August 12, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles were back out on the practice fields Saturday morning after their first preseason game on Thursday, and they had several "live" sessions in which they tackled to the ground. As always, we have notes.
• It's clear that newcomer Corey Graham is going to have a legitimate role on the Eagles' defense this season. He played nickel corner with the first team defense today with Ron Brooks out. Graham made several plays, knifing through traffic and making tackles in the run game. He also timed out a blitz nicely and "sacked" Carson Wentz.
• The other newly acquired defensive back, Ronald Darby, was in attendance, but he did not practice.
• We don't often mention the Eagles' best players in practice notes, mostly because everyone already knows what they can do. However, I will just note today that Jordan Hicks had a great practice. He batted a pass at the line of scrimmage, he had a quick-reaction interception in the red zone, he had a nice pass breakup of a throw intended for Zach Ertz, and he had a pair of big hits on ball carriers. One of Hicks' victims was Mack Hollins, who took a high hit from Hicks and appeared a little woozy after the play, but continued to practice.
• I've praised rookie linebacker Nate Gerry often in our practice observations, noting that I don't believe it would be a big dropoff from Mychal Kendricks to Gerry if the Eagles decided to trade Kendricks. Another linebacker who has impressed me has been Kamu Grugier-Hill. Like Gerry, Grugier-Hill was a safety in college who converted to linebacker. The Eagles have untested depth at linebacker, but there's room for optimism there.
• Donnel Pumphrey had a fumble today. He was popped by Steven Daniels. In the game on Thursday, Pumphrey muffed a punt. It's maybe a little early to wonder if the Eagles can trust him on the field yet in games that matter, but better ball security would be preferable.
I also watched Pumphrey a little in one-on-one blocking drills. He's at a disadvantage there because of his small, skinny frame, but he doesn't lack effort. He looks to attack blitzers, but he's nowhere near as effective as Darren Sproles in that area yet.
• One off-the-radar player who has looked decent in coverage has been former CFL guy Mitchell White. He missed at least three tackles today.
• One player I've noted a few times as not having stood out in any way yet is second-year defensive end Alex McCalister. He's been better recently. He had a sack in the game on Thursday, and looked good in one-on-one drills today, rushing outside against Taylor Hart initially, then hitting him with a good speed-to-power rush once Hart had to respect his speed to the outside.
• I still haven't seen much of anything from Vinny Curry. He's been very quiet. All through camp, Curry has been with the first team offense, but with the impressive showing by rookie Derek Barnett on Thursday, I wonder how long it will be before Barnett or Chris Long takes his job. We'll also note here that Long beat Matt Tobin in the live session like a rented mule.
• Greg Ward made a few short catches today. There wasn't much to report on from him today, but he is now in an excellent position to make the team. I had him making the team on my most recent 53-man roster projection as the seventh receiver. With Jordan Matthews now out of the way, it will be easier for the Eagles to keep Ward while not going light at some other position.
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