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