Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Here is a running diary with observations from the Eagles’ first full-squad training camp practice.

1:02 – Let’s start today off with a low-quality video I shot with my iPhone, shall we? Here is Jason Peters crushing a blocking sled.

Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland’s message during this drill was for the players to “economize” their motion and not wind up before attacking.

If you missed it from the earlier post, Chip Kelly said Peters is the only player of his kind in the world.

Meanwhile, the quarterbacks and receivers are going two at a time on the other field. Lots of intermediate throws outside the numbers. Oftentimes when we think of arm strength, we think of deep balls. But these are the throws where it really shows. If I were rating arm strength of the Eagles’ top three QBs, I’d go Michael Vick, Nick Foles second and Matt Barkley third.

1:17 – The field is split in half for a 3-on-2 drill. Two receivers against three defenders. After one side goes, the whistle blows, and the other side is up.

Tried to give you a sense here of what I mean, although I’m not very close to the action. Warning: Don’t watch if you are prone to motion sickness.

Connor Barwin is the Eagles’ best outside linebacker in coverage. But he’s not keeping up with Jason Avant. The veteran wide receiver gets the best of him twice.

1:23 – Special teams time. DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Damaris Johnson are back to field punts. As I try to observe, a little kid who’s here as a fan just bumped me. What’s the appropriate response? Stand my ground or move over? I mean, I know he’s probably only 8-years-old, but I have a job to do here!

1:24 – Eh, I’m not a confrontational person. I reluctantly slide over.

Jackson drops a punt, and Kelly offers some feedback. He seems to be telling Jackson to get behind the ball and keep his body square, rather than catch the ball on the side of his body.

Jackson drops the next one too and drops to the ground for 10 push-ups.

The Eagles then add a twist. The returners have to catch the punts while holding tennis balls in each hand.

“Just trying to teach them to catch the ball with their body, not their hands all the time because sometimes you don’t get your feet in proper position if you’re always just reaching and grabbing with your hands,” Kelly said. “It’s just like using a weighted bat in baseball. Kind of get a feel for how you’re doing it the right way and then you take the weight off. So they’ll catch a couple without ‘em so they know they’re in the proper position from a fundamental standpoint. And then you take the ball away.”

One more item to note on special teams. Assistant Dave Fipp told T-Mac that Kelly sits in on every special-teams meeting. He appears to be very hands-on in this area.

Speaking of Fipp, he apparently wants to be the best-conditioned special-teams coach in the NFL. He runs down the field with the rest of the coverage team on one punt.

1:33 – During the first 7-on-7 period, Vick runs with the first team. The reps were split once again. Vick led the first team on three team drills, and Foles took over on two of them.

Some depth chart notes on defense. Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher are your starting corners. Patrick Chung and Nate Allen are your starting safeties. And one thing we didn’t see all spring: free-agent Jason Phillips rotates in with DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks as a first-team inside linebacker. Connor Barwin (LOLB) and Trent Cole (ROLB) are the first-team outside linebackers.

Brandon Graham and Phillip Hunt are second-team OLBs. Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney are second-team ILBs. Curtis Marsh and Brandon Boykin are second-team CBs. And during this drill, at least, David Sims and Kenny Phillips are the second-team safeties.

1:39 – Our first teach period. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis explains that the offseason is over and some contact will now be allowed. He emphasizes to the outside linebackers that tight ends can’t be allowed free releases.

1:43 – Another team period with the offense going up against the defense. This time, it’s 11-on-11. The defensive line features Cedric Thornton (LDE), Isaac Sopoaga (NT) and Fletcher Cox (RDE).

A lot of work on the run game. The pads aren’t on, and there’s no tackling, but some bumping here and there. One play is over, but cornerback Bradley Fletcher still hustles downfield to catch up with Bryce Brown and knocks the ball out of his hands from behind. Before you overreact, the whistle had already blown. But yes, it would be nice to see Brown keep it tucked regardless of the situation.

As for Fletcher, doesn’t look like the Eagles will have to worry about him giving full effort.

The second-team defensive line is Clifton Geathers, Antonio Dixon and Vinny Curry. Third-round pick Bennie Logan also rotates in at nose tackle. The second-team offensive line (I’ll assume you know the starters) is Dennis Kelly (RT), Danny Watkins (RG), Dallas Reynolds (Center), Allen Barbre (LG) and Ed Wang (LT).

