Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Here’s what we saw at today’s practice:

12:38 – The Eagles are in pads for the second consecutive day. As Chip Kelly explained, he’s trying to walk the fine line between making camp physical and not injuring his players. For that reason, there will be no tackling to the ground until the preseason games.

12:42 – An early team period today. Nick Foles starts out with the first team, but once again, he and Michael Vick are rotating.

12:44 – Here is your daily Jason Peters crushing a blocking sled video. If you’re wondering why I don’t add some variety, it’s because this is the one drill where I can get really close to the action.

Running backs, meanwhile, are practicing ball security with special contraptions we’ve seen before. The football is attached to a string. On the other end of the string is something that looks like a baton. One player holds the ball, while the other player, about 5 yards away, tries to yank it loose.

Here’s a photo from a distance:

12:53 – There are giant insects flying all around the fields here. Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com tells me they are dragonflies. I’m standing next to a kid from the Boys & Girls Club. As one of the giant creatures nears his face, the kid flips out and dives to the ground, nearly taking out my knee in the process.

But don’t worry, I’m OK.

And I don’t really blame him. I probably would have reacted the same way when I was 8-years-old. Actually, I would probably react the same way even now that I’m 30.

1:00 – The field is divided in half for a little 3-on-2. Two quarterbacks stand next to each other, facing the same direction. When the whistle blows, one of them takes the snap, and two receivers go against a linebacker, corner and safety. Once the play is over, the whistle blows, and the other quarterback does the same thing on the other side of the field.

A new twist though today. The voice over the loudspeaker is handing out scores after each rep. “Offense 3, Defense 2.” This continues throughout the entire practice whenever a drill pits the offense vs. the defense.

I asked Kelly about the scoring system after practice.

“It’s set up depending on the drill to be honest with you,” he said. “So obviously in 3-on-2, it’s a lot easier for the offense. Depending on how you do it, the offense can gain one, the defense can gain two. If it’s third-and-short, the offense gets only a point, but the defense gets more for a stop…

“We’ve had the system for awhile. It’s just a way to make practice a little more competitive and try to even out the balance. Sometimes it’s a 1 to 2 ratio. Sometimes it’s a 1 to 3 ratio.”

Kelly said it’s the first time he’s implemented the scoring system with the Eagles because they only do it when they’re in pads.

1:18 – Time for 7-on-7 drills. Jason Avant is an amazing practice player. He does something to stand out pretty much every day. This time around, he leaps and makes a great grab in the middle of the field between Patrick Chung and Colt Anderson. At first, it looked like it might be a pick, but Avant came down with it.

By the way, when Avant was walking off the field later, he noticed the kids from the Boys & Girls Club setting up for a photo. “Can I get in there?” Avant asked, as if they were going to say no. The kids went nuts as they shouted “Go Birds!” on three.

1:24 – Teach period. We haven’t talked a lot about coverages behind the 3-4, but this was an interesting note from former Eagles director of player personnel Louis Riddick to Tommy Lawlor on Twitter:

Will be interesting to see if that holds true.

1:25Todd Herremans is not practicing today. In his place is Danny Watkins at right guard.

Another day, another rep of Foles running the read option. Please don’t ask me why.

Lots of screens during this 11-on-11 session. On one, James Casey is in the slot with Riley Cooper out wide blocking Kurt Coleman. On the next play, Cooper moves to the slot on the opposite side with Brent Celek outside.

“Thud” means defenders can hit the ball-carrier, but they don’t bring him down to the ground. Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry, however, deliver two pretty nice blows on rookie Matthew Tucker on consecutive plays.

By the way, Chris Polk has had several good runs the last two days.

1:38 – One-on-one time. In previous years, the coaches would place a ball behind the line of scrimmage, and the tight end would have to stone the blitzing linebacker. But this year, they’ve switched things up. The drill is not meant to simulate only pass protection. The tight end is in charge of blocking the outside linebacker, while another offensive player simulates a running back. In other words, the tight end is trying to block the defender to a certain side, and the defender is trying to shed the block and get to the ball.

From what I can tell, the defense gets the better of the offense. Trent Cole houses Emil Igwenagu, and Connor Barwin chucks Zach Ertz to the side.

But this is another sign that the expectation is Kelly will emphasize the run game.

1:44 – During the special-teams period, a couple reporters and I discuss Brian Westbrook. One, how would he look in Kelly’s offense? The conclusion: fantastic.

Two: What’s happened to the Eagles’ screen game? We decide that there really is an art to the quarterback timing that perfectly. Size helps too with the ability to throw over or past the unblocked defender. And of course the running back has to know where to go once he gets the football. Michael Vick to LeSean McCoy is nowhere near Donovan McNabb to Westbrook in the screen game.

