Eagles Snap Count Notes: Limited Action For Graham

The league is releasing snap count data this year, which is very helpful when reviewing games. Here are some notes from yesterday.


* Clay Harbor was on the field for 36 percent of the snaps. That’s just slightly more than his number last year (33.6 percent, per PFF). Part of that had to do with the Eagles using two tight-end sets. But Harbor was also needed since the team had just four active wide receivers, and Jeremy Maclin went out on two separate occasions with injuries.

* Speaking of Maclin, he played 83 percent of the snaps. DeSean Jackson only came out on four plays. And Brent Celek only came out on six plays.

* The Eagles used fullback Stanley Havili on 18 plays (19 percent). Last year, they used a fullback 15.8 percent of the time, so just a slight increase. Rookie wide receiver Damaris Johnson played 13 snaps (14 percent). Those included 4-WR sets and also when he filled in for Maclin.

* With Dion Lewis inactive due to a hamstring injury, Bryce Brown was the backup running back, which meant he played eight snaps. The Eagles have talked about spelling LeSean McCoy a bit more this season, but yesterday was not the time to do that. He played 85 percent of the snaps (81 overall). Last year, he played 86.1 percent of the snaps.


* Juan Castillo likes to point out that the Eagles have eight or nine “starting” defensive linemen since they all rotate in and out. But as I’ve pointed out before, that’s not really the case. Going back to last year, the starters play more. Below is a chart that details the snaps of the defensive linemen.

Cullen Jenkins43
Trent Cole42
Jason Babin41
Derek Landri34
Fletcher Cox29
Cedric Thornton20
Darryl Tapp20
Brandon Graham4

* As you can see, Graham was the odd man out, playing just four snaps. The Eagles had five defensive ends active, and clearly, Graham ranks behind the other four on the depth chart (for Week 1, at least). Phillip Hunt played 15 snaps (24 percent). Cullen Jenkins, Trent Cole and Jason Babin saw the most playing time. That will likely be the case during most weeks.

* Three-down player? DeMeco Ryans played 60 of 62 snaps. Mychal Kendricks 55 of 62. Akeem Jordan 20. Brian Rolle 2. And Jamar Chaney 1.

* In the secondary, Brandon Boykin was on the field for 63 percent of the snaps (39 overall) and played well. Curtis Marsh played one snap and suffered an injury. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had a shoulder issue and missed four snaps. Brandon Hughes was called on to play 12 snaps. Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Nnamdi Asomugha all played 100 percent of the snaps.

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

Eagles Wake-Up Call: After Cuts, More Work For Roseman

Teams have until Friday night at 9 p.m. to trim their rosters down to 53.

For now, coaches and general managers are focused on making sure they keep the right guys. They’re exploring potential trades (as Andy Reid explained yesterday) and probably making practice-squad projections.

But they’re also looking at what’s going on around the league. With 31 other teams forced to let go of 22 guys each, Reid and Howie Roseman will need to have opinions formed on a new pool of about 682 players.

Last year, for example, the Eagles claimed guard Kyle DeVan off waivers exactly one week before he was inserted into the starting lineup against the Rams. Where might the Eagles look to upgrade this year?

Safety is one area. We know Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are the starters, but if the Eagles can add a player to bolster their depth, expect them to make a move. Neither Jaiquawn Jarrett nor Oshiomogho Atogwe is guaranteed a spot.

The Eagles could address offensive line depth as well, specifically at guard/center. The guess here is that Julian Vandervelde and Steve Vallos make the team initially as backups. But if an upgrade is available, the Eagles will take a look.

And finally, fullback. Stanley Havili has the job for now, but that could change.

We’re more than a week away from the opener, but look for Reid and Roseman to be active in shaping the roster in the next four or five days.


Linked this one above, but Reid says the phones are “very active” this time of year, as teams discuss trades.

Reid also said Nick Foles is the No. 2 quarterback – for now.

T-Mac had the scoop on Vick’s rib padding a couple days ago. Yesterday, Vick talked a little more about what the new protection will provide.

According to one analyst, the Eagles have only one offensive player who ranks among the top 10 at his position.

And here are 10 players currently on the roster bubble.


Is Reid a Hall of Fame-worthy coach? Not yet, writes ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano:

As for Reid, you know I have nothing but respect for the job he’s done with the Eagles and his abilities as a coach and a personnel man. I think his record holds up against that of anyone currently coaching. He’s 136-90 and has nine playoff appearances in 14 years. In the salary cap era, what he’s done in Philly is remarkable. However — and Reid himself knows this — he’s not getting a sniff in that Hall of Fame voting room if he doesn’t end up with a Super Bowl title on his resume. May not be fair, but that’s the way these things work.

SI.com’s Don Banks is having Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe flashbacks when he watches Foles:

Hate to list Foles as a winner every week, but is anyone else here starting to think Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe, circa 2001? Sounds implausible, I know, but so did the idea of a sixth-round pick supplanting the franchise in New England not quite 11 years ago. Foles has looked poised and promising in his three chunks of preseason action for Philadelphia, and starter Michael Vick can’t seem to stay healthy enough to see a third drive in any game he plays. And hey, at least Foles was taken in the draft’s third round. So it’s not like he went 199th overall and we’ll be hearing about all the other quarterbacks (“The Foles Six?”) who were taken ahead of him.

