Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Chip Kelly

For the first time this spring, Eagles practice was open to the media. Here’s a running diary of what we saw:

11:25 – We are greeted outside by AC/DC’s T.N.T. The players are in shorts and helmets, and while Week 1 kickoff against the Jaguars is still more than three months away, it’s nice to be watching football again.




Chip Kelly had a busy offseason - free agency, the DeSean Jackson release, the draft, etc. But it appears he also discovered teleportation. Thirty seconds ago, he was inside the NovaCare Complex cracking a joke about wanting a 6-11, 400-pound outside linebacker. Now he's at the 50-yard-line of the far field running practice. That guy does not believe in taking his time.

11:30 - Time to get used to some of the new numbers. Most notably, Henry Josey, not Bryce Brown, now wears No. 34.

Quarterbacks and running backs practice handoffs. I remember last year, QBs coach Bill Lazor (now with the Dolphins) said that when he graded film, he marked how Nick Foles carried out his fake on every run play. Foles and the other QBs are making sure they do that during this drill.

11:34 - We have our first new practice contraption (at least I think it's new) of the 2014 season. Two running backs stand about 5 yards apart, facing the same direction. The guy in back has a blue belt around his waist. A cord extends from the blue belt to the football that the running back in front is carrying. The player with the ball lunges forward as far as possible, maintaining possession of the ball while fighting the weight of the player behind him.

If that is a horribly confusing description, I'll try to get video next week.

11:38 - Another new device. We'll call this one the doorway. That's what it looks like - a red doorway for really little people. Or if you've ever played ladder ball, it looks like that contraption, only with the one bar up top. Running backs take the handoffs from Duce Staley, make themselves small and run through it. Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com promised a drawing of this apparatus.

By the way, Darren Sproles is having no trouble fitting through this thing.

11:42 - Now over to the tight ends. Assistant tight ends coach Justin Peelle stands about 7 yards away from the players. They have their backs turned to him. He yells "ball!" and fires a pass at them. By the time they turn around, the ball is there, and they have to make the grab. McManus and I could simulate this one, but one of us would likely end up with a broken finger, which is the equivalent of microfracture surgery for a blogger.

Next, four quarterbacks line up next to each other, and pass-catchers set up in one of five different lines to run routes. This is a drill we saw last year, but if you do the math, you can tell we're one QB short. That's where Kelly comes in, taking a spot next to Foles, Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne. He mostly attempts passes to the running back or tight end in the flat. If you're wondering about arm strength, as Kelly once said, it's not like they're trying to knock over milk cartons at the county fair.

11:47 - Damaris Johnson just took something out of his mouth and tossed it into the end zone. If that was gum, he should be released from the team immediately. Stepping in gum is the freakin' worst.

11:51 - Linebackers and defensive backs line up opposite the offense. The point of the drill is to work on hand signals and shifts when the offense motions out of its original formation. Speaking of which, one thing that's different about college and the NFL is that players switch teams fairly often. Guys like Jackson, Kurt Coleman, etc. know all of the Eagles' signals. I wonder how much Kelly and his staff will change those his offseason. Something we'll ask about in the coming weeks.

By the way, did you know Marcus Smith was a second? The Eagles' first-round pick wears the No. 90 with Smith II on the back.

11:56 - Special teams time. On one area in the corner of the field, an assistant sets up an orange tackling dummy on a mat. Players lunge towards it, tackle it and jump on the mat. This seems like an activity that would be a big hit at my daughter's 2-year birthday party in October.

Trent Cole is entering his 10th season, but he wins the Brett Favre award for "Guy who just likes to have fun out there." After taking down the tackling dummy, he proceeds to punch it in the face multiple times.

12:00 - If you're wondering about the music, many of the songs are the same from last year. One of the new ones (and an early favorite for most annoying) is "Red Lights" by Tiesto. And yes, I just had to Google red light song to come up with that information.

Back on the field, Carey Spear takes out an orange tackling dummy. In perhaps the most disappointing moment of practice, he turns around and reveals that the back of his jersey says Spear instead of Murderleg.

12:06 - The Eagles start some team drills, and we get some depth chart clues. As always, take these with a grain of salt. It's only May, and given the tempo, guys jump around. But there are some items worth noting.

One is that Nate Allen seems to be getting all the first-team reps at safety alongside Malcolm Jenkins. Earl Wolff will compete for that job, but he's running with the second team with Chris Maragos.

