Camp Notes: Peters ‘Suiting Up’ Against Jags

Jason Peters practiced in full Saturday after missed the previous two preseason games with a hamstring injury. He declared himself ready to go for the Jaguars game.

“Yeah I’m suiting up this week,” said Peters. “I’m going to go out there and get myself some good work against Jacksonville and get ready for Washington.”

Peters first hurt the hamstring on July 31 in practice. He returned on August 4 but was forced to leave early after aggravating the injury, and has been limited since. Allen Barbre has been working at left tackle in his place.

“Even though guys have been doing a great job of holding it down over there, J.P. is a different animal,” said Michael Vick. 

Jon Dorenbos (concussion) returned to practice Saturday.

Curtis Marsh (broken hand), Felix Jones (oblique), Danny Watkins (concusion), Emil Igwenagu (concussion), Dennis Kelly (back) ,  Kenny Phillips (quad) and Casey Matthews (knee) sat out.

Some other thoughts and observations:

* Mychal Kendricks carried over his strong performance in Thursday’s game onto the practice field. And it came at Matt Barkley‘s expense. The rookie QB was looking for James Casey along the right side during 2-on-3s, but Kendricks jumped the route and came up with the interception.

*Brandon Boykin nearly came up with an interception against Carolina but allowed a Cam Newton pass to go through his hands. He came down with the ball on Saturday, snatching a Foles pass that was intended for Riley Cooper down the left side.

* New receiver Jeff Maehl provided one of the day’s highlights, making a pretty catch in the corner of the end zone on a long toss from Dennis Dixon with Eddie Whitley in coverage.

* Earl Wolff ran with the first team opposite Nate Allen. Patrick Chung was practicing but appeared to sit the majority of team drills out, which may explain Wolff’s bump up.

* Jordan Poyer, who has been having a quiet camp, made a little noise by picking off Barkley during one-on-one drills. Not Barkley’s finest day.

* As the team was going through its stretching routine, Phillips was just a few yards away on the other side of the out-of-bounds line, doing what he could to participate. As they backpedaled he backpedaled, etc. But he could only do so much. A quad injury forced him to miss Thursday’s game against Carolina and he was unable to practice Saturday. Felix Jones, meanwhile, is sidelined with an oblique strain. These are two talented veterans with  injury histories. It’s tough to make the team from the tub, as they say. They’ll need to find their way back onto the field sooner rather than later.

* There were 20,000 fans in attendance for Saturday’s practice at the Linc, according to the Eagles.

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Vick Gets Majority Of First-Team Reps

Michael VickGenerally speaking, Michael Vick and Nick Foles have split first-team reps down the middle since the quarterback competition began this spring. Saturday was a different story.

Vick, fresh off another strong preseason performance on Thursday, worked with the first team for the majority of the team drills. Foles got a look in the latter stages of the session.

Signs are beginning to point to Vick being the starter on September 9 against the Redskins. Chip Kelly, though, is not ready to crown a winner. And he said that the plan for next week’s preseason tilt with the Jaguars (rotation, etc.) will not be hammered out until Monday.

Kelly hasn’t provided the quarterbacks with any update either, according to Vick.

“I didn’t even notice [that I got more first-team reps],” he said. “I’m so used to going back and forth with the ones and twos. I’m used to it and I don’t look at it any different. I’ve gotta keep working hard, man.”

Vick is 13-of-15 for 199 yards with a touchdown and an interception so far this preseason. His lone blemish came on a Hail Mary pass in the waning moments of the first half against Carolina Thursday. Foles is 11-of-14 for 96 yards with a rushing touchdown, an interception and a lost fumble.

Kelly said on Saturday that he wished he could name a starting QB right now, though part of him clearly likes the competition part of it. Having a “depth chart made out of sand” can prevent your players from getting comfortable. And, by coincidence or otherwise, Vick seems to be very much dialed in. He says he won’t be satisfied, even if he does win the job.

“When you look at the great ones — you marvel at Tom Brady,” said Kelly. “When I got a chance to visit with Tommy when he was here he was talking about putting his work in and how much time…Once you think you’ve arrived in this game, you get passed on by. Whether it’s quarterback, running back, offensive line, if you become a starter that doesn’t mean all of a sudden you can kick your feet up and say, ‘Alright, I’m all set. This is a good deal.’ It’s about getting better every day and there is always something you can learn whether it’s as a coach or a player, so I think that mindset will really benefit Mike in the long run.”

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Eagles Sign DE Eddie McClam

The Eagles have signed 6-6, 280-pound defensive end Eddie McClam on Saturday, the team announced.

