Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

You know the drill. Here’s another running diary from Eagles practice.

1:03 – I learned years ago that the first thing you do when covering an offseason NFL practice is scan the field to make sure the players expected to be in attendance are actually there.

That seems to be the case here. I see Nos. 71 (Jason Peters), 26 (Cary Williams) and 25 (LeSean McCoy). The Eagles announced that only three players are absent: Isaac Sopoaga (death in the family), Zach Ertz (NCAA graduation rule) and Jordan Poyer (NCAA graduation rule).

Three helicopters fly overhead. Given that the Eagles and Patriots are holding joint practices in August, I feel like I should make a Spygate joke, but I can’t think of anything.

The Jump-On-It song plays over the speakers. Jimmy Kempski and I discuss whether this is different from the Fresh Prince version or not. We decide that it is. It’s time like this I realize how important my job is. Not to sound conceited, but I really can’t think of anyone else contributing more to the greater good.

1:07 – Quarterbacks and wide receivers line up for a variety of routes, which has become customary during this portion of practice. Two QBs at a time, back-shoulder throws near the sidelines.

Then all the wide receivers line up in a single file in the slot. Jason Avant is up first. The drill is simple. Offensive quality control coach Press Taylor imitates the slot corner and comes on a blitz.  The quarterback has to make a quick decision and a quick throw. The wide receiver has to make sure he’s looking back for the ball on the hot route.

If you’re thinking Michael Vick, Antoine Winfield, a Tuesday night and a nation of wusses, well, you’ve got the idea.

1:12 – Next up are go-routes down the sideline. “Let him go get it,” instructs QBs coach Bill Lazor. The quarterbacks release the ball when the receivers are at the 20, but the catches are made near midfield.

Then it’s 10 to 12 yard outs, which are run directly to the part of the sideline where the cameramen (and women) are standing. Arrelious Benn nearly takes out one of them. Speaking of Benn, that guy is put together. I’m looking forward to seeing him with the pads on this summer. If there’s anything less than one skirmish a week between him and Williams, I’m going to be disappointed.

And finally, wide receiver screens. “You’ve got friends out here,” Harold Carmichael says to Russell Shepard. The point is simple: Get to the sideline where the blockers are.

1:17 – Five QBs, five wide receivers. We’ve explained this one before.

1:22 – A wrinkle we haven’t seen in the past. No quarterback is on the field, and no pass gets thrown. But it’s receivers and tight ends running their routes against defensive backs and linebackers.

The coaching is frantic. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur takes the simulated snap. Chip Kelly instructs Jeremy Maclin after his rep. Defensive backs coach John Lovett shouts out coverages. And defensive coordinator Billy Davis instructs outside linebacker Chris McCoy to stay square, rather than get vertical in coverage. All of this is happening at the same time.

1:31 – Now’s a good time to note that practice has slowed down a bit, and the music is definitely not as loud. It’s special-teams time, and Donnie Jones is hitting some bombs.

Want an example of how us bloggers take our jobs seriously? Kempski’s got the phone out and is measuring hang times.

1:37 – It’s 7-on-7 time. Vick starts out with the ones and threads a pass to Maclin right in front of Connor Barwin, who was dropping in coverage. I’m no arm strength expert, but it’s clear that Vick can make throws that no other QB on the team can make. I’m not saying that is going to earn him the job, but it’s noticeable.

For the first time all spring, Williams is lined up at cornerback with the ones, alongside Bradley Fletcher. Sorry, Curtis Marsh. Looks like your time as a starter may be over. Then again, it’s only June.

Vick holds on to the ball too long, and we hear the whistle. But it appears Maclin might be to blame as he points to himself jogging back to the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles seem to be rotating safeties more than any other position. Nate Allen and Patrick Chung have seen the most action with the ones.

Near the end of the drill, Maclin catches a bomb from Nick Foles that traveled about 50 yards in the air. Williams had good coverage, but Maclin made a nice adjustment on the ball, and Foles made a nice throw.

1:47 –  After a teach period, it’s offense vs. defense with Vick again running with the ones.

Sopoaga is out, so we have a starting defensive line of Clifton Geathers, Antonio Dixon and Fletcher Cox. The second team is David King, Bennie Logan and Vinny Curry.

And we have our biggest surprise of the day: The projected Eagles’ starting offensive line for Week 1 is on the field. Lane Johnson (RT), Todd Herremans (RG), Jason Kelce (C), Evan Mathis (LG) and Jason Peters (LT). Kelce is participating in the “team” portion of practice for the first time as he continues to rehab a torn ACL. And I didn’t think Mathis (ankle injury) would be back until training camp. But I was wrong.

Johnson, meanwhile, sticks at right tackle in place of Dennis Kelly. And Peters is back after dealing with a personal issue last week.

The second-team O-Line is Kelly, Danny Watkins, Dallas Reynolds, Allen Barbre and Ed Wang.

An interesting nickel look up front. Trent Cole at right defensive end with Barwin right next to him standing up. As we’ve discussed, expect Barwin to move around quite a bit in this defense. On the next play, he’s on the left side.

Mathis and Kelce get a breather after the first set of reps. Barbre and Reynolds replace them.

2:08 – After a special-teams session, it’s back to 7-on-7s. Foles runs with the ones this time. Fletcher lines up at left cornerback and makes a nice play on a ball near the sideline that was intended for Jackson.

2:22 – Following a teach period, Party Rock Anthem blares from the speakers, and McCoy tries to engage Carmichael in a Dosey Doe on the sideline. He doesn’t seem to be feeling it.

A lot of mixing and matching at running back with the first team today. Bryce Brown, Chris Polk and Felix Jones have all gotten reps with the starters, in addition to McCoy. Polk beats Mychal Kendricks, lays out but can’t make the catch on a pass from Foles.

A screen to Riley Cooper with Damaris Johnson blocking. Shouldn’t that be the other way around?

Vick fakes a WR screen and then hits Benn deep.

With the Eagles’ defense in nickel, one of the coaches yells, “Four down!” Barwin, Cole, Geathers and Cox all line up with their hands on the ground.

The whole “multiple” thing is beginning to make more sense.

2:37 – Pre-snap disguise is going to be a trademark of this defense. With three down linemen, Barwin, DeMeco Ryans and Kendricks dance around the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped.

Meanwhile, Shepard seems to be lining up in a different spot on every play. He might be a player to watch this summer.

On another play, Vick throws behind Maclin on a deep crosser, and Williams breaks it up.

2:48 – That’s a wrap. Meet me back here at the same time Wednesday. Don’t forget, all three practices this week are open to the media.

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