Updating Eagles Position Battles After 8 Days of Training Camp

Before training camp started, I broke down five key Eagles position battles to watch this summer: Nickel cornerthird safetyweakside linebackerrunning back and defensive line.  

We updated the battles after the first four days of training camp (see story).

Time for another update: 

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Nickel corner

7/31: Sidney Jones gets first-team reps and looks good, but De'Vante Bausby picks off a Nick Foles pass in the end zone to end a good drive from the first-team offense. D.J. Killings misses practice with an undisclosed injury and works out on the side. 

8/1: Bausby is back with the first team in the slot and has one particularly great rep against Nelson Agholor, where he held his coverage for an extended time. Jones worked with the second team defense as an outside corner and just seems too talented to be with the twos. He had absolute blanket coverage on Kamar Aiken on one rep. Killings practices after missing the previous day. 

8/2: For the first time this summer, we see someone other than Jones or Bausby as the first-team nickel. Jalen Mills slides inside on nickel downs and get replaced by Jones outside. This has been an option - it's what I'd do - but this is the first we've seen of it. Bausby had a rough time during 1-on-1s against quick and shifty receivers like Rashard Davis. 

8/3: Jones is back in the slot. This is the fourth time in camp he's been there. Bausby gets work with the second team and gets in a little scuffle with rookie receiver Anthony Mahoungou. Not much, just a little facemask grab from Bausby, who has a nasty streak on the field. 

Updated prediction: One way or another, Jones will be on the field. Seeing Mills move in on Thursday just makes sense to me. Mills can handle sliding in and out and that would leave Jones outside, where he's more comfortable. 

Weakside linebacker

7/31: Nate Gerry gets first team reps at WILL, but Kamu Grugier-Hill works in. Jordan Hicks is getting some reps outside when they bring Joe Walker in with the first team. Jim Schwartz says this is just training camp cross training. 

8/1: For the second straight day, Gerry gets first-team reps at WILL. Maybe he has a slight advantage. 

8/2: Gerry seemed to get first-team reps, but Grugier-Hill really stands out. He makes several plays throughout the day, including one to break up a pass to veteran tight end Richard Rodgers in the back of the end zone. Not necessarily the WILL, but worth noting that Walker is the fourth LB in when the team goes with four at the goal line.  

8/3: Again, Gerry gets first-team reps at the WILL. Doug Pederson gets asked about Grugier-Hill and says KGH has been excellent and they can plug him in at WILL. But he also says he's a "tremendous four core special teams player" and that role is going to continue. 

Updated prediction: I thought KGH was going to win this job. He still has a shot, but I have Gerry in the lead. I've been disappointed to not see more of Nelson. 

Running back 

7/31: Donnel Pumphrey has his best day of the last two years. He gets extended reps and shines in the tackles and outside as his competition watches. Josh Adams misses practice with an undisclosed injury and Matt Jones leaves early with a lower-body injury. 

8/1: Adams was back on the practice field and had his best day in an Eagles uniform. He looked good between the tackles and caught touchdown passes in the red zone in the flat on back-to-back plays. Pumphrey continued his good play with another strong day. Sproles looked quick on a quick pitch in the red zone. Smallwood had a good play where he ran over a linebacker. Jones misses practice. 

8/2: Matt Jones comes out for the start of practice, but goes in very early and it looks like he can't get his leg feeling good. Corey Clement gets the first rep on the goal line and punches it into the end zone. Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood get plenty of work at the goal line. Smallwood never sees the end zone, but at least Adams gets in. 

8/3: Jones misses practice. Adams looks good with the second and third team. After practice, Adams says he feels completely healthy now after stress fracture in spring. 

Updated prediction: I think Jones might be out now if the Eagles keep four running backs. If I had to guess, I'd pencil in Pumphrey for that last spot. The preseason games will tell us a lot; he was awful there last year. 

Defensive line

7/31: Michael Bennett and Haloti Ngata begin to get worked in with the first team during drives when Fletcher Cox and Chris Long come out. Josh Sweat pulls off an incredible move against fellow rookie Jordan Mailata, where Mailata doesn't even touch him. Steven Means has another sack with the threes. 

8/1: Bennett and Ngata get worked in with the ones for the second consecutive day. Destiny Vaeao, who has been working as the starting DT next to Fletcher Cox, has a great 1-on-1 win against Chance Warmack. Vaeao bull-rushes him and puts Warmack on his butt. 

8/2: Haloti Ngata gets a veteran rest day. Bennett and Aziz Shittu combine for a monster play by the goal line to stop Smallwood behind the line of scrimmage. Bennett and Chris Long also get into a little scuffle with Rodgers. Josh Sweat gets hurt on goal line drills and leaves early. 

8/3: Ngata is back at practice with the second team. Josh Sweat misses practice with a "lower body" injury. First team is the same, but at some points they go with a heavier pass rush: Chris Long, Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Derek Barnett. That's scary. 

Updated prediction: We're still a long way from the opener, but it looks like Vaeao isn't going to give up that starting job and I expect Tim Jernigan to miss the beginning of the season. We've been seeing Bennett inside some this week; I think we see a lot of that this season. 

Third safety 

7/31: Tre Sullivan gets on the field with three safeties. 

8/1: Again, Sullivan works when the team goes into three safeties, this time near the goal line. He's way in the lead. The interesting thing is that Stephen Roberts got some second-team snaps next to Sullivan. Previously, it was only Jeremy Reaves with the twos. Reaves had a really rough day in coverage, getting beat a few times. 

8/2: Sullivan is still way in the lead, getting reps when the team has three safeties on the field. Undrafted rookie Ryan Neal made an incredible interception during 7-on-7s. The ball that was tipped by the receiver, which changed its trajectory, but Neal stuck with it and made a diving one-handed catch. 

8/3: Sullivan is the first guy up again after the starters. 

Updated prediction: At this point, Sullivan's biggest competition isn't on the roster. It's Corey Graham, who remains unsigned. That's still something to watch. 

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