McClam was in camp with the Lions last season. He played college ball at Old Dominion. The 24-year-old worked out with the Eagles earlier in the day before landing the job  and participated in Saturday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field.

Players who were unable to suit up for the session include Curtis Marsh (broken hand), Felix Jones (oblique), Danny Watkins (concusion), Emil Igwenagu (concussion), Dennis Kelly (back) ,  Kenny Phillips (quad) and Casey Matthews (knee).

Jason Peters, who has been sidelined with a hamstring strain, took part in team drills. Jon Dorenbos (concussion) returned to practice.

 

Twitter Mailbag: Is Fletcher Cox Being Used Properly?

0V3J8978Every Thursday we select a few of your Twitter questions and provide the long-form answers they deserve. For a chance to have your question published on Birds 24/7, send it to @Tim_McManus.

From @aerelorn: Thoughts on Fletcher Cox being asked to 2-gap? Is putting your best D player in a position to *not* succeed the right answer?

The answer to the second part of your question is obviously no. You have to cater to your players’ strengths, and both Chip Kelly and Billy Davis have vowed to do just that since the moment they got here.

That said, I found this exchange between Kelly and a reporter interesting.

Is Fletcher Cox a better two-gap guy or one-gap guy?

“I don’t think you could put one or the other because they have to do both.  It’s not like you can take them out because you are going to switch defenses every play.  When we two gap we put this guy in. When we one gap, you put that guy in.  No, you’re giving up too much,” said Kelly.

 “I know as an offensive coach, I would love to know when that guy’s in the game, it’s two‑gap defense; when that guy’s in the game, it’s one‑gap defense.  They’ve got to be able to play at both.”

When it’s a guy like [Cox], do you cater your defense more?

“To one guy?  No, we don’t cater our defense to one guy, because there are ten other guys you have to worry about.  There are a lot of different things when you go through everything.  We’re going to try to play to the overall team strength.  What are we best at.”

I agree that playing to the strength of the 11 is more important than playing to the strength of one. I also believe that this team will only suffer if Cox — arguably the best player on this defense — is rendered less effective because of the system.  A couple things to keep in mind: 1) While Cox struggled on Friday, it was only one game. It’s totally possible that a man of his talent adapts and thrives in this scheme before long. And 2) the Eagles have said that they are working towards becoming a two-gap 3-4 defense, but will stop short along the way if it makes sense. You can argue that beyond Cox, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, etc. would be best suited playing one-gap. I bet we see more one-gap than two-gap in the first year.

[If you’re saying to yourself, “What the hell are they talking about?” read Greg Cosell’s piece. He does an excellent job breaking down gap concepts.]

From iMark_Sarnoski: once the starting QB is selected do you think either Vick or Foles will be on the move? Will they keep both in case of injury?

I feel pretty confident that they will keep both. Kelly has repeatedly said that you better have two capable quarterbacks in the NFL, and I think that’s particularly true when one of those QBs is Michael Vick, who has trouble staying healthy for the full 16. I believe that’s part of what this quarterback competition is about — getting both Vick and Nick Foles ready to start, because there is a good chance both will have to at some point this year.

It’s possible that Vick could be moved if he loses the job and becomes disgruntled, but I don’t see that happening.

From @Ngu_Year: who has had a better camp, Damion Square or Cedric Thornton?

Damion Square has stood out more, but it’s tough to compare because Thornton has run much more with the first team.

The good news for the Eagles is that they look to have some good, young talent along the defensive front. Whether you’re talking about Square, Bennie Logan or Curry, they should all have a chance to make an impact.

 “We’re going to continue to look at those guys just like we look at them every day in practice, and make a determination on who is the best.  But a lot of times with the d‑line, because of how this game is played, we’re going to be playing all six if we keep six on the active roster,” said Kelly.

 “I think in that position particularly you’ll see that more in the NFL.  People are starting to rotate defensive linemen and keep them fresh just because it’s such a tough position to play.  I know that’s kind of our thought process going in.  So I think you’ll see all of those guys again kind of rolling through.”

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Eagles-Panthers Cheat Sheet: 10 Things To Watch

Greg SalasHere are 10 things we’re tracking during tonight’s Eagles-Panthers game:

1. The quarterbacks

You didn’t think we were going to start somewhere else, did you?

Nick Foles will get the start. He led the Eagles on an up-tempo, efficient touchdown drive last week vs. the Patriots. What do we want to see this week? Foles chuck it downfield. Last week, none of his attempts traveled more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Foles has the arm, but he had issues with mechanics on the deep ball last year. It’d be nice to see him take a shot or two downfield in this one.