NFL.com experts are making their season predictions. Ian Rapoport pegs Vick for MVP, and Akbar Gbajabiamila thinks Reid will be Coach of the Year.


No practice today, but Brian Westbrook, who will retire as an Eagle, will meet with the media. We’ll have that covered, along with much more, including a final 53-man roster projection.

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

10 Things To Watch: Eagles Vs. Browns

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin.Here are 10 things I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight when the Eagles take on the Browns. And remember, as always, Tim and I will be hosting a live chat during the game.

Nick Foles – What? You thought I was going to lead with someone else? The rookie is 24-for-38 for 361 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in the first two preseason games. He’ll get the start and go up against the Browns’ first-team defense, although expect Cleveland to keep things pretty vanilla, considering these two teams square off in Week 1. Perhaps the most impressive stat from Foles so far is that he hasn’t been sacked once in 40 dropbacks. That speaks to his decisiveness and comfort level. Andy Reid has had plenty of chances to say that Mike Kafka is going to be his backup quarterback when healthy, and he hasn’t done that. Foles has a legit chance to win the No. 2 job.

The nickel corner battle – Rookie Brandon Boykin mixed in with the first team last week in place of Joselio Hanson. Boykin was not targeted, and Andy Reid said recently that the gap is narrowing between the two. Ideally, the Eagles would like Boykin to win the job. He’s going to make the roster anyway and will be active on gamedays as the Birds’ kickoff returner. Cutting the 31-year-old Hanson would free up a roster spot for someone else. But Boykin’s got to show he’s up for the challenge. The nickel corner will be on the field for nearly 50 percent of the defense’s snaps in the regular season. If the coaches don’t feel like they can trust Boykin in Week 1, Hanson will get the nod.

The left tackle competition – King Dunlap gets the start once again, and if I had to bet right now on who will be on the field in Week 1, he’s my pick. Dunlap looked pretty good in pass protection last week, but he’s not even close to being in Jason Peters’ league as a run blocker. I’d like to see the Eagles try to run to Dunlap’s side a little more tonight to see how he does. Meanwhile, Demetress Bell struggled in the second half of last week’s game and looks generally uncomfortable. If he turns in a good performance tonight, perhaps he’ll start in the final preseason game with a chance to win the spot back. But for now, it’s Dunlap’s job to lose.

DeMeco Ryans – The veteran linebacker doesn’t like answering questions about his Achilles. Seemingly every day this summer, he’s been asked about the injury he suffered in 2010. And every day, he lets reporters know that he’s fine and 100 percent healthy. It’s clear that Ryans has a lot of pride and something to prove after the Houston Texans dumped him this offseason. The veteran looked good last week, diagnosing run plays and getting to the ballcarrier. His coverage skills have produced mixed results. We won’t really know what Ryans is capable of until the regular season, but considering he may sit in the final preseason game, it’d be nice to see him continue to progress tonight.

Dennis Kelly – The Eagles surprised many draftniks in April when they selected Kelly in the fifth round (153rd overall). But the 6-8, 320-pounder out of Purdue will get the start at right tackle as Todd Herremans will miss the game because of a death in the family. In game action so far, Kelly has played both right tackle and right guard. He’s been up and down, but clearly, Howard Mudd likes what he sees. As I mentioned yesterday, line depth is a concern for this team. Depending on how Bell progresses, Kelly could be counted on in a backup role this season.

Mychal Kendricks – He was impressive against New England. Part of being a rookie means building on that experience tonight and not making the same mistakes twice. Kendricks has played fast and shown the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He also diagnosed and disrupted screen plays successfully, but coverage is the key with him. He got beat for a touchdown against the Patriots, and it looked like he got mixed up in zone on another pass play in the middle of the field. He’s slated to be a three-down linebacker, but every snap is important – even in the preseason.

Phillip Hunt – He’s been a beast with three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles through two preseason games. Hunt has lined up primarily at left defensive end, but has also seen time at right defensive end, and was even inside on one snap last week. Hunt’s got a roster spot locked up, but he could earn a bigger role if he continues to impress and shows he can hold up against the run.

Brandon Graham – He got off to a good start against the Steelers and was ok against New England. The Eagles are going to have decisions to make at defensive end when they cut the roster to 53 and when they decide who’s going to be active on gameday. Assuming Jason Babin’s healthy, he and Trent Cole will run with the first team, but after that, there’s some indecision. Given how Hunt’s played, it’s safe to assume he’ll be in the mix. That leaves Graham, rookie Vinny Curry and Darryl Tapp (who might not survive cuts) fighting for playing time. And don’t forget, Cullen Jenkins has been playing a lot of defensive end too. Graham has had a good summer and will make the team, but he’s still got a lot to prove.