Backup inside linebacker Jason Phillips goes down while on kickoff coverage. A cart takes him off the field.

Meanwhile, for what I believe is the first time all camp, Russell Shepard is fielding kickoffs.

1:54 – One thing all young reporters who want to cover football should know: get ready for the constant smell of B.O. in the summer. It’s just a part of training camp. You can’t get away from it even if you choose very wisely about who you stand next to.

Vick makes a nice throw on an out to DeSean Jackson, but then overthrows Cooper on a deep post during 7-on-7s. Foles, meanwhile, has a pass batted by Casey Matthews, but Damaris Johnson makes the catch anyway.

Brandon Boykin sees some time on the outside. Vick looks for Jackson deep on a go-route, but Boykin sticks with him, step for step. Boykin has been the best defensive back on the field so far during camp. Maybe the best defensive player overall. I thought previously that he’d play exclusively inside, but I’m starting to re-think that stance.

2:21 – More Boykin. This time, he nearly intercepts Foles, who is looking for Jackson. Boykin told Jimmy Kempski that defensive backs have to do 50 push-ups for every pass break-up that doesn’t result in an interception.

Clifton Geathers is seeing some time with the first-team defensive line in place of Cedric Thornton. He’s lined up next to Isaac Sopopaga and Fletcher Cox.

Vick hits Ertz on a slant. The rookie shows strong hands and does a good job of making himself big with Bradley Fletcher on his back.

Whoa! For one of the rare times, we see the Eagles actually huddling.

Cooper makes a nice one-handed grab on a ball thrown behind him by Foles on a crossing pattern.

2:30 – Another day in the books. No practice tomorrow, but we’re back at it on Wednesday.

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  • Token

    Boykin seems to be one to watch in the preseason. Its not like he has anything great in front of him. If he proves he can play outside then so be it.

  • Mitchell

    Hey Sheil:
    I’m interested to know how Allen is doing. Then again maybe no news is good news.

    • #7

      Nate could be huge for this defense if he performs. Hell any player on our defense. We were the worst in the league

  • #7

    Nick Foles…the truth is starting to come out. Mr Foles is in there trying to do to much..at least from what I can tell from the articles. Not hearing a lot of “Vick throwing in the double coverage” like we are on Foles.

    That’s why in the NFL, I don’t care about last year unless you are lacking talent and on offense we’re not lacking. Defense, we’re just going to find out..it’s an attitude..and we were the worst tackilng team in the league. I’ll never forget Julio Jones roasting our a$$ last year. It’s a team game people

  • #7

    Here we go again, another chosen QB like Kolb was. Bowen and Sheridan..Domowitch those clowns wanted Kolb and Garcia to be our QB yet we had Vick on the team. There was a “competition” in 2010 and Kolb was not ready. The Chosen One. Got replaced and was to never be heard from again. What adversity has Foles had? Please tell me if you find something. Vick is a fighter..take it where you want I don’t care. He got hammered last year, and I don’t think Foles is tough enough to take that beating. INT city….worse than Vick because Vick can buy time. We can win this year and I completely believe that

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

    Did Peters come up limping after that drill =/

  • Alex

    I really think Boykin will flourish in 3-4 specifically in a nickle package. good speed great hops

  • Cyrus Robinson

    I have no doubt Boykin can cover anybody, but what about the instances when the much bigger receiver does make the catch? I know Boykin can tackle slot receivers, I’m just not so sure about whether he could consistently tackle guys like Fitz and Megatron after the catch.

  • JofreyRice

    ha ha, slow down fella, I’m no Vick advocate, just concerned for the state of the position in general. Do you disagree these kind of sentences are written about Foles multiple times in each recap?

    I don’t know what recaps you are looking at, but I’m not seeing a lot of reports of Vick fumbling, throwing into flyswatters, and throwing multiple picks since TC began–though certainly, those are all serious issues that have plagued him throughout his career.

  • aub32

    This is what I mean about some people jumping to Foles defense by hating Vick. All you did was point out that it’s become frequent that we here about Foles making not the greatest throw but having a good result. I’ve noticed that too. Yet the same people who would label me a blind Vick lover will throw the reports to the side in favor of making up negatives about Vick while dismissing Foles. I’d love to hear from some objective Foles fans, if there are any, about how their boy is seemingly throwing the same passes last year where the receivers had to bail him out.

  • #7

    Yep, me neither. Still waiting

  • Token

    Well the good news is we will know if Foles is the guy this season. And if he isnt then we have a hell of a QB draft upcoming. They better prepare to trade up, if they’ll even have to.

