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August 15, 2020

What they're saying: Let the Eagles training camp hype-fest begin

Eagles NFL
DeSean-Carson_081520_usat Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz and wide receiver DeSean Jackson talk during 2019 training camp.

Considering no reporters have yet been allowed to attend the Eagles training camp practices this season, it's pretty amazing the amount of hype that's already been coming out of the NovaCare Complex surrounding not just the rookies and new players, but even some of the established vets that we have seen in the past. 

It's worth remembering, however, that training camp is fountain of positivity, where every player appears to have the potential of a breakout year. And — largely because the practices are designed to benefit the offense, especially once the ball is snapped — the potential success of a given player can be blown way out of proportion after just one strong practice. 

Need proof? I was reminded of this gem on Saturday morning, courtesy of @OldTakesExposed:

As we now know, Mack Hollins didn't quite live up to that billing and was released by the Eagles last season after never really catching on in Philly. 

When it comes to hype, both earned and unearned, this August isn't going to be any different, especially when you consider the fact that this will be the first glimpse of many of these players the media gets after minicamp and OTAs were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Heck, it's started already and reporters won't actually be allowed to attend practice until Monday. But once they are, you can expect countless reports of Player X showing blazing speed, Playing Y looking stronger and in better shape than before, and Player Z showing agility unparalleled by others of his size. The dilemma, then, comes in deciding what hype is worth believing and what's just chum being thrown in a tank of rabid Eagles fans who will look to grab onto any bit of positive news after a summer without any football of which to speak. 

And, listen, we're not in the business of denying you what you want. We're here to service our readers. So let's take a look at some of the (early) hype out of the NovaCare Complex ahead of the Eagles' first practice in front of the media on Monday... 

Fly, DeSean, Fly

Jeff Kerr | CBS Sports

The first bit of hype we're bringing to you is a double-edged sword of sorts. That's going to happen when your team is practicing against itself, since one player looking good often comes at the expense of another. And that's exactly what took place on Friday when Eagles wideout DeSean Jackson shared a video of him dusting prized offseason acquisition Darius Slay in one-on-one drills at camp with former NFL WR Chad Ochocinco Johnson, who posted the video on Twitter for all to see. 

For those wondering if DeSean is fully back from the abdominal injury that kept him out most of last season and required corrective surgery, I think you have your answer. Here's more from Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports:

Jackson used the hesitation step off the snap that allowed him to record 24 touchdown catches of 60-plus yards in his career, the most in NFL history. Once he got Slay to bend, he exploded past him for an easy touchdown (on a strong pass from Wentz) that turned some heads in Eagles camp. 

Again, this wasn't a second or third-string cornerback. This was Slay, one of the best cornerbacks in football. 

If Jackson can beat Slay with ease, NFL defensive backs will be put on notice in 2020. Injuries have halted Jackson's production the last two seasons, but he's still dangerous when he takes the field. Jackson had eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in the Eagles' season-opening win over Washington, but played just 14 snaps the remainder of last season. Jackson missed four games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018, even though he led the league with 18.9 yards per catch at 32 years old.  [cbssports.com]

Now, let's be honest here. DeSean definitely shared that with Ochocinco knowing full well that his fellow wideout was going to post it on Twitter. It was a way of Jackson getting that video of him burning the Pro-Bowl cornerback out there without it looking like he was bragging or showing up his new teammate. 

Let's also be honest about the fact that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Slay getting beat here. For starters, it takes considerably longer for the defense to get their legs under them than it does the offense. Furthermore, these drills are designed to benefit the receiver — not to mention that there's no safety help over the top, no pass rush, and literally nothing the offensive players have to worry about except for the cornerback. It's like watching a hitter take batting practice. Do you really blame the pitcher for getting blasted all over the park? Of course not.

Plenty of people on Twitter, especially fans of other teams, took this video as an indictment of Slay. It's actually just a good play by DeSean. And, of course, this is the only one we saw. Who knows what happened the other times these two lined up across each other. 

'Electric' Slay

Staff | 94 WIP

Speaking of Slay, Doug Pederson seems to like what he's seen out of Slay and what he's going to bring to Jim Schwartz' defense in 2020. Here's what the head coach had to say on Friday during an interview with Angelo Cataldi and the 94 WIP Morning Show:

Doug Pederson, now back at the NovaCare Complex after dealing with COVID-19, joined Angelo Cataldi and the 94WIP Morning Show on Friday to discuss the upcoming Eagles season. 

One thing that stood out was Pederson's comments on the Eagles' new star cornerback Darius Slay. 

"Something that we haven't had here, obviously in the first four years, is that corner position you really feel comfortable in maybe matching say a top receiver on an opponent," Pederson said when asked about Slay. "I know Jim (Schwartz) is excited about that in using Darius in that regard. Darius is comfortable, he's done that before in his career in Detroit. He's an exciting player, he's very energetic, he's electric, he's got a lot of energy."  [94wip.radio.com]

Sanders' 'mind-blowing' speed

Tim McManus | ESPN

We've now seen former players and coaches hyping up Eagles players. Now it's time for the hype train continues with some current players hyping up their teammates, starting with Jason Kelce's comments on second-year back Miles Sanders, a guy you can expect to hear a lot about during camp.

Here's the Eagles center raving about the Penn State product after a walk-through. That's right, a walk-through...

It's not easy to impress your teammates during a walk-through, but Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders has pulled off the feat. Sanders' focus on adding strength this offseason has not slowed him down a lick, according to center Jason Kelce.

