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Eagles training camp: Jalen Hurts under pass-rush fire after left tackle injuries

On Tuesday, under what was the hottest sun of training camp thus far, the Eagles had their longest practice of the summer to date. On Thursday, with even hotter temperatures, the Eagles went even longer as head coach Nick Sirianni pushed the start of practice an hour earlier and scheduled more water breaks to help combat the heat.

“What … you like about it is they’re all fighting through the same elements together,” Sirianni said after practice. “It’s not just hot for one of them, it’s hot for both the offense and the defense. You get a little bit more of a bond there with that. The other thing you like about it is they get tired a little quicker. You have to fight. When you’re tired, fundamentals suffer, football IQs can suffer. You’ve got to fight through that.”

On the field, it was a reminder both of how fortunate the Eagles are to have the offensive line they do and how precarious that strength can be. With both Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard out after suffering concussions during Tuesday’s practice, veteran Le’Raven Clark was thrown into the fire as the first-team left tackle after working mostly as the third-team right tackle throughout camp. The results were not great.

Jalen Hurts faced more pressure than he has all camp as Josh Sweat in particular menaced Clark throughout the morning and Hurts was “sacked” at least three times from pressure on his blind side. That led to a day in which the defense won more often than not, though Hurts acquitted himself well. After throwing an interception in team drills in each of the first three practices, Hurts hasn’t thrown one since and continued to make the right decisions in less-than-ideal circumstances Thursday.

Hurts was also without DeVonta Smith, who did not practice because of a groin injury. As a result, Hurts targeted A.J. Brown early and often, primarily on Brown’s signature in-breaking routes. Brown has been the focal point of the offense through five days of training camp. Maybe that’s just Hurts trying to build chemistry with his new star wide receiver, or maybe it’s a preview of what’s to come.

On the first play of a team red zone drill with the offense starting on the 15-yard-line, Brown beat Darius Slay on a slant and caught Hurts’ pass around the 3-yard line before the would-be contact. Given Brown’s stature, it probably would have been a touchdown.

Hurts then hit Boston Scott on a checkdown on the subsequent play that Scott also might have turned into a touchdown during a game, though he was met with unexpected heavy contact by Marcus Epps and fell to the ground shaken up. Scott eventually walked off and was comforted by an apologetic Epps.

In the closing team period, Hurts again faced a heavy dose of unexpected pressure from his left side, including a would-be sack by Patrick Johnson. But Hurts also showcased the ease with which he can sometimes turn that pressure into a first-down scramble as he raced around the right side and picked up 10 yards before running out of bounds. That doesn’t make for an exciting practice highlight, but it’s the kind of answer Hurts can provide when inevitable injury-related questions are posed to the offense over the course of a long season.

Quick hitters 

• In addition to Mailata, Dillard and Smith, the other Eagles who did not practice were Grant Calcaterra (hamstring), Mac McCain (knee) and Greg Ward (toe). Veteran wide receiver Zach Pascal practiced on a limited basis for the first time this summer after an ugly bout of food poisoning.

Pascal did not participate in team drills but ran two routes from the slot in red zone one-on-ones, with undrafted rookie cornerback Josh Blackwell forcing an incompletion on the first rep before Pascal outmuscled Blackwell for a touchdown in the rematch.

• During that one-on-one session, Brown began things by beating Slay on a signature slant for a medium gain before Slay shut the door on Brown on a rep from the 6-yard line. Brown has gotten the better of Slay more often than not throughout camp, even if every rep seems to be competitive.

Avonte Maddox versus Quez Watkins has been one of the best matchups throughout camp with Watkins winning a few splashy reps. Today, Maddox shut Watkins down on both snaps on which they lined up against one another.

With Smith out, Jalen Reagor lined up against James Bradberry. Reagor has been more consistent this summer than in either of his previous two training camps, though most of his work has come against the second-team defense. As such, his double move from the 20-yard line that left Bradberry in his dust for a touchdown was notable. He later beat Bradberry again.

Dallas Goedert might have run the niftiest route of the session when he ran past Jimmy Moreland. John Hightower made his best catch of camp thus far in rising above Tay Gowan for a short touchdown in the corner of the end zone. Devon Allen’s struggles continued as he ran perhaps his cleanest route of the week but dropped the would-be touchdown. Lance Lenoir, 27, has showcased some quick feet throughout camp and beat Zech McPhearson twice, though the throw was only delivered accurately once.

