Running Diary: Eagles-Patriots Practice Observations

Nick FolesYou know the drill.

10:42 – Practice moved up two hours today. Bill Belichick said it was because of weather concerns. But rumor has it he just didn’t want Birds 24/7 readers to have to wait so long for observations. I hope many of you are reading this instead of being productive at work.

We’ve got the Eagles’ quarterbacks and wide receivers working on specific routes in the red zone. The first is a “one-step slant.” The idea? Take a step outside, get the defender off-balance and then run the slant towards the middle of the field.

Next up are fades to the corner of the end zone. “The ball’s going to the pylon,” shouts QBs coach Billy Lazor. The slot receivers run flag (or corner) routes against fake man coverage. Then it’s a post from the 15. And finally, post-corner routes.

10:49 - Jason Peters (hamstring) is not practicing. But he’s an active participant. After Todd Herremans runs a rep, Peters spends time working with him off to the side. When Jason Kelce comes off, same thing.

10:53 – One-on-one time. I saw enough of Tom Brady yesterday. Let’s hang out with the big guys up front this time around. Rob Ninkovich gets around Lane Johnson. Then veteran Tommy Kelly gets the better of Herremans. And finally, Vince Wilfork proves to be too much for Kelce.

But the Eagles turn things around, getting good efforts from Allen Barbre and Danny Watkins.

I caught some video of Johnson, Watkins and Kelce, all of whom turned in good reps:

The voice you hear in the background is Tra Thomas.

After I turned the camera off, Barbre did a great job on Justin Francis, drawing the biggest cheers of the drill from Thomas and Jeff Stoutland. Keep an eye on Barbre in the preseason. He’s got an excellent chance of making the team.

11:02 – During special-teams instruction, Russell Shepard fails to adequately wave his hands to let his teammates know to get out of the way on a short punt. Duce Staley goes over to him and makes sure he knows to never make that mistake again.

On a sidenote, I always wonder why teams don’t occasionally go with a shallow punt on purpose. It seems those always hit a player on the return team who’s not looking, and then it’s a free-for-all. You’ve got to be giving yourself, what, a 30 percent chance at a turnover? Give it a shot, Chippah!

11:10 – Our first team drill, 7-on-7s on two fields. I’ll stick with the Eagles’ offense going up against New England’s D. Michael Vick starts out with the ones. Also worth noting: With LeSean McCoy (knee) not participating, it’s Chris Polk, not Bryce Brown, going with the first team. The No. 2 RB job appears to be open.

Vick takes a shot deep to Jason Avant, but can’t squeeze it in between the corner and the safety. James Casey, meanwhile, has a bad drop over the middle from Nick Foles. That’s two in two days for him.

The offense moves down to the red zone. Vick scrambles before eventually finding Riley Cooper in the end zone. He then connects with Zach Ertz on back-to-back completions. Who’s the favorite to lead this team in red-zone catches? Ertz might not be a bad guess.

On his turn in the red zone, Foles finds Clay Harbor for a touchdown.

11:21 - During special teams, Trevard Lindley and Aqib Talib exchange shoves. Not exactly Ali/Frazier, but a couple seconds of added excitement at least.

11:26 – During 11-on-11s, Vick holds on to the ball too long, and a whistle sounds. Both Vick and Foles held the ball too long on several occasions today.

Polk with another big run (broken record alert). Then Vick hits DeSean Jackson on a deep crosser. I asked Vick after practice about how Jackson’s role has changed in this offense. He said the speedy wide receiver needs the ball in his hands 30 or 40 percent of the time. Those numbers are obviously off, but clearly, Jackson can expect to see plenty of action.

Foles makes a couple nice throws on the run, the second one to Harbor while rolling to his right.

On defense, Brandon Boykin puts a nice hit on the running back. Earlier, he got a hit in on the Patriots’ punt returner. Again, there’s no tackling, but there is contact. I don’t know if the Eagles’ secondary is going to be better, but it won’t be as soft as last year.

