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August 22, 2023

Eagles-Colts 2023 training camp joint practice notes, Day 15: Fight! Fight!

A practice-ending melee highlights an eventful day in South Philly.

Eagles NFL
Jason Kelce prime Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Jason Kelce

On Day 15 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp, the final media-attended practice of the summer, the Birds got into a huge melee with the Indianapolis Colts. Let's just get right to the notes.

• The Eagles and Colts were chippy from the start of practice, and tensions built throughout the day. Early on in practice, undrafted rookie cornerback Mekhi Garner picked off a pass during 1-on-1's and flipped the ball to the receiver he was covering after the play. A little later, A.J. Brown got into it a bit with Colts safety Teez Tabor, but that dissipated quickly enough. 

The animosity between these two teams went up a notch after... guess who... Derek Barnett (#ItsAlwaysHim) knocked a ball out of Colts starting quarterback Anthony Richardson's hand. Barnett had gotten a sack on the play and had stopped playing. He was just kind of standing behind Richardson, when Richardson was about to throw the ball down the field, a common occurrence after sacks during training camp practices. Barnett was like, "Nope," and he swatted down at Richardson's arm, jarring the ball loose.

That is absolute no-no in training camp practices. The rules are simple — do not hit the quarterback at all. About a half dozen Colts players tried to fight Barnett after the play, who squared up against them like a 1920's boxer. Jalen Carter rushed in looking for smoke from the half dozen Colts, but that fight got under control quickly enough.

After some consistent extracurriculars after the whistle the rest of practice, it felt like a bigger fight was brewing, and sure enough, Colts LB Zaire Franklin, who had been going hard all day, gave Kenny Gainwell an extra thud long after the whistle. That's when Jason Kelce, with a running start and a full head of steam, absolutely decked Franklin.

Both sidelines cleared and a huge fight ensued. When the Eagles' and Colts' staffs were finally able to separate their players, the practice was ended early, thus also ending 2023 Eagles training camp, lol.

There were a range of perspectives on the fight after practice. 

Gainwell appreciated Kelce having his back, and commented about the Colts, "We whooped they ass."

Jalen Hurts was clearly annoyed that practice ended early as a result of the fight, because of course he was. (I mean that in the most positive way possible.)

Kelce expressed remorse, saying, "I let my emotions get the better of me."

Franklin got a little shot in on Kelce, who blindsided him. "Thought the OG's would at least look me in the eye," Franklin said.

The Eagles don't often have big fights during training camp practices, but that was an all-timer.

• Before the big fight, it was also a pretty fun practice. The star of the day was DeVonta Smith, who is simply a special player. On a deep ball down the right sideline, Smith went up high and Moss'd Colts CB Darrell Baker Jr. Baker had better position on the play, but Smith out-jumped him, fought for the ball, and after it was loose momentarily was able to corral it while going to the ground. He also had the wherewithal to keep both feet in bounds. Smith's awareness and body control are both elite traits.

Later on that drive, Smith caught a back shoulder throw from Hurts for a TD. Once again, Baker had decent enough coverage, but Smith just made the play.

Update: The two Smith catches noted above can be seen here.

There was also a play in which the snap hit the ground, but Hurts tracked it down, scrambled to buy some time, and then saw Smith streaking across the end zone. He fired high, and once again, Smith went up and made the catch, this time over Tabor. 

There's no limit to how good Smith can be.

A.J. Brown is pretty good, too, by the way. He owned Kenny Moore on a couple of deep plays down the field early in practice. Moore is probably the Colts' best corner, but at 5'9, 190... good luck against Brown.

• Gainwell wasn't just involved in a fight today. The Eagles ran a trick play in which they pitched to Gainwell, who threw threw a left-handed pass deep down the field to Grant Calcaterra, who made a jumping grab. It was a really nice throw!

After practice, Hurts revealed that the play was a Shane Steichen creation. In other words, Sirianni ran Steichen's trick play against him.

• Sirianni was chippy today as well. On a play in which K'Von Wallace intercepted Richardson, a pair of flags came out for pass interference. Wallace bumped the receiver, but he was making a play on the ball. Personally, I thought they were garbage flags. So did Sirianni. He ran over, picked up both flags, and tossed them back to the officials.

A play or two later, a Colts receiver was flagged for OPI on a long completed pass down the right sideline. Sirianni ran over to the Colts bench and signaled OPI, lol.

• We mentioned Calcaterra above. He had his best practice of camp, making a bunch of catches on the day. His best play of the day was a fingertip catch in traffic over the middle.

• In safety news, once again, Justin Evans, Terrell Edmunds, and Sydney Brown all got some first-team reps. Brown had a play in which he saw a chance for an INT on a pass to Mo Alie-Cox, so he broke hard to try to pick it off. Instead, he ran square into Alie-Cox at the same time that the ball arrived, and Alie-Cox went down hard. Brown didn't get the pick, but he got a PBU.

Reed Blankenship and Zach Cunningham each had tackles for loss. Cunningham got first-team reps again. I think he's the starter opposite Nakobe Dean, barring a big move for a linebacker.

• If there was one Eagles player that I thought had a shaky day, it was Cam Jurgens. He got dusted twice in 1-on-1's by Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis. Odeyingbo also beat Jurgens for a sack during 11-on-11's. Jurgens has otherwise had a very strong camp while transitioning from C to RG. I do think it's interesting that Sirianni has not played Jurgens at all in any of the preseason games, whereas other inexperienced starters like Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter played in both games.

D'Andre Swift also dropped what should have been a TD reception on a wheel route.

• Back in June, in our Eagles dumpster fire piece, we pointed out that the Eagles were going to get everyone's best this season, and certainly that was true of both the Browns and Colts during joint practices this summer.

• 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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