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July 24, 2017

Eagles 2017 training camp practice notes, Day 1

Eagles training camp is back! Well, sort of. The team in its entirety isn't here yet, but the official start of 2017 Eagles camp began on Monday morning, with quarterbacks, rookies and select vets participating.

There wasn't a ton of action today. That will ramp up in a few days, but here's what I saw from the players who were here.

• Early in practice, Carson Wentz threw a near-perfect deep ball down the middle of the field to Mack Hollins, who was running a deep post. Drop. The ball glanced off Hollins' hands, incomplete, though he did beat corner Mitchell White on the play. No true Eagles season can start without a dropped pass.

• Hollins did regroup and have quite a strong day otherwise, making a number of reasonably difficult hands catches. Hollins beat Rasul Douglas on an out route, in which Douglas recovered nicely and was able to slap at the ball as Hollins was catching it, but Hollins was able to hang on. He also made a nice grab in the middle of the end zone on a bullet pass that whizzed by linebacker Nate Gerry.

The one route that impressed me today from Hollins was a comeback. If that's a route that he can develop, he'll have a nice counter to his deep route skills. In college, Hollins averaged 20.6 yards per catch as a deep threat in North Carolina's offense. If opposing defensive backs respect a receiver's deep ball ability, an easy counter to that skill is running comebacks. 

But it's easier said than done. On a comeback today, Hollins was running full speed, stuck his foot in the dirt, and quickly turned back for the ball, leaving a lot of distance between himself and the corner in coverage. That's a gimme throw for a quarterback, and even the best quarterbacks need the occasional gimme throw. Hollins may have a nice one-two punch with his deep ball skills and comeback skills.

• Douglas had a decent day. In the red zone, he showed his press skills, easily smothering former West Virginia teammate Shelton Gibson.

• During the spring, Gibson struggled mightily with drops. That has continued into the first day of training camp.

• Rookie running back Donnel Pumphrey caught a ton of balls today, lined up all over the formation. Pumphrey had the most catches of any player on the team today, by a mile. Pumphrey was very active during spring practices, and that carried over into the first day of camp.

To be determined if the Eagles are just working him a ton to see what he can do, or if they intend on using him quite a bit in games that matter.

• Undrafted rookie free agent Greg Ward had a great first day of camp. He made an acrobatic one-handed grab in the end zone, and then later improvised with Matt McGloin on a broken play to find space in the corner of the end zone for a full-speed toe-tap TD catch. Ward played wide receiver when he first got to the University of Houston, then played quarterback, and is now playing receiver in the pros. Even with his history as a receiver early in his college career, his transition from quarterback to receiver has been impressive.

• One player who was picking up a little hype during the slow period after having a nice spring was 2016 UDFA WR Marcus Johnson. He did not have a good day, dropping multiple passes.

• As we noted he likely would last week, notable undrafted free agent center Tyler Orlosky practiced today after missing the entirety of OTAs and minicamp with a strained MCL.

• The news of the day in Doug Pederson's post-practice press conference was that Jordan Hicks will be limited in practice when veterans join the rookies and quarterbacks later this week. Pederson said that Hicks broke a bone in his hand.

• Do you think Philadelphia is a football town? There were at least 70 (maybe 80?) media people in attendance at a practice where only 34 players participated.

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