PHILADELPHIA – Random thoughts after three days of Eagles camp...
The NFL education of first-round pick DeVonta Smith got off to a slow start on Day 1 of camp having to go against Darius Slay. Since then, with Steve Nelson playing him, Smith has fared much better.
Smith drew a pass interference against Nelson, and it was Nelson that Smith flew by to secure an 80-yard touchdown catch on Day 2.
Having to go against two veteran corners can only help Smith get better.
“Just knowing that he already has a plan in his head, that he’s ready to go and he’s not reacting off what I’m doing,” said Slay about Smith. “He’s like, ‘I got this plan. I got this route. I’m going to do it the best way I can. And I need to get to my spot.’ That’s the difference about him.”
- The defense has been ahead of the offense, and which unit does better is charted and tallied to declare a winner each day.
The defense won Day 1, but there was some dispute as to which unit won Day 2.
Right tackle Lane Johnson thought it was the offense when he talked to reporters on Thursday. Ryan Kerrigan said on Friday he thought it was the defense.
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“Of course, I’m going to say the defense,” said the transplant from the Washington Football Team. “I know there was a little bit of dispute, but what kind of guy would I be if I said the offense? There is a tally but there was some dispute among some of us.”
When it was suggested that maybe they should have decided the winner with a rock-paper-scissor game, Kerrigan agreed.
- Granted it’s early – very early – and the pads haven’t come on, yet, but so far, who has stood out…
Milton Williams. He is going to be a must-watch all August long, but you have to pay attention because he could line up anywhere on the D-line.
Davion Taylor. The linebacker has gotten plenty of first-team reps and has looked good. His athleticism has never been in doubt, but his instincts were. How far he’s come still needs to be monitored, but he looks like he is catching on.
Michael Walker and Jhamon Ausbon. The two receivers have received plenty of reps with Jalen Reagor, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, and Travis Fulgham limited for a variety of reasons and the two unheralded pass-catchers have made the most of their chances.
Tyree Jackson. It’s widely been assumed that the transition from college quarterback to NFL tight end could take a few years, and it still might, but he is a big target and has looked solid so far.
Kenny Gainwell and Jordan Howard. Gainwell has flashed hands that look very natural catching the ball and Howard has made some nice runs.
Luke Juriga. The undrafted center from the 2020 class has gotten all the second-team reps and has made the most of them.
Who hasn’t stood out yet…
JaCoby Stevens and Patrick Johnson. Late-round rookie picks and a pair of linebackers appear ticketed for the practice squad, at least in these early days.
Tarron Jackson. Another rookie draft pick, the defensive end has yet to flash.
Genard Avery. The defensive end who is transitioning to linebacker has worked at covering slot receivers in some instances. He’s still a work in progress but needs to show something this month.
Raequan Williams. The second-year defensive lineman made the most of his playing time as an undrafted rookie last year but has yet to show the jump expected from year one to year two that many players are expected to take.
- The pads haven’t come on yet at Eagles camp, something which is expected to happen on Monday, but that hasn’t stopped players on both sides from being as physical as they are presumably allowed to be
There was a forearm shiver from tight end hopeful Tyree Jackson that sent linebacker Rashad Smith sailing.
Josiah Scott and Joe Ostman have delivered some heavy hits, too.
It’s just guys running to the ball on every play, something that is encouraging for this defense. Collisions, however, can be expected.
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“I think that's just part of how we're going to play,” said defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. “It's actually awesome because we, obviously, have an offensive head coach and he believes in it. A lot of people out there that are offensive head coaches, they don't want to see that. [Head Coach] Nick [Sirianni] believes that's the best thing for the team, the offense, and the defense. So, he allows us to do that.
Now, we got to clean it up because we don't want guys on the ground at times but on defense, we're going to play with a stinger and I'm not going to take that stinger away.”
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.