-1 drills. It’s always my favorite thing to watch in practices. Here are a few notes from today:

• Because we’re hyperaware of the left tackle competition, I was watching how Mailata and Dillard faced the same guy. Barnett tried a spin move on Mailata, who shut him down immediately. But after that, Barnett beat Dillard twice. On one, Barnett got under Dillard, who got him in a head lock. Penalty. On the other, Barnett used a swim move and got around Dillard again. If we’re scoring this, point goes to Mailata.

• Nice rep from rookie Tarron Jackson against tackle Casey Tucker. I honestly haven’t seen much previously of Jackson, who played at Coastal Carolina, so it was a refreshing rep. He showed off some impressive bend, getting under the blocker around the edge.

• Brandon Graham is so fun to watch in these drills. He got around Lane Johnson on one move and then later, he demolished Tucker on a rep. That one was unfair.

• It’ll be fun to watch how Jack Driscoll deals with Ryan Kerrigan all training camp. For the most part, Kerrigan and Graham have been lining up at left defensive end, which means the No. 2 guy will see the No. 2 right tackle. That means a lot of Driscoll vs. Kerrigan. It’ll be a summer of learning for Driscoll, the second-year draft pick.

7. One obvious difference with this Nick Sirianni offense compared to the Doug Pederson offense is the constant motion pre-snap. That comes in handy, especially when the Eagles run an end-around to Smith like they did on Thursday. Smith lined up on the left side of the field and swooped right to get around the edge. Between their running backs, Hurts’ ability to run and the possibility of these types of end arounds and reverses, the Eagles’ offense has some options. They’ll definitely give defenses things to think about.

8. There’s a battle at the end of the depth chart at running back but Kerryon Johnson really caught my eye on Thursday. With the second team in team drills, Johnson took a handoff from Joe Flacco and made a very impressive cut. He looked springy, which is a good sign, especially for a running back with well-documented knee injuries in his past. Johnson is just 24 but I really wondered what he had left in those knees. It was just one play but this showed me something and it apparently showed his teammates something too; they all dapped him up after the play. I already thought Johnson was the frontrunner for that last running back spot and nothing I’ve seen in the first two days has changed that.

9. I saw a few bubble screens on Thursday, which was a good sign. One went to Smith and a couple went to Goedert. The screen game was only a part of Pederson’s offense when things were going well, but it wasn’t consistent. I think Sirianni is going to feature them more often in 2021. As long as the OL is healthy, the Eagles should be a good screen team. They have the horses to get out front and block.

10. Every new coaching staff implements new drills and strategies and we’re seeing that already with Sirianni and his staff. For instance, here’s a pole with a boxing glove on the end of it to emphasize ball security.

But this was a new one for me: After practice was over, like they broke the huddle and everything, there was more practice. While veterans like Jason Kelce broke off to go hold his baby, the bottom of the roster players lined back up and ran more 7-on-7 and OL-DL drills. The Eagles are calling it a “developmental” period. It’s a good idea; get the guys who need some extra work more work and don’t make the Jason Kelce-level players sit around and watch. Typically, some players stay late to work on things, but it's not normally this structured.

Stupid Observation of the Day: During special teams drills, long snapper rick Lovato helped out by fielding kicks deep. He caught every one that came to him and looked pretty smooth doing it. Hey, if the Eagles ever get in a real bind …

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