Eagles-Dolphins 2022 training camp joint-practice notes, Day 16: A weird end to camp

Philadelphia Eagles training camp is officially over, and it went out on a weird note. It was announced in the morning on Thursday that the Miami Dolphins canceled practice because a stomach bug that affected many of their players. And so, the Eagles held a regular old practice, sans the Dolphins, at the Dolphins’ facilities in the extreme heat in Miami Gardens. It was a short practice, but as always, we have notes.

• It has been weeks since Jalen Hurts last threw an INT during an Eagles practice. Eliot Shorr-Parks of 94.1 WIP, sitting with me at an airport bar, says that it was August 6, which was the Eagles’ seventh practice of camp. He estimated that it has been over 150 pass attempts since his last INT. Well, that run ended today, as Hurts threw two picks, and he nearly threw a third.

  1. The first was in the general direction of Jalen Reagor, and was picked by Darius Slay. It looked like a communication issue between Hurts and Reagor, and Hurts sought out Reagor after the play.
  2. The second was a pass to DeVonta Smith in the back right corner of the end zone. The pass was well short of where it needed to be, and Avonte Maddox made the play. He was probably also late getting the ball out on that play.
  3. The third near-INT was over the middle to Quez Watkins. Hurts threw way behind Watkins, who was at least able to reach back and get a hand on the ball, which would have otherwise been picked off by Marcus Epps, who was behind the play and waiting for the ball to come right to him.

Hurts Verdict: Hurts only attempted around 15 passes, and 20 percent of them were either picked or nearly picked. I think we can call that a stock down day. 📉

That said, I would like to revisit Wednesday’s practice, when I was torn between stock down and stock neutral, but settled on stock down, with the following explanation.

The Eagles’ offense conducted 11-on-11’s on the far field, while the defense practiced right in front of the media from the sideline bleachers. As such, it was a little easier to see the defense today, but I did my best to watch both fields. 

With that disclaimer in place, if Jalen Hurts completed a pass more than 15 yards down the field today during 11-on-11s, I didn’t see it. Checkdown city. Hurts seemed willing to give his wide receivers chances of making plays on the ball down the field last week in joint practices against the Browns, who were missing starting corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome. On Wednesday, with better corners patrolling the secondary, Hurts took fewer chances with the football.

Hurts verdict: It has been a while since Hurts has thrown an INT in practice, and that’s great! Today was a snooze fest from the first-team offense, though. You would certainly like to see the quarterback try to push the ball down the field more than he did. 📉

On the other field, Tua Tagovailoa was connecting on throws to all areas of the field, and the ball rarely hit the ground. While I believe that Hurts is the better overall player, Tagovailoa was a much better passer today.

Nick Sirianni today said that Hurts had his best practice since he has been the head coach of the team.

“I thought Jalen was outstanding in yesterday’s practice,” Sirianni said. “I mean, to me, Jalen’s practice yesterday was the best practice he’s had as an Eagle since I’ve been here. I can’t speak for the year before I got here. What he was doing with the football and being able to go through reads and the progressions that fast and getting the ball to where it needed to go, I thought, was unbelievable.

“There was a play on third down. We’re running some sort of slant to A.J. They took it away by coverage, and it was third and five. And he checks it down quickly to the tight end, to Jack Stoll, over the ball. He did the same thing on another slant to A.J. when he went over top to DeVonta. I’m not sure on all the times I’ve ever been a part of that play, I’ve never seen the ball go there and Jalen found it and figured out how to get it there.

“It was just happening. Everything was happening so quick for him — not quick for him — actually it seemed like everything had slowed down for him and he was getting the ball out on time. And I just thought he was at the top of his game yesterday. And that’s a great development for us.”

I can certainly see where Hurts probably had a better day from Sirianni’s vantage point, decision-wise, than what reporters could see from 60-100 yards away through binoculars. But best day? Eh, come on. I’ll bump yesterday’s practice up to stock neutral.

Overall, I thought Hurts had an encouraging camp. He did not make the kind of leap that Carson Wentz did from 2016 to 2017, because he just does not have the same kind of ability that Wentz had, but there were also plenty of signs of improvement, and he looks like a more polished quarterback in 2022. We’ll get to more on that after the Eagles’ final preseason game.

• Brandon and I have discussed this a few times on the podcast, but Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal are going to pose problems for opposing slot corners. If the opposing defense has some shrimpy slot corner, Pascal can bully him. Today, for example, Pascal got separation from Maddox on a physical route that ended up as a TD. 

If the opposing defense employs a more physical slot corner, there’s a good chance that guy won’t be able to match Watkins’ speed, and could be susceptible to big plays down the field.

