Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles were at it again Thursday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex. Here’s what we saw.

11:45 – Big emphasis on press coverage the last two days. That’s something teams can’t work on in the spring, but the Eagles are drilling it on both offense and defense now that the pads are on.

During one period, wide receivers set up in one of four lines, and defensive backs do the same across from them. There’s no actual football involved, just technique work – defenders pressing at the line of scrimmage and wide receivers trying to get off their jams.

11:53 – We spend some time with the defensive backs today. They have four cones set up. The movement is: backpedal, sprint diagonal, backpedal, sprint diagonal and catch the ball.

Proof that I’m not lying:

Outside linebackers, meanwhile, work on their coverage. They start near the line of scrimmage, drop to an underneath zone and then chase the ball through the air down the sideline as position coach Bill McGovern lets it fly.

12:08 – 3-on-2 time. Three defenders go up against two receivers with the field split in half vertically. Bradley Fletcher and Nolan Carroll II come up with pass break-ups. Jordan Matthews can’t hold on to a Nick Foles pass. He was facing the QB in the middle of the field, and the ball was thrown slightly to his left.

Matt Barkley with a really nice ball down the sideline as Brent Celek beats Connor Barwin and hauls it into his body with one hand.

Josh Huff separates from Fletcher on a go route, but Foles leads him out of bounds.

12:13 – Special teams time. Per Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, both Alex Henery and Carey Spear went 5-for-5 from attempts between 36 and 52 yards.

12:24 – “I’m feeling a Cary Williams fight today,” says Jimmy Kempski of, noting that the veteran seems a bit chippy.

12:25 – Williams chucks Jeff Maehl to the ground during 7-on-7s for no apparent reason. Maehl calmly goes back to the huddle. Not everyone would have reacted the way Maehl did. We could have been close to more fisticuffs.

More work on the back shoulder today. Foles throws a perfectly placed ball to Jeremy Maclin who turns around and makes the grab against Fletcher.

A rarity: Foles hits the fly-swatter contraption at the line of scrimmage. No worries. He had only two passes batted at the line of scrimmage all of last season per Pro Football Focus.

Mark Sanchez looks for Matthews deep, but he can’t make the grab (the ball was overthrown). Earl Wolff is not participating in practice today (undisclosed injury). Chris Maragos is taking his place with the ones.

Our first interception of the day: Brandon Boykin jumps in front of Brad Smith on a shallow crosser and picks off G.J. Kinne.

Bennie Logan is in pads, but not participating fully. Rookie Beau Allen is getting some run at nose tackle with the ones.

Sidenote: Chip Kelly shakes hands with all the defensive players before the team period. I’ve seen this every day. And there’s a chance he may have individual hand-shakes with each guy. Fletcher Cox gets a handshake, Connor Barwin gets a fist pound, and Cedric Thornton gets something in between.

If Kelly does the Fresh Prince/DJ Jazzy Jeff move with one of these guys, I may lose it.

[Why being a reporter in 2014 is great: Finding this video took me approximately six seconds, and at no time did I ever doubt the clip would be available].

Back to the field… Foles rolls to his left off play-action and finds Maehl near the sideline. I remember when Foles was a rookie, one of the things Andy Reid liked about him was that he could throw on the move.

Nice sequence for DeMeco Ryans. It’s a “thud” period, meaning you can make contact with the ball-carrier, but no tackling to the ground. Ryans is a powerful guy though, and he knocks LeSean McCoy on his butt. On the next play, he drops in coverage and intercepts Foles.

On the last play of the drill, Bryan Braman strips David Fluellen. I think that is the first fumble of the summer.

12:48 – Referees are at practice today, and at the beginning of this drill, they throw a flag on Fletcher for his contact with Maclin during 1-on-1s.

Ifeanyi Momah makes his best play in two years. It looks like a back-shoulder fade down the left sideline against Boykin. At the last minute, Momah leaps, reaches up and makes the grab. I’ve said he needs to learn how to use his size to have a shot, and he did so there.

Either Malcolm Jenkins can cover or we need to slow the Matthews hype down. The Eagles’ new safety just stuck with the rookie step for step on a corner route deep downfield and forced an incompletion.

Rookie Jaylen Watkins flashes, breaking up a pass intended for B.J. Cunningham.

On the last play of the drill, Foles and Matthews are not on the same page. Another reason why I think it’s about time the rookie gets all his reps with the starting quarterback.

