July 31, 2018
After their first day off from training camp on Monday, the Philadelphia Eagles came out hitting on Tuesday, as the team conducted its first live tackling practice. As always, we have notes.
• Our obligatory Carson Wentz note is that he did not practice in the tackling sessions, which is an obvious decision (not that you can hit the quarterbacks anyway). Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, and Jay Ajayi were also among the non-participants in the live sessions.
• With the team keeping Ajayi and Sproles out of harm's way, Donnel Pumphrey got a lot of reps during the live tackling sessions. He looked OK. He was aggressive hitting the hole, which was encouraging, and he didn't shy away from contact. Still there's juuuuuusssst something missing there. On a play in which the offensive line opened up a big hole, Pumphrey hit it hard, ran through an arm tackle and found himself in a one-on-one situation with a safety (Ryan Neal, I think?), who was the last line of defense. If he gets by the safety, he's gone. Instead, the safety was able to make the play.
I hate to sound critical on what was a perfectly decent run, but you'd really like to see him make that safety miss and take it to the house. Those are the kinds of plays that separate you from your camp competition.
• In the separating from the competition theme, Wendell Smallwood did some of that today, but in a bad way.
Smallwood had a legitimately good camp last year. He has not been good this camp after a year in which he progressively fell down the depth chart throughout the regular season.
• Matt Jones had a nice, hard run today. He ran inside, and four defenders had to get in on the tackle on a gain of about 6 or 7. Jones got up a little gimpy on the play, and his day was over, but he showed some impressive power.
• Sidney Jones continues to impress. Like he did in our notes on Sunday, Jones had blanket coverage on Nelson Agholor, and didn't give up a whiff of separation. The ball came Agholor's way anyway, and Jones was right there in position to make the interception, but the ball was able to sneak through somehow for a completion to Agholor. Ignore the result of the play. Jones looked really good there.
Later in practice, Jones had a nice breakup of a pass over the middle intended for Greg Ward.
• Tre Sullivan had some more nice moments after what has been a good camp so far. He had an interception of Wentz during 3-on-3's, and had a nice pop on Corey Clement in a live tackling period. He's going to light someone up in the preseason games again this year. Book it.
• In his press conference after practice, Jim Schwartz said that tackling was sloppy. I agree, and that's also to be expected as the players haven't tackled since the Super Bowl. On a side note, we published an article this morning about the s***show this NFL season could be with the new tackling rules, but that doesn't mean the Eagles' staff won't try to prepare for it. After one play, defensive backs coach Cory Undlin warned cornerback De'Vante Bausby, "Make sure your head stays up."
Speaking of Bausby, he had an interception of Nick Foles in a team drill.
• Mack Hollins has been quiet in camp, but he had a couple nice plays today. He made a one-handed catch in 3-on-3's, and leaped high in the air to bring in a bullet in traffic in the live session.
• We got our first real taste of Dallas Goedert as a blocker today, and in my view, he was shaky. On one rep, for example, Derek Barnett easily eluded his block to make a tackle at the line of scrimmage on a run play. All Goedert needed to do on the play was get in Barnett's way and Barnett wouldn't have been close, but Goedert's whiff killed the play. There's little question Goedert can get open and catch the football, but his blocking needs some work, which is to be expected.
• Joe Walker had a good open-field tackle on Zach Ertz today. In Walker news, we failed to mention that the Eagles showed a few looks on defense on Sunday in which Walker was the MIKE, while Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks played on the outside.
• Chance Warmack had a rough day in one-on-ones. He was getting beaten by third stringers. Not good. Warmack is a favorite of Jeff Stoutland going back to their days at Alabama, but his value to the team is questionable. The coaching staff loves to point out the versatility of Isaac Seumalo any chance they get, in that Seumalo "can play all five offensive line positions." Conversely, Warmack is a guard only, and a backup at that. Ideally, you'd like your backup offensive linemen to be able to play guard and center, or guard and tackle, or even both tackle positions, like Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Warmack should be on the bubble. We'll see.
• Speaking of Seumalo, he had another bad snap today. That's been a regular occurrence.
• Small note here on Haloti Ngata, but he is glacially slow. That was evident on a play in which he attempted to chase Nate Sudfeld, who escaped the pocket and took off running. That shouldn't come as any kind of surprise at all, as Ngata is going to be a space-eating, run-stuffing specialist on this team. Just an easy observation.
• Defensive end Joe Ostman absolutely smoked Vaitai on an inside spin move today. He left Vaitai in the dust and picked up a "sack." Ostman was a highly productive pass rusher in his final season at Central Michigan, where he had 60 tackles (19.5 TFL), 14 sacks, and 3 forced fumbles.
It's interesting that Ostman chose to sign with the Eagles, considering the Birds' impressive depth at DE. Ostman said he had interest from the Giants, Titans, Lions, and Bengals, in addition to the Eagles at the conclusion of the draft. Ostman's path to making an NFL roster would be far easier this season with any of those other teams, but Ostman cited the relationship he had formed with some of the Eagles' scouts during the pre-draft process as the deciding factor in coming to Philly.
Back in February, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah said that the Eagles were building the best scouting department in the NFL. Ostman's signing is one small example of that.
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