Mychal Kendricks is not practicing fully. Per T-Mac, he has some kind of knee issue. Taking his place alongside DeMeco Ryans is Najee Goode. We've mentioned this before, but the Eagles are thin at inside linebacker. Having said that, Goode turned in some quality snaps last year. Jason Phillips and Emmanuel Acho run with the second team. It's Jake Knott and Acho with the third team.

Connor Barwin and Trent Cole are the starting outside linebackers. Bryan Braman and Brandon Graham run with the twos. Smith and Travis Long are the third team.

Offensively, the most noteworthy item is that Mark Sanchez is taking all the second-team reps ahead of Matt Barkley.

12:11 - We have our first "teach" period. The music turns off, and players split up into their positional groups. For the first time, I notice a No. 10 on the field. Farewell DeSean, hello Quron Pratt, an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers.

12:15 - The second-team offensive line from left to right is: Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro and Dennis Kelly. Perhaps most notable there is that the 6-foot-8 Bamiro is getting reps at right guard.

Meanwhile, Sproles is seeing the bulk of action at running back with the second team. He wins the award for "New guy who already seems to know exactly what he's doing."

Chris Polk practices mostly with the threes.

12:25 - Another special teams period. Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell slams a soccer ball into the ground. Guys on the coverage team have to catch it before it lands and toss it back into the field of play, simulating what happens in the game when they try to down the ball inside the 5 and avoid a touchback. The Eagles use a soccer ball instead of a football because they can simulate a truer bounce - or at least that's what players told me last year.

12:31 - Evan Mathis runs off the field. Either he has to go to the bathroom or he's suddenly decided to hold out.

12:35 - On the side field, Spear lifts the field goal post and moves it 10 yards. Yes, it's on wheels, but still. The legend continues. #murderleg.

Sproles beats Phillips and catches a pass from Sanchez during a team period. Matthew Tucker mixes in at running back with the first team. Kelly last month raved about Tucker's progress.

And that "Red Lights" song is on again. I would rather hear Raffi sing "Down By the Bay" for the 500th time this week.

12:49 - During the team period, Barwin lines up opposite Brent Celek in the slot. He then inches towards the line of scrimmage to rush the passer. But it's a screen to his side of the field so he hustles back and "tackles" Brad Smith.

If anyone wants to know why the Eagles targeted a player like Marcus Smith in the first round, that Barwin play is a great example. Billy Davis needs his outside linebackers to be able to perform a variety of tasks for the defense to work properly.

12:53 - Lane Johnson hustles 10 yards downfield on a screen to Brad Smith. It's going to be fascinating to see how the offensive line performs in 2014. It's unfair to expect Jason Peters, Mathis or Todd Herremans to improve at this stage of their careers. But if Lane Johnson takes the leap (and given how he improved as a rookie, there's reason to believe he will), this unit could again be a strength.

1:03 - On the defensive line, the first team is Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan. Second-year player Joe Kruger mixes in as well. Damion Square gets the snaps at backup nose.

Jordan Matthews is in Los Angeles for an NFLPA event. It's mostly Brad Smith and Josh Huff getting first-team reps in the slot.

1:20 - And thus concludes our first running diary of the 2014 offseason. We'll be back with another installment on Monday...

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  • Tim_A_H

    Maybe Brad Smith is Smith I.

    • Bdawkbdawk

      I don’t think Brad is that old.

    • cliff henny
      • OldDocRoss

        I heard he resides in Bel Air now. You see there was a couple of guys who were up to no good……

        • Jerry Pomroy

          I live in Bel Air & have never seen Mr. Smith. When did he move to Maryland?

          • Maggie

            The other Mr. Smith went to Washington. Very close.

          • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

            he left after o’malley raised taxes again :)

      • Brian

        Hope we don’t miss the DJ.

  • Bukester

    Awesome

  • cliff henny

    say most notable thing is Barbre is getting reps at LG, not RG. Sure Herremann’s spot is all bored off-season fan speculation

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      eh, I think it’s more that they’re trying to get Bamiro reps at RG, barbre can play anywhere. He’s just getting reps for the sake of reps. Tobin and Bamiro have the most to prove.

      • cliff henny

        true. kind of forgot how kelly just rotates guys. the where and depth chart doesnt mean as much under CK.

  • Phyxius

    Gotta get muh OTA’s fix.

