Eagles Wake-Up Call: What We’re Watching At OTAs

We get another look at Eagles practice today as we enter the final week of OTAs. Here are three things we’re watching:

1. Hitting the moving target

Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor told us that the staff values accuracy and decision-making above all else when it comes to their signal-callers. We’ll be paying attention to see who is thriving in those areas.

Adding to the degree of difficulty is the fact that the receivers have options in some cases when it comes to route-running. There is a bit of improv involved. That makes QB-receiver chemistry all the more important.

“There are so many options on every play,” said Matt Barkley. “You’ve got to really be able to know their breaks: when their hips drop, when they come out of breaks what their angle is going to be.”

2. Secondary changes?

The first time we watched practice, Nate Allen and Patrick Chung were the first-team safeties. Last time, Chung was absent due to  weather delays and Kurt Coleman took his spot. (Kenny Phillips, who has a history of knee issues, is being brought along slowly it appears.) We’ll see what the safety picture looks like the third time around.

I anticipate that the cornerback pairings will be different. Cary Williams was not present for either of the practices that the media has had access to. He was getting married the first time, and was delayed by weather (like Chung and others) the following week.  With Williams unavailable, Curtis Marsh was running with the ones opposite Bradley Fletcher.

3. Better or worse?

The players are learning a brand new offense and are being asked to run it at 90 miles-per-hour. Not surprisingly, there have been some sloppy moments in the early going. We have seen receivers looking to the sideline in vain, unable to capture the play-call before the ball is snapped. There have been plenty of drops and misfires.

It appeared to get a bit worse last week. More of the offense had  been installed, which may help explain why practice looked less fluid.

Whether the Eagles can have success in Year One under Kelly depends on how quickly they can take a bite out of the learning curve.

WHAT YOU MISSED

DeSean Jackson gives back, Bryce Brown looks to take the next step, and more in our weekend round-up.

Billy Davis says that the “degree of difficulty right now is at its all-time high” for the defense.

Ted Williams explains what the tight end’s role is in this “musical chairs” Kelly offense.

Receivers coach Bob Bicknell discusses the new route-concepts under Kelly.

Duce Staley is getting his backs ready for a ground party.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

One league scout is high on former Alabama defensive lineman Damion Square, now property of the Birds. From Geoff Mosher:

“I’ll tell you what, when I looked at the Eagles’ rookie free-agent acquisitions, the first guy I saw was Damion Square,” the scout said, “and I said that’s a great priority free-agent signing.”

“Only question you’re going to have is, at the end of the day, is he big enough for a two-gap [system]?” the scout said. “Is he long enough, athletic enough? Does he have the prototypical height to play in the trenches? No. Does he have the prototype build you want? No. But when you put him on tape, the kid plays his ass off. He has a phenomenal motor. He’s a guy that has really mastered all the technical aspects of the game.”

Jeff McLane looks at the role of Jerry Azzinaro, whose responsibilities go well beyond the defensive line.

[Todd] Lyght and some of the other Eagles assistants marvel at the way [Azzinaro] breaks down film. Lyght would only say that it involves deciphering into the simplest of terms where the ball may go based on an offense’s formations and sets.

“It’s pretty funny because they don’t share all their information, even with some of the coaches,” Lyght said. “Or they’ll teach it to you and teach it to you real fast, but you can’t comprehend all the information.”

Azzinaro was also adept at making in-game adjustments at Oregon, Lyght said, adding that defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti often relied on Azzinaro’s problem solving. New coordinator Bill Davis will surely take all the help he can get as he rebuilds the Eagles defense.

COMING UP

Practice starts at 10:40. Sheil has put in a request for some John Cougar Mellencamp. We’ll see if he has any pull.

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  • Corry

    Reading the comments on Coach Azzinaro makes me wonder why he isn’t the defensive coordinator.

    • G_WallyHunter

      Great to see that about him.. how he’s a master at breaking down film and analysis… D line should be GREAT

      • ClydeSide

        He coached Dwight Freeney at Syracuse.

