Practice Observations: Eagles’ Red-Zone Struggles

Jeremy Maclin lined up to Michael Vick’s left at the 10-yard-line.

He ran a slant to the 5, stopped, changed direction and headed to the back left corner of the end zone. Vick let go of the ball, Maclin made the catch and kept his feet in-bounds for the touchdown.

But wide receivers coach David Culley saw something he didn’t like. He wanted Maclin to make sure he sold the slant with his final inside steps. Maclin did it again a few plays later, and this time, Culley approved.

Maclin has been the Eagles’ best red-zone receiver for the past two seasons. In 2011, he had eight red-zone catches, including four touchdowns. The year before, 11 and seven.

“Execution,” he said earlier this camp, when I asked him what the key was inside the opponents’ 20. “Be precise in everything you do. In the red zone, everything happens a little faster, so timing is key.”

The Eagles’ offense finished 14th in red-zone efficiency last season, scoring touchdowns 51.52 percent of the time.

Later in practice, when the first teams were matched up, the defense, which finished 29th in the red zone last year, got the better of the offense.

“I didn’t think we were too bad in a lot of areas,” Coleman said of the defense’s red-zone struggles last year. “It’s just limiting the passing lanes. We’ve been working a lot on our red-zone defense, and we were giving the offense fits today. That’s what we have to do. We have to limit the passing lanes, get after the QB, because you know the D-Line is coming. If we can hold our coverage for at least two, three seconds, they’ll get there.”

As for the offense, Maclin (hamstring) didn’t participate in the portion of practice against the defense. And the results were not good for Michael Vick and company. Vick held the ball quite a bit, unable to find open receivers. He fumbled on play-action once. Antonio Dixon knocked Jason Kelce into Vick for a sack. And on another play, Kelce’s snap came before Vick was ready and floated right past him.

Sloppy performance all around for the offense.

Other practice observations:

* Fight! Clay Harbor caught a shovel pass and rumbled into the end zone. That’s where he and Derek Landri got tangled up. Landri threw a punch, ripped Harbor’s helmet off and threw it in his direction. Harbor tossed the ball at Landri. I think it’s a good thing training camp’s almost over.

* If Howard Mudd’s decision to start King Dunlap over Demetress Bell was supposed to light a fire under Bell, I don’t think it worked. Bell got beat by Darryl Tapp for sacks on at least two occasions today.

* Jamar Chaney returned to practice, but did not participate fully. That means your first-team nickel linebackers were still DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks blitzed Vick on one play, forcing him to roll to his right and throw the ball away.

* Brian Rolle and Akeem Jordan ran with the second-team nickel.

* Things seem to just keep getting worse for Jaiquawn Jarrett. Tom Nelson rotated in with Oshiomogho Atogwe on the second team today. T-Mac has some details.

* Phillip Hunt continues to get first-team reps at left defensive end in place of Jason Babin.

* Brandon Graham went right around rookie Dennis Kelly to sack Nick Foles.

* At one point, Dixon was lined up at defensive tackle, but his laugh could be heard from the sidelines before the snap. The next second, Jim Washburn was yelling at Dixon to get going on the upcoming play. And the next second, Dixon was laying on the ground in apparent pain. It took him a few seconds to get up, but he returned to practice, and the team did not list him on the injury report.

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