August 02, 2017
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles were in full pads, and tackled to the ground. They will do the same tomorrow on Thursday. And so, Wednesday was something of a sandwich day in between two tough practices here at training camp, so the team took something of a breather, practicing in shells and shorts for the first time in a while. Still, there was action worth noting today.
• After a day in which the offense dominated, the defense bounced back and was much more competitive, making a slew of plays on the football, as both sides did extensive work in the red zone.
• C.J. Smith has gotten substantial work with the first team defense, and is legitimately challenging Patrick Robinson for a starting job, absent the acquisition of another cornerback outside the organization. Jim Schwartz said he was very encouraged by the play of Smith so far.
Today Smith had some good moments and some bad. He was beaten a few times in red zone drills by Nelson Agholor, though Agholor made some legitimately nice plays on the football. We'll get to those in a second. On the bright side, Smith made a had a nice pass breakup on a deep post way down the field to Mack Hollins. He was also able to stick to Zach Ertz like a glove in the red zone and break up a pass intended for him.
• As noted, Agholor beat Smith a few times in the red zone for touchdowns. On one play, he skied high in the air in the back of the end zone for a Wentz bullet, then kept his feet in. That was a really nice hands catch that earned a rare "Nice catch Nelly!" from defensive backs coach Cory Undlin. Agholor also had a nice toe-tap catch in the back corner of the end zone vs. Smith.
But there was also some bad. Agholor had a bad drop in the back of the end zone. The nice plays are fine and good, but there are still plenty of drops. Agholor is flashing, but he is not consistent.
• Aaron Grymes made a really nice play on Agholor in the red zone. Agholor ran a double move that didn't fool Grymes for a second. He stayed right with Agholor, and was in excellent position to make a play on the football, grabbing an interception. Grymes has mostly played in the slot, and he has had another nice camp, like he did a year ago. He could challenge Ron Brooks for a "starting" role as the nickel.
• After an iffy week of training camp, I thought Rasul Douglas had a nice day in a red zone-heavy practice. He had a nice pass breakup trailing David Watford on a drag route, as well as smothering coverage on Torrey Smith on a fade.
In golf, they say you "drive for show, putt for dough." That same theory can be applied to football to some degree. You can be a great offense in between the 20's, but if you can't punch it into the end zone inside the 20, you're not going to score many points. Conversely, defensively, you can give up yards all day between the 20's, but if you tighten up in the red zone, you can be a successful defense.
While we've noted that Douglas does not have good long speed and may be susceptible to the deep ball, he does have outstanding length and instincts, which should serve him well in the red zone.
• Torrey Smith probably had the catch of the day, snagging a one-handed grab on a ball that whizzed past UDFA CB Jomal Wiltz, who actually had good position on the play, but did not see the ball. Jordan Matthews, had a few nice grabs as well, including a nice foot drag (a little too late) in the back corner of the end zone.
• We don't often mention Brent Celek, but he had a nice day. His highlight came on a tight window throw in between Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills, one of whom got a hand on the ball before Celek was able to make a nice juggling concentration catch.
• Another day, another egregious drop from Shelton Gibson, this time in the end zone. Bryce Treggs had a bad drop as well, though he's had a nice camp so far.
• As we've noted, this was a shells and shorts practice, so we have little in the way of offensive and defensive line notes. We'll have more of those tomorrow. However, I would like to point out Tim Jernigan's belly, which he is proud to show off to the world, as he hikes his shirt up basically to his chest. You can't even see his number most of the time. With the combination of his gold grill, and exposed belly, Jernigan has a good intimidating look at DT.
Oh, and he's also had a really good camp so far.
• The other lineman note that I have today is that Dillon Gordon got some reps today in the red zone as the fullback. That role went to Beau Allen last year, who is out for an undetermined amount of time with a pectoral injury.
• I have one last sobering point to make. Even with a good, bounce-back day from the corners, on two consecutive plays in the red zone, Trey Burton made contested catches against Mills and Robinson. It's not as if Burton is a 6'6, 270 pound tight end who caught a pass over the heads of the corners. He's 6'3, 235, and both receptions were on roughly shoulder-high throws. Mills and Robinson both had reasonably decent coverage, but Burton was still able to make the play.
Mills and Robinson entered camp as the starting corners. You expect starting corners to be able to bat down passes within their reach against a No. 3 tight end.
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