As for Vick, the Eagles slowed things down with him in the game last week. The guess here is he’ll be asked to operate the tempo package this time around. Vick looked great vs. New England, but he needs to show he’s capable of making sound decisions in an offense that gives the quarterback options. Hopefully we get a chance to see him in that environment tonight.

2. The progress of the O-Line

Lane Johnson looked like the real deal in the run game last week. The Eagles are looking for steady improvement from their first-round pick in the preseason.

Todd Herremans, meanwhile, did not play well last week. He’s got eight years of experience and 100 starts under his belt, so one quarter of one preseason game is nothing to panic about, but it’d be nice to see him play better vs. Carolina.

And then there are the depth spots. Allen Barbre will likely get the nod at left tackle with the first team tonight. He could end up being the top backup lineman on the roster – at both guard and tackle. The backup center battle continues with Julian Vandervelde, Dallas Reynolds and Matt Tennant.

3. Wide receiver depth

If Greg Salas continues to show up, he’s going to make it hard for the Eagles to cut him. Perhaps he’ll be bumped up the depth chart and get a chance to prove himself against better competition in the first half.

Russell Shepard is also fighting for a roster spot. Matt Barkley had a shot to connect with Shepard deep last week, but underthrew him. The undrafted free agent should see plenty of action in the second half.

4. Finding Zach Ertz

Ertz figures to have a prominent role in the Eagles’ passing game this season, but he looked shaky as a blocker vs. New England. Ertz missed much of the spring because of the NCAA’s graduation rules, but has had a pretty good camp.

Keep an eye on where he lines up and how he stacks up as a blocker tonight.

5. Fletcher Cox’s progress

The second-year player looked bad early on vs. New England. But 16 snaps in one preseason game is not enough to erase Cox’s outstanding rookie season.

As the Eagles move towards a 3-4, Cox is being asked to two-gap (explanation here) up front. He’ll need to continue to get more comfortable in the new scheme, and Billy Davis will have to make sure he’s putting Cox in position to succeed.

6. Defending a mobile QB

Within their division, the Eagles will face quarterbacks with different skill sets. For example, it could be Robert Griffin III one week and Eli Manning a few weeks later. That means incorporating a defense flexible enough to adapt to different offensive attacks.

Last week, the Eagles faced Tom Brady. This week, it’ll be Cam Newton. Newton ran for 741 yards last year, second among quarterbacks to only RGIII. The Eagles could get a glimpse of the read-option, but it’s not just designed runs they have to worry about. They’ll need to be disciplined with their pass rush as well.

7. Signs from Vinny Curry

The 2012 second-round pick was probably the Eagles’ best defensive player against New England. He looked comfortable in a variety of roles on the defensive line, using his quickness to create disruption behind the line of scrimmage.

Chip Kelly said earlier this week that he knows Curry can rush the passer, but indicated he’s looking for the second-year player to show he has a complete skill set. The Eagles are expected to rotate defensive linemen up front, but if Curry keeps improving, he could be in line for significant playing time once the real games start.

8. The Trent Cole/Brandon Graham transition

It’s been a storyline all offseason and will continue for the next several weeks. Cole, specifically, did not look good early on vs. New England. It’s not just dropping back into coverage. It’s new responsibilities in the run game and using different methods to rush the passer. Cole and Graham will continue to be under the microscope vs. Carolina.

9. Cary Williams’ debut

The Eagles’ new cornerback does not shy away from microphones. That much we know. He said last week that the defense needs to play with more of an edge, disagreeing publicly with the way Kelly handled the joint practices with the Patriots.

On the field, Williams missed most of the spring and has dealt with a hamstring injury this summer. By statistical measures, Williams was mediocre at best last year with the Ravens. He’s expected to start tonight and will get a chance to make headlines for his play, one way or another.

10. Safety? Hello? Anyone?

It’s a question for the Eagles pretty much every summer. Who will step up at safety? Patrick Chung looked like a sure tackler against his former team and is expected to win one of the starting jobs.

But the other one is up for grabs. Nate Allen continued to struggle against New England. And Earl Wolff got a chance to run with the first team earlier this week. The rookie could get a shot in the first half to prove he deserves serious consideration for the starting job.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Kapadia: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Chip KellyIt’s time for McManus vs. Kapadia, Round 2.

Yes, T-Mac got the best of me last year in our 53-man roster projection contest. But I’m back to avenge that loss in 2013.

Teams must trim their rosters down to 53 by 6 p.m. on Aug. 31. Between now and then, Tim and I will release our projections. I’ll take this week, he’ll take next week, and so on.

