Training Camp Thoughts Day 3: 'A Little Better Each Day' for Hurts

The Eagles presumptive starting QB had his best practice of the first three days on Friday, but is far from a finished product
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PHILADELPHIA - Jalen Hurts has gotten a little bit better each day during the Eagles' first three training camp practices.

The presumptive QB1 for 2021 in Philadelphia struggled in tight quarters during the first practice of the summer on Wednesday, finishing an unofficial 5-of-15 by my count.

About 24 hours later he gave the fans something to cheer about with a go route that hit rookie first-round pick DeVonta Smith in stride with Steve Nelson trailing in coverage for an 80-yard touchdown.

By Friday, Hurts showed off the strength of his arm with his best throw of the first three days, an absolute laser that was perfectly placed over the outstretched arms of athletic linebacker Davion Taylor and into the hands of Dallas Goedert in the end zone.

The second-year signal-caller also showed touch with a nice back-shoulder thrown that Miles Sanders couldn't hold onto.

That's the good news.

The bad was that Hurts was locked in on Goedert from the moment he got the ball from center on his best throw and perhaps a more experienced cover man could have done a better job identifying the throw.

Furthermore, shorty after Hurts did try to look off defenders one way while coming back to the right he threw a widely inaccurate football.

That will be something to keep an eye on as camp continues to progress.

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Hurts' other highlights on Friday were TD passes to tight end Jason Croom and Smith, who snuck into the front of the end zone on a contested throw.

The throw to Croom came after Hurts was flushed from the pocket and moved slightly to his right before unleashing a dart.

"It really is just a climb, trying to get a little bit better each day," coach Nick Sirianni said earlier in the week. "We know if you can do that, the gains you can make. ... That's all our goal is, is just to try to get better, a little bit better with each thing that we're doing so the gains, by the time we get to that first game, we're ready to roll."

JOE COOL

Backup QB Joe Flacco generated one of the plays of the day by showing Hurts how to look off a defender before coming back to the other side of the field and finding rookie Jhamon Ausbon in the end zone for a touchdown.

Another impressive pass came later when Flacco threw across his body to find a streaking Michael Walker, one of the early stars of camp, down the left side of the field.

Joe Flacco after his first day of training camp with the Eagles

Joe Flacco

Flacco's worst throw should have been intercepted by rookie Zech McPhearson, who showed savvy by dropping off zone coverage and nearly picking off a Flacco pass in the end zone.

Third-stringer Nick Mullens was also in the throw-of-the-day competition with a beautiful seam pass for a TD to undrafted rookie TE Jack Stoll.

BOOKKEEPING

Friday was essentially a veteran's day at camp with many of the Eagles' entrenched players getting a breather.

Among those taking the day off were Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Ryan Kerrigan, and Darius Slay for the defense, and Lane Johnson, Jason Kelce, and Zach Ertz for the offense.

On the injury front, the hamstring tweak suffered by Brandon Brooks wasn't deemed too serious and the veteran has been listed as day-to-day. He likely would have been in the veteran group given a day off Friday as well.

Receiver Travis Fulgham (lower body) returned to practice after missing Thursday’s session.

Starting left guard Isaac Seumalo (hamstring) remains week-to-week there are no changes on the Reserve/COVID-19 list (LB Alex Singleton, S Andrew Adams, and DE Matt Leo), PUP (S Rodney McLeod - ACL and OT Le’Raven Clark - Achilles), or NFI (Landon Dickerson -ACL) lists.

The newcomers signed Thursday were also on hand: WR Andre Patton, who was wearing No. 41, and safety Obi Melifonwu, who is wearing No. 33. 

OPPORTUNITIES

With all the absences a number of young players continued to get first-team reps.

Without Kelce, Seumalo, and Brooks, the offensive line from left to right was Andre Dillard, Nate Herbig, Luke Juriga, Matt Pryor, and Jack Driscoll. 

Jack Driscoll after practice on July 30, 2021

Jack Driscoll after practice on July 30, 2021

Through three days of camp, Dillard and Jordan Mailata have rotated so presumably Saturday’s practice will be Mailata's second opportunity in the all-important LT competition.

Juriga, meanwhile, seems to be distancing himself as Kelce’s backup at least until Dickerson is ready to go. Driscoll struggled mightily with Josh Sweat.

The WRs were Smith and Fulgham on the outside, with Greg Ward handling the slot work. Jalen Reagor (lower body tightness) is still limited and only doing individual work. Quez Watkins also remains out with what has been described as non-COVID illness.

On the defensive side, Sweat and Derek Barnett handled the edge roles with Javon Hargrave and T.Y. McGill manning the interior. Sweat was really good against the read-option today, blowing up two different plays with quick penetration.

On the second level, Davion Taylor continues to get looks with the ones and fellow 2020 draft pick Shaun Bradley got some work with the big boys.

One of the bigger surprises has been Eric Wilson running with the second team for consecutive days, either a nod to the theory Jonathan Gannon understands what he has there and wants to evaluate others or an indication the staff isn't happy with the free-agent pickup early.

TJ Edwards was down to the third-team in nickel looks opposite rookie JaCoby Stevens. Edwards is quickly becoming a bubble player in the new defense.

With no Slay, Mike Jacquet got most of the first-team work opposite Steve Nelson with Craig James occasionally being involved.

FIVE-WIDE LOOK

The Eagles flashed a five-wide look in the red zone where four receivers were stacked on the right side to single up Smith on the other. That's when Nelson upped the ante by bullying the rookie and drawing the flag. The physical nature of Nelson's play against the slim Smith is something the former Alabama star is going to have to deal with. 

TOO PHYSICAL?

Sirianni's practices have been short but there's no wasted time and the pace is reminiscent of Chip Kelly. Where it differs from Kelly is the physicality and the Eagles might want to tread lightly there.

With CBA rules tightening down on how you can run practices in the NFL the rookie head coach could be flirting with a fine for his players getting a little too handsy in what is collectively bargained as a ramp-up period.

Nelson, who spoke of his bruised knuckles Thursday from punching at the football, got flagged for bodying up Smith and things continue to get chippy on occasion.

PRACTICE GAME BALL:

Let's give it to Sweat, the rangy fourth-year end who is one of the Eagles' most underrated players. The Florida State product made Driscoll's morning miserable and seems primed for a big contract year.

John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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.