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July 28, 2017

Eagles 2017 training camp practice notes, Day 5

Eagles NFL
072817AlshonJeffery Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Eagles wideout Alshon Jeffery.

The first "real" day of training camp is in the books, as the entire roster had its first full day of practice. To my knowledge, the Eagles had perfect attendance. Here's what I saw:

Torrey Smith had a really solid day catching the football and then getting yards after the catch. There was nothing spectacular from him. He didn't haul in any bombs down the sideline or make any acrobatic catches, but he ran good routes and was able to get away from defenders once he had the ball in his hands.

Earlier this offseason, we compiled video of all of Smith's targets last season. There's no way to sugarcoat it. Smith's 2016 season stunk. Two of the areas where he was particularly bad was catching the football (drops), and that he rarely got yards after the catch.

In reviewing all of Smith's targets, by my count, he had seven drops and only 20 catches. That means that he dropped seven of just 27 catchable balls, or 25.9 percent. Somehow, that's worse than any of the Eagles' receivers were a year ago. I even forgave some of the close ones, as in, I didn't count them as drops.

As for yards after the catch, he did not have a single broken tackle on the entire season and was only able to muster 58 total yards after the catch. That's an average of 2.9 yards after the catch. 25 of his yards after catch were on a play in which the Bills didn't cover him at all, and he ran in for an easy TD. Take out that one long play, and he had 33 yards after the catch on 19 catches, or an average of 1.7 yards after the catch. That's not good, obviously.

We only bring up Smith's bad 2016 season because he has not looked like that same player so far throughout OTAs, minicamp, and (admittedly) the first day of camp. He has had sure hands and looks far more capable of getting yards after the catch than he did a year ago.

• It's really such a big difference watching rookies practice for three days and then seeing Alshon Jeffery on the field. It's night and day, as Jeffery is so much bigger than everyone. He's very clearly the alpha dog of the wide receiver group (duh). 

Today, Carson Wentz found Jeffery on a tight window throw in between several defenders for a completion on a slant. Later in practice, Wentz threw what I thought was a good ball on a back shoulder jawn, which Jeffery had to reach way back for and almost made an amazing one-handed grab. (To note, I say it was a "good ball" and "had to reach way back for it" in the same sentence because I thought the timing was maybe a little off, and Wentz expected Jeffery to turn sooner than he did.)

I fully expect back shoulder throws from Wentz to Jeffery to be a major theme throughout camp, and into the regular season.

• I believe the hype surrounding Nelson Agholor's offseason has been a little over-the-top at times. While he has looked better this year, he has had his share of drops, and let's be real -- he's facing some very questionable corners.

Still, I thought he made a couple of noteworthy plays today. On one play, he snatched a pass with his hands in the middle of the field, then immediately ducked under a defender coming from behind him (not in his line of vision) and got some yards after the catch. Later, he caught a pass on the sideline while facing the quarterback, and was being closed in on by Douglas, who was not in his line of vision. Agholor gave a little fake to the inside, then ran around Douglas to the outside up against the sideline. On those two plays, I thought Agholor looked what scouts call "twitchy."

On the down side, on a slant, Agholor was trying to catch a pass that was a little over his head in traffic, but he could not bring it in. While it was not an egregious drop, you'd prefer he make that kind of catch.

• Wentz was sharp today. There was nothing flashy, as I didn't see any "wow throws." But he was very accurate, hitting receivers in the hands, taking what the defense gave him.

Nick Foles had a brutal day. Early in practice, he missed a streaking Shelton Gibson down the sideline on a play in which Gibson gained a lot of separation. That should have been a touchdown, but Foles underthrew it, giving the DB a chance to break up the play. Later, Foles was picked off by Aaron Grymes on a pass that was behind his receiver. And finally, Foles threw a little swing pass to Donnel Pumphrey that should have been picked off and taken to the house by Rasul Douglas, who dropped it.

On a side note, Douglas showed very good awareness on that play, reading what the offense was trying to do and decisively jumping the route, but he has to finish. The "finishing" part is less of a concern, as you don't lead the NCAA in picks if you can't catch.

• Throughout OTAs, minicamp, and the first few days of camp, we've noted most days that Gibson has struggled mightily with drops. That happened once again today. However, as noted above, he did gain quite a bit of separation on the deep ball Foles underthrew, and there was a play later in practice in which he forced a defensive pass interference call deep down the sideline.

While he didn't make catches on either play, it was at least encouraging to see him get open deep down the field, which is why the Eagles drafted him. Still, he has a loooooooong way to go.

• 2016 undrafted free agent David Watford smoked a corner on a deep ball down the sideline for a TD after a double move, to the delight of the fans in attendance. The problem? The corner was starter Patrick Robinson. That's not ideal.

• We had our first training camp injury. On a play in which he got tangled up with Paul Turner (I think), UDFA CB Randall Goforth was writhing in pain on the ground, holding his right knee. It later didn't look as bad, as he was helped off with a limp.

• We fired up the Periscope again today, capturing Caleb Sturgis kicking field goals. It was scintillating:

Sturgis went 7/8, good from 32, 34, 39, 41, 42, 45, and 48. He missed wide right from 48.

• Tyler Orlosky changed his number from 51 to 76, Allen Barbre's old number. Is this noteworthy? Maybe. It's kind of rare for an undrafted guy to change numbers. At a minimum, the equipment guy had to stitch Orlosky's name onto a new jersey, so there's some level of effort there. Typically, I would think they'd just say, "Shut up, undrafted guy. We're not changing your number." But maybe Orlosky has some juice. (To be clear, I'm not being sarcastic.)

• Tomorrow's practice will be at Lincoln Financial Field, and is free for anyone who wishes to attend.


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