PHILADELPHIA – With Isaac Seumalo sidelined and listed as week-to-week with a hamstring issue, the Eagles have seemingly been in good hands with Nate Herbig stepping in.
Herbig is building on the success he had in 2020 when the undrafted free agent from 2019 was pressed into action. He made 12 starts and played in 15 games last year, and generally drew praise from line coach Jeff Stoutland and his teammates.
This year, though, Herbig has looked even better, though it has been just two days.
It’s no wonder since he worked out with Lane Johnson and told the team’s website that it was the hardest offseason he has ever had.
“He went from about 355 to 325, so we ran the hell out of him,” said Johnson. “We had a hard offseason with him. Man, he’s been great. He has a great attitude. I think when he stepped in last year, he performed very well. He’s just going to keep progressing and going on. As far as his body, he’s taking it a lot more serious than he used to and he’s looking really good.”
With Jalen Reagor and Greg Ward off to slow starts while struggling with lower-body stiffness in Reagor’s case and non-Covid related illness in Ward’s case, the Eagles signed Delaware product Andre Patton.
The team also added safety Obi Melifonwu.
The 6-4 Patton spent 2020 on the Dolphins practice squad. He entered the league out of Rutgers in 2017 as an undrafted free agent of the Chargers, catching six passes for 56 yards.
Melifonwu, who is also 6-4, was with the Eagles in their tryout camp in May. He is a former second-round pick of the Raiders out of Connecticut but has played in just seven games.
The Eagles did not have to release anyone since they have three players on the Reserve/Covid list: Alex Singleton, Andrew Adams, and Matt Leo.
While Andre Dillard struggled in this portion of practice, one player who stood out was Luke Juriga, an undrafted free agent who signed last year.
Juriga stopped a couple of defensive players in their tracks. He is also getting all the second-team reps at center.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m the older guy now so feel like I’m kind of running daycare a little bit part-time.”
– Lane Johnson when asked how he felt about Jason Peters no longer on the team.
The Eagles defense has already forced three fumbles in two days while Josiah Scott notched an interception. That’s four takeaways in two games.
Getting turnovers has been one of the big Achilles’ heels of this defense the past two years, so it’s no surprise it is being heavily emphasized, and, so far, it appears to be paying off.
“We have a very defined language with how we talk about takeaways,” said defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. “You guys are going to see that in practice, hopefully, a lot. We know the value of the ball, and we put a high importance on it. So, we're going to coach that up.
“Like I said, we have a very defined language with how we coach that. That should be part of our DNA, which is the ‘HITS’ principle, which that is the 'T' in takeaways.”
Lane Johnson said that coach Nick Sirianni showed the team a video of former Lakers great Kobe Bryant shooting four airballs during his rookie season.
“He was just trying to show that even the great ones have failures, so it doesn’t matter who you are in this league, it’s all about how you handle adversity, how you bounce back,” said Johnson. “If you have a bad rep, move on to the next one and do your best and try to have a short-term memory. That goes for every position.”
One of the most visible drills in camp has been running back Jemal Singleton trying to pull the ball out of his runners’ hands with a ball on a chain of some kind as the RBs navigate a series of dummy bags laid on the ground.
Miles Sanders went into detail about it.
“We use a clasped hand,” he said. “When you feel like you’re in traffic, you put two hands over the ball. But he’s more about working on keeping that one arm strong when you’re going through the hole, trying to make a move, and then trying to break one. You’re not really worried about clasping because you got a strong up high and tight. Just having the ability to make moves in traffic and get loose.”
Sanders had his share of fumbles last year, so he is hoping to benefit from it.
“Just looking at the stuff last year, I think everybody pretty much struggled,” said Sanders. “This whole team struggled and left a bad taste in our mouths for everybody. We only had four wins last year. Just looking out for my part, and what I could have done better to help the team win games, I didn’t catch the ball as well.
“I put the ball on the ground too many times. I don’t want to put the ball on the ground any time. Just looking at stuff like that, it’s all mental, really. And it’s just fixing that stuff.”
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Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.