    Barkley, im willing to see how preseason goes but ive seen some ugly looking passes from him just from the small clips we see. Its like he gets no spin on the ball. If people are saying Foles doesnt have a arm, then I dont know what youd call Barkleys.

  • aub32

    How many times did reasonable fans warn them to temper their expectations and that not every one of his issues are going to be fixed in one offseason. It’s still a long camp, but it would appear as of now that Foles still has issues with down the field accuracy.

  • #7

    Yeah..sigh..if only he could

  • Token

    I know he doesnt have the size Chip likes especially for that position. But so what. If he can cover a guy he can cover a guy. It would be a big time unforeseen plus if he can end up being a starting caliber corner going forward.

  • Chris

    yea for sure. sometimes just to convince myself that size isnt always everything, i watch that dunk competition that he won. kid can get up!

  • Dutch

    Boykins size isn’t preventing him from reaching up and smacking larger receivers in the mouth and taking their lunch money.

    Hunting “Ain’t Fun” when the Rabbit has the gun………

    Size isn’t the tell all in Football. Ask anyone who has to defend Steve Smith of the Panthers.

  • Dutch

    I don’t think this year should provide the final analysis on Foles. I just don’t believe he’s ready right now. I think if he doesn’t come convincingly through as “The Guy” now, that putting him with Pat Shurmur to train with the Eagles is the best possible outcome for his development. I don’t want to see Foles under center before his time, but I definitely don’t believe he’s a now or nothing proposition. Same with Barkley, although once Barkley gets used to the speed I think he has everything in place to be successful in this league.

  • JofreyRice

    Barkley’s arm is garbage. He might have been a star at Maitre’d high school or whatever, but trying to throw an out route with that noodle at the NFL level isn’t gonna cut it.

  • JofreyRice

    Yeah, I was one of those people. I said I’d like to see him improve, this is where we begin to gauge that possible improvement. I’m not saying he hasn’t gotten better–I’ll reserve judgment until I see him myself, in live action–but these early reports aren’t encouraging.

  • Dutch

    The Eagles have Pat Shurmur who I believe is one of the best developers of young QBs there is in the NFL. Much is being made about the QB competition this year, but if things work like think they can play out it’s next year where you’ll see a drastic improvement of every QB wearing Eagles green after working with Shurmur.

    All the attention and reps going around down in South Philly is good for Barkley and Foles. It’s a given that doing good or not Vick is out of Philly after this season. The competition next season between Foles and Barkley should be miles better after each learn the position and master the throws and concepts of Pat Shurmur’s passing offense. Once they become comfortable with the line pass blocking and develop an internal clock in their head we are then going to see some good football from either. Everyone in Phila should be aware of Pat Shurmur’s effect on McNabb his first two years and the jump in efficiency from McNabb.

    I think we can expect that from both Barkley and Foles in another year of working with Pat.

  • #7

    If he wins the job, so be it. He better be sharp with Vick behind him and vice versa. The competition is great. Foles has the fan support yet we get confused of the fan support here because NFL network says the fans in Philly want Vick.

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap1000000222685/article/michael-vick-continues-to-fascinate-with-philadelphia-eagles

    All I want…If Nick Foles has a bad day, report it. That’s why I come to this site because they will say it as so. If Vick has one, report it honestly.

  • illadelphia21

    I know you said seriously in your open…but I’m not sure I can take your question seriously.
    You can still have bad days w/o a pass rush in your face or defenders playing the WR hard. I’m pretty sure that can happen. Does it make it easier when you don’t have things of that nature influencing your decisions and throws…most definitely! But does not having those factors negate the fact that you could be having just an off day or bad day…most definitely not!

  • Dutch

    I come from the same school of thought. I’ve followed the trends over the last 12 years and rookies, I believe should play.

    However, everyone is not a product of the same mode. I think Foles has something if put in the trust of Pat Shurmur to bring along. I don’t think he can be served well now being thrown into the fire as he was not served well last season in that role. But I’m not ready if he doesn’t win this competition to throw him in the junk pile.

    All things being equal I believe with an adequate pass protection scheme Vick on his game can’t be beat. I don’t see any second year QB or rookie being able to rise to the occasion to out play Vick if both are on their game. I appreciate and respect Andy Reid, but he was wrong and stubborn over the last 2 years not only with Vick but he misused all of his weapons over that period. Andy going to KC may turn out in another year to be the best thing that has happen for Foles.

  • bentheimmigrant

    “Listen… there’s science behind it.”

  • Alex

    haha that’s better then “Listen..we gotta do a better job, more old spice and more little kids to swat these flies”

  • hokieduck

    There will be a new QB in Philadelphia next season, I believe. Depending on what is available, of course. None of these 3 QBs is what Chip is looking for.