Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

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Day 2 of camp in is in the books. Here’s what we saw.

11:44 - One thing that’s fun about watching practice this summer is you can see many of the concepts from last year being repped over and over again on the field.




For example, earlier this offseason, we did an All-22 piece on the mesh concept and its variations. One of the variations involved pivot routes, where two players started inside like they were running crossing routes, but then pivoted outside.

Now check out this video:

It's the exact same idea - here, it's two tight ends running the pivot routes.

Meanwhile, the Eagles (and really, most teams) are always trying to replicate game situations during practice. During one drill, wide receivers run behind four tackling dummies (simulating defenders) before catching the ball. Here's a pic:

wrdrill

We talk plenty about how Chip Kelly wants to get his playmakers the ball in space. But he also emphasizes catching the ball in traffic and making contested grabs - especially when you're seeing a lot of man coverage.

11:51 - Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur runs the next drill for the offense. Outside receivers line up in a single file and run through a variety of routes - fade, intermediate hook, deep hook. Then the slot guys go - crossers, outs, corner routes.

12:08 - Boooo! Practice moves to the middle field where it's much harder for the media to see. Don't they know we've got a running diary to produce?I decide to move to another field to check out the offensive linemen. Todd Herremans and Allen Barbre line up next to each other. Huge surprise: the Eagles are working on techniques associated with the inside zone.

Backup Donald Hawkins holds a blocking pad and acts as the defensive tackle. Another reserve, Karim Barton, stands behind Hawkins with a blocking pad and serves as the linebacker. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, meanwhile, sets up behind the line of scrimmage. He looks at Barton and points to his right. The ball is snapped. Herremans and Barbre have to double team the lineman, and then one of them has to climb to the next level to get to the linebacker.

Getting the timing and chemistry down on these plays is crucial. Knowing who is supposed to leave the lineman for the linebacker and executing the blocks correctly requires a lot of practice. That's the biggest reason Kelly has Barbre taking all the first-team reps at right tackle. He needs the run game to be rolling right away in Week 1.

12:23 - Fight! On the first play of 7-on-7s, Trent Cole gives LeSean McCoy a little "nudge" as Brandon Graham put it. McCoy took exception, and a scrum ensued. Darren Sproles and some others break it up. McManus with full details here.

12:33 - Before practice, Billy Davis said the Eagles would be mixing up their first, second and third teams throughout the first two weeks of camp. That is evident today. We're seeing the usual second team secondary (Nolan Carroll II, Brandon Boykin, Chris Maragos and Earl Wolff) practice with the starters.

12:52 - After a special teams period, more 7-on-7s. Roc Carmichael breaks up a pass to Brad Smith on a corner route. Nick Foles has been sharp, but this was not one of his better balls. It hung in the air way too long.

Matt Barkley, meanwhile, finds Damaris Johnson on a deep out, placing the ball perfectly over defenders. Barkley has looked much better in two summer practices than he did all spring.

We see a package with McCoy and Darren Sproles on the field together. On one play, they both line up in the backfield. On the next play, Sproles sets up in the slot and runs a shallow crosser. Mychal Kendricks does a great job of sticking with him, dives and knocks down a Foles pass.

Mark Sanchez gets a shot and finds Jordan Matthews down the seam for a big gainer. It looked like Matthews beat Jaylen Watkins on the play.

Zach Ertz lines up out wide, gets Curtis Marsh on his back and uses his size to make a catch on a comeback route. Ertz has looked good the past two days.

1:00 - It's a teach period. Even though Davis is at the opposite end of the field, you can hear him yell "Fire zone!" For the Eagles Almanac, we wrote about the Cover 3, a three-deep zone with four underneath defenders.

The fire zone is also a three deep zone - only instead of four underneath defenders, it has three. The extra guy rushes the quarterback. It's something we saw last year and something we'll continue to see going forward.

1:04 - When wide receivers run fades down the sideline, they are taught to not get their hands up until the last second so that the defender can't react. I'm not sure if Jeff Maehl just did that really well or if he really didn't think the ball was coming. Carroll had Maehl covered, but Foles threw it his way anyway. At the last second, Maehl got his hands up and came down with the grab. But he seemed legitimately surprised.

Ertz, meanwhile, makes a nice catch in traffic on a ball from Sanchez, showing strong hands with defenders around him.

Later, Foles runs play-action, rolls to his left and looks for Ertz near the sideline, but Carroll breaks it up. I repeat myself every day, but Carroll gets his hands on more passes at practice than any other defensive back, and it's not even close.

1:17 - Barkley drops back and hits Kadron Boone in stride down the left sideline. The ball probably traveled 40 to 50 yards in the air and was on the money. Quite possibly the best pass we've seen Barkley throw in two years. That was a beauty.

Prevailing thought of the day: All three quarterbacks have looked really good the past two days.

That's it for today's session. We return tomorrow from the Linc where the pads go on.

