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August 20, 2023

Eagles 2023 training camp practice notes, Day 14: A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are an elite duo

What did Jimmy see at Eagles practice on Sunday?

Day 14 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is in the books, and it was a fun day. The boys were in shells and shorts (not full pads), but it was pretty much pass plays all day (mostly 11-on-11's), as you could probably count the number of handoffs on one hand. Let's get right to the notes.

A.J. Brown caught passes on the first three plays, and continued to be active throughout the rest of the day. DeVonta Smith also made a number of impressive catches.

  1. In the red zone, he caught a high laser that Jalen Hurts fit through a tight window, and was able to keep his feet in bounds in the back of the end zone.
  2. He had a nasty comeback route, getting a lot of separation while working against Josh Jobe.
  3. He extended up and away from his body to bring in another heater from Hurts on a slant.

And, of course, as usual Dallas Goedert got his share as well. His best catch of the day was on an out route. Christian Elliss had good coverage on the play and may have even gotten a couple of fingers on the ball but Goedert caught it anyway. Good concentration catch. In the Zach Ertz days, Ertz might only have a drop or two all of camp. Goedert has had that kind of camp this year.

There isn't a better WR1-WR2-TE trio in the NFL than Brown, Smith, and Goedert, and it probably isn't close.

We should also probably mention that Hurts had a great day today as well. He was on time, and accurate.

• The play of the day was made by Olamide Zaccheaus, who was able to make a catch just outside the hashes while diving and simultaneous being interfered with by Terrell Edmunds. That catch got a rise out of the players on the sideline, with shouts of "O.Z.!!!"

Nakobe Dean has come on of late. Today he had a nice pass breakup on a pass intended for Goedert, who ran a 5-10 yard sit route. Dean sniffed it out, broke on it, and made the play. It looked like Goedert might've gotten a hand on it or it might've been an INT.

• In watching the linebackers today, it struck me that Zach Cunningham has long arms. I looked up his Combine measurements, and it checked out.

He's 6'3 with 34 3/8" arms. He's been able to get his hands into passing lanes, and that's probably a good reason why. By comparison, Dean is 5'11 with 31 7/8" arms. Cunningham got most of the first-team reps opposite Dean today, with Elliss mixing in. In my opinion, Cunningham is in the lead to start at linebacker Week 1.

• The other linebacker the Eagles signed along with Cunningham was Myles Jack. He retired today. Jack was struggling and could probably see that he wasn't going to make the team. 

Terrell Edmunds, Justin Evans, and Sydney Brown all got first-team reps at safety today. If K'Von Wallace did as well, I didn't notice that. 

Darius Slay had great coverage on a deep ball to Smith on one rep. Smith ran a double move, but Slay didn't bite and stayed stride for stride with Smith down the field, causing an incompletion.

• Interestingly, Devon Allen got a few first-team reps. I didn't think he took advantage. He had chance at a deep ball down the right sideline, and he had the speed to get there, but looked like he had difficulty tracking it and didn't make the play. He also had a drop in the middle of the field. 

Because the Eagles aren't very deep at outside receiver, there was opportunity for someone to shine and make the team as a sixth receiver, but I don't think we've seen that guy. It looked like Joseph Ngata might be that guy for a while, but he hasn't done much in the games. Tyrie Cleveland had some moments in the games, but he got hurt. As for Allen, I think that missing the first week-plus of camp with a calf injury sustained while training for track events hurt his chances of making the team. Allen is a world class athlete, but unless you're Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson, football is too hard to be a sport you "also" play at the pro level.

Avonte Maddox had a sack while blitzing from his slot position. Got home in a heartbeat. Maddox has been in the NFL for five seasons, and I've been waiting for a defensive coordinator to finally let Maddox get his share of blitzes. He was good at blitzing in college, as he had four sacks his final season at Pitt.

• Yesterday we mentioned Nolan Smith taking mental reps during special teams drills while he was hurt. It has also been fun watching Sydney Brown during special teams reps. He doesn't have an off switch. He's full tilt at all times. You may have noticed that Brown was usually the first guy down the field on the kick coverage units, and none of his teammates were particularly close.

• If you'll recall if you're reading these practice notes every day, there was a practice earlier in camp in which Hurts got scolded by Nick Sirianni for not handing the ball to the official after sliding during a "rush the field goal unit onto the field" situation.

Today, the field goal team got screamed at by Sirianni for running out onto the field after Hurts had gotten a first down. The regular offense hustled up to the line to spike it while the field goal unit was still on the field.

In fairness to the special teams units, there are no first down sticks to clearly indicate if Hurts had gotten the first down or not, so I'm not so sure Sirianni's berating of them was super warranted, but I can certainly appreciate him being a stickler about situational football.

• After practice was over, some positional players got an opportunity to try some PATs. It did not go well, lol. 

Honestly, as a former Eagles media kicking champion 🏆 (whatever, no big deal), I'd like my chances in a kick-off against any of those guys.

• Brandon Gowton and I will have post-practice podcasts throughout training camp. They'll populate below a few hours after we publish our notes. And here's the iTunes link. Review, subscribe, etc.

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