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August 03, 2023

Eagles 2023 training camp practice notes, Day 5: Added responsibilities for Nolan Smith?

What Jimmy Kempski saw in the Eagles' fifth training camp practice.

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6.1.23_Eagles-Jalen-Carter-Nolan-Smith_ColleenClaggett-9684.jpg Colleen Claggett/For PhillyVoice

Eagles rookies Jalen Carter (98) and Nolan Smith (3)

Day 5 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is in the books, and the boys were in shells and shorts (no pads) on Thursday after the first padded practice of camp on Tuesday. Still, it was an eventful day.

• I think the starting point for the practice notes today is that there were some players playing new positions.

Tyler Steen played LT on the second-team offensive line today, Dennis Kelly moved from LT to LG, and Sua Opeta moved from LG to RG.

Steen is the notable change here, of course. Has the team decided that Cam Jurgens has more or less already won the camp battle for the starting RG spot, so they may as well get some reps for Steen at tackle in addition to guard to increase his versatility as a backup? 🤔

The more interesting positional observation is that first-round rookie Nolan Smith got some reps at off-ball linebacker. There's little doubt that Smith has the athleticism to play off-ball linebacker, and certainly the Eagles are short on depth there, but do they want to distract from his development on the edge, which of course is the far more important position but one where the Eagles have incredible depth?

It's probably worth noting that Nakobe Dean made a trip to the medical tent today. Jeff McLane of the Inquirer says he's fine.

To be clear, Smith got a very small handful of reps at off-ball linebacker. It will be interesting to see if he gets more of them as camp progresses, or if it was merely a matter of just letting him fill in for one practice for the injured Dean.

• Steen and Smith had a bunch of battles on the edge today. On a run play, Steen cleared Smith out all the way to the numbers. Smith got a little chippy with Steen and violently shed the block after the play was over. Later, Smith put an inside move on Steen, and looked like he had a win, but Steen recovered and pancaked him.

Smith got some revenge against Steen in 1-on-1's when he blew right by Steen for a sack.

• As long as we mentioned 1-on-1's let's cover some of the other highlights. My top 5, in no particular order:

  1. On Haason Reddick's first 1-on-1 rep of camp, he registered a strip sack. He blew right by Jack Driscoll around the edge.
  2. We mentioned Steen's bad 1-on-1 rep above, but he also stoned Derek Barnett in another rep while working at LT.
  3. Jalen Carter hasn't "wow'd" so far in 1-on-1's but he had an impressive rep today. He wound up on the ground against Sua Opeta in his first rep, but he absolutely destroyed Brett Toth on his second rep. It's been a rough camp for Toth.
  4. Kyron Johnson has been feasting on poor undrafted rookie Chim Okorafor all throughout camp. Today Johnson hit Okorafor with a speed-to-power rush that put Okorafor on his backside. I'd like to see Johnson get more opportunities against some of the better tackles.
  5. Janarius Robinson had a flashy inside spin move that dusted Roderick Johnson

• I really liked what I saw from D'Andre Swift on an inside run today. There was a small hole and he burst through it into the open field. Earlier this offseason, we published a review of Swift's 2022 season with the Lions, and cut up video all of his rushing attempts, if you have 14 minutes to kill:

Because he is such a shifty, elusive runner, I almost expected that Swift would be a guy who would unnecessarily bounce runs to the outside instead of at least getting what was blocked up for him, but I didn't see that. If you watch the video above, you'll see that he generally ran through the correct crease without hesitation. And that's what I saw today.

Greedy Williams drew a pass interference flag on A.J. Brown today on a deep ball down the left sideline. It feels like Greedy has been flagged quite a bit through the first five practices. Greedy is grabby.

• I thought Jalen Hurts had his worst day in what has been a stellar camp so far. The lowlight was a throw that came out late, intended for DeVonta Smith that should have been picked off by Kelee Ringo. Ringo did a nice job reading the route and getting in position to make a big play, but he didn't finish.

Hurts still hasn't thrown an interception yet, but he got a little lucky today.

• Undrafted rookie wide receiver Joseph Ngata made a few catches, which has been a theme so far. One play was particularly funny. Ngata caught a WR screen and looked like he had some room to run, but he was leveled from the blind side by... Brett Toth. Toth was trying to get out in front of Ngata to block for him, but, oops.

• The Eagles had an illegal man downfield penalty today. I couldn't see who it was on. If you followed the Eagles' 2022 season (and 2021, for that matter), they committed a ton of illegal man downfield penalties.

• The special teams units practiced fielding squib kicks today. That's smart. There's a new rule this season that teams can call fair catches on kickoffs from anywhere on the field and get the ball at the 25-yard line. My sense is that the Eagles will be a team that gladly calls for fair catches whenever possible.

Of course, if the opposing team doesn't have a lot of respect for the returners, they'll likely want to try to force the Eagles to return kicks instead of being able to call fair catches. Expect to see a lot more squib kicks in the NFL in 2023.

• 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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