1:02 – During 7-on-7, the Eagles show a dime package. I haven’t seen this previously: It’s Williams, Fletcher, Boykin and Carroll, along with two safeties and Mychal Kendricks. Given how good Carroll has looked, this could end up being a nice option in third-and-long situations or against specific opponents.

Sanchez throws three incompletions in a row, but the last one draws a flag on the defense. Williams finds the ref on the sideline for a lengthy discussion. I’m guessing he disagreed with the call.

Nate Allen does a good job of breaking on a ball deep down the left sideline from Barkley, but he can’t hold on for the INT.

No touchdowns by the offense during this period. The defense has stepped up the past two days.

1:15 – Red zone drill.

“Ref, move. I can’t see,” says a fan.

The official turns around and offers a dirty look.

“You just can’t turn it on and off, can you?” he says, changing to a smile. “It’s just practice!”

The great part about Philadelphia? Everyone on the sideline immediately does the Allen Iverson practice bit in unison.

Meanwhile, the first-team defense “sacks” Foles twice. One is by Trent Cole; some reporters thought the other was by him as well.

1:18 – Marcus Smith II does a nice job dropping in coverage on Arrelious Benn. Really looking forward to seeing how he looks when the Eagles play their first preseason game a week from tomorrow.

Barkley with another nice throw – this one to Johnson on a corner route for a touchdown. Diving grab by Johnson too.

Celek beats Brandon Graham for a touchdown from Foles.

1:29 – During the final team period, the defense blows up a screen from Foles to Celek. I don’t know that we’ve mentioned enough in this space how much Kelly loves Jenkins. “Nice hustle, Malcolm! Nice hustle, Malcolm!” he yells after the play.

The session ends with Spear missing a 46-yarder.

Another practice in the books. We’ll be back tomorrow before an off day Saturday.

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  • Corsair42

    Practice? Practice? But anyone else worried the reports on Foles’ play have exactly been stellar? Does it matter?

    • Corsair42

      “have not” exactly been stellar. Hate when I forget a word.

      • Sconces

        just edit it

    • Adam

      It wouldn’t be Philly unless someone cared about practice performance

      • RichC, brings duck to cockfigh

        passion’s only a crime north of the border my man.

        • Dominik


    • Philly0312

      Eh, according to the states on he’s 89/119 and has 2 INTs…good enough for me. It’s practice. All reports have been that he looks sharp overall.

    • TNA

      Players and coaches have talked about working on new things. Can’t learn if you’re not making mistakes while trying to do things out of your comfort zone…

      One thing that’s been in the back of my head with Foles and the offense this entire preseason is wondering whether the new wrinkles and expansion of the playbook will lead to some bad results in the beginning part of the season.

      From a systems dynamics perspective, one of the concepts geared towards organizational learning is the loss of production in the short-term while an organization is learning how to become more productive in the long-term. in other words, one step back, two steps forward; but the one step backward is necessary in order to take the two steps forward. A lot of companies can’t risk the downtime or loss of efficiency so they keep churning away and asking their workers to “work harder” or “longer” while eschewing the idea of taking some time away from “working” to figure out how to “work smarter” in the long-term. In the aftermath of the 2008 depression, most companies had to cut employees. Of those, some asked their remaining employees to put in longer hours or be more productive to pick up the slack. Other companies took advantage of the overall downturn to re-engineer their processes and to invest in ways to improve the long-term productivity of their employees. During that time period, productivity increases abounded – but for different reasons. We’ll see how things turn out, but the companies that took the risk of rethinking things will probably win out in the long-term.

      • poetx99

        great points, in context.

      • Kelce’s Beard

        Great post.
        But there is great value in evidence-based practice, and while you have sound theory, Kelly has already shown his ability to coach up a team. Last year was his first year in the league, and he set all kinds of historical and franchise records. with inherited players, new coaches, everything.
        Most critical of the “returnee” value are his coaches and the OL. Even all these new wrinkles/expansion will be messing with defensive keys, i.e. more motions and personnel groupings. The QB/skill guys will learn new tricks. But the bread and butter InOL is simply getting their reps in, building cohesion, and allowing Shady to tee off.
        It also helps that one of our biggest weapons on offense, Sproles, is a vet who will have an easier time picking up concepts. 2rb/2te sets will help the new WRs adjust, feature scheme-experienced guys, and open up numerous new configurations.

        I think a lot of what you said will feature more on the defensive side, as Davis opens up the 34 playbook. But so long as the DL stays strong and the offense puts up 25+ a game, they’ll have an easier time adjusting as well.