  • Joe from Easton

    Something tells me Sanchez is going to ball out and take Foles’ job. That Foles guy is a career back-up and with true talent like Marky Mark around, we’re all about to find out.

    • cliff henny

      man, that would really test my fandom. I’m already bothered just thinking about him on the sidelines wearing that 16 yr old girl’s softball hair thing

      • Joe from Easton

        Murderleg is going to kick him in the nads every time he wears it and then Cole is going to snipe him with a bow and arrow from a tree in the parking lot.

        • cliff henny

          i’ll settle for beating the bejesus out of him like he did tackling dummy.

          • Joe from Easton

            I like that this team has fun. Think back to the last two years of “we’ve gotta do better there” and miserable post-game interviews with players. 2013 was up-lifting, 2014 is full on Eagle-maniac is back!

          • Amar

            Nobody tackles Sanchez like Sanchez himself…with a borrowed butt of course.

    • Phyxius

      Jokes aside, I’m glad the whole quarterback controversy is over. One of the most annoying/tiring debates in Philly history.

      Team Foles though.

      • Joe from Easton

        Yea that got old quick. It was clear to anyone who understood the direction of the franchise and of the league that we needed to give new blood a shot. So far he’s proved that notion correct.

    • OldDocRoss

      Chip needs a mobile QB for his offence to work so can’t see him going with either of these statues.

      JaMarcus Russell should be considered the favourite to win the starting job, unless they can coax Culpepper out of retirement.

      • Clyderightside

        First you have to recognize, make quick decisions, and distribute the ball. Running is 4th on the list so you can rule out Dumbarkus.

        • OldDocRoss

          I honestly didn’t think my post would need sarcasm tags…….

          • Clyderightside

            Sorry about that. There are still some out there who think that way even now.

    • Amar

      The Chip Kelly offense is a gimmick and he will soon realize how different NFL is from the College game.
      As far as Nick Foles is concerned, he seems like a career backup.
      (RIP 2013 experts)

    • Scott J

      Sanchez can’t throw a screen pass.

    • Fuzziness

      Something tells me you just came back from Denver and are still feeling the effects of some wacky weed…lol

      Sanchez is a bum, plus he has jets’ loser stink on him. Ever seen that Seinfeld episode with the B.O. In the car, jets loser stink is a bit like that. Can’t shake it off you.

  • Broadcasting Wisdom

    What the heck – Jordan Matthews is in LA for an NFLPA event? That’s better than picking out sconces for his off-season home, but that is still disappointing.

    • cliff henny

      he’s doing mental reps, and probably while saving kitten from tree, and learning Swahili and finding cure for cancer

      • Joe from Easton

        Such a humanitarian. I’d rather see him catching bricks all day like Jerry Rice did as a kid though. Get to work!

        • cliff henny

          only Matthew wouldnt just catch them, he’d clean them and build a school for the disadvantage

          • Joe from Easton

            Touche.

          • Andy124

            Using the flesh of vanquished Cowboy defenders as mortar. (That’s considered a moral act ’round here).

          • cliff henny

            like the Spartans in 300, use cowboy players as wall.

          • Andy124

            Exactly what I was thinking of.

    • http://www.corcommunity.com/ theycallmerob

      part of the rookie deal, nflpa contract reqs., not his choice. he’s back Monday

  • JofreyRice

    I heard everyone had projected Smith’s father, Marcus Smith Jr., to name him the III, but right after Marcus was born he panicked and named him Marcus Smith II.

    • Andy124

      Nice.

    • ochospantalones

      Marcus Smith II wears #90 because that is the pick with which he expected to be taken in the draft.

      • Weapon X

        meh

    • Tom W

      You still upset about the draft? Dunno but I doubt Dennard, FILO, or Buchanan would be starting either… So glad we got a 3 and Marcus smith … Skins would’ve taken Marcus smith at 34 and instead were forced to trade down and end up w Trent Murphy … Attaboy was gone too before 54. Every edge rusher we like would’ve been gone before 54 …. Very important we took smith where we did and we lucked out and got a first round talent like Matthews in the second … Just as Howie said ,,,, edge rushers would go fast

      • Andy124

        It was a joke. And a very funny one.

        • Tom W

          Nah peeps been crying about it since we picked him … Rather taken a guard or short armed corner or a reach at safety. Too funny

          • Andy124

            Put it this way, I love the pick, but I wish I had thought of the joke Jeff made.