On Aug. 30, we’ll release our final versions, matching our projections up vs. the Eagles’. The loser will have to buy the winner a year’s supply of smoothies… or sconces… or something like that.

Anyway, I’m up first. Here’s what I came up with.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley.

The guess here is that Vick begins the season as the starter. But even if Foles wins out, I don’t think Vick will be cut or traded. The entire offseason plan was a way for Chip Kelly and the Eagles to hedge their bets at quarterback. And Kelly has emphasized on multiple occasions that he knows he’ll likely need two guys at some point anyway. Sure, Vick might not be happy as the backup, but I doubt he’ll create a serious stir. He’s been a good teammate in Philadelphia and knows his best shot will be to eventually replace Foles, rather than try to learn another new system on a different team.

Unless he surprises in the next couple weeks, Barkley starts the season as the No. 3 guy. Dennis Dixon and GJ Kinne don’t make the cut.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk, Matthew Tucker.

McCoy and Brown are obviously locks. Polk has had a good camp and is in good position to make the squad.

Given the emphasis on the running game (and no fullback), my guess is Kelly will want to keep four tailbacks. The fourth spot could very well be claimed by a player not currently on the roster. Felix Jones has flashed bad hands and missed a blocking assignment last week. For a guy whose trademark is versatility, he has yet to stand out for anything positive this summer. There is still time, but right now, I’m leaving him off.

As for Tucker, he hasn’t really impressed either. He failed his conditioning test at the start of camp and was unimpressive against the Patriots. He has a chance, but if he doesn’t flash more of his potential, he’ll be replaced by someone who gets cut by another team.

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, Damaris Johnson, Greg Salas, Russell Shepard.

Six feels like a high number here, but this year’s projection is especially difficult. We don’t know exactly how Kelly wants to construct his roster, and it was difficult to find 53 guys to fill spots.

Jackson, Cooper, Avant and Johnson are relative locks. Salas has really come on and seems to be moving up the depth chart. Shepard looked great early in camp, but has been quiet as of late.

It’s possible the Eagles could try to keep Shepard on the practice squad if they only want five receivers on the 53-man roster. Or they could decide his potential is worth more than what Salas provides right now.

Ifeanyi Momah does not look ready. He is a practice squad candidate. Newcomer Jeff Maehl will have to beat out Salas and/or Shepard to earn a spot.

Tight ends (3): Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, James Casey.

I think we’ll see plenty of 2-TE sets from the Eagles. But 3-TE sets? Not so much.

Ideally, Kelly might want to keep a fourth tight end, but I just don’t see an appealing option on the roster. Clay Harbor has a shot if Kelly is serious about making his evaluations based primarily on this summer’s performance. But Harbor just hasn’t shown much in his first three seasons.

This is another area where the Eagles could look to make an addition when rosters around the league are trimmed

Offensive linemen (9): Jason Peters, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Todd Herremans, Lane Johnson, Allen Barbre, Danny Watkins, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde.

The starters here were easy. The backups? Not so much.

Barbre has a great chance of sticking. He has at least some experience (32 games, 7 starts), and more importantly, he possesses versatility, which is a huge asset for a backup lineman. Barbre played guard for much of camp, but has since been getting reps at tackle. He stepped in for Jason Peters at left tackle against New England and was OK.

I don’t think Watkins has much of a role on this team, but will pencil him in only because the Eagles need bodies.

Kelly is an X-factor. He had back surgery recently and won’t play again in the preseason. Prior to the injury, he had been the first backup tackle off the bench. Given that the Eagles have Barbre and can move Herremans to tackle if necessary, the guess right now is that they keep Kelly on the 53-man roster even if he’s not ready for the first few weeks.

Vandervelde is a bit of an upset pick. Didn’t think he had much of a shot a few weeks ago, but Vandervelde has been taking second-team reps at center. I’m giving him the nod over Dallas Reynolds right now.

We could see movement with the backups in the next couple of weeks. Michael Bamiro is a developmental tackle prospect. Undrafted free agent Matt Tobin could get into the mix for a backup job. And Matt Tennant will have a chance to claim the backup center job from Vandervelde/Reynolds.

Defensive linemen (7): Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan, Damion Square, Vinny Curry, Joe Kruger.

Kelly may have dropped a hint about his plans for the roster yesterday when he said the Eagles would play all six defensive linemen, if of course they keep six on the active roster.

