Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Here’s what we saw during today’s Eagles practice…

10:46 a.m. – The doors that lead the way outside open with Party Rock Anthem booming from the speakers. There’s a camera-woman walking in front of me. I think this is her first time here, as she begins fist-pumping like there’s no tomorrow. I focus on trying to avoid getting punched.

An Eagles spokesman informs us of who’s missing. DeSean Jackson is out at practice, but not participating because of an ankle injury. Kenny Phillips is about to become a father for the first time, so he’s absent. Jason Peters is still out for personal reasons. And Cary Williams is attending his daughter’s recital.

You may recall that Williams missed about a month of work already (wedding, dental work, building a house, etc.) this offseason.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit torn on this issue. On the one hand, he just signed a three-year, $17M deal, the Eagles are trying to lay a winning foundation, and it’s not like he won’t get an offseason. After next week, the players get to do what they want for the next six weeks or so.

On the other hand, if he wanted to go to his daughter’s recital, who am I to decide whether he should or not? Isn’t that why these workouts are voluntary?

The key to me will be how he performs once the season starts. If he makes mistakes that could have been avoided by additional reps, then we can take a closer look at the last few weeks. But if he meets the coaching staff’s expectations, this very well could end up being much ado about nothing.

Hate to be wishy-washy, but I can really see both sides. Feel free to convince me one way or another in the comments.

10:53 – The QBs get some red-zone work in – except for Dennis Dixon, that is. He’s with the running backs, helping with handoffs. Further proof that he’s here primarily for his expertise in Chip Kelly’s offense.

The rest of the quarterbacks line up at the 10 and throw fades to the wide receivers in the end zone. Then the ball is moved to the 6. Now it’s flag routes to the back corner.

11:01 – After the five quarterbacks/five wide receivers at a time drill that we’ve written about before, we have a new variation. Two quarterbacks stand side by side near the middle of the field. Three receivers to one side, two to the other. Quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor yells out a coverage. “Cover 2!” or “We’ve got man!”

On one variation, the inside receiver circles behind the line of scrimmage towards the sideline like a running back on a wheel route. The middle receiver runs an intermediate crossing route, and the outside receiver has a deep go-route down the sideline.

11:06 – Special teams time. A special guest on the sidelines today: Mike Mayock. His massive calves serve as a reminder that Mayock is more than a tremendous draft analyst and color guy. He played two years in the league in 1982 and 1983.

The kickoff returners are on one side of the field. It looks like Damaris Johnson is getting a shot first. Jeremy Maclin and Brandon Boykin also take turns.

11:16 – Practice today is on the far field, closest to Broad Street, so no bleachers. Instead, reporters are huddled near the corner of the end zone.

Nick Foles gets the nod with the first team during 7-on-7 drills.

While watching the offense, a thought occurs to me: Teams facing the Eagles in the beginning of the season should have a distinct advantage. It seems almost unavoidable that there are going to be mistakes made offensively in the first few weeks. While many of the players on offense may be the same as last season, the scheme is completely different, and they’re going to need time to figure things out.

11:21 – Our first teach period. Garbage cans are set up as offensive linemen. The Eagles show five at the line of scrimmage – three defensive linemen and two outside linebackers. Billy Davis yells out calls. A lot of work on adjusting to the motion of the offense.

The second-team defensive line is Vinny Curry, Antonio Dixon and Bennie Logan. It strikes me how Curry has become a completely forgotten man this spring.

11:25 – Another team period. Foles with the starters again. He and Michael Vick rotated once again today. I think I can stop writing that going forward. If something changes, I’ll let you know. If not, just assume Foles and Vick are rotating.

11:35 – Special teams once again. This time, it’s field goals.

And we have a fake! Brad Wing takes the snap and fires to Dennis Kelly in the end zone for a touchdown.

I will put the likelihood of that combination scoring for the Eagles this season at 0.02%. Or is that too high?

11:45 – With Jackson not practicing, Ifeanyi Momah sees some time with the ones during 7-on-7 drills. He drops a very catchable ball on a slant from Vick and punishes himself with some push-ups on the sideline.

Vick threads one to Arrelious Benn, who beats cornerback Curtis Marsh to the middle of the field and puts the offense inside the 10. Vick then hits Brent Celek for the touchdown. Nice drive by the offense.

11:54 – Another teach period. It’s clear that the coaching staff believes Fletcher Cox has some versatility. On one rep, he’s standing up in a two-point stance at defensive end. On another rep, he’s at defensive tackle in a four-man front.

Connor Barwin lines up at outside linebacker and rushes the passer on one rep. He then shifts outside to the imaginary slot receiver.

By all accounts, pre-snap disguise is going to be a big part of this defense.

11:58 – Fight! Mychal Kendricks and Danny Watkins mix it up after the whistle and have to be separated. Neither was made available to the media afterwards, but I can offer some made-up quotes if you like.

“He’s a great player. It’s hot out here, and we’re competitors. No hard feelings, just a part of the game. That’s football.”

Satisfied?

The Eagles’ first-team offensive line is Dennis Kelly (LT), Allen Barbre (LG), Dallas Reynolds (C), Watkins (RG) and Lane Johnson (RT). Todd Herremans is currently just watching practice with the coaches. Some other reporters said he was running with the second team earlier, although I did not see that.

Either way, I wouldn’t make much out of it.

12:09 – Another team drill with the offense going up against the defense. Barwin has his shorts rolled up, exposing his man-thighs. My only guess is that he’s working on his tan. And yes, this is a complete violation.

12:13 – All the reporters start walking towards the bleachers, and I follow. Why? I have no idea. Now I can’t see, my backside’s on fire from sitting down for a few seconds, and I’m in the sun.

Let this be a lesson to never just follow the crowd blindly.

12:20 – Most players are likely feeling the effects of the 90-degree heat, but a couple seem to have extra energy. Barwin is tossing his helmet in the air on the sidelines when he’s not in. And rookie Joe Kruger appears to be doing knee lifts.

It’s like in college when you want to sleep in after a late night, and there’s that one annoying guy who wakes up early and ruins it for everyone. It appears that Barwin and Kruger might be those guys.

12:23 – It occurs to me that Kelly has answered several questions about his new methods with, “There’s a science behind it.” The problem is none of the reporters (myself included) is really smart enough to delve deeper into what he’s talking about.

Perhaps someone who is a bit more science-savvy needs to cover the team. It’s to the point where if we see players smashing ice cream cones into each others’ foreheads next week, we’ll probably just assume Kelly has a reason. “There’s a science behind it.”

Anyway, these are the places your mind wanders during a Friday afternoon practice in May.

Until next time…

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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