Eagles training camp: Jason Kelce undergoes elbow surgery, other practice notes

The headline from Eagles camp on Tuesday was more about a player’s absence than what transpired on another day hot enough in South Philadelphia for Nick Sirianni to move practice up an hour in an (unsuccessful) attempt to beat the heat. Center Jason Kelce underwent what the team termed a “routine cleanout” surgery on his elbow. The typical recovery timetable for an elbow scope is around four to six weeks, which puts Kelce’s availability for the season opener somewhat in doubt, though the team is hopeful he’ll be on the field Sept. 11 in Detroit.

Though the Eagles are preaching caution, it’s fair to surmise the elbow gave Kelce enough trouble through the first two weeks of camp to make this necessary now. Otherwise, he would have had the procedure done in the offseason. Given the way Kelce is wired, one would imagine he’ll push to play and start in his 123rd consecutive game if it’s at all possible.

In the short term, second-round rookie Cam Jurgens enters the spotlight as the first-team center until Kelce’s return.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Jordan Mailata and Andre Dillard each returned to practice on a limited basis (no work in team drills) in their recovery from concussions, while Javon Hargrave returned after missing just one practice with a groin injury. Kenneth Gainwell (hip), John Hightower (groin), Kary Vincent Jr. (groin) and Keric Wheatfall (hamstring) joined the injured non-participants, while Grant Calcaterra (hamstring), Le’Raven Clark (hamstring), Jimmy Moreland (ankle), Boston Scott (concussion), DeVonta Smith (groin), Jaquiski Tartt (personal reasons) and Greg Ward (toe) remained out.

Here’s everything else you need to know from practice.

Three up 

Zach Pascal — We haven’t really had a chance to see Pascal shine in camp after he missed the first week-plus with food poisoning and has been slowly acclimating since. This was his best day of camp by a wide margin, as he showcased the kind of route running he professed to have this offseason when he scoffed at being described as a dirty-work wide receiver. In one-on-ones, he twice made Mac McCain look foolish with a nifty release only for the ball to be either overthrown or underthrown. He later ran a nice route for a completion on Mario Goodrich and then dominated one portion of seven-on-sevens with a pair of back-to-back catches, including a nifty one-hander. He still hasn’t made much of an impact in team drills and is working to get on the same page with Jalen Hurts, but Pascal is starting to show some of the juice that made Sirianni describe him, to Pascal’s disappointment, as the best No. 4 receiver in the league.

Quez Watkins, who pushes Pascal down the depth chart to No. 4, had a productive day in team drills with a contested catch over the middle of the field and a nice comeback route along the sideline with James Bradberry in coverage.

Jason Huntley With Gainwell and Scott both out, Huntley had a chance to work with the first-team offense when Miles Sanders was not on the field. In a team drill with the offense backed up near its own goal line, Huntley made a nice play picking up a Kyzir White blitz to free up Hurts to complete a pass. He scored a touchdown against JaCoby Stevens in running back-linebacker one-on-ones and showcased some of his top-end speed with a run around the edge and a screen in team drills. Huntley is the fastest of the Eagles’ running backs but, barring an injury, his best chance to make the roster is as the primary kickoff returner.

Reed Blankenship The undrafted rookie safety from Middle Tennessee State was the beneficiary of Tartt’s continued absence and was given a couple of trial-balloon snaps with the first-team defense during drills to spell Anthony Harris right before the second-team defense went onto the field. It’s difficult to truly judge safeties and linebackers in training camp when they’re not tasked with tackling to the ground, but Blankenship moves well, has been around the ball and seems decisive when chasing ball carriers in run defense. He’s one of three undrafted rookies, along with wide receiver Britain Covey and cornerback Josh Jobe, who has risen enough in the lead-up to preseason action to be considered on the roster bubble.

Three down 

Cam Jurgens Nothing major here, but after a borderline dominant start to camp, Jurgens has come back to earth a bit over the past few practices. His one-on-one rep against Jordan Davis from Sunday night’s open practice got plenty of attention, though there wasn’t too much Jurgens could have done in that situation. He lost a one-on-one rep Tuesday to Marlon Tuipulotu, as perhaps the defensive line is starting to get more of a book on him. Jurgens seemed fine in team drills, though the defensive line did create some pressure up the middle throughout practice. This seems sort of expected for the ebbs and flows of training camp for a young player. We’ll see if Jurgens can get back on track as the spotlight shifts to him over the next month with Kelce out.