I initially had them keeping six, but Kruger seems like a good bottom-of-the-roster candidate. He just turned 21 in June, and many did not expect him to leave Utah early for the draft. I don’t think the Eagles are expecting him to contribute in 2013, but if they like Kruger enough, they could keep him as a seventh lineman. The other option would be practice squad.

Clifton Geathers has a shot to stick, but he needs to show more in the preseason. Just being tall and long won’t be enough. Square has versatility and has impressed the coaching staff this summer. Because he and Logan can play multiple positions, I don’t see Antonio Dixon sticking. I left seventh-round pick David King off as well.

Outside linebackers (4): Trent Cole, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Chris McCoy.

We still don’t know what these guys’ exact responsibilities will be once the real games start, but Barwin, Cole and Graham are locks to make the roster.

The fourth spot is up for grabs, but McCoy (6-4, 261) has good measurables and has flashed – both in coverage and as a pass-rusher – this summer. He gets the nod here over Phillip Hunt, Everette Brown and Travis Long.

Inside linebackers (4): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Jake Knott, Casey Matthews.

I feel pretty good about the first three spots. Ryans and Kendricks are obviously the starters, and I’m buying the Knott hype. The undrafted free agent looked good during the first preseason game, and Kelly said recently Knott’s impressed the coaches all summer long.

The fourth spot is open. I gave it to Matthews because he was a productive special-teams player last year, making 14 tackles, second on the team to only Akeem Jordan.

Jamar Chaney could end up earning a backup spot. And same goes for Emmanuel Acho. Let’s see how the next three preseason games play out.

Cornerbacks (5): Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Boykin, Curtis Marsh, Jordan Poyer.

To be honest, it was extremely difficult finding five worthy corners. The first three seem set, but after that, you’re pretty much throwing darts.

Marsh has been unable to get consistent snaps in his first two seasons and has not moved up the depth chart this summer. I thought about leaving him off, but maybe the coaching staff still thinks it can work with his physical tools.

Poyer, a seventh-round pick, has been unimpressive this summer, but he makes it pretty much by default.

You really can’t rule anyone out here. Brandon Hughes is a good special-teams player, and Billy Davis inserted him into the starting lineup last week for Williams. Trevard Lindley could possibly steal one of the final spots. Or maybe the coaches think Eddie Whitley has potential.

Again, after the first three, it’s a crapshoot.

Safeties (5): Patrick Chung, Nate Allen, Earl Wolff, Colt Anderson, Kenny Phillips.

Safety is difficult too. I feel confident that Chung, Wolff and Anderson will make the cut. Chung seems likely to start. Wolff was a fifth-round pick who could earn some immediate playing time. And Anderson is a special-teams ace.

That leaves one or two spots for Allen, Phillips, Kurt Coleman and David Sims. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s “believe it when I see it” mode with Allen. Everyone seems to like the fourth-year player, but he just has not produced consistently.

Phillips does not look like the talented player who played big snaps for the Giants, but he might be better than their other options. Coleman has a chance to beat him out for a backup spot, especially if the team doesn’t like what it sees out of Phillips health-wise.

Sims seems like a longshot.

I would say this is an area where the Eagles could add someone from another roster, but most teams in the NFL need safety help, so that seems unlikely at this point.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Donnie Jones, Jon Dorenbos.

Not much to add here. Jones has been better than Brad Wing this summer.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Eagles Wake-Up Call: Kelly Expecting Kelce To Lead O-Line

Jason KelceJason Kelce has not spent much time away from the NovaCare Complex this offseason. The Eagles’ center estimated that the longest stretch he’s gone without stepping foot in the practice facility has been one week.

“I’ve always been a guy that’s around here a lot,” Kelce said earlier this summer. “Part of that is I think we just have great facilities, and I try to make sure that I’m in shape year-round, trying to improve my physical abilities. And obviously for this year, it was really important just to try to hone in on the quad strength in particular to get back to where it was before the injury.”

Kelce is coming off a torn ACL which he sustained in Week 2 of the 2012 season. The third-year player watched from afar as his teammates labored through a disastrous 4-12 campaign.

Now playing for a new coach, Kelce has earned praise from Chip Kelly all offseason for the work he’s put in at the team’s facility. And Kelly knows the O-Line will play a major role in determining how quickly his offense can get on track.

“I would think what we do helps him,” Kelly said. “I think there are a lot of double teams. …I would think what we do caters to Jason’s strength also. He’s extremely quick. He can get on 3-techniques pretty fast. He does a great job because he is such a smart player of reading double teams and who is coming off on the linebacker.

“So a lot of what we do… they ran a lot of zone plays here last year, so I don’t think it’s drastically different from a run game standpoint than what they were doing last year.”