Stanley Havili – He put himself in the driver’s seat for the starting fullback job with a nice game against the Patriots, showing the ability to carry the ball with a 14-yard run and acting as a lead blocker on LeSean McCoy’s touchdown run. Perhaps most importantly, Havili made a great play on the punt coverage team. When teams get down to 53, there will be fullbacks available. Havili needs to convince Reid and Howie Roseman to stick with him instead of going after a player not currently on the roster.

Damaris Johnson – He had a great camp and an impressive preseason opener against the Steelers. But last week, Johnson fumbled his first punt return, before picking the ball up, gaining 6 yards and running out of bounds. If Johnson is going to be the primary punt returner, Bobby April and the coaches need to know they can trust him to hang onto the football. He’s a safe bet to make the roster at this point, but needs to avoid miscues on special teams.

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

Take 3: Projecting the Eagles’ 53-Man Roster

Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Darryl TappEight days from now, the Eagles will have to trim their roster to 53 players.

The official date and time is Friday, Aug. 31 at 9 p.m.

That means this is the final trial run for me and McManus. Next week, we’ll have to submit our final projections. Here’s what I’ve got as of Thursday morning. T-Mac will reveal his projections on Friday.

And to switch things up. I’ve provided my confidence level for each group. Nothing scientific here – just a 1-10 ranking, with 1 signifying I am completely guessing here and 10 meaning Mark it down. These are locks.

Quarterbacks (3): Michael Vick, Mike Kafka, Nick Foles.
Confidence level: 9

This one is pretty much set in stone. While quarterback is a question mark – with Vick suffering injuries in each of the Eagles’ first two preseason games – these will be the three guys on the 53-man roster. If Trent Edwards was going to be given a real shot, I think it would have happened by now.

The question is: Can Foles beat out Kafka for the backup job? As I wrote yesterday, it seems quite possible. But as Paul Domowitch of the Daily News pointed out today, the Eagles could keep all three quarterbacks active on gamedays and not designate a backup. I can just see it now: Andy Reid answering a hypothetical question about who would potentially go in for an injured Vick with, “Well, we’ll just see there.”

I took a look, and last year, the Eagles had three quarterbacks active in eight of 16 games. Some of that had to do with injuries to Vick and Vince Young though.

Running backs (4): LeSean McCoy, Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Stanley Havili.
Confidence level: 9

Havili made a move in the last preseason game with a nice 14-yard run, a decent lead block on McCoy’s touchdown and an outstanding special-teams tackle. The Eagles could still add a fullback once teams cut down their rosters, but Havili has the edge for now.

Brown flashed big-time vs. the Patriots with a 27-yard run up the middle. He’s shown upside, and the Eagles won’t be willing to let other teams have a shot at him. Brown can play special teams as a rookie, hone his skills and work to be a contributor down the road.

Lewis is still the favorite to spell McCoy or fill in if he gets injured. He knows the offense and has looked capable in blitz pick-up during the preseason.

I’m not seeing a spot for Polk. Brown has a clear edge over him as a runner at this point. The Eagles have some roster flexibility, and if they really like Polk, they could probably find a way to keep him. He could land on IR or the practice squad (only if another team doesn’t sign him).

Wide receivers (6): DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, Marvin McNutt.
Confidence level: 6

The first four names above are locks. After that, there’s some indecision.

I still am confident that Johnson makes it, but he’s dropped passes in each of the first two preseason games and fumbled a punt against New England. The Eagles need him to be reliable on special teams.

McNutt is a bit of a wild card. He’s shown nothing as a receiver in the first two preseason games, and it doesn’t look like he’d be able to contribute if the Eagles needed him offensively.

Then again, that sixth wide receiver is likely to be inactive on gamedays. If the Eagles saw enough potential in McNutt to draft him in April, the guess here is that they’ll hold on to him for now.

As for Chad Hall, friend of the blog Sam Lynch pointed out over at Iggles Blitz that he’s still practice-squad eligible. If Cooper isn’t ready to go in Week 1 (recovering from surgery for a fractured collarbone), perhaps Hall would get the nod over McNutt. But I don’t think he gives you enough as a fourth wide receiver to justify that spot.

Tight ends (2): Brent Celek, Clay Harbor.
Confidence level: 10

I don’t see it going any other way. The Eagles have no need for a third tight end, and neither Brett Brackett nor Chase Ford has stood out this summer.

Harbor, on the other hand, had a great camp, caught all six balls thrown his way Monday night and got in the end zone twice. He could see a bump in playing time in the regular season.

Offensive linemen (9): King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins, Todd Herremans, Demetress Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Dennis Kelly, Steve Vallos.
Confidence level: 4

Pretty much every day at training camp, Bo Wulf of PhiladelphiaEagles.com would come up to me and make some type of Steve Vallos reference. “Look at that snap!” or “Great block by Vallos!” he’d say. Why? Because Wulf and Vallos share a bond as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, and apparently Bo has a lot of school pride.

Dallas Reynolds is still listed as the second-team center, but Vallos played there on Monday night and has started eight NFL games in his career. Right now, he gets the nod.

