What I Saw: Eagles Practice Observations
The running diary seemed to work out the first time, so let’s try it again, shall we? Below is what I saw/heard/observed during Monday’s Eagles practice, the second one this offseason that was open to the media.
10:51 a.m.: Period one was already under way when we got outside. Currently, the Eagles are in period two, separated by positions as Life In The Fast Lane blares from the speakers.
One thing that stands out immediately is that the quarterbacks and tight ends are grouped together. Earlier this offseason, before the Eagles even started to shape their roster, there were reports that Chip Kelly was going to go heavy on tight ends. His No. 1 free agent acquisition on offense was James Casey, and the Eagles drafted Zach Ertz in the second round. In other words, those reports turned out to be spot-on.
The tight ends start their routes from a variety of places – in-line, in the slot and out wide. They run a variety of routes, almost all downfield. First, the 7-route, which starts out pretty much straight downfield before the receiver turns and angles toward the boundary in a diagonal line.
Kevin Kolb hits Emil Igwenagu on a double-move. Wait a minute, that’s not Kevin Kolb. A 6-2/6-3 QB from Texas wearing a No. 4 jersey? Who can help me out? Ahh yes, GJ Kinne.
10:55 a.m.: Quarterback/wide receiver work – two at a time. The receivers run deep posts, then slants, then 7-routes. They start out at the 25-yard-line, run straight to the 40, give a quick fake inside and then corner off towards the sideline.
Wide receiver Damaris Johnson (5-8, 170) almost runs into me while I’m frantically jotting down notes. I have decided that if I’m going to get run over by an Eagles player, I’m fine with it being Johnson. If Ifeanyi Momah (6-7, 239) barrels into me, Birds 24/7 will become a one-man operation (good luck, T-Mac!).
10:59 a.m.: Nothing says five-man routes like Eminem’s Cinderella Man. We talked about these last week. Five QBs drop, while five receivers go into routes all at the same time.
The tight end shuffles into the flat. The slot receiver runs a 7-route. One outside receiver has a go-route. The other has a crossing pattern. The running back stays in to block before running out 5 yards and turning around.
11:03 a.m.: Now we’ve got two-man routes. Again, two quarterbacks at the same time, basically with the field split in half. A pass for Casey near the sideline is overthrown. He starts to run after it, but that’s not how Kelly’s practice works. There’s no time for that. Harold Carmichael tosses Casey another ball to take back to the line of scrimmage.
Greg Salas makes the catch of the day, stretching out for a one-handed grab deep downfield.
11:08 a.m.: Special teams time. Alex Henery picks up a blade of grass and tosses it into the air to judge the wind.
Playing football in the neighborhood back in the day, this move was sure to always draw a laugh. Unless you were the kid who did it seriously, in which case no one liked you.
Then it’s on to punts. Felix Jones, Johnson, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson are all back on returns.
Oh, and Nick Miller too. I always forget about him. It’s been quite a stretch for that guy – first consummating his relationship with Zooey Deschanel, and now landing on an NFL roster.
11:18 a.m.: Y’all ready For This always reminds me of middle-aged men dancing awkwardly at Sixers games.
In this case, though, it just signals the first 7-on-7 offense vs. defense period. And look who’s starting at quarterback with the ones? It’s Nick Foles.
Some other depth chart notes too. Connor Barwin (LOLB) and Trent Cole (ROLB) are your first-team outside linebackers. Bradley Fletcher and Curtis Marsh are the starting corners. Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman reunite at safety.
Several Eagles – Jason Peters, Cary Williams, Fletcher Cox and Patrick Chung – are not present because weather stymied their travel plans.
Clay Harbor drops a perfectly-placed pass from Matt Barkley. Kelly immediately runs over to him, rips off his green jersey, hands him a white one and tells him to line up at outside linebacker on the next play.
OK, I made that last part up. Just want to make sure you’re still paying attention.
11:23 a.m.: Our first “teach” session, which means the music turns off and the speed slows down.
With the ball placed at midfield, Jackson and Maclin line up on the outside. Brent Celek and Jason Avant are in the slot. Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell stands about 10 yards away, looks at his sheet, yells out calls and quizzes the players. He seems to be getting correct answers.
