Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ first practice with pads.

12:19 – The last time we were in the home team press conference room at the Linc, Chip Kelly was answering questions about his team’s first-round playoff loss to the Saints.

In some ways, not a lot has changed since that day. Nick Foles is still the quarterback. The offense will still center around LeSean McCoy and the ground game. And the defense will return 10 of 11 starters.

In other ways, a lot is new. DeSean Jackson is gone. Darren Sproles is here. Malcolm Jenkins replaces Patrick Chung. And rookies like Marcus Smith II, Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff will be expected to contribute.

Kelly will be in that room at least 11 more times – one more practice at the Linc, two preseason games and eight in the regular season.

12:36 – The crowd here at the Linc is about 15,000. Not exactly a gameday number, but plenty of fans on hand who are starving for football.

12:44 – The Eagles have a “Formations” period every practice. The offense lines up against the defense, and it’s all about motioning, shifting, etc. Football coaches at all levels will tell you success depends on execution. But so much is determined before the ball is even snapped. Just think back to Week 17 last year when the Cowboys got Dez Bryant lined up on Chung. Anyone watching live or on TV knew that one was going to be trouble.

12:48 – One thing I miss about Lehigh is the one-on-one drills between offensive and defensive linemen. Those were especially entertaining when Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd would egg the players on.

The two lines are going at it today, but it looks like the focus is on the offensive linemen double-teaming the defensive linemen and other run-game techniques. Not quite as much sizzle.

1:04 – All spring, I’ve wondered who the fifth QB has been at camp. He isn’t in uniform (in some ways, he looks like a ball-boy), yet he can really throw the ball and seems like he knows exactly what he’s doing. Per the Inquirer’s Jeff McLane, it’s Pat Shurmur’s son, Kyle, who has committed to play QB at Vanderbilt. Now it all makes sense.

I’d imagine he’ll be a big hit with his teammates once he gets to college.

What’d you do this summer?

Went down the shore. You?

Practiced with Kelly, LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles at the Linc.

1:07 – During 7-on-7s, for the second day in a row, McCoy gets matched up with Connor Barwin on a wheel route, but Foles doesn’t go his way. A nice thing about playing QB in Kelly’s offense is that skill position players don’t have time to come back to the huddle and complain when they don’t get the ball. They just have to get ready for the next play.

Nolan Carroll II with his daily batted down pass. This time, he breaks up a Mark Sanchez ball intended for Arrelious Benn.

“He’s a very well‑rounded talent,” said Billy Davis, when asked about Carroll yesterday. “He’s got size, he’s got length, he’s got speed. He’s a real tenacious competitor. I love his attitude out there, the way he presses and competes and puts his hands on the people, and he’s got a good knack for the ball. I think he’s a good asset to us. He’s a great addition and we look forward to seeing him in camp and how he fits into our system.”

The most significant depth chart note is that Marcus Smith II is now practicing with the second team behind Barwin. He had been with the threes. That’s good news for the Eagles and means Smith is progressing the way the coaching staff expects.

Meanwhile, our biggest mismatch of camp: Brandon Boykin on Will Murphy. Boykin breaks up a Sanchez pass aimed his way.

1:11 – It’s worth noting that Riley Cooper, Chris Polk and Bennie Logan are all out with injuries today. Jeff Maehl is filling in for Cooper. Damion Square is getting the first-team reps at nose tackle for Logan. Beau Allen is going with the second team.

1:15 – We see one of these every day. McCoy and Darren Sproles together in the backfield. Sproles motions to the left, Foles fakes the handoff to McCoy to the right and then delivers the ball back to Sproles on a bubble screen.

The pads are on, but not a lot of real hitting. Cedric Thornton gives McCoy a nice nudge near the line of scrimmage and knocks him backwards.

Later, Barwin gets in the backfield, McCoy spins, but he’s met by Mychal Kendricks at the line of scrimmage and spikes the ball down. I thought this was a pretty good day for the defense.

Sanchez keeps the ball on a zone read as defensive coordinators around the league shake in their boots (I kid, I kid).

1:20 – Perhaps the play of the day. Earl Wolff breaks on a deep ball near the sideline intended for Arrelious Benn and breaks it up. Excellent range and closing speed. Wolff is the best athlete the Eagles have at safety. If the coaches can get him to play to that athleticism, he’ll be on the field. Smith, Cary Williams and others give Wolff love for his effort.

1:45 – Bradley Fletcher is all over Jeremy Maclin on an incompletion in the middle of the field. Both players tumble to the ground.

Malcolm Jenkins jumps a route and deflects a Foles pass. Again, the defense is showing up.

Matthews time. The rookie catches three straight balls from Sanchez – one on a screen and two in the middle of the field.

Matthew Tucker gets a shot on a wheel route, but drops it. There have been more drops today than the first two days combined (that’s not official).

FIGHT! For the second day in a row, we have fisticuffs. This one is right in front of me: Maclin and Fletcher throwing haymakers before they are separated. T-Mac’s got all the details, and the Cary Williams quotes are definitely worth reading.

Another day in the books. The Eagles are off tomorrow before returning to the NovaCare Complex on Thursday.

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  • MediaMike

    Looks like Maclin got frustrated by not being able to get open vs. a #2 CB.

