Pads Make a Difference

Posted: July 28th, 2019 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | Comments Off on Pads Make a Difference

No Eagles practice on Sunday so let’s look back at the last couple of days. Saturday was the first day in pads for Eagles players and it sounds like that brought out the best in the defense. For the past couple of months, those guys haven’t been able to hit anyone and that had to be frustrating. That all changed on Saturday.

The defense really came alive and had a strong practice.

Jimmy Bama was impressed by some young guys.

On Grugier-Hill’s aforementioned interception, he stretched his body while on the run to pluck a Wentz bullet out of the air, showing good hands, before heading the other way on the return. With Wentz trying to chase him down, Grugier-Hill was about to hit Wentz with a stiff arm before thinking better of contacting the franchise QB.

I’ve stated this on several occasions already, but I think Grugier is going to start at linebacker, and by that I mean, he’ll be a “top 2” linebacker who plays on all three downs (though not necessarily 100 percent of the snaps) alongside Nigel Bradham. I believe he has a commanding lead for that job over free agent acquisition Zach Brown.

Grugier-Hill took a big step forward last year, becoming a solid LB. He had mainly been a STer prior to that. Grugier-Hill has always been athletic, but playing on defense requires skill, knowledge and technique. You can’t just run to the ball. Grugier-Hill showed real progress last year and could be even better this season. The thing you love about him is that he can be a 3-down LB.

One of the guys getting some hype early in camp is DE Josh Sweat. (I added to that hype a bit this morning.)

Today, I wanted to get a look at him with the pads on, and I came away impressed with his physical play. On three straight plays he did the following, playing RDE:

    1. He blew up Richard Rodgers on a run play. The ball didn’t go to his side, so he wasn’t involved in the play, but his get-off and attack looked good. If opposing offenses are going to try to block you with a tight end, you want to make them pay, and Sweat did that.
    2. On the next play, he got pressure on Sudfeld when he beat Andre Dillard on an outside rush. Dillard got his hands on Sweat early, but Sweat quickly ripped Dillard’s hands off of him and won the edge. Well done.
    3. And finally, on another run play, the RG was pulling to the offense’s left with a head of steam, and Sweat crashed into him rather than looking to avoid contact. He stoned the RG right in his tracks.

There’s little doubt about Sweat’s athleticism. The question is whether or not he can be a physical player, and today he showed some encouraging signs.

The hype train for Sweat has left the station and a lot of people are on board. I’m impressed with what I’ve read and also what Sweat has said. He isn’t sitting back and just embracing being a backup. He wants to impress the coaches and get more snaps. He wants to be on the field and is ready to do something about it. Some young players have a sense of entitlement. “I was good in college so why aren’t they playing me more?”. Sweat seems to get that he has to earn every snap.

*****

Mike Kaye liked what he saw from the backup DL.

Defensive tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Treyvon Hester were able to get into the backfield multiple times. Defensive end Vinny Curry had back-to-back stops in 11-on-11 drills. All three players could play roles within the team’s defensive line rotation this season.

Ridgeway impressed in the spring and is opening some eyes so far in TC. He’s likely going to be the #4 DT, but could get regular snaps. Treyvon Hester will also try to win that #4 spot and was a good role player last year. As Jim Schwartz recently pointed out, the Eagles have good DT depth and that should allow the DEs to stay on the outside.

Some people are concerned about the depth on the DL. I get that to a certain extent, but think about this for a second. Curry and Tim Jernigan started in the Super Bowl. Now they’re backups. Maybe things aren’t as bad as some would have you believe.

The other standout hit from the morning was Curry’s stop on rookie running back Miles Sanders. After receiving a handoff, Sanders went straight up the middle and was met instantly by Curry. The veteran defensive end slammed Sanders to the ground with a thud. Sanders got up unharmed and Curry celebrated with a dance.

Curry is a good run defender and solid pass rusher. It will be interesting to see if being a backup helps him to be a more effective rusher. One of the other benefits you get with him is that Curry brings a lot of life and energy to practice. Schwartz spoke very highly of Curry in his PC the other day. A lot of eyes will be on Curry.