Britain Covey had his best day of camp thus far. In one-on-ones, he shook past Josiah Scott for a completion down the middle of the field, though the hesitation involved might have taken too long, before beating Scott quickly near the goal line for a touchdown. He was also active during team drills, scoring a touchdown on Kary Vincent with the second-team offense. His roster chances still are likely to come down to his performance as a returner during preseason games.

Scott, meanwhile, worked again as a safety with the second-team defense for a few periods. Those reps came alongside K’Von Wallace and pushed Jaquiski Tartt to the third team, though Tartt and Wallace worked together later with the second team.

• One of the fun things about offensive line-defensive line one-on-ones at this point in camp is the built-in context of repeat matchups. Brandon Graham and Jack Driscoll, for instance, have lined up against one another throughout camp with Graham making quick work of Driscoll almost every time. That continued today, as the 34-year-old continues to look the part in his return from a torn Achilles.

Some of the other common matchups saw a reversal of fortune, though. Haason Reddick made a little more headway against Lane Johnson than he had thus far, though it was not quite a clean win. Jordan Davis similarly moved Jason Kelce farther into the pocket than he did in their last head-to-head battle, while Javon Hargrave torched Landon Dickerson. The best comeback performance went to Jack Anderson, who was nothing more than a traffic cone to Davis on Monday but held off the big rookie today.

As you might expect, Sweat made easy work of Clark, who also let Derek Barnett beat him to the edge. Other defensive line victories went to Milton Williams, who got inside Sua Opeta, Kobe Smith, who overpowered Josh Sills, and Patrick Johnson, who beat today’s second-team left tackle Kayode Awosika. Kyron Johnson also beat Sills when the undrafted rookie was working at left tackle.

Cam Jurgens continued to impress, stoning Marlon Tuipulotu. Renell Wren, though, had more success bull rushing Jurgens than anyone I’ve seen to date. Driscoll also fared better against the non-Graham counterparts, riding Tarron Jackson to the outside and just barely holding up against a feisty Ali Fayad.

Finally, fans of the Casey Tucker-Shareef Miller battles of yore will appreciate an old-fashioned matchup of players with the same number. Marvin Wilson and William Dunkle split their two reps today in the quest for No. 73 supremacy, though Wilson definitely has the edge over the course of camp.

• With the moving parts along the offensive line, the second-team group lined up from left to right with Awosika, Opeta, Jurgens, Anderson and Driscoll. Paring down the roster will be difficult for a deep offensive line group, though Clark did himself no favors today. Awosika, meanwhile, struggled occasionally in his adjustment to the new position after working primarily as a guard throughout his rookie season.

• The most explosive offensive play of the day came, as you might expect, from Reid Sinnett and Keric Wheatfall. Quarterbacking the third-team offense, Sinnett hesitated at the top of his drop before scrambling to his left in the face of pressure. Wheatfall reacted to the scramble drill by breaking free from his defender and darting downfield where Sinnett found him for a long completion. “Good shit, Keric!” yelled Sinnett after the play.

Sinnett has had more reps with the third team than rookie Carson Strong and has also been much more effective. Strong made one particularly ill-advised throw Thursday, lobbing a floater deep downfield into double coverage where Gowan and Reed Blankenship were waiting for a near interception.

Gardner Minshew bounced back from a down day to make a few nice throws Thursday. His best came during a team red zone drill when he lofted a perfect touchdown pass to tight end Noah Togiai in the corner of the end zone. Tartt and Gowan were in the area trailing behind Togiai, who has made a few plays in the days since Calcaterra injured his hamstring.

• The team spent one of the special teams periods working on short-field punts, with Lenoir and Hightower both downing balls at the 1-yard line. Arryn Siposs’ strength last season was pinning teams deep in those situations while he struggled in open-field situations. Even though there’s no second punter in camp, Siposs’ job is far from safe.

• During a red zone seven-on-seven drill that ran concurrently to the offensive line-defensive line one-on-one, Hurts hit Brown for a touchdown in the back of the end zone while both Maddox and T.J. Edwards made diving pass breakups (Edwards’ was a near interception). Sirianni also coached up Reagor at one point for a missed read. With the second team, Hightower scored a touchdown with Josh Jobe in tight coverage.

• No practice for the Eagles on Friday as they have the day off before returning to action Saturday morning.

(Photo of Jalen Hurts and Jason Kelce: Bill Streicher / USA Today)

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