A couple of depth chart notes. The Eagles have shown a three-safety look (Patrick Chung, Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen) with Chung covering the slot receiver. I asked Chip Kelly about that after practice, and he said basically that they wanted some of the other corners to get work on the outside, so Chung jumped in.

“It’s a credit to Patrick in terms of how smart a football player he is and his ability to cross-train in different positions,” Kelly said.

“You’re a chinstrap away from if we were to start the game and Brandon [Boykin] were starting nickel, if he goes down, then what are you going to do?”

It’s worth noting though that Boykin was playing outside during the drill. He’s going to get a look out there in the preseason.

Meanwhile, the Eagles show a second-team DL look of Clifton Geathers, Bennie Logan and Damion Square. Obviously lots of mixing and matching still going on.

11:39 – Foles steps up with the ones. Lots of runs, but on one pass play, Foles fires on the money to Avant on a slant with the defender on his back.

Vick then shows good anticipation on an out to Ifeanyi Momah.

On defense, Bradley Fletcher and David Sims do a good job in coverage on Julian Edelman deep. Chung then breaks up a slant for Edelman in the red zone, although Ryan Mallett wants a flag.

During the next period, the Eagles’ offense picks up the pace and starts moving fast.

“I thought today was better than yesterday, obviously,” Kelly said, speaking about the hurry-up.

“We probably made a few mistakes in there, but I was happy with the communication, and I was happy in our ability to get lined up and get moving.”

A different officiating crew is at camp, and Kelly said he spoke with Belichick, and they decided they both wanted to get a feel for the tempo and how fast they could go.

Vick throws a side-arm laser to Jackson on a crosser for a big gain as the offense moves down the field.

Lots of talking, hand signals, etc. from the sidelines. Foles moves the team too in the hurry-up, connecting with Ertz for a big gain. He looks for Momah on a fade in the end zone, but ends up throwing the ball away.

On defense, Mychal Kendricks‘ athleticism is on full display as he bats a Brady pass down near the line of scrimmage.

But then things get ugly. Brady finds Kenbrell Thompkins deep downfield for a gain of 40+. Thompkins gets past Curtis Marsh and Nate Allen on the play.

On the very next snap, wide receiver Aaron Dobson makes a phenomenal adjustment on a deep ball from Brady. Again, it’s Marsh and Allen in coverage.

Brady then hits Dobson on a back-shoulder throw as Brandon Boykin fails to turn around to make a play on the ball.

More trouble for Marsh. Thompkins beats him on a deep out. Then again on a back shoulder throw where Marsh doesn’t turn around. The Patriots’ sideline goes nuts. Bad sequence there for Marsh and the entire Eagles’ secondary.

After practice, Kelly was asked about the learning experience for his defense going up against Brady.

“The learning experience is pretty good,” he said with a laugh.

The Eagles’ third team gets a shot too. Greg Salas makes perhaps the best catch of camp, leaping for a ball from Matt Barkley down the right sideline and making a one-handed grab. Impressive.

12:16 – During 11-on-11s, Jackson does a great job of getting his feet down on a corner route from Foles. With the Eagles’ receivers, it’s Jackson and then everybody else.

The only blemish on Polk’s otherwise stellar resume this summer: Linebacker Brandon Spikes knocks the ball out of his hands from behind, forcing a fumble.

After getting whistled for defensive holding, Marsh has a nice moment, breaking up a fade attempt to Dobson.

Up front, Connor Barwin continues to play a “joker” role in the Eagles’ nickel package. On one play, he starts at the line of scrimmage before sprinting back and acting like a third deep safety.

12:25 – Not a good sequence for Vick. He holds the ball too long before dumping it off to Brown. He scrambles on the next play. And then he fires incomplete to Momah on a fade in the end zone. In fairness to Vick, that last one might have been on Momah. Not sure the wide receiver got wide enough with his route.

Against the Eagles’ D, Shane Vereen finds a huge hole in the zone between Brandon Graham and Fletcher. Brady connects with him for a touchdown.

12:31 – Another practice in the books. The teams will have a walk-through type session Thursday, and then finally we get a real game Friday night.

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