Given everything else that’s happened this preseason, the issue of offensive line depth has been largely ignored. I’m convinced the Eagles are going to make some moves here after teams cut their rosters to 53. We’ll get a look at Kelly Friday night, but if Bell isn’t good enough to start, chances are he’s not going to be reliable as a backup either.

Depth at guard and center is a major concern, especially considering that Kelce is taking on more responsibility this year with line calls. Reynolds and Mike Gibson are still in the mix, but my guess is those spots get filled with guys not currently on the roster.

By the way, if I had to wager right now on who the left tackle would be Week 1, my money’s on Dunlap.

Defensive linemen (11): Trent Cole, Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Derek Landri, Brandon Graham, Darryl Tapp, Phillip Hunt, Vinny Curry, Cedric Thornton, Antonio Dixon.
Confidence level: 6

I strongly considered bumping Tapp and Dixon this week. Hunt is really coming on, and with Jenkins seeing snaps outside, Tapp is probably expendable. Dixon, meanwhile, just looks like a bad fit for Jim Washburn’s style and is showing very little as a pass rusher.

The problem? I didn’t really see anyone else on the roster worth keeping over either one of those guys. If the Eagles can get some kind of conditional pick in a trade for either Tapp or Dixon, I think they pull the trigger. If not, beef up the defensive line and cover yourself in case of injury. What are the odds all the defensive linemen in the rotation stay healthy from until Week 3 or 4? Not high.

Mike Patterson on PUP looks likely at this point. Reuben Frank of CSN Philly is reporting that Patterson’s already been ruled out for Week 1.

As for the rotation, the way things are currently constructed, Curry and either Dixon or Thornton would likely be inactive on gameday to start the season.

Linebackers (6): DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendricks, Brian Rolle, Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Akeem Jordan.
Confidence level: 7

Good sign for the Eagles linebackers: The way Kendricks is playing, it seems likely that he and Ryans will stay on the field in nickel situations to start the season. That should lead to less shuffling of personnel and less confusion, specifically when opposing offenses go no-huddle.

As we’ve discussed, Jordan and Keenan Clayton are battling for the final spot. Jordan gets the nod because of special teams. If the Eagles really like Clayton (and there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest they do), he could make the team as a seventh linebacker, and they could keep one fewer defensive lineman.

Cornerbacks (5): Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, Joselio Hanson.
Confidence level: 5

This is a tough one. Boykin is pushing Hanson for that nickel job. But can he do enough in the next eight days to snatch it away? Important game for him coming up on Friday.

If Boykin wins the job, I see no need to keep Hanson, considering he’s not a factor on the outside.

Brandon Hughes has a shot to sneak on if the Eagles want experience on the outside. As for Cliff Harris, not sure if he’s healthy. Don’t think he played at all vs. the Patriots. Unless the Eagles want to give him the 53rd spot and concede that he won’t play as a rookie, but could contribute down the line, I think he’ll be cut.

Safeties (4): Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Jaiquawn Jarrett.
Confidence level: 5

This is another area where the Eagles very well could add a player off another team’s roster before the season starts.

I kept Jarrett off last week, but now Tom Nelson has a high ankle sprain, so the former second-round pick gets back on by default. Atogwe, meanwhile, didn’t play in Monday’s preseason game because of a hamstring injury. I have no clue at this point how effective he’d be if he had to go into a game. But again, not seeing other options here right now. Colt Anderson is not practicing yet and is still recovering from a torn ACL.

At the end of last season, I thought Coleman would have to hold off competition to remain a starter, but that hasn’t been the case. He and Allen, who played well vs. the Patriots, are clearly the first-team safeties.

Specialists (3): Alex Henery, Mat McBriar, Jon Dorenbos.
Confidence level: 8

Both McBriar and Chas Henry punted better Monday night. Still think it’s McBriar’s job to lose though.

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

Offense Review: Dunlap Has Edge Over Bell

Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of how the Eagles’ offense performed Monday night, after having re-watched the game. Check out the linebacker review here, the defensive line review here and the defensive back review here.

Michael Vick – Lasted just six plays before leaving the game with a rib injury. Vick was 1-for-3 for 5 yards. He also ran once for 5 yards and slid awkwardly, going head-first and barely missing a knee to the helmet by Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes. Vick misfired to Jason Avant on third down, but it looked like Avant was covered anyway. We may not see the starting quarterback again until Week 1 in Cleveland.

Nick Foles – There was a lot to like about his performance. The one thing that stood out was he’s willing to stand in the pocket, deliver the football and absorb hits. On Foles’ first pass attempt, he hit LeSean McCoy for 8 yards, but took a hit from Chandler Jones. Later, he took a huge, blind-side hit (a flag was thrown) from Jake Bequette, but stood in the face of some pressure on the next play and connected with Clay Harbor for 14 yards. Two other things: He fit the ball into tight windows, and he can throw on the move. Foles delivered a beauty to DeSean Jackson in the red zone, squeezing the ball in between two Patriots defenders and targeting Jackson low so that he could avoid a big hit. He threw Brent Celek open, even though the tight end looked to be covered initially. And he made nice throws on both touchdowns to Harbor – one while rolling to his right, the other in a perfect place so that the defender couldn’t get his hand on it.