"He's still blazing fast, man. We were all commenting yesterday: We were putting in some protections where he was releasing on some routes, and the fluidity he is able to run routes with is just kind of mind-blowing to watch, even in something as small as a walk-through," Kelce said. "If he has added weight, I assure you it has not taken away from his explosiveness."  [espn.com]

Miss the old Corey

Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

In what's becoming a circle of hype, we'll now look at Sanders complimenting fellow running back Corey Clement, who could wind up playing a big role on the team if he is indeed back to his 2017 form. The Eagles have (so far) opted not to bring in a veteran running back behind Sanders, leaving Clement and Boston Scott as the two guys who will likely fill out Duce Staley's backfield trio this season. 

Here's more from NBC Sports Philadelphia's Dave Zangaro... 

On Sunday, Eagles starting running back Miles Sanders was asked about the Eagles’ quest to become a more explosive offense and on his own offered this about Clement:

"Corey looks great. He looks explosive. He looks like Super Bowl Corey to me."

Yeah, that’ll get your attention — Super Bowl Corey. 

Because Super Bowl Corey was nothing short of spectacular. This is the guy who caught four passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in the biggest game of his life. Sanders was still at Penn State during Super Bowl LII, but Clement’s play in that game was seen by millions.  ...

"He’s got his ears pinned back,” running backs coach Duce Staley said recently. “He’s ready. He looks awesome, you can tell he’s been working. He wants to get back to the old Corey."  [nbcsports.com]

Ready for Ward

Brandon Lee Gowton | Bleeding Green Nation

By the time the 2019 season had ended, the Eagles No. 1 wide receiver was former practice squader and college quarterback Greg Ward. Yeah, it was bad. 

But Ward proved to be a capable player for the Eagles and was a big reason why they were able to win out down the stretch and earn a division title. Now, with Jackson healthy and Alshon Jeffery expected to return at some point, plus the drafting of Jalen Reagor and others (not to mention the potential growth of J.J. Arcega-Whiteside), Ward may find himself on the outside looking in.

Or will he? 

When asked about where Ward stood on the depth chart and whether or not he'd bee a starting-type player for the Eagles, Pederson gave an answer that made it sound like the Houston product could actually play a bigger role than expected this season.

"I’ve always liked Greg. He’s been on our practice roster. As a young player we activated him. He played last year, as you mentioned, did well," Pederson said. "The one thing now as he goes into this season, he’s in that rotation, in that starting mix for us. It’s just a matter of him embracing every day, getting better. Being a former quarterback, he understands our offense. Being in our offense, he knows the concepts and the routes. He and Carson Wentz have a really good feel for one another. 

"I think for him now it’s just a matter of continuing to get better each and every day and putting in the work. We expect some really big things from Greg. He can also be a leader. He can be a leader of that group. Him and DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, these guys, they can be leaders now and mentors to these young players."

But Ward's impact on the team might be felt just as much off the field as it will be on the field. According to new wideouts coach Aaron Moorehead, the 25-year-old receiver has carried over the confidence he built over the last month of the 2019 season to become one of his leaders in the meeting room.

Then, this from new wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead:

Q: Speaking of Greg Ward, I was wondering what you noticed on his film, especially the last four or five games when he became pretty much the go-to receiver for Carson, and how he can carry that into this season?

MOOREHEAD: Well, I think first and foremost, when you do what Greg did at the end of the year, your confidence goes up. A guy that’s been on the practice squad, you’re on the practice squad, you’re up, you’re down, you’re always thinking: ‘Am I good enough?’ Then you get in these situations, and you play well, you perform, makes a game-winning touchdown catch, that takes your confidence through the roof. That’s half the battle sometimes in the NFL, is just knowing you can do it, and the quarterback knowing you can do it. So, Greg’s in a good mental place right now. And so, as you look at this tape, he’s a very natural receiver. He’s got good spatial awareness, he understands where the zones are, he understands how to beat man coverage. Obviously, some of that can come from his quarterback play of understanding how things are supposed to look. But he’s a natural athlete, he’s a natural football player. I mean, I’ve known about Greg since he was in Tyler, Texas. This guy is a natural football player. And he was heck of a player at Houston and it’s not a shock to me he’s starting to come into his own. I think for me to get here at the time he’s kind of coming out into his own is good because I’ve allowed to kind of show him a few different details that I think he’ll be able to use this year, hopefully take his game to the next level. But Greg’s been great. He’s been one of the leaders of the room, if not THE leader of the room. And really so far he’s been nothing but exceeding my expectations.

It’s a bit funny to think of Ward as a leader in a receiver room that also contains a 33-year-old DeSean Jackson and a 30-year-old Alshon Jeffery. But the former college quarterback has clearly earned some respect for how he stepped up down the stretch in 2019.  [bleedinggreennation.com]

Eagle 1, Drone 0

Bryan Pietsch | The New York Times

This counts, right?

A squabble in the sky over Lake Michigan left one bald eagle victorious and one government drone mangled and sunken.

Hunter King, a drone pilot at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was surveying an area of the lake near the state’s Upper Peninsula last month when the drone started “twirling furiously” after it indicated that a propeller had been torn off.

“When he looked up, the drone was gone, and an eagle was flying away,” said the department, whose name is abbreviated E.G.L.E.

[..]

The department speculated that the eagle could have attacked because of a territorial dispute, because it was hungry “or maybe it did not like its name being misspelled.”

Julia Ponder, executive director of the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota, said on Saturday that it was likely because the drone had encroached on the eagle’s territory.

“They’re the king of the skies,” she said.  [nytimes.com]

Nice to see the Eagles are already 1-0 on the year.


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