It will be interesting to see how the Eagles’ offensive staff distributes snaps between Watkins and Pascal from week to week throughout the season, and if it’s matchup-based.

DeVonta Smith did push ups after practice to atone for a bad drop in the red zone today. He spoke after practice about how he has bulked up this season, and I agree that he definitely looks bigger. Last year he was one of the skinniest NFL players I’ve ever seen. To be clear, he’s still very skinny, just somewhat less so.

It should probably be noted that one of the concerns about Smith this time last year was whether his small frame would be able to hold up in the NFL. So far so good — he played in all 18 games as a rookie.

• Since we’re not going to get an injury report for a while, we may as well post the injuries from yesterday’s practice:

  1. Derek Barnett – ribs
  2. Shaun Bradley – illness
  3. A.J. Brown – rest
  4. Andre Chachere – groin
  5. Landon Dickerson – rest
  6. Christian Ellis – hamstring
  7. Javon Hargrave – toe
  8. Josh Jobe – elbow
  9. Jason Kelce – elbow
  10. Miles Sanders – hamstring
  11. Josiah Scott – hamstring
  12. Greg Ward – toe

Relatively speaking, the Eagles should enter their Week 1 matchup this season in Detroit as a healthy football team, especially compared with the rest of the NFC East. For example:

  1. The Cowboys lost Tyron Smith likely for the season. They are also razor thin at wide receiver to start the season, with Michael Gallup and James Washington recovering from injuries.
  2. The Commanders will be without Chase Young for at least the first four games of the season. 
  3. The Giants lost WR Collin Johnson, who had reportedly been having a fantastic camp, for the season. They are also going to be without rookie Kayvon Thibodeaux for 3-4 weeks with a sprained MCL.

• Here are the five players I’m most looking forward to watching in the final preseason game on Saturday night:

  1. QB Reid Sinnett: Do the Eagles have room for a third quarterback on their roster? Can Sinnett close the preseason strongly and ensure his seat at the table?
  2. TE Grant Calcaterra: Calcaterra has shown receiving chops in his limited time in practice, but he hasn’t yet played in a preseason game. 
  3. OL Jack Anderson: I think that nine Eagles offensive linemen are locks to make the team. If they keep 10, the tenth guy could be Anderson. He could use a strong showing to close out his camp.
  4. LB Davion Taylor: Taylor was brutally bad in the second preseason game against the Browns. He needs to show that he can bounce back from that and regain the trust of the defensive staff.
  5. S Reed Blankenship: This is a roster worthy-player, in my opinion. I’d keep him over some of the other veteran safeties vying for spots on the roster. We’ll see.

• Thursday’s practice was the last media-attended practice of the 2022 season. Well, sort of. We can watch the players stretch and do some individual drills during the season, but they kick us out for the good stuff. Thanks for following along with our practice notes this summer.

• Throughout training camp, we have had occasional one-on-one interviews with Eagles beat writers / other media folks while the players are stretching and doing other boring stuff, as well as our regular post-practice podcast recaps. On Thursday Brandon and I had a long chat with Eagles preseason color analyst Ross Tucker. Oh, and here’s the iTunes link. Review, subscribe, etc.

Within those beat writer interviews, I’m asking each writer four different questions:

  1. What will the Eagles’ record be in 2022?
  2. Will they make the playoffs?
  3. Will they win any playoff games, if so?
  4. Will Jalen Hurts be the starting quarterback in 2023?

The predictions so far:

Writer  Record  Playoffs  Playoff wins?  Hurts in 2023? 
7/27: Eliot Shorr-Parks, WIP  10-7  Yes  None  Yes 
7/29: Jeff McLane, Inquirer  10-7  Yes  None  No 
7/30: Bo Wulf, The Athletic  11-6  Yes  One win, over the Vikings  Yes 
8/2: Les Bowen,  11-6  Yes  One win, over the 49ers  Undecided 
8/4: Fran Duffy, Eagles  17-0  Yes  One win, unspecified over which team  Yes 
8/9: Reuben Frank, NBC Philly  12-5  Yes  One win, over the 49ers  Yes 
 8/10: Mike Quick, Eagles 11-6  Yes  Declined to answer  Yes 
8/16: Zach Berman, The Athletic  10-7  Yes  One win, unspecified over which team  Leaning yes 
8/24: Dave Zangaro, NBC Philly  12-5  Yes  One win, over the Saints  Yes 
8/25: Ross Tucker, Ross Tucker Football Podcast 11-6  Yes  Two wins, over the Vikings and Rams  Yes 

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