Was Foles perfect? Of course not. He was nearly intercepted on a throw to the sideline in the first half, and he was picked off at the end of the second quarter. But overall, he looked comfortable and confident. Good signs for a rookie QB.

Trent Edwards – Can’t say I watched him closely. Edwards entered the game in the fourth and went 6-for-11 for 59 yards. With Vick and Mike Kafka injured, he’ll see the field plenty in the next two weeks.

LeSean McCoy – He looked fine with seven carries for 30 yards and a touchdown, along with two catches for 12. I’m not so sure I would have played him as much as Andy Reid did, but perhaps McCoy will sit in the final two games. As a blocker, he pretty much whiffed on Jermaine Cunningham on a third down. Later, though, McCoy had a nice blitz pickup on Foles’ 24-yard run. He and Foles had a fumbled exchange in the third.

Dion Lewis – Did not get a lot of work – three carries for 9 yards. Lewis broke a tackle on one run, turning what would have been a loss into a 4-yard gain. He should play a lot in the final two games.

Stanley Havili – He did pretty much everything he could to stake claim on the fullback job. Havili had a nice 14-yard run up the middle on the fake toss to McCoy to set up the first touchdown. Note that he started the play lined up on the right side between Todd Herremans and Avant. Good-looking play and execution. Havili did a solid job as a lead blocker on McCoy’s touchdown run. And he delivered a big-time hit in punt coverage in the second quarter. The Eagles could still add a fullback in the coming weeks, but it’s very possible that they go with Havili.

Emil Igwenagu – Didn’t get into the game until the fourth quarter. It’d be an upset in my eyes if he made the roster at this point.

Bryce Brown – Had a couple really good-looking runs late. Brown carried nine times for 51 yards, including a 27-yard scamper up the middle in the third. Brown also had two catches for 16 yards. Don’t see the Eagles letting him get away when they cut down to 53.

Chris Polk – Had four carries for 11 yards. Good, tough run to pick up a first on 3rd-and-1 in the fourth. Doesn’t look like there’s going to be a spot for him though.

DeSean Jackson – He finished as the game’s leading receiver with four catches for 82 yards. Nice catch and run on a crossing pattern for 15 yards in the first. Jackson made an 11-yard grab at the 2-yard-line to set up the Eagles’ second touchdown. Remember, he only had two red-zone catches all of last year. He had a 16-yard grab in the third and made a nice play on the ball for a 40-yard pickup. As Jon Gruden pointed out, Jackson should have done a better job of coming back to the football when Foles broke the pocket, threw his way and was nearly picked off. Jackson hustled to make a tackle after the Foles interception and taunted Patriots defender Nate Ebner afterwards. Always entertaining, that No. 10.

Jeremy Maclin – Quiet game. His one catch for 15 yards came in the third quarter.

Jason Avant – One catch for Avant too. He made a nice adjustment on the ball over the middle at the end of the first half.

Damaris Johnson – Not an especially good showing for the rookie. He fumbled the first punt, before picking it back up. And Johnson dropped a slant for the second straight week; this time, it was on third down. He finished with one catch for 23 yards.

Chad Hall – He came in with the second team and had three catches for 26 yards, including a nice 15-yard grab over the middle in the fourth.

Marvin McNutt – Was not targeted. Good effort blocking on a Brown run, but he was called for holding.

Brent Celek – I’ve seen some criticize him for his blocking on the play where Vick was injured. But Celek actually did a decent job on the play. Nearly five seconds elapsed from the time the ball was snapped to when Cunningham hit Vick. And the hit occurred 16 yards behind the line of scrimmage. That’s not on Celek. On McCoy’s touchdown run, he had a nice block on the safety. And Celek was initially covered, but did a good job of working to get open on a 13-yard gain in the third.

Clay Harbor – Good game from Harbor. Six targets, six catches, 30 yards and two touchdowns. Nice job of keeping his feet in bounds on the first score. As a blocker, he did a good job on McCoy’s 5-yard run in the first. Harbor lined up in the slot to the right and made a nice block on McCoy’s 9-yard run. Has really had a strong camp and preseason.

King Dunlap – He had some issues, but overall played pretty well. On an early running play, Dunlap did a good job shoving the DE out of the way, but he stumbled and fell to the ground as he made his way to the linebacker. He blocked first-round pick Chandler Jones one-on-one effectively, with a couple exceptions. Jones got past him and hit Foles on his first pass attempt. And Jones pressured Foles in the second, but a Patriots defensive back was whistled for a flag. Dunlap was called for a false start in the second. Overall, expect him to stay at left tackle with the first team – for now.

Evan Mathis – We’ve already discussed the play where Vick got injured. Mathis thought he had help from Jason Kelce, and Kyle Love got past him. To Mathis’ credit, he hustled back and held Love to keep him away from the quarterback. It’s the preseason – take the penalty and protect Vick. Of course, the refs didn’t throw the flag, and Cunningham ended up being the one who hit Vick from the other side. Later in the game, Mathis was slow to pick up a blitzer on 3rd-and-1, but Foles escaped and ran for 24 yards. In the run game, he did a good job getting to the linebacker on Havili’s 14-yard run.

