Running Diary: Eagles-Patriots Practice Observations

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at Philadelphia Eagles

FOXBORO, MASS. – The Eagles and Patriots took part in the first of three combined practice sessions today. Here’s what we saw.

2:14 – Since we’re in New England, the teams are playing by the Patriots’ rules. That means a later practice time and no music. It seemed like a lively crowd right away. And this from Patriots reporter Mike Reiss:

Jeffrey Lurie is in the house. The two teams start practice on separate fields. The Eagles even brought the red doorway things for running backs:

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

2:30 - One-on-one time. The two fields are split into four quadrants. At the far end (we can't really see) are linebackers against tight ends and running backs. On the near end to the left, it's Eagles receivers against Patriots cornerbacks. And on the field to the right, we have Patriots receivers against Eagles cornerbacks.

The one thing that stands out here: Eagles defensive backs are way more competitive than they were a year ago when Tom Brady simply picked them apart. Don't get me wrong. Brady is still completing his share of balls, but the Eagles made things a lot more difficult on him.

Curtis Marsh breaks up a Brady pass. Jaylen Watkins forces an incompletion on a deep ball. Cary Williams gets his hand on a pass. And Brandon Boykin sticks with Matthew Slater deep.

The bad reps? Bradley Fletcher gets beaten on a double move; same with Nate Allen. Fletcher draws a flag also. And Danny Amendola makes Malcolm Jenkins look silly. A very competitive atmosphere. The crowd ooooh'd and aaaah'd at pretty much every rep.

On the other field, Josh Huff runs a great corner route, but drops the ball. Jordan Matthews beats the safety on a corner too. Jeremy Maclin gets deep and comes down with the ball against Kyle Arrington. Ifeanyi Momah makes a contested catch in the corner of the end zone against Brandon Browner.

2:51 - During 7-on-7s, Bill Belichick stands on the right field with the Patriots' offense going up against the Eagles' D. Chip Kelly monitors the other field with the Eagles' offense.

I'm impressed with how Watkins has bounced back from Friday's game. Tim wrote about it in detail this morning. During this period, he stays with Kenbrell Thompkins deep down the sideline and forces an incompletion.

For the Eagles' offense in the red zone, Matthews gets free on a crossing route. Nick Foles finds Brent Celek wide open for a touchdown. And Mark Sanchez connects with Arrelious Benn on a slant.

3:03 - It's special teams time, which means we'll share some tales from the road. If any of our Boston-area readers saw a Chevy Cruze with its blinkers on going 35 MPH in the Callahan Tunnel (at least I think that's the tunnel), that was us. Since when do cars that are automatic have an M1 manual transmission gear? I accidentally put it in that last night and couldn't figure out what was going on. I pulled over, and luckily McManus was quick with the owner's manual, figuring out what was wrong. I shifted the gear into automatic, and we were on our way.

A shaky start to what otherwise has been a fine trip so far. By the way, Chevy, if you'd like to advertise with Birds 24/7, I'll happily delete the above paragraph and admit publicly that I'm a moron.

3:07 - Back to practice. It's an 11-on-11 run game period. LeSean McCoy finds a big hole and explodes downfield, although there is no tackling to the ground. Underrated aspect of McCoy's game: his competitiveness. He really shines in these environments.

We're seated in a media tent about 15 yards away from the field. There are fans seated in front of us, and there's no net behind the field goal post. Fans try to catch the kicked field goals, while simultaneously looking to avoid broken noses. One kick comes our way, and Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports nearly gets nailed.

3:20 - During the next 11-on-11 period, Foles looks for Momah deep, but he gets no separation, and the ball is overthrown. One tough thing for quarterbacks is adjusting their targets based on the receivers. For example, with someone like DeSean Jackson, you throw the deep ball deep and allow him to go get it. With Momah, an underthrown ball is preferred because he can use his frame to go up and get it. On this play, he didn't have much of a shot.

McCoy takes a toss and busts it 50 yards to the end zone. He has spoken earlier this offseason about being the top RB in the league. Clearly, in front of a quality opponent, he's playing like he has something to prove.

Darrelle Revis gets called for holding in coverage against Maclin. A reminder that in 2012, Maclin drew more pass interference penalties than any other receiver in the NFL.

On defense, Williams gets beaten by Thompkins on a deep ball down the left sideline. Williams tosses Thompkins to the ground after the catch and hears it from the New England crowd.