    • TNA

      Maclin said he was getting in and out of breaks ok, but in the short clips I’ve seen (small sample size alert), he still seems a bit slow compared to some of the other receivers. Hopefully that knee and his legs get stronger through the summer and season. In the meantime, it’s going to be up to McCoy, Ertz and Sproles to kill man coverage, draw attention and give the wideouts a little more space to do their thing. Speaking of McCoy and Sproles, the Eagles have an embarrassing number of talented backs. Some team(s) are going to get lucky picking up these kids at the end of camp.

      If Wolff improves his mental game under the tutelage of Jenkins and is able to play fast and loose, he’s going to be a big difference maker. He was definitely a little uncomfortable last year in space as the last line of defense.

      And Carroll just seems to have the quickness and speed CW and Fletcher don’t have.

      Matthews sounds like he wants to become a technician like his uncle or Jason Peters. I’m sure he has a lot to work on, but he could be the Boykin of the offense. Now, if only Ertz can become as good a blocker as Celek, the Eagles would dominate with personnel between the hashmarks.

    • xmbk

      Looks that way, yet you weren’t there. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies. I guess McCoy was just frustrated because he couldn’t get open against Cole. I guess it’s also an example of Maclin being soft. Can’t wait for the games to start and this whiny Jackson crap to go away.

  • quentin smith

    Was down at the linc this afternoon. A lot to look forward to. I think Momah looked pretty good (finally) Sanchez looked like a back up. Sproles looked comfortable and I’m very excited for him, Jordan Matthews looked like a #1 receiver. Ertz caught a good amountof balls today, very excited for him. Foles was Foles efficient and laid back, not much action from maclin except the fight. Wolf looked great with excellent closing speed. Jenkins looked efficient, Nolan Carroll looked really good. Villanueva is huge and looked ok. Aurelius Benn was alright Brad smith looked alright. Great afternoon. Stadium looks great. E-A-G-L-E-S EAGLES!

    • MediaMike

      Nice work! I love hearing from the fans who can actually attend. Shame for all of the kids in the next generation of Eagles fan (I hope) that they don’t really get the access prior generations did on a daily basis at Widner, West Chester, and Lehigh. A good friend of mine has a ridiculous story of Andre Watters dancing around his father’s car at West Chester one afternoon; shame we’ll need to wait awhile for those days again.
      I’m really happy to hear about Matthews and Sproles!

      • quentin smith

        Thanks media mike I’m hoping with them doing franklin field this year maybe they take one practice during training camp to visit history. West Chester next year? Dreaming, who am I kidding I just want them to be 15 min from me rather then 45 min.

        • MediaMike

          I really wish they’d go back to a college campus full time with 100% open fan access. I know some of the reasons they used to justify screwing the fans are valid, but I think they’re hurting their future bottom line by taking away the personal connection of kids to the team.

    • Mohmah is terrible. He always shines early in camp, because he’s 7 feet tall and runs like a deer. Otherwise, good stuff Q.

      • Adam

        Always? You mean that one other year he’s been on that team? Nobody said he was good last year, shorts or pads. Couldn’t run routes or get seperation. This year he seems to have improved. Won’t make the team of course, but he could be a practice squad candidate.

      • Mitchell

        Deer are fast so that’s good right?

      • Chris Jones

        Runs like a deer? 7 feet? Ok so what’s the problem? He’s been on the squad for 1 year too lol….

      • Sconces

        Momah has never looked anywhere near good until this offseason

  • Frank

    Whewww……I was at Eales practice, and man they practiced FAST on every play, one play right after another for the ENTIRE TWO HOURS with no breaks. I was exhausted and sweating from just watching them.

    Foles looks so cool and confident, he makes everything look easy and natural, and seems to always look off one receiver and then find another open receiver.

    #4 Kinne surprising had a very strong arm that was accurate…and Sanchez and Barkley looked better than expected, can’t wait to see all the QB’s in the preseason games.

    Sproles and Shady McCoy….WOW……they are so fast and elusive catching passes out of the backfield, they will be great to watch this season.

    Jordan Matthews and the big 6’7″ receiver also looked good today.

  • Brent E. Sulecki

    Great day of camp. Jordan Mathews is going to be a real problem. Kid catches everything and runs hard. Also vinny curry was all over the place. Defense will be much improved as they were able to contain the offense. Nice to see plenty of special teams periods as last year their was few. At least at camps I was at. Huge focus this year. Nice. Nice job by the qbs and rbs today. Can’t wait till next Sunday.

  • DoctorRick

    Man oh man, I’m jealous of you folks who can be there. I just have to be patient until DECEMBER 7, 2014 when the Birdz play the ‘Hawks, ’cause I will be there!
    Section 201 Row 1.

    And we will be wearing Eagles Green.

    If anyone wants to share a beer then, email me at Rick_Lind at comcast dot net

  • peteike

    “We see one of these every day. McCoy and Darren Sproles together in the backfield. Sproles motions to the left, Foles fakes the handoff to McCoy to the right and then delivers the ball back to Sproles on a bubble screen.”

    Oh man, you gotta just love that, good luck to any defense trying to cover that. Sproles may open up more lanes for Shady which may help with Barbre in there at start of season. I really want to see Foles win some close games this season, some come from behind wins would be nice also. Just want to see him tested a bit more since I already trust his overall skill set, I want the clutch factor.