Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

One last time before training camp…

1:07 – Because I am a man of the people, I took a photo of the fly-swatter things that assistants have been wearing to simulate 6-foot-4 offensive linemen. Here you go:

As for practice, wide receivers are running double-moves in the red zone. The line of scrimmage is the 15. They go straight for 10 yards, turn inside for the post at the 5 and then head to the opposite corner just before reaching the goal line.

It’s worth noting that quarterbacks coach Billy Lazor seems to be in charge during this portion of practice every day. He’s back at the line of scrimmage, shouting out instructions. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur stands deep near where the wide receivers catch the football.

Shurmur puts his arm around Jason Avant to go over something after one of the reps. Strange to think that these two were on the same practice field together seven years ago when Shurmur was the QBs coach and Avant a rookie. Since then, Shurmur has served as the Rams’ offensive coordinator for two years and was the Browns’ head coach for two more. Avant has just kept reporting back to South Philly.

Next, the receivers run shallow crosses, but when they’re near the middle of the field, they deliver a quick fake upfield to wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, who is presumably simulating a middle linebacker dropping in coverage.

1:22 – This is a drill we saw the other day. Five offensive skill-position players go out into routes, and there are seven defensive players in coverage. The ball is snapped to Shurmur, who plays quarterback, but no pass is thrown. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis shouts out the coverage, and the receivers go into their routes.

You can really see why Chip Kelly preferred a massive coaching staff during this drill. I take a quick glance and see at least eight different coaches offering instruction. And remember, this portion doesn’t even include any offensive or defensive linemen.

1:27 – Special teams time. A new wrinkle for the punt coverage unit. Players start out at the 15 and run towards the goal line. A coach tosses a football into the air, and the players have to make the catch (or bat the ball back) without going into the end zone for a touchback.

They then break out volleyballs and bounce those high into the air, essentially doing the same thing.

1:37 – 7-on-7, offense vs. defense. And Vick is running with the ones.

When the third team gets up, Russell Shepard snags a high throw from Matt Barkley. Earlier, T-Mac speculated that Shepard could become my training camp man-crush. I wish I could rip him, but damnit, I think McManus probably nailed it. I like what I’ve seen from Shepard so far.

The defense is showing a lot of different looks today. Again, pre-snap disguise seems like it’s going to be a trademark of this group. On one play, Brandon Graham, Jason Phillips and Jamar Chaney line up next to each other behind the defensive line. Graham and Chaney drop, while Phillips rushes the passer.

1:48 – An 11-on-11 period. We know by now not to read too much into who’s lining up with the first, second and third teams, but Bryce Brown is seeing plenty of action with the starters. He’s not going to beat out LeSean McCoy, but by all accounts, Brown is going to be a big part of this offense.

Earl Wolff sees a few reps at safety with the ones for the second day in a row.

Jason Peters and Trent Cole exchange shoves on one play. Connor Barwin casually steps in between them. If we were making a guys not to mess with” team out of the 90 players on this roster, Peters and Cole would be no-brainers.

1:59 – For the first time all camp, we get some Red Hot Chili Peppers. I like whoever picked the music today.

2:09 – Play of the day during 11-on-11s. Foles lines up with the ones and unloads a bomb that travels more than 60 yards in the air to DeSean Jackson, who burns Bradley Fletcher for a touchdown.

Getting back to the different looks on defense theme, on one play, Brandon Boykin rotates back as the lone deep safety. On another, Casey Matthews drops way back there before the snap.

Watching the All-22 of this team is going to be fun. It looks like Davis is going to run a creative scheme. That obviously doesn’t guarantee success, but it won’t be boring.

Vick throws a pass right into the fly-swatter thing pictured above. He’s done that twice during practices open to the media.

2:23 – Offense vs. defense. The idea is simple. The offense gets the ball at midfield with 1:01 on the clock and tries to get in the end zone.

Foles starts with the ones and gets off to a shaky start. His first pass is nearly picked off by Boykin, who has great coverage on Jason Avant. His second pass is nearly picked off by Cary Williams, who jumps in front of Jeremy Maclin.

But on his third pass, Foles finds Brent Celek deep, and the tight end rumbles into the end zone for the touchdown.

Vick’s up next. He can’t find anyone downfield and takes off running for a big gain down the left sideline. Kelly is OK with that part, but he’s not OK with how Vick is carrying the football. “Mike!” he shouts, before reminding him to tuck the ball away.

Vick has to throw the ball away on third down, and his team settles for a field goal. Matt Barkley and the third team also have to settle for a field goal.

There’s still time left, so Foles and the first team get another shot at it. Same idea, but this time, the ball is on the 30 with 33 seconds left. Foles hits Avant for a deep completion near the far sideline. The wide receiver goes out of bounds, stopping the clock, and for one of the only times all spring, we see the quarterback make the “huddle” sign with his hands.

The horn sounds for the next period, but the offense runs one more play in the red zone. DeMeco Ryans blitzes and is unblocked, forcing Foles to throw the ball away.

2:38 – After a teach period, it’s offense vs. defense once again. This time, Vick is with the ones.

Ryans and Mychal Kendricks both blitz (looks like the A-gaps), and Vick scrambles to his left. With Trent Cole approaching, the QB shoves Chris Polk in front of him to block. If this were training camp and a live hitting period, Polk would likely have needed a few minutes to pick himself off the ground, but Cole holds up. The offense does not get into scoring position.

McCoy and Foles lead the charge for the twos. McCoy opens it up with a nice run to the left sideline for a big gain. But Duce Staley is not impressed. He yells at the running back for swinging the ball away from his body. Ball security, ball security, ball security.

From the day Staley joined this staff, he hasn’t been afraid to challenge players on the field, which is a good thing.

McCoy has a good series and eventually gets into the end zone.

On the sideline, 6-foot-7 Ifeanyi Momah stands next to 5-foot-8 Damaris Johnson. If you told a foreigner watching practice for the first time that these two guys played the same position, he would probably think football is a very strange sport. And he would be right.

??? -You can tell I ran out of gas because I didn’t even write down what time practice ended. It’s been a fun few weeks, and thanks to all who joined along with us. Until next time…

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