The Eagles' secondary players made it clear after practice that they were embarrassed by last year's performance, and they certainly played with an edge today. After Julian Edelman caught a ball against Fletcher, Boykin flung him to the ground and was flagged for a horse collar.

On another rep, Vinny Curry continues to make his presence felt, bursting through the backfield for a tackle for loss.

When the Eagles get back on offense, Maclin beats Revis deep, although beats is being generous. Foles held onto the ball, and Revis basically stopped playing as Maclin ran past him.

Meanwhile, it looks like a group of campers or students is in attendance. They're going wild at the field goals that are flying into the crowd. Says a counselor/teacher: "Pay attention to whatcha doin'! I don't have time fuh stitches!'

This sentiment is made a hundred times funnier by her Boston accent, quite possibly my favorite accent in the country. McManus and I are spending a good portion of our time up here in silence, just listening to the locals talk.

When the second team gets up, it appears Sanchez and Huff have a miscommunication on an option route. Matthews then gets open on an out vs. Jemea Thomas and makes the grab.

Back to the DBs. No fights today, but Jenkins shoves Amendola after a grab. Boykin then chases Amendola down from behind and helps force an incompletion.

Cedric Thornton bats a pass down at the line of scrimmage. I'll have to ask him if he's been working on that. Thornton had a batted pass during Friday's game too.

Nice job in coverage by Marcus Smith. He sticks with Stevan Ridley down the sideline and forces an incompletion.

Brady, meanwhile, finds the fullback for a TD.

Lots of wheel routes from the Eagles. Darren Sproles burns Dont'a Hightower. Beautiful throw from Foles.

McCoy beats an LB, but can't hang on. He gets another shot later against Hightower and makes the grab. A fan in the stands has on a No. 25 Eagles jersey, and McCoy points to him as the pro-Patriots crowd erupts with boos.

Great effort from Maclin down the sideline, going up for a contested catch and nearly coming down with it. I'll say this about Maclin: More than at any other time this summer, I thought he just looked the part today.

That's it from Foxboro. Rain is in the forecast Wednesday, but we'll have you covered all week long regardless of the elements.

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  • Dante

    Glade to hear that D is playing aggressive, We need that in our defense, sadly to say we haven’t had sense Brian Dawkins era

  • BillyP

    Watched practice with Sam Lynch today. Other than the depths of kickoffs, I thought the Eagles kickoff unit looked better than the Patriots.

  • Bullwinkle

    If healthy, Maclin will surprise us. Chip Kelly will take full advantage of Maclin’s skills and he will have well over 1,000 yards in receptions. Obviously, he does not have Jackson’s explosiveness, but he will prove to be a better and more dangerous receiver than he’s thought to be. He’s a good guy and I would love to see him reach his full potential.

    • John E. Zang

      I think he’s much more valuable than Jackson and had he been healthy wouldve beat Deseans stats. He never had a qb that distributes the ball well and Andy basically designed the offense around Jackson.

      • aub32

        That’s because Jackson was the better receiver. Also, last I checked Mac did play with McNabb.

        • lars1701c

          Jackson is a chump once he is matched up against a good DB, he is too small and can’t jump worth a damn, that being said when he is in the open he is good.

    • Sean Stott

      He has all the explosiveness that Desean has, he just doesn’t have his second gear.

      • Septhinox

        This.

  • Michael Thompson

    thanks for the report it sounds like you are having fun, you lucky stiff, Boston accents for words like Harvard are funny for sure. The team goal I put out there is for each player to make at least one outstanding play each game – especially in critical situations like third downs and when in the red zone. keep up the excellent reporting.

  • John E. Zang

    Yeah Momah! Right in Browners face for a TD. I think he can be a good option in the red zone at the very least. If he’s using his body right and has some ups he’ll win most battles.

  • John E. Zang

    If Momah makes the team imagine a package of Cooper, Ertz, Momah and Mathews or Maclin in the slot in redzone situations.

    • shady25

      I hope he makes it. Going to have to beat out Maehl on ST’s though. Can he do it? He definitely has more upside than him or Benn.

    • UncleCarm

      Momah has at least made it into the conversation this year. Last year he had no chance. He has 3 more tries to make an impression. It would be nice to have such a big body on the field… if he can play.

  • Heemy224

    Love birds24/7 …the chip kelly offense of sports websites! Young, innovative and always fast to the point!