Aside from actually executing blocks, Kelce is also in charge of setting the Eagles’ protection up front. The pre-snap routine requires communication between all of the offensive linemen, and the quarterback has the ability to change the call at the line of scrimmage. But it’s Kelce’s job to identify the front and put the offense in position to successfully block the play.

Earlier this summer, offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland used terms like “tremendous” and “off-the-charts” to describe Kelce’s football acumen. Kelly seems to agree.

“He’s really the leader of those guys up front,” Kelly said. “I think our O‑line calls start with him. It’s between him and the quarterback and making sure the protection is set the right way. He’s got a great football mind. He’s one of those guys that I would say when he’s done playing, he’ll be a great coach because I think his attention to detail, how much film he watches, how much he studies the game. I think he’s done a great job so far.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

T-Mac talks to Lane Johnson about his big week – both personally and professionally. Do yourself a favor and click on the pic of Johnson’s baby’s monster hands.

Eagles players explain how they scored two touchdowns on the same play last week, using a run-pass option concept. No-22 shots included!

From playing time to the D-Line rotation to the addition of WR Jeff Maehl, here are three practice leftovers from Tuesday.

Billy Davis breaks down the Eagles’ breakdown on defense vs. the Pats.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

LeSean McCoy is expecting big things from DeSean Jackson this year, writes Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com:

“I think he’s back,” said McCoy, who led the NFL with 20 touchdowns two years ago. “I think the DeSean Jackson that we always knew about and saw and missed is back.

“I think Coach Kelly has a lot to do with it. I think [Jackson’s] attitude is different. Just the way he’s working in the weight room, conditioning wise, the way he’s practicing, I think he’s back.

Great post by Jimmy Kempski over at Philly.com on Vinny Curry’s first step:

There were times in which Curry was lined up along the interior DL and he got doubled in the run game. In those situations, he had difficulty anchoring against the run. That’s understandable, and it’s probably best for the Eagles to try to keep him out of those situations whenever they can. However, it seems pretty clear that Vinny Curry absolutely has a role in this defense as an interior pass rusher, and he can be a very effective one.

COMING UP

The Eagles’ walk-through is closed to the media, but we have plenty to get to.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Three Eagles Practice Leftovers

Jeff MaehlIt was just a light walk-through without pads today, so no observations. But here are three practice leftovers.

1. Chip Kelly said the Eagles starters will see increased action Thursday night.

“We’re trying to get our ones more work in both the first and second quarters now,” he said. “We’ll see how that plays itself out. Does that mean it’s gonna be by series or whatever? It depends how many snaps and how long the series’ are.”

Nick Foles will get the start after Michael Vick had his turn last week. Kelly emphasized that he’ll divide playing time up by number of snaps, not by number of drives or quarters.

Jason Peters is unlikely to play, although Kelly said he’s “very close.” LeSean McCoy (knee) and Cary Williams (hamstring) are both expected to be in the lineup, barring setbacks.

Matt Barkley is expected to enter the game in the second or third quarters

2. Kelly talked about the defensive line and confirmed that the Eagles plan on using a rotation up front.

“A lot of times with the D-Line, because of how this game is played, we’re gonna be playing all six if we keep six on the active roster,” Kelly said. “So it’s not like he’s the starter and he’s gonna play and the only time the backup gets in the game is when somebody gets hurt. I think in that position particularly you’ll see that a lot more in the NFL. People are starting to rotate some defensive linemen to keep them fresh just because it’s such a tough position to play.”

Against the Patriots, Bennie Logan and Damion Square impressed the coaches. Vinny Curry also played really well.

“I think everybody knows that when Vinny got drafted here, is that he’s a very, very good pass-rusher,” Kelly said. “So it’s a matter of now seeing him do the other things. We know Vinny can pass-rush. I think he showed that the other night. And that’s part of the evaluation. But you also have to be able to, for all those guys, what are they like in the run game? What are they like in all situations?”

Kelly was asked about Fletcher Cox as well. The 2012 first-round pick was outstanding in the Eagles’ 4-3 front as a rookie. In his first preseason action playing in a 3-4, Cox did not play well. Of course, he was only on the field for 16 snaps.

“We don’t cater our defense to one guy because there’s 10 other guys you have to worry about,” Kelly said, when asked if Cox is better suited for a one-gap scheme. “There’s a lot of different things when you go through everything, we’re gonna try to play to the overall team strength, what are we best at?”

3. New wide receiver Jeff Maehl was at practice today, although he could not participate because Nate Menkin still had to pass his physical with the Texans.