Jason Kelce – Other than a 15-yard penalty for shoving a Patriots defender after the whistle had blown, Kelce played well. Good job on McCoy’s 5-yard run in the first. And nice block, creating space for Havili’s 14-yard run. Didn’t see any issues in pass protection.

Danny Watkins – The second-year player, on the other hand, had some issues in pass protection. Watkins had trouble with Ron Brace, who nearly sacked Foles and forced an incompletion on third down. Watkins was asked to pull and block the right defensive end/outside linebacker multiple times on play-action passes. He was effective on a couple and slow to get there on others. Watkins got beat by Brandon Deaderick on the shovel pass to Harbor in the third that was called back for a holding penalty. He showed his strength in pass protection early on, shoving Spikes to the ground in the first. Not quite out of the valley of darkness just yet.

Todd Herremans – See the Celek notes above if you’re wondering about Herremans’ responsibility on the Cunningham hit on Vick. Again, not really his fault. I’ve noticed offensive linemen seemingly take advantage of the replacement refs with how they use their hands. Herremans had trouble with defensive end Trevor Scott in protection and grabbed him by his facemask in the second, but the refs missed it. In the run game, Herremans did a good Jason Peters impression on McCoy’s 9-yard run in the second, shoving the DE upfield and getting to the second level. He also did a good job on McCoy’s touchdown run around the right side.

Demetress Bell – He doesn’t look comfortable to me. Bell entered the game at the start of the third and had trouble in pass protection on Foles’ completion to Maclin. On another play, he got beat by Bequette, but then recovered as Foles stepped up. Bell did not do an effective job of shoving Bequette upfield on a Lewis run in the third. He got beat by Bequette around the edge in the fourth and was called for a false start (might have been two) and a holding penalty. Bell was slow to get off the ball on a Brown run that lost 2 yards in the fourth. If I had to put down a wager right now, I’d say he is on the bench in Week 1.

** Don’t have a lot on the offensive line backups. But here’s what the second-team looked like from left to right: Bell, Julian Vandervelde, Steve Vallos, Dallas Reynolds and Dennis Kelly. Vallos at center ahead of Reynolds and Vandervelde was a bit of a surprise. Kelly had his share of issues in pass protection. And Vandervelde played better than last week.

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

10 Things To Watch: Eagles vs. Patriots

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans.In no particular order, here’s what I’ll be keeping an eye on tonight when the Eagles take on the Patriots in their second preseason game.

1. DeMeco Ryans – By most accounts, he’s not quite there yet. The leadership stuff has not been overblown. Ryans seems to be adored by coaches and respected by teammates. But the question is: How effective of a player is he at this point in his career? Despite failing to notch a tackle in the first game, Ryans was frequently around the football. Expecting him to go to the Pro Bowl is probably asking for a bit much, but the Birds need Ryans to be a quality, three-down player. He’ll look to continue to increase his comfort level tonight.

2. Nick Foles – The rookie needed just six completions to capture the imagination of fans in the first preseason game. With Mike Kafka sidelined because of a fractured left hand, Foles will be the first man up after Michael Vick is finished. A couple weeks ago, I would have said that Kafka was definitely the backup, and Foles would be watching and learning in his first season. Now? I’m not so sure. What happens if the rookie carves up the Patriots and then impresses again against the Browns on Friday? There seems to be at least a chance that he could steal the backup spot away.

3. Danny Watkins – I wrote about him in detail yesterday. While much of the focus is on the left tackle situation, the Eagles need Watkins to make a leap in his second season as the starter at right guard. Teammates and coaches seem to think things are clicking for Watkins after he had the benefit of a full offseason. He was only on the field for six plays in the first game, but will get a chance to show how he’s progressed in extended action tonight.

4. King Dunlap/Demetress Bell – Will the game of musical chairs at left tackle continue next week? Or will Dunlap hold onto the job? Bell has been running with the second team, and Dunlap will get the start vs. New England. Both players are in the spotlight, and one of them will often be charged with blocking the other teams’ best pass-rushers once the regular season starts. As long as Vick is in the game tonight, plugging a tight end or running back on that left side might not be a bad idea.

5. Looking for a fullback – The Eagles have a few options at fullback: Stanley Havili, Emil Igwenagu or a player to be named later (meaning the Birds sign a player who is currently on another team’s roster, but eventually gets cut). It’d be nice to see the current guys get some reps as lead blockers and receivers – two of the most important parts of playing the position in this offense.

And while it’s unlikely, just maybe we’ll see Chris Polk get a shot there. Marty Mornhinweg admitted last week that the team has at least discussed the idea of the rookie playing fullback.

6. Mychal Kendricks – The rookie linebacker will likely get matched up against tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (unless, of course, they don’t play). The Eagles were very good at covering opposing tight ends last year, and Kendricks looks like the favorite to play alongside Ryans in the nickel package. In the first game, despite a couple miscues, Kendricks showed flashes of being the athletic, play-making linebacker the Eagles have been searching for. Coaches, and fans, will want to see more of that tonight.

