Eagles Camp Day 11 Observations: More Hitting and a Diving Catch

The Eagles had the pads on again on Friday and even went live (tackling to the ground).

But at the rate they’re going, they might not have enough players left to field a team by Thursday’s preseason opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On Friday, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz, Mike Martin and Marcus Smith all left practice early. And Jason Peters, Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll and Wendell Smallwood were all still out (see story).

We’ll start there:

• So Brandon Brooks and Ryan Mathews returned to practice on Friday, but both were limited. Both Matthews and Ertz were hit low, which is somewhat troubling. At what point do the negatives of hitting in practice outweigh the positives? Well, we’re not there yet. Head coach Doug Pederson is still a proponent of training camp hitting despite the injuries.
• With Jenkins (hamstring) still out and with Rodney McLeod away from the team because of a death in the family, the safeties were a little light on Friday. Ed Reynolds and Jaylen Watkins started out as the starters, while Chris Maragos and Blake Countess worked their way in. Watkins was really good in coverage on Friday, but his tackling left a little to be desired.
• The live 11-on-11 period on Friday happened with the offense backed up around the goal line. Early on, when the second-team offense was against the first-team defense, Leodis McKelvin broke on a Chase Daniel pass to Nelson Agholor. McKelvin caught the ball and high-stepped into the end zone for an easy pick-6.
The defense, overall, looked pretty good during this drill. A few times defenders made nice stops short of the first-down marker, a couple times getting a safety.
Perhaps the best play from the offense came on a Matthews slant. Bradford hit him in stride for a first down. Ertz also caught a diving pass. A couple bad false starts from the offense, too. Agholor had one and so did rookie OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai.
• There were two solid hits from linebackers during the drill. One came from Deontae Skinner on Kenjon Barner and the other was from Jordan Hicks on Barner. The Hicks one was close to the sideline and the sound it made was incredible. There’s nothing as exhilarating or as terrifying as two NFL players colliding full-force a few feet away.  
• Cayleb Jones did it again. The undrafted rookie wide receiver out of Arizona caught a ball while diving on a post route off the hand of Carson Wentz. Jalen Mills had the coverage but had no chance.
“I guess the way it was thrown was perfect,” Jones said. “I was just able to go and get it.”
Jones, who stands at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds, said that with his size, he loves the deep ball and said it’s a go-to of his. While Friday’s catch was pretty good, it was nowhere near as spectacular as the catch he made on Wednesday. That one was a diving one-hander in the end zone. Jones had a chance to re-live his big catch from Wednesday on tape.
“That was pretty cool. It was a good feeling,” he said. “You never really know. The crazy thing with film is when you think things look great, they don’t. When you think things don’t, they do. It was really cool to be able to see it in slow motion.”
• Countess will probably get a talking-to for going low and injuring Matthews, as he probably should. But I’ve been really impressed with the way the sixth-rounder tackles. At 5-10, 184 pounds, Countess is the smallest player on the team, but he’s not afraid to toss his body around to make a play. Saw it a few times on Friday. Countess also jumped a route and had a big interception during an 11-on-11 drill.
• In an 11-on-11 portion of practice later in the day, the first-team defense again got a crack at the mostly second-team offense and it wasn’t fair. Fletcher Cox likely didn’t even feel Barrett Jones, who tried to block him very unsuccessfully. Cox got into the backfield for a tackle for loss. Shortly after that, Bennie Logan was in the backfield and tossed running back Cedric O’Neal like a rag doll.

• Chase Daniel had his second rough day in a row. Early on in the spring and in camp, he looked pretty sharp. Just a theory, but it’s possible he looked better then because his grasp of the offense was so much greater than the other two quarterbacks. Maybe now that’s why Bradford and Wentz seem to be separating themselves a little bit.
Or it could just be a bad couple of days. Either way, it’s worth watching.
• Two guys no one’s talking about who have a shot to make the roster: DE Steven Means and CB Denzel Rice. Both were on the 53-man roster toward the end of last year, but their names haven’t appeared on many roster predictions. Means continues to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage and every time I see Rice, he has tight coverage on someone.  

• Caleb Sturgis is human as evidenced by his hitting the upright with a kick on Friday. That might be the first field goal I’ve seen him miss in camp. Cody Parkey again had a rougher day. To me, at least before games, it looks like Sturgis is way ahead of Parkey in that competition.

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• The light 10-10-10 practice that the team will have on Saturday morning is much-needed. Time for the players to lick their wounds a little bit and prevent injuries for a day. They’ll have two more days of practice on Sunday and Monday before the second off day of training camp on Tuesday. They’re less than a week away from the preseason opener against the Bucs.

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