        • JofreyRice

          peeps been crying every time you goof about their idols (Howie). What i wrote above was an attempt at a joke, but I honestly, seriously don’t get the bootlicker mentality. Chip & Howie could have traded Foles & Lesean for Schaub and MJD and some folks would strap on their shield and ride to their defense.

          • Andy124

            Hey now. Trade those guys and Howie’s going to have to enter witness protection.

          • JofreyRice

            haha, I guarantee there would be people on here talking about what a shrewd move it was.

      • brent

        damage control

  • Giorgos Kassakos

    No Beau Allen?

  • DirtyWaters

    Assistant Tight Ends Coach?

    • Javi Echie

      Ted Williams is the TEs coach and everybody need an assistant I guess.

  • Larry

    Sounds like they are just taking it easy and getting the rust off.

    Why did the kicker wheel the goal post back 10 yards….why not just kick from 10 yards further back?

    • Jerry Pomroy

      Just to prove that he could do it.

    • Brian

      Because, he’s used to everyone doing the little things for him. No free rides.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    I find it odd that they didn’t mention Smith II practicing at LOLB, not ROLB.

    • anon

      Think they want barwin to mentor, smith has barwin like skills more than dedicated pass rushing. plus matthews was the previous barwin backup.

      • Jerry Pomroy

        I think they’re grooming the kid to flip flop sides and also responsibilities with Barwin eventually when they’re both on the field.

        • Clyderightside

          That’s right–they project him as a JOKER that lines up all over the place depending on the situation.

  • anon

    I NEED MORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I love football. It’s amazing to have a coahc that breaks down areas that we did poorly last year (3rd down conversion), downing ball on ST unless it was Boykin. Amazing.

    It’ll be interesting to see how sproles / tucker is used.

    • Clyderightside

      Check out fishduck.com and look at the archive videos of Chip’s Oregon offenses–AND DEFENSES. Just wait until you see how aggressive and creative his defenses were. That will give you an idea what a great head coach we have. Will he continue to adapt? Of course. But the videos will give you the basics of the inside zone, outside zone, bubble screen, and reads. I have heard no one in the Philly press corps talk about the “midline reads” and LB reads. It’s not just the ends he keys on. Check out the videos and you will know more than Les Bowen. ;) We could do more with Les, but Less Les is More.

  • dnabrice

    I know exactly what you mean by Rafi’s “Down by the Bay”…..kids……

    • reb

      “…back to my home, I dare not go…” yeah, I’ve got kids, too. Will never get that song out of my memory banks.

  • Jerry Pomroy

    In other news, the saga for WASH & Snyder proving how much they’re bumbling idiots continues…

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/05/29/dan-snyders-minions-keep-bungling-the-team-name-issue/

  • Fly High

    When it comes to beginning depth chart, it sounds like veterans start at the top. rookies have to earn their way on. Seems smart to me.

  • travis papa

    I’ve been dreaming about plugging barbre or bamiro into herremans spot. Bamiro has the athleticism of a tackle but mauling strength of a guard would love to see him steal a spot by the end of the yr. 1 less OL spot to replace. I know a guard should be smaller than him for leverage inside but who cares.

    • cliff henny

      didnt kelly have larger than average guards at Oregon?

      • travis papa

        Not real sure but that would be ok with me.

      • Jamie

        No. As a matter of fact, The Ducks’ guards are considered undersized by most standards. Over 3 bills would be considered large for an Oregon guard. They would struggle to make an SEC squad based on size alone.
        But they’re quick and fast, and in the Kelly years, were beasts at the second level on run plays.

  • http://batman-news.com Wes

    “12:31 – Evan Mathis runs off the field. Either he has to go to the bathroom or he’s suddenly decided to hold out.”
    ^^ this made me laugh for 5 Minutes straight

  • John E. Zang

    Surprised he had Brad Smith out there instead of Arrelious Benn. I was really interested when they picked him up. Too bad he seems made of glass.

  • HowieGambleChipsAllDay

    BETTER THAN CRACK!

  • Jason

    Red Lights is an amazing song

  • Jim Desper

    Sheil, download the app called Shazam.. you’ll never have to google a song ever again. simply click on the app, hold up your phone and it’ll tell you what the song is.. Save yourself some time

  • kpm

    here is the Video… Tiesto Red Lights