11:27 a.m.:Another team period with the offense going up against the defense. This one focuses on play-action.
With Cox missing, the Eagles’ first-team defensive line is Clifton Geathers, Isaac Sopoaga and Cedric Thornton. The second team is Bennie Logan, Antonio Dixon and Vinny Curry.
Whoa. Just got a look at the first-team offensive line. You probably want to sit down for this. Dennis Kelly at right tackle, Todd Herremans at right guard, Dallas Reynolds at center, Danny Watkins at left guard and Ed Wang at left tackle.
I mentioned Peters’ absence above. Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis are dealing with injuries. And Lane Johnson is still spending time with the the second team.
Foles again gets the nod with the first team, while Michael Vick takes over with the twos.
That If You Think I’m Sexy song comes on. I don’t know what version this is, but Mase isn’t rapping so I’m not interested.
Brandon Boykin blitzes from the slot and bats down a Barkley pass to end the session.
11:37 a.m.: Another special teams period. Many of the offensive linemen spend time on a separate field working on footwork. You know the basketball drill where everyone faces the coach and you have to slide to whatever side he points to? That’s basically what they’re doing.
A reporter complains that the bleachers are covered in bird poop. This doesn’t faze me in the least. One of the effects of having a 7-month old daughter is that I’ve learned to deal with disgusting. Bird poop? Spit-up? Drool? Bring it on.
11:47 a.m.: Now, during 7-on-7s, Vick is going with the ones. This particular period focuses on third-and-medium and third-and-long.
A remix of Good Feeling comes on, and Mychal Kendricks is happy. Or at least it appears that way, given how he’s dancing.
By the way, these music-filled practices would be much better if the Eagles didn’t practice with tempo. Dance-offs in the huddle between plays? Yes please! The script for Step Up NovaCare would practically write itself.
On a football-related note, this is the first time all day I’ve noticed Barwin with his hand on the ground. He’s at left defensive end on one play.
11:56 a.m.: Another teach period. The defense practices what to do when the offense is backed up inside its own 10. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis instructs his group to be aware of the hard count.
12:00 p.m.: Ahh, now we see why the D was practicing that. Another team drill with the offense backed up. Vick again gets the nod with the ones.
LeSean McCoy, meanwhile, is on the other field. As Tim pointed out earlier, he left with apparent knee discomfort.
One interesting note here: As friend of the blog Derek Sarley of Iggles Blog fame pointed out, coaches are only allowed to be stationed on the sideline between the 30-yard-lines. We wrote last week about how the team is using hand signals to call plays. But when the offense is backed up deep in its own territory, players face a challenge in seeing the signals on the sideline since the coaches are downfield.
In other words, that’s probably why the Eagles are spending practice time on this today.
With McCoy out, Bryce Brown gets most of the first-team reps, but Chris Polk sprinkles in too.
12:11 p.m.: Another teach period. The defense practices going against “11” personnel – one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers.
A new look on defense, which we’ll write more about later this week: a 3-3-5. Geathers plays nose tackle, with Thornton and Cole on either side as defensive ends. DeMeco Ryans and Kendricks are the inside linebackers. Barwin and Brandon Graham rotate as outside linebackers, but are not on the field at the same time.
Meanwhile, Bicknell shouts out coverages to the wide receivers: Cover-2, single-high, etc. The wide receivers are asked to explain what they’d do in each instance.
12:15 p.m.: The home stretch. Another team period with the offense going against the defense. Foles is once again with the ones. For those keeping score at home, five team periods: Foles with the ones during three of them and Vick with the ones during two of them.
Kendricks does a good job of sticking with Avant on a crossing route, but gives up a short completion. Fletcher nearly intercepts Foles on a deep out intended for Jackson. Coleman is pumped, but can’t spend much time celebrating before the next play is called.
This reminds me: What happens to Celek’s first-down gesture going forward? Will there be time for it in this offense, given the tempo? Will we never see it again? I need answers.
Graham lines up all over the place during this series. On one play, he’s standing up next to Cole on the right side. On the next, he’s asked to stick with Avant. That doesn’t end well. Graham gets beat for a 40-yard touchdown (from Foles).
12:25: Another practice in the books. We get to check two more out next week. Until then…