        • G_WallyHunter

          Bonus

    • jamesbondage

      perhaps lack of sufficient nfl experience?

    • http://twitter.com/pjcostello Paul Costello

      Some guys, like Washburn, really prefer position coaching — as opposed to coordination of many positions at once. It’s not always a matter of them not being considered for a ‘promotion’, but of their comfort and confidence in accepting it. I actually admire guys like that, because they found their niche and are happy with their careers and jobs.

      • JofreyRice

        Agreed with your premise, but can we use someone other than Jim “I’m going to treat the defensive line as a separate entity from the rest of the team, while undermining the authority of the defensive coordinator” Washburn as the example?

        • Richard Colton

          I’m not sure that nickname will stick. How about we shorten it to Jim “unrepentant a-hole” Washburn?

          • JofreyRice

            Done!

          • theycallmerob

            Rolls off the tongue

        • http://twitter.com/pjcostello Paul Costello

          Sorry — since he was just here, he was the first one that leapt to mind. :-)

          • JofreyRice

            haha, I know what you meant, just wanted to get that parting shot in there. Never would have thought that given the two, I’d end up hating Babin’s horrid tribal tattoos *less* than Jim “Unrepentant A-Hole” Washburn. Good riddance to both of ‘em!

            Hoping the Eagles & Chip Kelly’s run game gashes Detroit’s wide 9 for 300+ yards come December 8th.

          • cliff henny

            JR, think you and i can play QB that week. kelly’s going to be in the film room that week thinking ‘com’on, they arent really going to play this against us, are they?’

          • Bite Mee

            Coach Davis on the wide-9, “Anytime you ask the secondary to be primary B- or A-gap run-defenders, you’re just asking for trouble on play-action and deep balls” .

      • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

        From what I know about Azzinaro, he’s got no problem with being a DC and it could very well be in his future, I think it more has to do with Chip wanting to go with a coordinator with NFL experience.

        While most d-line coaches just want to teach their guys how to get after the QB and their gap responsibilities, Azzinaro is a strategist. Him and Chip are on the same wave length on the vision they have for their team.

        Consider Jerry as Chip’s consigliere.

    • theycallmerob

      He is asst. head coach; a few years of NFL exp. might lead to a D.C. opportunity soon.

    • http://twitter.com/Lez215 Dutch

      Azzinaro’s official title is “Assistant Head Coach/ defensive line coach”. He has responsibilities normally assigned to Coordinators.

    • Andy124

      Could be that Davis is basically a place holder while Azzinaro gets a couple years of NFL seasoning. If all goes according to plan, Davis gets replaced by Azzinaro in year three.
      Or maybe it’s just a matter of every player is a future pro-bowler in May, and every coach is a genius mastermind in May.

      • G_WallyHunter

        HAHA

  • eagle fan dwn south

    Sheil I finally off while OTA are going on will it be on eagles live today and if so what time

  • ClydeSide

    I liked the comment by Todd Lyght that 80% of the defense has been installed. Really, that’s amazing at this point.

  • Chris

    Love the smell of wake-up call in the morning….

  • Max Lightfoot

    I enjoy how Kelly and his coaches are keeping the players (and media actually, which is something for me to admit, being an ex-news reporter) somewhat off balance. Who knows what they heck they will do? He and his many coaches are all bright guys and unpredictable, which is a refreshing change from Andy and his leaden, grunting pressers. However, as we know, it all comes down to player talent, and it’s going to take a while to be competitive. But it will be interesting – It’s a good time to be an Eags fan!

  • http://twitter.com/pjcostello Paul Costello

    I’m probably an idiot for not looking this up on my own, and I’ll take the heat, but since I’m here already: Is this the same Todd Lyght who played for the Rams not too long ago? Cornerback?

    • http://www.philthycanuck.com/ Adam

      Yep, that’s him.

      • http://twitter.com/pjcostello Paul Costello

        Thank you!

  • EaglefaninAZ

    “Adept at in-game adjustments”? Help me out and explain, please. I’m not familiar with this term. Lol…