Eagles Training Camp Notebook: A battle in the backfield beckons

FBN,  Carson Wentz ,  Wendell Smallwood
May 30, 2017: Philadelphia Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood (28) takes the hand off from quarterback Carson Wentz (11) during OTA at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Christopher Szagola/CSM(Credit Image: © Chris Szagola/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)

Week two of Eagles training camp kicked off today, and with a showdown against the Packers just ten days away, the intensity is beginning to pick up. Roster battles are taking shape and each rep is becoming more valuable than the last. Here are some takeaways from what’s been noted from the NovaCare Complex today.

 

Injuries:
There were several names missing from today’s practice, and while none are severe or carry long-term damage to the roster, it paved the way for players lower on the depth chart to make an impact.

QB Nick Foles- Elbow soreness
WR Alshon Jeffery- Shoulder
RB Donnel Pumphrey- Tweaked Hamstring
WR Torrey Smith- Back Spasms
RB LeGarrette Blount- Personal reasons
DT Elijah Qualls- Groin

With the starting two receivers absent and two running backs who have received plenty of attention during Training Camp, it opened the doors for two new battles at each position until the vets (and Pumphrey) return.

 

Up and down day for Wentz:
After two extremely strong practices from Carson Wentz where he was near flawless, today seemed to contain a few more bumps in the road.

Without his top receiving options and with hitting working its way into practice, it’s not all too surprising to see Wentz seem a little less explosive. However, it is promising to see the young signal caller making impressive throws on a regular basis.

 

Jernigan continues to show dominance:
One of the more under-the-radar standouts of Eagles Training Camp so far has been newly acquired Timmy Jernigan. Although, that changed today when the former Raven put on a clinic with the increased physicality working in his favor.

Jernigan looks to be the perfect compliment to Fletcher Cox, and if he can continue to harass the quarterback as well as wrapping up running backs, then it’s safe to say that the Eagles broached the dilemma of replacing Bennie Logan in the best way possible, with a defensive tackle who excels in both categories.

 

 

Marcus Johnson pushes himself into roster spot contention:
With Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith sidelined for today’s practice, all attention has turned to the likes of Marcus Johnson, who has been breathing down the necks of the likes of Shelton Gibson and Mack Hollins. With some looks against the first team cornerbacks, the former Texas Longhorn built on what he’s shown to the Eagles so far, putting in yet another strong practice.

It will be interesting to see where Johnson factors in to the Eagles wide receiver rotation, but the likelihood of him making the final 53 is growing stronger by the day. Pre-season will be a crucial period for the wideout who spent last season on the Eagles practice squad, but he’s doing all the right things during camp so far.

 

Robinson regresses:
One half of the Eagles starting cornerback tandem has been having a tough time as of late…and today was no different. Patrick Robinson (as noted above) has consistently struggled in coverage and on a day where the top two receiving threats were sidelined…Robinson had another tough practice.

He may be on a prove-it deal, but as of right now, Robinson is the longest tenured cornerback on the roster. Things aren’t exactly smelling of Roses right now in the Eagles secondary, but Robinson simply has to get better if he is to make it onto the final 53 securely.

 

Hollins steals rookie spotlight:
The one wideout who has been shining since Spring is Mack Hollins. The former UNC standout continued to show his athletic ability and catch radius during this morning’s practice.

His special teams presence is going to be crucial, but it’s becoming clearer by the rep that Hollins has plenty of potential as a deep-threat for Carson Wentz.

 

With a lighter backfield, Smallwood puts in a performance:
One area of intrigue throughout camp has been running back, and more importantly whether or not Corey Clement can force his way into contention for a roster spot. So far, so good. The UDFA has stood out on several occasions and given the Eagles another power-running option. But today, it was Smallwood’s turn to shine.

Maybe he’s heard some of the outside noise, or perhaps it was the sound of thudding pads that drove out a surprising level of physicality. Either way, Smallwood looks like a man on a mission to try and secure his spot in the running rotation and fend off the competition.

 

Gibson is still struggling but flashes what he showed at WVU:
Shelton Gibson’s struggles with catching the ball have been documented for a long time now…but while they may have been uncalled for in Spring, the declining trend is certainly beginning to become a slight cause for concern.

It’s clearly a mental hurdle…and there may be no better person to help him overcome such an obstacle than Nelson Agholor. But whether or not this is a trend that will carry over into pre-season could likely be the determining factor as to what the Eagles decide to do with Gibson.

 

Bryce Treggs sighting:
One wideout who has gone completely under-the-radar so far on the other-hand has been Bryce Treggs. The former UDFA flashed very briefly for the Eagles last year, but failed to fill the deep-threat void they craved. Today was very much a statement of intent from the former Cal product, who is going nowhere without a fight.

Treggs may be toward the bottom of the Eagles depth chart for now, but if he can make a splash when the starters are sidelined, there’s still very much an open competition that he’s a part of.

 

A mixed day for Barnett, but one of development:
The Eagles first round pick may not have been turning heads like Timmy Jernigan or Vinny Curry today, but Barnett was still very much learning and developing.

Seumalo’s nasty side and his relationship with Peters continue to give the Tennessee pass-rusher things to work on as he continues to come up against the starting offensive line. Working against one of what is now arguably the strongest offensive lines in the league is only going to benefit the young rookie as he works on his counter-moves.

 

Safety battle heats up:
The battle between Terrence Brooks and Jaylen Watkins has swung back and forth for quite some time now, with Brooks stealing momentum. Today, both players showed up with interceptions. The battle is beginning to intensify for the spot behind Jenkins and McLeod on the roster…and it’s heading for a pre-season showdown.

It may not seem like a huge position battle to watch, but given that Wakins actually played in 37% of the Eagles defensive snaps last year, it carries a lot of weight. Terrence Brooks has the familiarity with Joe Douglas and a crucial interception against the Giants to his name, while it’s Jaylen Watkins who once again enters camp fighting for his future after signing a one-year tender. The battle has been turned up a notch…but who comes out on top still remains a mystery.

 

Mandatory Photo Credit: Cal Sport Media via AP Images

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