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  • PaoliBulldog

    Two areas of concern in 2014: DB and backup QB. Crossing my fingers….

    • THROW UP IN THE HUDDLE

      Where is Marcus smith??

      • RIP illa

        With the 2s and 3s.

        • Bert’s Bells

          Marcus Smith IIs & IIIs

    • Andy

      My biggest area of concern is ILB. If one of those two goes down we are pretty thin.

      • Adam

        I thought Goode looked pretty… good.. when he was in for Kendricks last year. Some potential there. But I agree, it’s a big question mark.

        • Dominik

          Yeah, Goode has earned my faith to an extend (not that it matters, of course) with good showings when he had to play last like. A little bit like Barbre.

          But after Goode it looks really, really dark. Knott is suspended for 4 games, don’t know if he will make the roster. Phillips is coming from a tough injury and didn’t look good in OTAs. Maybe it will get better, but he’s our only hope.

          Why I say that? Well, the coaches obviously don’t like Acho. And after Acho, there is only one more guy on the roster at MLB. I don’t even want to say his name.

          I’m a grown man, but I’m not sure if I can hold my tears if that scrub Casey Matthews makes this team AGAIN.

          • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

            I hate to say it, but I really think Casey Matthews, Jeff Maehl, and Taylor Hart all have the Oregon benefit of the doubt. I add Hart because remember how happy a lot of people were about Kruger last year? Kruger probably will have to be twice as good to unseat Taylor Hart.

          • Dominik

            There are indications of an Oregon bias, I’ll give you that. I was shocked when Chip wanted to pick Hart in the 3rd – good that he’s not running our Draft, and I say this as a huge Chip fan who’s happy he has the control over the 53, which is his job as HC, imho.

            But Tommy Lawlor wrote something about that during this offseason. He summed up that it made sense to have Oregon players who know how Chip practices, his style, the tempo etc. last year, even if it wasn’t popular. It was important for the other players on the roster to have some guys who knew what was going on.

            Now most of them have one year under their belt and those who haven’t can ask the many vets who have. There’s no reason to keep the players if they aren’t better than their competition.

          • Andy Six Score and Four

            It was definitely a non Oregon player Kelly wanted in the 3rd. Watkins I think. And Howie talked him in to Hines War… Josh Huff instead.

          • Dominik

            I’m very sure that is was Hart, because the storyline was “Howie said we’ll get him in the fifth and we got him, so I’m delighted how he runs the draft.” Or something like that. ;)

            I’m so sure because I thought: who runs a Defense like us? The Steelers. But other than that, I don’t think there were many teams interested in him before the 5th.

          • Andy Six Score and Four
          • MagatBrackendale

            i just HAVE to re-post this:

            A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

            A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
            Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast

            Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a dreadful yell;
            It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
            It knocked upon the shipyards and recoiled upon Will Penn,
            For Casey, mighty Casey, was on the field again.

            Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
            The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
            And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
            But there is no joy in Philly — mighty Casey was not cut.

          • CSpangler

            matthews is a solid ST player. I think you’re getting that philly hysteria whip you up abou tthe guy. a 4th rd’er that was good on special tms. What more do you want from the guy. He’s been a decent pick so far.

          • Dominik

            Have to disagree, mate. I get your point, a 4th rounder who’s still in this league after three years – big picture, that looks good.

            But you have to look closer. Casey has no point of being an NFL player. He just isn’t talented enough. That’s no shame, all of the fans aren’t talented enough to play in the NFL, obviously. Approx. 99 % aren’t even talented enough to play Football at a powerhouse college, like Matthews did. Casey made it, but he just offers not nearly enough to an NFL team. Casey Matthews on the 53 shows you that you don’t have nearly enough talented players on your roster at that position.

    • RIP illa

      Not understanding. We’ve upgraded depth for the CBs from last year, and The Safety situation is generally the same with the exception that, despite all his flaws, Jenkins is a upgrade from Chung or at least none the worse. Margos equals Kurt and Colt. If you could live with it last year then why be concerned this year? The fact that we don’t have a guaranteed improved pass rush should be more alarming and cause for concern than just the position of DB itself, as it could directly affect the performance of our DBs.

    • anon

      Ive given MB and MS a lot of crap b/c i don’t think they are that good. But Sanchez seems to be doing ok. Excited to see what preseason games look like.

      On CBs/DBs think we’re in much better position Nolan Carroll looking like a beast. I think our safety play will be passable, it just won’t be bad like it has been for the last several years. Which is ok if everything else is clicking, i don’t think the defense relies on strong safety play.

      • Mitchell

        I don’t think either position will be a major concern. If Carrol is playing well, that gives us 3 good dbs and 1 great one in Boyking.

        • anon

          Yeah wasn’t even thinking about Boy King. Best slot corner and 2.5 good starters.

