Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Here’s what we saw during today’s Eagles practice session.

11:30 – Let’s start with some videos. A couple weeks ago, we wrote about the mini doorway-type thing the Eagles running backs were using. Here’s a closer look:

Running backs coach Duce Staley is directing the drill. The players have to choose the opening away from the mock defender. Take a look at around the 33-second mark. You’re telling me Duuuuuuuuuce couldn’t pick up a 4th-and-1 this fall if necessary?

11:43 – And here are the offensive linemen:

I realize I’m far away, but you should be able to hear Eagles offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland in the background. The players are firing off to the second level during this drill.

One thing to note on offensive line calls. The Eagles use a number system to label the different calls. And on packaged plays, they don’t need to know what the quarterback’s options are (handoff, keeper, bubble screen, etc.). They block it up the same way regardless. In other ways, inside zone is inside zone to them. If Nick Foles throws a bubble screen, that’s irrelevant to the linemen.

11:50 – Jeffrey Lurie is in the house with a friend to watch today’s practice. Which got me thinking: If I owned an NFL team, I’m not sure I’d ever leave the facility. There are TVs all over the place. You get a world-class gym instead of the local YMCA. And the cafeteria seems to have unlimited cookies, ice cream and coffee. What more could a man need? I could really get used to the lifestyle. How much do you think Mr. Lurie would be asking for?

11:56 – Special teams time. It looks like Darren Sproles is up first on returns. He’s the favorite to win that job. Others taking turns are Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson and Jordan Matthews.

12:06 –  We begin the offense vs. defense portion of practice. No depth chart changes as far as I can tell. Foles doesn’t have a ball hit the ground during his reps. I debate in my head whether this is noteworthy or not. After all, it’s only 7-on-7s in shorts. Shouldn’t the quarterbacks be completing every pass?

12:07Mark Sanchez provides an answer, as he’s picked off by new cornerback Nolan Carroll. Carroll has looked good in the practices open to the media; Sanchez has not.

Foles is back up. He completes a pass to Matthew Tucker, but then goes through the rest of his progressions even though the ball is not in his hands. I’m not sure if Chip Kelly would ever admit it, but Foles is a coach’s dream. He’ll never say anything remotely controversial, works hard and is a good teammate.

Come to think of it, the whole team seems pretty coachable. Where are the DeSeans and the Asantes of the world who would push the envelope from time to time? Someone better at least nurse a hamstring injury in August or I’m going to feel very uncomfortable.

12:11 – Hey, it’s a little zone read time. The QBs split up and go over the play. Maybe they read T-Mac’s story from last week and wanted to prove that it’s still part of the arsenal?

12:15 – The second-team defensive line today is Joe Kruger and Vinny Curry at the end spots with Damion Square at nose tackle.

A couple months ago, I did not think I’d see this up close: A Sanchez/Henry Josey zone read play.

Meanwhile, the sun comes out, and several reporters scurry for cover. This is where it comes in handy being the Indian guy who doesn’t burn easily. I’m looking for every advantage I can get.

12:27 – Remember growing up when you would have a teacher who just somehow managed to see everything? I think Stoutland is that guy on this coaching staff. He’s got the offensive linemen split into five lines (three deep). He instructs them to take a “power step” and jam their foot in the ground.

According to long-time offensive line coach Larry Zierlein, a power step is a “flat, aggressive, inside step with the post foot. It is intended to take away inside rush lanes.”

Stoutland somehow manages to watch everyone at the same time, correcting Andrew Gardner and praising undrafted free agent Donald Hawkins.

If you’re wondering about the second-team OL during this drill, here it is from left to right: Matt Tobin, Allen Barbre, Julian Vandervelde, Michael Bamiro and Dennis Kelly.

12:33 – Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis both have their helmets off. Mathis’ hair is soaked throughout. Kelce’s seems dry. How does this happen? Does Mathis sweat more? Did he pour water on his head? Is Kelce missing a specific gene?

Don’t worry, we have all of training camp to get answers to these important questions.

12:35 – It’s 7-on-7 time. Cary Williams has good coverage on Riley Cooper, along with safety help. Mr. Cooper, the safety is that guy who can sometimes come over to assist in covering you. I know you didn’t see a lot of him last year, but that may change in 2014. Foles throws deep and incomplete. He later is intercepted by Curtis Marsh during this period.

In nickel, sometimes the Eagles go with three down linemen. When that’s the case, the Predator (Trent Cole) puts his hand on the ground and the Jack (Connor Barwin) lines up in a variety of places. When they go with four down linemen, the Jack just sets up at left defensive end with his hand in the dirt.

12:40 – Lots of bathroom trips for the offensive linemen. What was in those smoothies today?

Meanwhile, Damaris Johnson mixes in a little with the ones. This is the ultimate “don’t read anything into it at all” June practice note.

12:47 – The team practices red zone. Nate Allen makes a really nice play, breaking up a Foles pass intended for Brent Celek. Allen continues to get all the first-team reps at safety with the first team alongside Malcolm Jenkins. On the next play, though, Foles finds Celek for a touchdown.

Note that this portion of practice is taking place on the far side of the middle field. We’re up in the bleachers, and the sight lines are not great. Geoff Mosher of CSN Philly breaks out the binoculars. That’s a veteran move right there.

Sanchez finds Jordan Matthews for a TD, and they engage in the whole “jump in the air/bump butts” move on the sideline.

Meanwhile, DeMeco Ryans intercepts Foles in the end zone. I take that as a big: “Screw you Kapadia! Quit suggesting Billy Davis should replace me in some sub packages!”

1:02 – G.J. Kinne with the throw of the day – a perfectly placed ball down the sideline to James Casey, who beats linebacker Jake Knott.

1:12 – Even though Jason Avant is gone, the whole Juggs machine after practice routine is alive and well. Notables participating are: Cary Williams, Zach Ertz, Josh Huff and Earl Wolff.

That’s it for today’s installment, but we’re back at the NovaCare Complex Tuesday for another open practice.

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