Maehl started his career at Oregon as a safety before moving to the offensive side of the ball. Kelly, who was his offensive coordinator for two years and his head coach for two years, praised Maehl for his toughness.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in the back of my mind that if I didn’t get an opportunity there [Houston] that maybe Chip would give me one,” Maehl said. “I was a little shocked that it happened this early. But like I said, I’m happy to be here.”

Maehl had a 30-to-45 minute conversation with Kelly this morning, and he was able to watch the offense on the field this afternoon.

Asked if he saw a lot of differences with the Eagles’ offense and Oregon’s, he said: “Not necessarily. The new terminology, new signals. Obviously he’s gotta tone it down a little bit running the quarterback. You’re not going to be able to do that in this league. But I think Chip’s such a smart guy and he loves football so much that he’s going to figure out a way to put us in the best position to make plays out there.”

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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Lane Johnson’s Big Week, By the Numbers

Lane JohnsonSome key Lane Johnson numbers from this past week:

7-pounds, 13 ounces, 20 inches:  the weight and length of his new baby boy, David Jace Johnson, who arrived on Saturday.

“When he came out, I thought his hands were as big as mine — they were huge,” said a sleep-deprived Johnson after practice Tuesday.  “My wife is 5-11, my father-in-law is 6-6, my dad is 6-6, so ain’t no tellin’ how big he is going to be when he gets grown.” (Johnson tweeted out a picture of his son that he simply titled, Big ol hands.)

The key number when it comes to his job: 1.95.

That was the overall grade the Eagles coaching staff gave him for Friday’s performance against the Patriots. It was the highest mark out of all the offensive linemen. Johnson explained the scoring system on Tuesday afternoon.

“I think 2 is the best you can get,” said Johnson. “Basically every play they have a scoring system. It could be a zero, which is pretty much total failure, and then I think three is being the most dominant you can. Twos and threes are good numbers for every play, so that’s how they grade ‘em. I think I had a few threes, but mostly twos.”

Johnson got 21 snaps against New England. That number could jump up Thursday against the Panthers, as Chip Kelly is planning on playing the first unit for about a half. The rookie set the bar pretty high for himself in the first outing.

“It was only the first game. There are a lot of games left in front of me and I am just trying to stay consistent,” said Johnson. “That’s the main thing in this league. You don’t want to be good one week and terrible the next. I’m just trying to stay consistent, and keep learning and growing.”

This week will present a unique challenge for the No. 4 overall pick. He returned to the team Monday night and Tuesday was basically a walkthrough, meaning that he will play without much practice time at all. But being back in Oklahoma was the right move, both from the player and coach’s perspective.

“I think it was really important for him to be there [for his child’s birth],” said Kelly. “Where it fell in the season, and for a guy like him who has been here every single day since we drafted him, his attention to detail, how hard he works and all of that, it was absolutely no question. There are certain things that come up in everyone’s life that supersedes what we’re doing out here. He didn’t seem to miss a beat when he jumped right back in. He was here last night for the walkthrough, and I feel real confident he’ll be able to play.

“I know all of us felt he played pretty good for his first preseason game. Hopefully he can improve upon what he did last week.”

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Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Michael VickHere’s what we saw today at the NovaCare Complex:

12:28 – Before we get started, a warning that parts of this running diary could be incoherent. I’m hopped up on DayQuil and Cold-eeze – anything to fight this sore throat.

One thing I should have mentioned earlier this summer: Fletcher Cox wins the award for “player most likely to be dancing in between drills.” I would have never pegged him to earn such a distinction, but I guess they have a vibrant club scene in his hometown of Yazoo City, Miss.

During stretching, defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro gives Antonio Dixon a hard time. “Nobody talk to Dix! He’s in a baaaaad mood!” Azzinaro yells.

12:40 – Tackling? Well, kind of. One offensive ball-carrier against one defender in a 5-yard space. Video:

I know, not quite the Oklahoma drill:

1:08 – Some injury notes. Jason Peters (hamstring) is a limited participant. And Lane Johnson spent another day with his family after the birth of his son. Those first few days (weeks? months?) are a blur. I had no idea what was going on. Come to think of it, 10 months later, I still have no clue what’s going on.

1:18 – We have a depth chart change. Rookie Earl Wolff is lining up alongside Patrick Chung at safety with the first team. T-Mac has more on the position change. Billy Davis won’t say that the move has anything to do with Nate Allen struggling vs. the Patriots. But obviously, it does. If Allen played well Friday night, he wouldn’t have gotten bumped.