7. Nnamdi Asomugha – I’m not sure how much we’re going to see of the veteran cornerback, who suffered a lip laceration and sore neck last week. He said Saturday that it’s important for him to play tonight, but I got the sense that he’s going to be smart about this. If Asomugha feels any discomfort early on (or even in pre-game warmups), look for the Birds to play it safe and hold him out.

8. Jaiquawn Jarrett – He’s fighting desperately for a roster spot. Jarrett was one of the worst (if not, the worst) players on the field in the Eagles’ first preseason game. Poor angles, blown assignments, missed tackles. You name it, and we saw it from the second-year safety. He doesn’t need to be perfect, but he needs to show the coaches something for them to stick with him once September rolls around.

9. Michael Vick – It would be ideal for him to get through the game without any type of injury scare – that’s first and foremost. From a performance standpoint, Vick can’t really prove anything one way or another until the regular season starts. But the first-team offense would like to do a little better than last week’s back-to-back three-and-outs. Vick has admitted that he didn’t really understand the quarterback position until last year, and by all accounts, he’s been 100 percent invested this offseason. Reid, Mornhinweg and the fans would like to start to see some of the results from that hard work.

10. The punting battle – Granted, not the most exciting thing to watch, but the Eagles want the punting game to be a weapon that helps the defense this season. Neither Mat McBriar nor Chas Henry did much to distinguish themselves in the first game.

“I need more,” Andy Reid said last week. “I have to see more. I didn’t see anything that just jumped out to me.”

And don’t forget to watch how McBriar looks as a holder for Alex Henery, something he’ll be responsible for if he ends up winning the job.

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

Eagles Practice Observations: Polk at fullback?

Philadelphia Eagles running back Chris Polk.It’s rare that a running back does something without the football in his hands that makes the crowd go crazy.

But let me introduce you to Chris Polk.

During this afternoon’s session, the undrafted free agent out of Washington sent cornerback Brandon Hughes flying on a blitz pickup that drew perhaps the loudest ovation of the day.

“I actually messed up on that play because I went to the wrong side,” Polk said. “But I knew he was coming so I just had to get back there quick. I don’t want the quarterback getting hit on my behalf, so that’s something I try to hang my hat on.”

Earlier in practice, during one-on-one blitz pickup drills, Polk (5-11, 215) stoned free safety Phillip Thomas, eventually pinning him to the ground.

Given Polk’s skill set and the Eagles’ current roster makeup, let’s think outside the box for a moment: Could he be this team’s answer at fullback?

Last week, I wrote about the team’s fullback battle, which currently has Stanley Havili (6-0, 227) in the lead. Last year, per Pro Football Focus, fullback Owen Schmitt played about 15.8 percent of the snaps. He went out into pass routes 42 percent of the time, was a run blocker 41 percent of the time, a pass blocker 14 percent of the time and a runner 2 percent of the time.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, Polk very well could have Havili beat in three of those four categories: the receiving game, blitz pickup and running the football.

So that leaves us with the whole lead blocking thing, which of course is important. I asked Polk if he’s ever done that before.

“In college, yeah, when we had Jake Locker, we did a lot of QB draws, so I was the lead blocker,” he said. “I’m real familiar with it. I like it. Whatever coaches need me to do, I’m going to do it.”

Blocking for a QB draw and blocking for LeSean McCoy are two different things, but it doesn’t sound that crazy to me. And let’s be honest: We don’t have much of an idea at all about whether Havili is actually a good lead blocker. That’s actually something to keep an eye on Thursday night against the Steelers.

As for Polk, he’s battling Bryce Brown for a spot behind McCoy and likely Dion Lewis. But if the Eagles want to keep Brown and Polk, perhaps Polk should mention my idea to Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid.


More practice observations:

* If you’re wondering about the mood of practice, I’ll be perfectly honest. It seemed like the players and coaches did a terrific job of making this feel like many of the other practices that have taken place at Lehigh. I’m sure players are dealing with the Garrett Reid tragedy differently, and I know it’s not something anyone will truly get over, but for a couple hours this afternoon, it was business as usual for the Eagles (minus Andy Reid’s absence, of course).

* I mentioned Havili earlier. During one-on-one blitz pickup drills, he went head-to-head with Thomas. After the play was over, they exchanged shoves back and forth. Havili then actually threw a wild haymaker in Thomas’ direction. It came nowhere close to landing. I never got the whole punch a guy in the helmet thing either.

* I notice Oshiomogho Atogwe spending a lot of time next to secondary/safeties coach Michael Zordich. It’s almost like he’s a rookie. Atogwe is clearly trying to gain a better understanding of the defense after missing all of the spring.

* On a similar note, based only on what I see on the sidelines, Nnamdi Asomugha and secondary coach Todd Bowles seem to have formed a nice rapport. Asomugha had very nice things to say about Bowles earlier this offseason.

* McCoy has talked about wanting to become a better blocker, but it’s not just talk. He is taking the one-on-one blitz pickup drills seriously. Today, he had a good battle with Kurt Coleman and did a good job of holding off the safety.