  • Rockedupeaglesfan

    A lot of people would like to see that second team secondary take over with the ones, minus Maragos of course.

    • OverreacSean Jackson, #culture

      Funny because it’s true.

  • Rick H

    My opinion on Sanchez is based on what he has done in the four years with the Jets. Sanchez will have to proof to me that he has matured as a QB. Meaning he can’t be that guy who looks good for a handful of plays then stuns everyone with a horrible interception or bad play…That is his pattern. I see it as a tall mountain to overcome.

    Barkley on the other hand is entering his 2nd year. Kelly’s molding and mentoring can be a huge plus for Barkley now and in the future. I understand that they brought Sanchez in because of his experience and their lack of confidence in Barkley to be the # 2 QB.
    Sanchez can look great all through training camp & pre season games but it will take a lot more then that to convince me that he can be counted on to manage the team as a backup. I am not interested in a QB that looks good then blows the game with terrible decisions.

    • Token

      Who cares tho? Foles goes down its all over anyway. And thats assuming Foles continues to play well. Kinne gives you a better chance then Barkley or Sanchez do. And thats only half joking.

      PS… Barkley isnt a NFL QB. Everyone but Howie knew that when he was drafted.

      • Rick H

        I disagree. The reason is if Foles God forbid gets hurt for only a 4 or 5 game stretch the backup QB is critical. He can manage the game (A.J. Feeley style) until Foles returns while keeping the Eagles in the hunt.

        I am not sold on Barkley. I believe the jury is still out on Barkley. I saw some pretty good things from him and some real questionable plays from him last year. It is too early to say.
        Sanchez has that history of ill timed mistakes.

        • anon

          W/out Foles i’d have no faith that our season wouldn’t get Romo’d.

  • Token

    Man I cant seem to get into this team yet. I dont think Ive ever been less excited for the season. Its weird. Usually by training camp im foaming at the mouth for info. Guess its cause its just the same team as last year, possibly worse. Hopefully some preseason games get the blood pumping.

    • DS

      How could they possibly be worse? Cause the lost djax? You forget they added jmac Matthews sproles & huff. Bettered themselves at safety, got deeper at corner, DL & OLB…the defense has one year under their belt with the same d coordinator for the first time in 5 years…how did they get worse?

      • Token

        I was actually for the release of Jackson before it even happened. But its still production that has to be replaced. I think it can be, but we will see.

        Worse for a few reasons. Tougher schedule by far. Last year they had a cake schedule made even easier because of other teams injuries.

        Still zero depth. Unless you count the ST aces they added. To be excited about Jenkins means you havent seen much of Jenkins. If the hope is that Billy Davis can resurrect his career then count me as pessimistic on that one.

        Its the same defense by and large. One that just wasnt good enough. No pass rush still. A rookie OLB that isnt even being focused as a pass rusher early. Average ILBs, unless Kendricks puts it all together like everyone keeps telling me is going to happen.
        A year of tape on Kelly and Foles are out there. That matters IMO. I expect Kelly to still come up with things that work. The question is does Foles prove to me the real deal or a flash in the pan?

        Basically I think last season was kind of smoke and mirrors. They werent a 10-6 team talent wise. That kinda showed when they played teams that didnt suck. I just dont see the talent pool upgraded enough to take a step forward, let alone keep pace with that 10-6.

        This team is betting on coaching over talent. Not saying it cant work. But its gonna be tough.

        May the great Jordan Matthews save us all.

        • anon

          The only team that’s more stacked than us on offense (including lineman) is Denver, maybe WAS if you believe the RGIII hype.

          On coaching vs talent i think it’s a good point, but I wouldn’t look for this to be a team that has a strong defense. We’ll see if the pass rush gets better, i think it needs to for us to get over the top, but if we can limit people to TOs and FGs then i think we can win a lot of games.

          On CK’s offense. There will be tons of tape, but there’s always been tons of tape (go look at FishDuck) the offense isn’t extremely different. There’s no gimmicks, just forcing the defense to make a decision and working off that and EXECUTING — get people in space and then have the 10 other guys block. We also need a MUCH better place kicker, top teams have great kickers (BAL, SF, DEN, etc.).

          I was looking at some tape from the AR era and you could see on plays where our guys are in space and if the other players block, it’s a TD, but people just stand and watch so players make tackles. It’s funny D is always taught swarm to the ball, but offense isn’t taught to block down field.

          • aub32

            The Bears? The 49ers? GB?

    • Ludba81

      I have been feeling the same way about the birds, I think it’s the sixers fault, they have been the darlings of the city for the summer, but the blood will be green once that first pre season game is played!

  • frank

    Eagles will be the most exciting team in NFL.

    Foles, McCoy, Sproles, maclin, Cooper, Ertz, Matthews, Huff will be unstoppable.

    Eagles will win the NFC East again, and then into the playoffs.

    It’s going to be a very exciting season.