Zech McPhearson  Here’s a case of deciding whether a particularly one-sided matchup is more about one player ascending or the other descending. McPhearson lined up twice against Jalen Reagor in one-on-ones, which are admittedly tilted heavily toward the wide receiver. Still, Reagor beat McPhearson twice, once with a nice route downfield for a big play and once on a fairly contested slant. Reagor continues to stack days in what has definitely been his most consistent camp as a pro. At the moment, he looks too good to consider releasing, though a trade remains very much on the table. As the expected “next man up” at cornerback were something to happen to Darius Slay or Bradberry, McPhearson has been just OK this summer. If the Eagles were hoping for a major leap from him in Year 2, it hasn’t come yet.

The third-team offenseSirianni got as mad as he has all camp at the conclusion of seven-on-sevens with the third-team offense and defense. Get your assignments right, was the euphemized message from Sirianni, who said he would only give the ones and twos reps from then on out (though he relented in the final team period).

Quick hitters 

• Time for your daily offensive line depth chart roundup. With the first team, it was, from left to right, Kayode Awosika, Landon Dickerson, Jurgens, Isaac Seumalo and Lane Johnson. With the twos, it was Josh Sills, Jack Anderson, Cameron Tom, Sua Opeta and Jack Driscoll. That was notable with Anderson and Opeta switching sides from their customary positions through camp thus far. With the third team, it was Sills, Awosika, Tom, Will Dunkle and Jarrid Williams.

• The Eagles released their initial depth chart in the lead-up to Friday’s preseason opener. That should be taken with a mountain of salt, though I thought there was one minor nugget of note. In the crowded secondary, Vincent was listed as the second-team cornerback opposite McPhearson, ahead of the likes of Tay Gowan and McCain. With Vincent not practicing Tuesday, Jobe took the reps opposite McPhearson with the second-team defense. He continued his flashy play of late with a forced incompletion while covering Richard Rodgers after an initial catch and relatively sticky coverage in one-on-ones against Watkins.

• A pair of rare missteps from arguably the two best players in camp thus far reminded us that nobody’s perfect in the heat of training camp. Johnson surrendered a sack to Brandon Graham during the final period of team drills and A.J. Brown uncharacteristically dropped a pass, though the ball then deflected off a defender into the arms of Dallas Goedert. Nothing to see here, as Brown still seemed like the focal point of the offense. Bradberry also made a nice play against Brown in one-on-ones, knocking the ball loose after Hurts hit him perfectly on a back-shoulder throw along the sideline.

• Elsewhere in wide receiver-cornerback one-on-ones, Covey continues his ascendance of late with wins over both Avonte Maddox and Josiah Scott. Sirianni praised Covey for his quickness on Sunday night, but where Covey has improved recently is in how fast he’s getting to that quickness. In other words, where he was hesitating before setting up the moves at the top of his route, he’s speeding through things now. Still, unless Reagor is traded or there’s an injury at wide receiver, Covey’s best chance to earn a roster spot remains as the top returner on special teams.

Devon Allen, the Olympic hurdler, has looked a little more like a football player of late and has been more involved in the offense. He twice ran past the cornerback in one-on-ones, only to be underthrown, and made a pair of back-to-back catches in drills with the third team. The relevant question with Allen is whether the team thinks he’s worthy of a spot on the 16-man practice squad.

• Offensive line-defensive line one-on-ones took place in a somewhat obstructed part of the field Tuesday, but a few things still stood out. The Driscoll-Graham matchup has been the most lopsided of camp, though Driscoll clawed back a victory Tuesday, knocking an overextended Graham to the ground, which elicited an excited reaction from his O-line teammates. Not far behind Driscoll-Graham in the lopsided nature of their matchups have been Dickerson and Hargrave, and today was no different, with Hargrave making quick work of the starting left guard. That seems like more of a plus for Hargrave than a concern for Dickerson, but it’s something to follow.

Other defensive line wins went to Haason Reddick, who finally got to rush from the right side and quickly got inside of Awosika, and Josh Sweat, who rushed past an overmatched Sills. Opeta held strong against both Tuipulotu and Marvin Wilson, while Williams shut down an Ali Fayad spin move.

K’Von Wallace made a nice diving deflection in seven-on-seven action with the second-team defense that led to a Davion Taylor interception. Gardner Minshew has been relatively meh through two weeks of camp, with a few highlight plays and some misjudgments.

• The Eagles return to practice on Wednesday before a day off Thursday ahead of the preseason opener against the Jets at Lincoln Financial Field Friday evening.

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

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