Off play-action, Vick throws into traffic, but finds Jeremy Maclin, who makes a nice catch. There is a fine line between nice ball into a tight window and bad decision. Later, Vick rolls out and hits rookie Zach Ertz.

1:57 – You can see Ifeanyi Momah use his size on a slant. He gets Fletcher on his back, makes himself big and comes down with the catch from Vick.

2:00 – It looks like we have a couple injuries. Arrelious Benn has a left knee issue and will be evaluated. Cary Williams tweaked his hamstring, but says he’ll be fine.

2:10 – As I walk from one field to another, the great Merrill Reese asks to see my pen for a moment so he can sign a football for a fan. I remember at my first camp several years ago thinking how crazy it was that fans were stopping Ray Didinger for an autograph.

So… does anyone want my signature? Hello?? Anyone out there???

2:12 – Blurred Lines comes on, which gives me all the reason I need to post this amazing video:

You’re welcome.

2:15 – Barkley has been off-target with a few throws. Here, he misses Emil Igwenagu down the seam.

The play of the day right in front of me. Foles unloads a bomb to Jackson, who leaps in the air to disrupt the interception, but ends up coming down with the ball for a spectacular catch over Fletcher. Fletcher’s coverage was excellent, but Jackson made a great play on the ball, which traveled probably 50 yards in the air.

As he’s walking back to the line of scrimmage, Jackson immediately changes his mind and announces that he believes Foles will actually end up winning the starting job.

OK, I made that last part up.

2:20 – If you’re wondering about the tight ends, I’ve seen pretty much every combo from Brent CelekErtz and James Casey. Can’t draw any conclusions there as of yet, and probably won’t be able to for awhile. Snap counts could very well depend on gameplan and opponent.

By the way, Curtis Marsh is in for Williams on the first team.

2:24 – Brandon Boykin sticks with Clay Harbor down the sideline with ease on a Vick incompletion. Boykin is going to have a good year as this team’s slot corner.

It seems like about 75 percent of the balls Barkley has completed at practice over the past few months have been to Russell Shepard.

2:35 – Dennis Dixon throws a nice ball down the sideline on a wheel route to Felix Jones. Don’t forget about that battle for the third running back spot!

2:40 – Another team period. The Eagles show an interesting look in nickel. On one play, they go with four down linemen. From left to right: Barwin, Cox, Thornton and Cole.

On another snap, it’s Cox, Thornton and Cole with their hands down, while Barwin freelances.

I’ve also noticed that it seems like defensive linemen don’t actually get down into their three-point stances until they absolutely have to. Davis has talked about disguising the fronts and keeping the offense guessing. This is likely another part of what he means.

2:45 – The first full-squad day is in the books. Tomorrow is another practice at NovaCare. And then the pads come on Sunday at the Linc.

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  • Slidewell

    Sheil, you’re the guy for the kind of observant reporting that eager fans like to read. Keep up the good work!

  • Brian

    Sheil reports the truth. Vick and Foles lined up with the Ones. Sal Paolantonio reports that there was a major development… Vick ran with the Ones and Foles ran with the Second team. I’ve lost all respect for Sal. That’s why this is the best place for real Eagles news. Not that it’s a Vick/Foles thing, but rather there’s no BS to create a story.

    • Weapon Y

      Sal has lost all credibility as far as I’m concerned. It’s one thing to say, “I believe Michael Vick is going to be the starter.” That’s a reasonable prediction. It’s another to completely make stuff up to support what you said. When you do that, you’re no better than Jamie Dukes. That’s where I draw the line.

      • Matty Boy

        To Sal’s credit, I just saw his report on ESPN. He must’ve amended his initial report, because he stated things much more factually. He mentioned Foles split reps with the ones and that Vick hasn’t distanced himself as the starter. Maybe some of this heat is getting back to Sal.

  • Weapon Y

    I’m now worried that Brandon Graham is getting shafted once again. Davis is rotating guys at other positions (i.e. Curtis Marsh at CB, Jason Phillips at ILB), but not OLB. Graham isn’t even getting looks in 4-man fronts, where he dominated last year. Either Graham is not adjusting well to the new defensive scheme or Davis is giving him the Jim Washburn treatment all over again.

  • asdfasf

    “Connor Barwin is the Eagles’ best outside linebacker in coverage. But he’s not keeping up with Jason Avant. The veteran wide receiver gets the best of him twice.”

