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August 04, 2021

Eagles training camp notes, Day 7: We have an early young star of camp

Eagles NFL
Zech-McPhearson-Eagles_080421_Frese Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson (27).

Day 7 of Philadelphia Eagles training camp is in the books. It was a lighter day, as a bunch of the older guys had the day off, and it was a short practice. Still, as always, we have notes.

• The most noteworthy moment of the day was after a play was over, and Jalen Reagor got reamed out, twice. One of the assistants (Kevin Patullo?) screamed at him first, followed by Nick Sirianni. It was unclear what mistake Reagor made on the play. 

If there were any questions as to whether Sirianni was just going to be a rah rah guy incapable of disciplining players for mistakes, that should be put to bed. Sirianni also got in the ear of Tyree Jackson after a mental error in which Jackson reset his feet, pre-snap, while another receiver was in motion, committing an illegal motion penalty. 

The Eagles were penalized 107 times in 2020, which was tied for the second-most in the NFL, and Sirianni has been very proactive in correcting those types of details on the spot early in camp. 

• Second-year LB Davion Taylor was getting a ton of reps early in camp, but he was slowed by a quad injury. He returned to the field on Tuesday, but left practice early with a calf injury. It was revealed today that Taylor is week-to-week. 

As an inexperienced player who struggled instincts-wise as a rookie, Taylor needs all the reps he can get during camp, so he can at least be a playable during the regular season and continue to grow as a player. His upcoming extended absence could be a tough blow to his chances of having a meaningful role on the defense this year.

• One of the young stars of camp has been rookie CB Zech McPhearson. On Tuesday, he had a bunch of pass breakups. Today, he had several physical plays on receivers and running backs. On one misdirection play / designed pass to Boston Scott, McPhearson wasn't fooled and put himself in a position to lay a kill shot on Scott as he caught the ball. McPhearson pulled up at the last second, but if it were a real game, Scott would have been laid out. That play drew some praise from Rodney McLeod and Darius Slay, who were watching from the sidelines.

McPhearson doesn't look at all like a rookie. He knows what he's doing, and where he needs to be. Savvy kid.

• Rookie linebacker Jacoby Stevens had a few nice moments today. He knifed through the line on a run play for a TFL, and on the same series he had a leaping interception over the middle on a ball that looked like it was intended for Greg Ward.

John Hightower had the highlight of the day. He skied over McPhearson for a completion down the sideline, and was able to keep both feet in bounds. McPhearson had good position on Hightower, but Hightower high-pointed the football and exhibited good body control. Hightower had a slow start to camp, but has turned it on a bit the last two days.

• I watched Miles Sanders catching balls from running backs coach Jemal Singleton for a while today. Sanders has consistently worked every day at catching the ball, which was a major weakness in 2020. I applaud the hard work and the recognition of his deficiencies, but... he had another drop in 7-on-7's today.

• A few days ago, I ranked the punt returner candidates. Today, I'll do kick returners:

  1. Jason Huntley: He's one of the fastest players on the team, and he had 5 career kick return TDs in college. Give that man a legitimate chance.
  2. Boston Scott: Last year's primary kick returner. He wasn't very good, but then again, neither was the blocking in front of him.
  3. John Hightower: Hightower returned kicks in college. He has to make the team before he'll be strongly considered for a kick returner job, obviously.
  4. Quez Watkins: He has speed, but limited experience returning kicks (18 career returns in college). 
  5. Kenny Gainwell: Zero career kick return attempts in college.
And then there's Michael Walker, who returned kicks for Jacksonville in 2019. He was out today, and did not participate. He's a longshot to make the team, but if he can crack the roster, he'll be in the mix there, too.

• The old guys who got the day off were as follows:

  1. Fletcher Cox
  2. Zach Ertz
  3. Brandon Graham
  4. Lane Johnson
  5. Jason Kelce
  6. Darius Slay

That's the second "old guy maintenance day" in seven practices.

Andrew Adams is back from the COVID list and practicing fully. Alex Singleton is back out on the field from the COVID list, but he's in "ramp up" mode, so he's not practicing yet. Maybe tomorrow.

• Stay tuned for a practice wrap-up podcast soon, which will appear here whenever it is recorded and published. Or catch up on some previous recaps:

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