  • NickS, Combine Warrior

    Something I thought you all might like. AI the football player. Moves like Vick & Shady rolled into one: http://www.unscriptd.com/stories/824-allen-iverson-football/

    • Say No to Marc Mo From Easton

      AI was the first and only reason that I liked basketball for a long time. I started watching when he came to Philly and stopped when he left. Those were some great years.
      Aside: started watching again during the season LeBron would go on to, and lose, the finals with the Cavs.

  • Max Lightfoot

    They should call those red things the Groucho Gates because you have to run through them like the famed comedian – except for maybe Sproles.

    • Corey Dawson

      This seems like the kinda thing Chip would absolutely love.

    • Johnny Domino

      Would love to see the ball and mallet that goes with those croquet wickets

      • Max Lightfoot

        Hahahaha – me too!!

  • DirtyWaters

    Can’t wait to see the buddy road movie based on the life of Tim and Sheil. It would be like a cross between Bill and Ted’s, Dumb and Dumber and All the President’s Men.

    • Johnny Domino

      If Tim is willing to bulk up it’ll be like Farley and Spade in “Tommy Boy”.

      • DirtyWaters

        I did think about the deer scene. I also picture,”You’re going the wrong way!” from Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

      • Andy

        Timmy want wingie.

    • Brian

      I was thinking, road to Rhode Island…

  • Saul Wells

    For the love of all that’s green and good. The Brian Dawkins era of Eagles defense was good n the dude played his heart out. But and that’s a big BUT, it never produced a championship. McNabb spewed sure but the D didn’t hold. And guess who was playing safety in that Super Bowl? Brian Dawkins.. Again I love the guy but don’t act like it was the Tampa D and he was Lynch or Rodney Harrison for the Pats.

    • Mitchell

      BLASPHEMER!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Saul Wells

        Yep.. Or a realist?

        • Mitchell

          Lol just messing around.

    • CT

      neither of those guy was as good as dawkins. and you should have your eagle fan card revoked if you actually think so.

      • Saul Wells

        I know they weren’t that’s what I’m saying. I love the eagles and Dawkins but we praise that D like it won a championship or multiple. As far as I’m concerned it was an ok D.

    • peteike

      effn Harrison knew McNabb was throwing to Westbrook in the end zone when he was lined up against a lb. Man I hated that play, I think it was near the end of the half. They phoned in the call from the sidelines after seeing it on tape in practice in jville. Also, roid head harrison eff him and his cheap plays.

    • lars1701c

      McSlab was a choker and couldn’t run a 2 minute drill worth a damn. Our D was good enough but our Offense sucked against good teams

      • peteike

        I always though Reid just dropped the ball in random games. Always ridged and scripting plays, not adjusting and predictable. Cant have that come playoff time or as we all saw, they’d lose winnable games.

        • lars1701c

        • lars1701c

          Mcnabb for the life of me couldn’t run a 2 minute drill and coupled to that Reid with his poor clock management skills made me tare my hair out :(

          The last drive in the 04 superbowl made me hate Reid after that (along with McSlab) and I am a season ticket holder so i had to pay to watch those guys for years to come :(

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    I think the wheel route is one of my favorite plays. I think they’ll use it a lot with Sproles. There isn’t a linebacker in the leagues that can run with him and Foles throws a great ball.

    • Johnny Domino

      “The wheel is turning and you can’t slow down,
      You can’t let go and you can’t hold on,
      You can’t go back and you can’t stand still,
      If the thunder don’t get you then the lightning will.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbLx24IfR2g

      • peteike

        ha wait….”The wheel in the sky keeps on turning, dont know where Ill be tomorrow oooooohhhh….”

    • khingjay

      You must forget that Mayo took Sproles out the game when they played. Mayo was all over him and Sproles couldn’t do nothing.

  • 370HSSV 0773H

    It’s interesting that the Pats smaller receivers are beating our taller corners.

  • EagleDuck

    “And Mark Sanchez connects with Arrelious Benn on a slant.” What? Surely you meant ‘connects with Jordan Matthews’?

  • PaoliBulldog

    The cast of Big Bang Theory is getting $1MM/episode/person, so they may be in the market for dorky chauffeurs.

  • Corey Dawson

    Agree totally on the accent. I have a few friends from teh area and when we got together earlier this year, they started really exagerating it whilst busting each other’s chops. Had me almost pissing myself.