* Speaking of Coleman, it’s a good thing the Eagles weren’t hitting today or we might be talking about a DeSean Jackson injury. Michael Vick hit Jackson on a short slant, but Coleman was in perfect position to pop the Eagles’ wide receiver. He held up, the two guys slapped hands, and Eagles fans everywhere exhaled.

* Coleman also had a diving interception on Vick. The Eagles’ first-team offense came up empty on both drives that were intended to simulate two-minute drills. On one, Vick was picked off. And on the other, time, which started at 1:40, ran off the clock.

* McCoy dropped a pass while running across the middle towards the sideline during the two-minute drill and batted the ball into the stands in frustration.

* Mike Kafka had back-to-back beautiful throws, and both were downfield. I’m sure McManus was loving it. One was down the left sideline to Marvin McNutt. Kafka lofted it beautifully for about a 25-yard gain. He then threw a strike to Mardy Gilyard in the end zone (20+ yards in the air), but the Eagles wide receiver dropped it.

* Brian Rolle blitzed 41 times last year, per PFF, second-most among Eagles linebackers behind only Jamar Chaney, who played more overall snaps. Rolle might be the most difficult linebacker to block in the blitz pickup drill.

* Jason Kelce and Todd Herremans talked about setting the tone at practice with Andy Reid not present. It might be nothing, or it might be something, but I noticed those two and Evan Mathis ahead of their teammates, pretty much sprinting from one field to the next when the Eagles were beginning 11-on-11s.

* I learned a couple nicknames today. Darryl Tapp called Fletcher Cox Mentos because he had fresh legs (Cox missed the last two days of practice for personal reasons). Tapp and others also called Cedric Thornton Swamp. I’ll have to get to the bottom of that one. Oh, and Vinny Curry is V-Dot. But Tapp might be the only one who calls him that.

* Cox pretty much picked up Mike Gibson and drove him back during the one-on-one drills. Cedric Thornton drove Gibson back with relative ease, but the Eagles’ offensive lineman wanted to go again. This time, Thornton clubbed him with his right hand and made a quick inside move. The other defensive linemen loved it. Gibson, meanwhile, had a rough day.

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

Will Eagles Keep A Fullback?

Philadelphia Eagles fullback Stanley HaviliIn one breath, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was talking about the importance of the fullback position in the Eagles’ offense.

In the next, he seemed to think that the idea of not having one on the roster at all was at least possible.

“There aren’t all that many true fullbacks left in this league,” Mornhinweg said. “We’ve typically had one because they’re very valuable with some of the things that we do. Special teams count for that particular type of player, normally.”

Right now, the Eagles’ first-team fullback is Stanley Havili, a seventh-round draft pick from 2011. They’ve also got undrafted free agents Jeremy Stewart (Stanford) and Emil Igwenagu (UMass) on the roster. Igwenagu has been getting work with the tight ends since Brent Celek has been sidelined.

To figure out what the Eagles want out of their fullback, it’s easiest to go back to last season when Owen Schmitt manned the spot. Schmitt played 15.8 percent of the Eagles’ offensive snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He had four carries for 6 yards and three catches (seven targets) for 32 yards. Obviously, not an integral part of the offense when the ball was in his hands.

But how was he used overall?

Schmitt went out into pass routes 42 percent of the time; he was a run blocker 41 percent of the time; a pass blocker 14 percent of the time and a runner 2 percent of the time.

Based on those numbers, it’s fair to guess that the Eagles are looking for someone who can catch the ball and be effective as a lead blocker. Of course, it’s also fair to point out that the coaches had to cater to Schmitt’s skill set. If, say, they had a healthy Leonard Weaver from a few years ago, he’d definitely be used differently and carry the ball more.

Havili had 1,290 yards receiving and 12 touchdown catches during his career at USC.

If you look at LeSean McCoy’s numbers, having a fullback didn’t exactly help him. According to STATS.com, McCoy carried 232 times for 1,186 yards and averaged 5.1 YPC in single-back formations. He carried 19 times for 51 yards (2.7 YPC) out of the I-Formation and 22 times for 72 yards (3.3 YPC) with split backs.

The numbers are not as bad as they look though. Consider that the I-Formation carries were likely short-yardage attempts and that McCoy converted first downs or touchdowns on 13 of those 19 runs. He had seven red-zone scores with a lead blocker out of the I-Formation.

Looking at overall personnel, Brent Celek has evolved into a very good overall tight end, and Jason Avant plays a lot of snaps (66.5 percent) as the third wide receiver. So it’s unlikely that any of the fullbacks on the current roster would play a major role in 2012.

But that doesn’t mean the position should be ignored. Games can swing on a handful of plays. It could be a key third-down catch. An important blitz pickup. Or a lead block for McCoy in the red zone.

Mornhinweg and the coaches need to decide whether any of their current fullbacks possesses those skills. If one of them does, chances are he’ll make the roster. If not, the Eagles could look to add a free agent, or ignore the position altogether.

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

  |  Newer Posts »