August 6, 2023   5 MIN READ

Sunday Night Lights

Hurts-Brown Connection Shines In Open Practice At Linc


PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles returned to practice Sunday evening, this time under the bright lights of Lincoln Financial Field amid a sea of fervid fans yearning for the return of Eagles football.

Football returned to Philadelphia, and the Eagles got back into their home stadium with fans for the first time since their NFC Championship win over the 49ers.

Not everyone could participate: Cornerback  James Bradberry (groin), wide receiver Deon Cain (ankle), linebacker Nakobe Dean (ankle), and edge defender Patrick Johnson (ankle) were each withheld from practice as they continue to nurse their injuries.

Wide receiver/return specialist Devon Allen remains on Active/NFI with a calf injury. Rookie defensive tackle Moro Ojomo left the Linc early after apparently getting poked in the eye during 1-on-1s.

Eagles training camp

ITB PHOTO: Eagles running backs warm up at the Linc before Sunday night’s open practice.

Let’s get on with the observations:

* Backup QB Marcus Mariota appeared skittish in the pocket during 7-on-7s, showcasing erratic ball placement, at one point missing badly on consecutive throws. He did, however, complete a short touchdown to wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Still, Mariota scrambles a lot more in these drills than you’d like.

* Running back Kenny Gainwell opened as the lead back – meaning he took the first carry – for 11-on-11s and looked spry throughout the evening. I maintain Gainwell is poised for a fairly prominent role.

* Shaun Bradley and Christian Elliss got the first reps at off-ball linebacker. Rookie free agent Ben VanSumeran even logged some first-team reps. With Dean on the mend, the scarcity in numbers prompted the team on Sunday afternoon to sign veterans Zach Cunningham and Myles Jack. More on them in Monday’s “Inside The Birds” pod with Adam Caplan and Geoff Mosher.

*As for the team’s two newest linebackers, Cunningham and Jack, the veteran tandem will sport numbers 46 and 47, respectively.

* In the latest episode of “Eagles Safety Carousel,” it was Terrell Edmunds who opened at safety alongside Reed Blankenship. K’Von Wallace also rotated in.

* Speaking of safeties, I thought the maligned group had a relatively productive practice. Blankenship blanketed A.J. Brown on an incompletion. Terrell Edmunds registered a pass breakup to DeVonta Smith. Wallace appears hungrier than ever and ready to capitalize on opportunities, and rookie Sydney Brown closes absurdly quickly and gets downhill with urgency. He reminds me of a heat-seeking missile. Keep an eye on him during preseason play.

* The Jalen Hurts-A.J. Brown connection continues to be automatic. Brown, who uses his big-bodied frame and attacks the football, was virtually un-coverable on slants over the middle.

* Really look forward to watching Rashaad Penny in game action. The snake-bitten halfback boasts some serious burst and showcased it early up the middle during team drills.

* Josh Jobe continues to run with the first-team with James Bradberry on the mend. Veteran Greedy Williams and rookie Kelee Ringo were the second-team cornerback pairing.

* TE Dallas Goedert didn’t yield a highlight touchdown catch akin to A.J. Brown’s  – more on that later – but the sixth-year tight end was active, garnering some early short-to-intermediate targets. If Goedert can stay healthy, he should have a career year.

*When Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson got their rest, Cam Jurgens — who seemingly has a stranglehold on the right guard spot — moved to center. Rookie Tyler Steen moved to right guard and Jack Driscoll filled in at right tackle.

* The second-team offensive line failed to generate much push up front against the first-team defense. Little room for the running backs to maneuver.

* Watching Mariota pilot the offense in the preseason projects to be feast or famine. I suspect in the preseason we’ll see much of the same in the way of scrambling and spotty ball placement.

* Rookie free agent WR Joseph Ngata rebounded from an egregious drop over the middle from Tanner McKee by later reeling in a short touchdown toss from Mariota as linebacker Shaun Bradley trailed.

* I’ve gotten asked about cornerback Eli Ricks quite a bit. The undrafted rookie was called for holding on pass intended for Ngata.

* With the first-team offense working against the second-team defense, Jalen Hurts found running back D’Andre Swift for a nice gain over the middle. Swift, who has been featured as a pass-catcher throughout camp, showed his explosion in the open field.

* Penny struggled to find running room on one span, as rookie Nolan Smith swarmed to get him for a would-be loss on the play. Smith, by the way, is lightning-quick off the snap. He defeated Tyler Steen for a would-be sack. Interested to see how much he plays to start the season.

* Mariota hoisted a deep shot down the left sideline for WR Tyrie Cleveland, who had a step on the defense. However, the pass brushed Cleveland’s outstretched fingertips, ultimately falling incomplete. As a player on the bubble, Cleveland needs to reel in those.

* DeVonta Smith is about as smooth of a pass-catcher as I’ve seen. On one occasion, Smith got open on a drag route in front of Elliss for an easy reception from Hurts – pitch and catch.

* The best play of practice occurred late into the session, courtesy of a connection from Hurts to Brown. Ripping the ball from about 25 yards out into a tight window, Brown skied over cornerback Josh Jobe in the left corner of the end zone to secure the catch for a touchdown. The rapport between those two is evident, but Brown again showcased impressive body control.

*Wide receivers Greg Ward, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Tyrie Cleveland lingered after practice to get some extra work. Quarterback Tanner McKee and tight ends Dan Arnold and Brady Russell got some additional throwing in.

*The Sunday night practice covered 1 hour, 38 minutes.

– Andrew DiCecco (@AndrewDiCecco) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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  • Rich Horenburger

    Andrew, has Josh Sills (acquitted of rape charges Friday) rejoin the Eagles and was he at the Linc practice?