    • Amar, CB who bought in

      By some earlier accounts Chip Kelly and Nick Foles have been vocal about them trying to take ample risk during the training camps. Something along the lines of…practice is the time when we can test if certain plays/throws can be made in traffic.
      I’m not worried.

  • Amar, CB who bought in

    “Jordan Matthews can’t hold on to a Nick Foles pass.”….Obviously a typo OR a retraction + apology from Phillymag tomorrow.

    “…when the Eagles play their first preseason game a week from tomorrow.”

    Got something in my eye.

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      Both of them.

    • John E. Zang

      Yeah I don’t understand it either. Unless Mathews was trying to look like a rookie as to not intimidate others too much. He probably cleanly grabbed the pass and just threw it to the turf.

  • IG:blkboyflyy

    I can’t quite remember who it was but I was having a heated argument with someone who said we wouldn’t be using any press man. But solid proof at camp. It’s only smart to add techniques to your players repertoire when comfortable with the progress made on previous teachings.

    • Tom w

      And when you have stable safety play That Jenkins brings

      • IG:blkboyflyy

        I’m surprised anyone called anything Jenkins does stable, despite what we’ve seen from him usually most people say he gets burnt too much. I believe he’s better than given credit for. And that’s also the exact reason I used for implementing press man along with the fact that Davis himself said he wanted to used it.

        • OldDuckMcDoc

          Often (though not always) these are people whose knowledge of Jenkins extends to PFF grades. Jenkins is decent in coverage, but the Saints got carried away with this at times and matched him up on #1 receivers playing in the slot.

          • IG:blkboyflyy

            My sentiments exactly. Just because you have a multifaceted player doesn’t mean you over match him. I always felt he was decent in coverage, a good blitzer & more aware than most hybrid players.

          • OldDuckMcDoc

            Slightly off topic, but it’s one of the issues with PFF grades as they stand. Generally they try to grade whether players successfully complete the assignment they were given on a play. As a result it can reward role players who don’t play every down or whose short-comings coaches try to cover, while punishing jack-of-all-trade guys who are often covering the limitations of others.

          • Sean Stott

            PFF is terrible. According to them, Donnie Jones is a below average punter.

          • OldDuckMcDoc

            I actually really like a lot of what they do. They compile lots of good stats, but they’re also relatively new and on some things their methodology nees refining. I’ve said before that my main/only issue with them is that they try to present themselves as objective people, purely interested in fair and measured analysis of players, but they’re obviously a commercial organisation who aren’t about to acknowledge their own flaws.

  • Tom w

    Any idea why maragos got first team reps over Allen w Wolfe out?

    • IG:blkboyflyy

      Just mixing it up. Giving everyone a chance to gain some experience and continuity with others players.

  • OldDuckMcDoc

    Excited that, based on the photo accompanying this article, Cole spent the summer growing an extra couple of arms. This will likely discombobulate O-linemen and improve pass rush productivity immensely.

    • cliff h-MOAR white goons

      had to 1-up 3 legs Foles

      • OldDuckMcDoc

        Nailed it.

        Also, I missed the more important aspect of this photo which is that Braman STILL isn’t convinced he needs to wear a helmet to play this game. It’s like “Imma half wear this thing cos everyone else has got one, but if there’s tackles to be made I need to be able to whip it off quick smart!!!”.

        Favourite player never to play a down for the Eagles.

    • A Roy

      Guess he’s now a Hindu God…

    • A Roy

      Shoot. Couldn’t get the picture of Vishnu to post.

    • Kelce’s Beard

      seems he’s got himself half a head too, should be ready by regular season.

  • John Olcese

    quick question Sheil – who’s butt do we have to kick or kiss down there
    to get some updates on ALL OF THE OTHER POSITIONS for god’s sake.
    anything on linemen?? how is barbre looking? how is herramins
    looking? how is the depth behind those two which may be a serious
    question in the first 4 weeks of the season. is bamiro progressing? is
    square going to keep his job as a backup NG or will allen beat him
    out? what is the current rotation for 2’s and 3’s on both sides of the
    ball? i’m assuming they’ve been doing one on one’s, boards, pass rush – anyone flashing, anyone dominating, any pancakes, anyone getting run over? i can’t believe it’s all just rosy in the trenches and there’s no tempers flaring and guys getting pissed. please please please anything other that the same daily reports on the same “skill” players….how ’bout we get some updates on all the guys who weigh over 300lbs.