*****

Jeff McLane liked what he saw from Sidney Jones.

Sidney Jones was Camper of the Day, in my eyes. His coverage on Alshon Jeffery and other receivers was tight, he had a highlight-reel interception and he did all this in pads with contact. Jones is slight and there are still questions about his ability to fend off larger wideouts – and stay healthy — but he kept Jeffery in check. Jeffery needed to make a couple of ridiculous short catches because Jones gave up very little space. The second grab came on third down and was short of the marker. Quarterback Carson Wentz later tried to hit DeSean Jackson on a crosser, but Jones ran with the receiver and the pass was thrown slightly behind incomplete. Receiver Mack Hollins got behind Jones on a deep route, and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld threw to him on the run as he moved right, but the ball floated. Jones caught up, turned back and tipped the ball to himself as he fell backward. He bobbled it for a moment but held on. Jones played exclusively on the outside. I think that’s where he should stay.

Jones catches a lot of flak for every mistake he makes or every time another CB has a good day. I think people are ready for Jones to be a bust so they can say “I told you we shouldn’t have drafted the injured guy.”

Jones has been hurt and inconsistent so far, but he is talented and has played better than people give him credit for. I would love to see Jones stay healthy and play well, for his sake and the defense.

Going up against a big, physical receiver like Jeffery is exactly what Jones needs this summer. That’s the part of his game that needs the most growth. You play against boys in college, men in the NFL. And Jeffery is certainly a man. If Jones can learn to deal with him, he can certainly handle opposing receivers.

*****

Brandon Lee Gowton took notice of Andrew Sendejo.

Andrew Sendejo continues to take all the first team safety reps next to Malcolm Jenkins with Rodney McLeod still not doing team drills. Sendejo came flying in off the edge to put a big thud on Josh Adams as the running back tried to get to the outside. You can’t say Sendejo’s looked bad this offseason.

Last year the Eagles didn’t have three good safeties. They had two and when McLeod got hurt, they only had one. Corey Graham, who I’m tired of picking on, didn’t get the job done and Tre Sullivan wasn’t ready to be on the field that much. Avonte Maddox moved to FS and did his best, but he was a rookie playing out of position.

Adding Sendejo was a really smart move. He gives the Eagles a physical, veteran presence on the back end of the defense. This is what you want in a #3 safety. Hopefully McLeod will be back by September so Sendejo can focus on being a role player.

Plus you have Sullivan and Blake Countess in the mix. That is two young guys who should be able to build on the experience they got last year. We’ll have to see if either one of them is ready to step up and push for playing time.

We’ll jump over to offense for a minute.

Stefen Wisniewski continues to struggle snapping the ball as he takes ssecond team center reps.

With Big V playing RG with the starters, Wiz has spent his time as the backup center. And he has had some issues with errant snaps. This is the time of year to get that stuff out of your system, but you would prefer a veteran like him to not have that issue at all.

*****

Next up is Dave Zangaro.

A little shuffle at cornerback today. Still without Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby, the Eagles’ starters in their base package were Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones. Avonte Maddox came on as the nickel corner. Before this, Maddox was a starter and would slide inside in nickel. So it seems like they definitely like him inside.

Maddox is made to be a nickel corner. I think this is his long term role. He can cover slot receivers, but also play the run and blitz. He also could shift back to being a safety if you wanted to come up with move players around before the snap.

Brandon Graham got what would have been a sack during 11-on-11s. He got in the backfield in a hurry. Remember, this time last year he was still getting over an ankle injury that lingered into the season. It’s a big deal for him to be healthy right now.

Great point here. BG was on the PUP list a year ago. Now he’s flying around and blowing up plays. I’m glad he and the Eagles worked out a new deal.

*****

With all of this praise for the defense, that means a rough day for the offense. Carson Wentz didn’t have a good day. That’s okay. There are going to be some days when the other side of the ball gets the best of you. The Eagles have a deep, talented defense. If Wentz and the offense shredded them everyday, that would be a problem.

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