A few other depth chart notes. Danny Watkins was diagnosed with a concussion and sat out practice. That means the Eagles’ first-team offensive line looks like this, from left to right: Allen Barbre, Evan Mathis, Jason KelceMatt Tennant and Todd Herremans.

The second-team offensive line is Matt Kopa, Nate Menkin, Julian Vandervelde, Dallas Reynolds and Matt Tobin.

On defense, Bennie Logan rotates in with Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle with the ones. Damion Square takes over at the nose with the twos. Clifton Geathers and Vinny Curry are next to him at the end spots. Chip Kelly was very complimentary of Logan and Square during his press conference Sunday.

1:28 – One-on-one blocking drills. For the first time all summer, the tight ends are getting the best of the outside linebackers. James Casey handles Chris McCoy. Zach Ertz, who did not look good as a blocker on Friday, does a good job on Connor Barwin. And Emil Igwenagu owns Brandon Graham on the last rep of the drill.

Next up is special teams. As usual, Kelly spends time with the returners. DeSean Jackson holds two tennis balls in his hands and catches the punt. Then LeSean McCoy strolls over. McCoy is one of the few players who has nothing to do during special-teams periods. His fellow running backs are participating on return and coverage teams. So McCoy needs to find some way to occupy himself. He jumps in and starts fielding punts – or at least trying. All the fundamental aspects of fielding punts that Kelly has been drilling into the heads of Jackson and Damaris Johnson? McCoy basically does the opposite.

Kelly seems to be getting a kick out of McCoy’s exploits. Asked yesterday about his relationship with the running back, Kelly said: “He’s a little bit more Chuckles the Clown than I am.”

1:42 – During 7-on-7 drills, Brent Celek, who has not had a very good camp, makes a nice grab on a low throw from Michael Vick. Vick then throws a dart to Jackson on an out pattern.

Nick Foles holds the ball too long on his first rep. But he then throws a beauty to Johnson in between three defenders. The Eagles continue to experiment with a three-safety look. This time, it’s Kurt Coleman, Wolff and Chung.

Vick’s back up. He just barely overthrows Celek down the middle. Celek got past Mychal Kendricks on the play. Vick then rifles one to Jackson, just ahead of Wolff and Brandon Boykin. A good example of why arm strength matters. If that pass had just a little less velocity, it’s a pick-six for Wolff.

1:55 – 11-on-11 time. The ball’s at the 35. Foles is thinking screen, but the defense sniffs it out, and he throws the ball into the ground. He then hits Jason Avant and Jackson on consecutive throws.

Haven’t seen this before: Boykin comes in and Cox goes out in the nickel package. The Eagles move Connor Barwin and Trent Cole in as ends. Cedric Thornton and Logan are your defensive tackles in the four-man front. Probably wouldn’t read too much into it since Cox is the team’s best interior pass-rusher, but worth noting nonetheless.

Sam Acho with excellent coverage on Casey down the middle of the field to force an incompletion.

By the way, now’s a good time to mention that those placards Kelly used at Oregon are back. One has a photo of Donald Duck in Oregon gear. Another features the Liberty Bell. And a third shows the Fresh Prince.

Whenever McManus reads this, I’m sure he’ll bust out into, “This is a story all about how…”

Matt Barkley looks for Ifeanyi Momah, but he doesn’t come back for the ball and is pushed over by Jordan Poyer.

Jake Knott deflects a Barkley third-down pass. He had one of those Friday night.

Chung getting tested a lot in coverage in the past week or so. He sticks with Celek on a corner route, breaks it up and then lets the tight end know about it.

Brandon Graham breaks up a Vick pass for Ertz. Perhaps his finest moment in coverage all camp.

2:09 – The ball is placed on the 49 with 51 seconds on the clock and one timeout. Riley Cooper, who is still handling most of the first-team reps opposite Jackson, drops a catchable ball from Vick. Vick then hits Jackson for a first down. This has happened roughly 2,423 times at camp so far.

The offense gets up to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball, but DeMeco Ryans doesn’t want his guys caught off-guard. “Watch the pass now! Stay alert!” he yells to the cornerbacks.

Graham with a “sack” of Foles from the LOLB spot.

And then Barkley’s up. Nice ball over the middle to Igwenagu. He then looks for Momah on a back-shoulder throw. Momah does everything right, except for hold on to the ball. Incomplete.

2:18 – Another practice in the books. We get to sit in on tomorrow’s session. Wednesday’s walk-through is closed to the media. And then we’ve got another game Thursday night vs. Carolina.

Follow Sheil Kapadia on Twitter and e-mail him at skapadia@phillymag.com.
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