    I’m guessing if this wasn’t practice Boykin would be covering the slot receiver and the OLB’s would only have to worry about TE’s when they’re in coverage. But isn’t the league, and our offence in particular, looking to create mismatches over the middle with those fast/athletic TE’s?

    I know there’s still a lot of time. I know they’re still in evaluation mode. They say the scheme will play to the player’s strengths. I hope there’s no real reason to be concerned about this.

    • borntosuffer

      That was the one thing that stood out to me. But, I believe you are correct that Boykin would typically cover the slot receiver.

  • imnotsorryisaidthat

    Waiting for the pads to come on and the hitting to start before anything means anything.

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Awesome job Sheil. I want your Autograph no doubt and and Sunday if I see you you better have a pen….nice blurred lines video too. look liked the original to me. minus a couple things I suppose.

  • JofreyRice

    Just watched the PE.com recap of practice. Man, Trent Cole does not look smooth moving around as an OLB, at all. Very herky-jerky when changing direction & when flipping his hips.

    Peters looked awesome, though. Very optimistic about his return.

  • https://www.skinnypost.com/ GayleSaunders

    Sheil you deserve a slow clap for this report good stuff as usual! Felt Like I was there can’t wait till Sunday to see it live!

  • Damien

    Foles was the best QB today, Cooper was awful, and Bryce looks fast.

  • Eaglepete

    Man folks need to slow down on qb comp. At least wait a week with pads on before over analyzing.

    • Force Recon

      This comp has been blown out of proportion by the Philly media.

  • Brian

    “Both (Vick and Foles) were pretty sharp, though Foles seemed to stand out a touch more. Matt Barkley was a little rough around the edges.” ~ Tim McManus

    Tim’s not so bad, either.

  • Richard Colton

    that’s your takaway from today? Let me guess – based on today, Vick has clearly cemented his hold on the starting job. Right?

  • Jack

    From what I’ve read from various sources, Foles was more accurate and was the only QB to not throw an INT during the practice.

  • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

    Actually you’re right. Vick threw an interception – but Foles was under throwing balls and got bailed out by his receivers. The DJax catch was one of those situations. Once Pads go on..and folk can get hit…it will be interesting to see how many of those close calls are INTs or incompletions.

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

    Why would Chip say it’s an open competition and he won’t make any choices until at the very least he sees them in pads, then all of a sudden stop splitting reps?

  • MV7

    Never said that

  • MV7

    That would be unfortunate. Graham showed some promise last year

  • Myke Lowery

    sky is falling

  • Brian

    This is evaluation practice. The coaches need to see everyone play at their respective positions. Not seeing Graham in that front, means nothing today.

  • MV7

    Ask Sal

  • Weapon Y

    The way I look at the defense is that we have 4 players who are already studs or have stud potential: DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Fletcher Cox, and Brandon Graham. Those four guys should be the centerpieces of the defense. Chip said the scheme would be dictated by personnel, not the other way around. If he isn’t going to give Graham any meaningful reps, he was clearly lying through his teeth. Don’t get me wrong. I still think Chip Kelly was a great hire. It’s still too soon to make a definitive judgment, but if I don’t see Graham getting any action a few days into training camp, my opinion of Chip is going to be less favorable.

  • MV7

    If you let Geoff Mosher from CSN Philadelphia tell it, Foles was the second coming of Montana

  • http://abigbuttandasmile.com/ A Big Butt and a Smile

    Mosher is a hack and has a serious dislike of M. Vick

  • MV7

    1000% obvious

  • borntosuffer

    Kempski does good work. Loved his diagrams on the coverage of the LB’s and the QB/receiver drills.

  • JamesDDl

    Saw the same original report. ESPN has decided that the Igg’s QB competition is going to be one of their top training camp stories/controversies – so dagummit thats what they are going to report/make-up. Oh well – I guess it’s better than royal baby, Braun or weiner-spitzer.

  • MV7

    Can’t argue with that

  • usmcnole

    If I met sheil id probably give him big man hug of appreciation

  • Force Recon

    Additionally, Foles plays it a lot safer with check downs (that is why his numbers for completion has been a tad better in practice). That stuff doesn’t last long in the NFL. They will hunt a dink and dunk QB. You have to be able to throw the intermediate and long ball in the NFL. At the end of the day this is Vick’s job to lose. It will be the play in pads and in the first two preseason games that will decide this thing (particularly the games because we will see those games and the reporters can’t lie about the facts. Vick starts and finishes the season as the starter (even though tradictionally Vick doesn’t have great preseason games.