Eagles Camp Day 9 Observations: It's Hitting Season

As the Eagles returned to the field on Wednesday after an off day, the pads were back on.

And they hit each other!
 
For the first time since the 2012 training camp at Lehigh, the Eagles actually had some live periods of tackle football during training camp. Wednesday was by far the most exciting day of this training camp so far.
 
That’s where we’ll start:

• The first live period started with Kenjon Barner getting tackled after a short gain. On the next play, he ran a wheel route and beat Deontae Skinner. Barner caught the ball and went all the way for a 75-yard touchdown catch off the hand of Sam Bradford.

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• The most exciting part of the live portion of practice was the goal line drill. The first-team offense got into the end zone on three of four tries. The first-team defense stopped the second-team defense two of three times. And the third-team offense got in once against the third-team defense.

• The goal line drills are so exciting because of all the trash talking and yelling. Offense vs. defense in a battle for an inch. Here’s a recap of every snap during the goal line drills:

• Barner draw left, with Chris Pantale at fullback, touchdown.
• Sam Bradford rolls right and hits Barner, touchdown.
• Bradford rolls left, throws back right to Zach Ertz in the end zone, touchdown.
• Barner draw up the middle, stuffed by Marcus Smith, among others.
• Cedric O’Neal draw middle, stopped by Vinny Curry and Bennie Logan.
• O’Neal draw, stopped by Brandon Graham.
• Chase Daniel perfect throw to Trey Burton in the corner of the end zone, over Mychal Kendricks, touchdown.
• Carson Wentz throws behind Burton, but he catches it and slides in, touchdown.
• Wentz throws a quick out to Jordan Matthews, who drops the ball. Should have been a TD.
• Byron Marshall tackled in the backfield by Mike Martin.
 
• Rookie running back Wendell Smallwood missed practice Wednesday because of a quad strain, but it doesn’t sound too serious. He was seen walking around the building earlier in the day. Wideout Hunter Sharp left practice early with a trainer, holding his right hamstring.
 
Brandon Brooks (hamstring) and Ryan Mathews (ankle) were still not practicing. They have yet to hit the field during training camp.

• It was a shame Smallwood missed practice on Wednesday, because running backs did a pass protection drill, which would have told us a ton about him. Smallwood wasn’t asked to pick up blitzes in college, so we don’t know how his pass pro will be. It’s a big key to his finding a way on the field this year.
 
As far as the guys who were at practice, Darren Sproles is impressive. Despite his small stature, he’s pretty stout and is a good blocker. It’s a part of his game that’s often overlooked. Barner did well too. The biggest surprise, though, was rookie Byron Marshall from Oregon, who did extremely well in the drill, much to the delight of running backs coach Duce Staley.

• Pantale and Burton worked with the running backs on the drill too. Both are getting a shot to prove they can be fullbacks in the offense. Pantale even worked with the first-team on the goal line drill and held his own.

• Play of the day belonged to undrafted rookie Cayleb Jones from Arizona. Before Wednesday, he had been having a relatively quiet camp, but he made up for it with a spectacular catch. Chase Daniel originally dropped the ball, but picked it up and heaved it about 50 yards downfield into the end zone, where Jones sprawled out like Superman and grabbed the ball with one hand. Forget Wednesday, this was the best play of camp so far.

• Wentz update: Saw a great timing throw from the rookie to recently signed David Watford. It was a perfect back shoulder throw from Wentz during 11-on-11s.

• At one point during 11-on-11s, Brent Celek – who is still an absolute tank – caught a pass and lowered his head into safety Jaylen Watkins. It created a sound loud enough to elicit plenty of “ooohs!” from those watching. Celek remembers those old Andy Reid practices. He got a chance to get back to hitting on Wednesday.

• The reason we saw so much goal line work on Wednesday is because the offense installed the goal line package on Monday before the break. Without a defense, we did see a wrinkle. At times, the offense had a tackle line up as a tight end, giving the team and extra tackle. It’s not uncommon in the NFL to do this in goal line situations, but it’s worth noting. Rookie Halapoulavaati Vaitai filled the role this time.

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