PHILADELPHIA -- There's nothing like a joint practice to get the juices flowing during the dog days of training camp -- especially when it includes a reunion with a fiery old friend.
It was only a matter of time before New England Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills popped off as he faced his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles, during the first of two joint practices Monday. The Eagles' sideline was giving him grief all day -- particularly cornerback Darius Slay, who, in a series of high-pitch taunts, kept encouraging the Eagles' offense to throw his way. The only surprise is the player Mills went after.
Left tackle Jordan Mailata, the 6-foot-8, 346-pound former Australian rugby player, gave the 6-foot, 191-pound Mills what Mailata called a "cheeky little two-finger touch on the helmet" when he deemed Mills had jumped offside. Mills responded by shoving the giant Mailata in the back, which drew the ire of Eagles players, including wide receiver Jalen Reagor.
"Honestly, I didn't expect him to blow up. When he did, I was like, 'You're acting up, man. You're acting up.' It's cool. It's on-field. I'm not really going to take it off-field. I haven't seen him yet. I thought he was going to Myles Garrett me, to be honest," Mailata joked, referring to the incident in October 2020 when the Cleveland Browns player ripped the helmet off Mason Rudolph and slugged the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback in the head with it.
There was also a fierce collision over the middle between Patriots tight end Matt LaCosse and Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett, which left LaCosse shaken up. But cooler heads otherwise prevailed during a spirited two-hour-plus practice.
Hurts faces off against a 'legendary' QB
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was dialed in Monday. Outside of one shaky 7-on-7 drill in which he threw two interceptions, he was on point with his throws, made sound decisions and acquitted himself well overall against coach Bill Belichick's defense. It's safe to say Hurts had the best day of any of the quarterbacks Monday, including Mac Jones and 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton.
"It was my first time actually meeting him in person. In the midst of trying to find out where I was going to go [to college] the second time around, he called me," Hurts said. "I've also had communication with him -- just from an older athlete, obviously he's a legendary player, the things he's done in college and in the league. I watched him a lot growing up. Being able to talk to him, being able to have a relationship with him, and meeting him in person for the first time, it was great."
Newton called Hurts "little bro" after practice.
"A lot of guys that I admire from afar, and just to see the state of the NFL, and having so much athleticism at the quarterback position, it's something to smile about," Newton said. "Jalen is a person that I followed all through college. Hearing so much about him really in high school, from the Houston area, me going to JUCO. And for me to see him out here today, it's just always love, and always going to be love between us."
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was equally complimentary of Belichick.
"Well, shoot, this is the best in the business ever, ever to coach. I mean, this is the best NFL coach ever. So really look forward to learning from him," he said. "Just like we watch tape of guys, just like we throw on the tape and say, 'Hey, look how you watch this guy run this route, look how to read this play' of players in the NFL. I'll do the same thing here with Coach Belichick."
Reagor heating up
One of Hurts' better passes of the day was a teardrop toss over Patriots corner J.C. Jackson down the left sideline for Reagor, who hauled it in after a quick bobble.
Reagor is coming on of late following a slow start to training camp. His routes are crisper and his speed and athleticism are shining through more consistently than at any point since he has been with the Eagles. He's looking to make the jump in Year 2 after a rather quiet rookie season in which he caught 31 balls for 396 yards and a touchdown.
"The more reps you get with everything you do, that brings confidence, and I think his confidence every day is going up," Hurts said. "You climb this mountain, it takes time."
Jalen Reagor impressive during 1-on-1s vs. Patriots, including on this sideline grab. pic.twitter.com/SPrgJamFr6— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) August 16, 2021
Smith making strides
DeVonta Smith, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 10 overall pick by the Eagles in April's draft, has been sidelined since Aug. 1 with a sprained MCL in his left knee. The wide receiver returned to practice in a limited capacity Monday, however, and was moving well.
With no players in the wide receiver room over 25 years old, the Eagles are light on experience. But the emergence of Quez Watkins, the positive signs coming from Reagor and Smith's ability make this an intriguing group to watch.
More DeVonta Smith pic.twitter.com/fKbwVbNGoY— Tim McManus (@Tim_McManus) August 16, 2021
More around the Eagles' camp
Eric Wilson, the former Minnesota Vikings linebacker acquired in NFL free agency, has had a strong summer. That continued Monday with an interception of Newton in the end zone toward the end of practice. Fellow linebacker Alex Singleton almost picked Newton as well, but he couldn't hold on. ... There was a scary moment when Slay collided with teammate Anthony Harris while trying to make a play and took a hit to the neck and shoulder area. Slay stayed on the ground for a moment but appeared fine on the sidelines after being checked out by trainers. ... Eagles guards Brandon Brooks and Isaac Seumalo have returned in full from hamstring injuries. For the first time all summer, the starting offensive line is intact.