Updated: Aug 9, 2021
Sunday night under the lights at Lincoln Financial Field, Eagles fans finally had the chance to see Nick Sirianni's squad in person as the Eagles held their first of two open practices. There is a lot to unpack from this practice, so let's take a look at some of the winners and losers around the organization.
Quez Watkins: While Eagles fans were understandably disappointed that DeVonta Smith sat out of practice as he nurses a knee sprain, the 30,000+ in attendance did not miss out on any big plays at the wide receiver position. Quez Watkins was far and away the best player at practice yesterday, and if he keeps making plays like he did last night, he is going to give coaches no choice but to give him some serious reps on Sundays. The Eagles faithful erupted into cheers as Jalen Hurts rolled to his left and hit Watkins in the endzone for a 50+ yard bobbling touchdown catch right over the head of a defender during 11-on-11 drills. Hurts and Watkins built chemistry with each other all of last season on the second unit, and the two could each be in for a productive, breakout season.
Jordan Mailata: One of the biggest storylines coming into Eagles Training Camp was the battle for the starting left tackle position between Andre Dillard and Jordan Mailata but based on last night, it seems that Mailata has all but won the starting job. Mailata dominated Josh Sweat and Derek Barnett during 1-on-1s and was running with the first team all night while Dillard struggled at times and hung around the back with the second and third-team players. Based on body language alone, the race seems to be over.
Jonathan Gannon: Th Eagles' new defensive coordinator seems to have put together a formidable defense. The offense had trouble gaining momentum during 11-on-11 drills, and wide receivers during 1-on-1s constantly had balls swatted out of their hands by Darius Slay, Steven Nelson, and Zech McPhearson. If Gannon's defense can maintain their aggressive and physical playstyle for the whole season, they could potentially provide a little extra cushion for a young offense's inevitable hiccups.
The QB Room: Right off the bat, it was evident that the quarterback position would prove to be a struggle for the Eagles moving forward. While Jalen Hurts defiantly showed some improvement towards the end of practice, he had a very slow start and was missing throws on air. Nick Mullens is pretty much exactly what one would expect from a player of his caliber, which is not necessarily a good thing for Mullins' case, however, Joe Flacco was the biggest concern. The former Ravens, Broncos, and Jets quarterback was easily the worst player at practice yesterday; he was missing throws against no coverage that a high school quarterback would feel confident in hitting and his arm strength appeared to be the weakest out of the three quarterbacks. If Jalen Hurts were to suffer an injury or test positive for COVID-19, the Eagles would be in big trouble, to say the least.
Travis Fulgham: Last season, Travis Fulgham had a Jeremy Lin-Esque stretch of greatness leaving football fans wondering if he would blossom into a young, star wide receiver, but based on Sunday's practice, it does not appear that he will. Fulgham's routes were sloppy and nonexplosive, and he dropped several catchable passes throughout the night. His performance thus far has been a disappointment, especially considering the production he's achieved in the past.
Lastly, I'd like to touch on some of the key takeaways I noticed during practice, the first of which concerns the offensive line. Issac Seumalo sat out of practice yesterday, and his left guard spot was surprisingly filled by Brandon Brooks with Jack Driscoll playing alongside Lane Johnson at right guard. Brandon Brooks is arguably the best right guard in Eagles history, so the decision to move him to left guard is certainly intriguing. It is also worth mentioning that young talent put on a show for the Eagles faithful. Rookie cornerback Zech McPhearson was jarring balls loose left and right, locking up wide receivers, and overall demonstrating an exciting, physical style of play. On the other side of the ball, Jalen Reagor put his skills on full display as he attempts to probe doubters wrong this season. On a more interesting note, second-year wide receiver Michael Walker raised some eyebrows and could potentially sneak his way onto the 53-man roster or the practice squad at the very least.
The Eagles are scheduled to hold one more open practice on August 22.