Running Diary: Eagles-Patriots Practice Observations

Kelly and BelichickWhat we saw from today’s Eagles-Patriots joint practice:

12:19 – Bill Belichick’s press conference just ended. I was really hoping McManus would say something to tick him off, but it didn’t happen. Luckily, the Patriots will still be here for a couple more days, so there’s still time.

On a serious note, I thought Belichick’s answer when asked about moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 was interesting.

“I personally never felt like it was that big of a deal,” he said. “People called us a 3-4 team when I was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and Lawrence [Taylor] rushed 85 percent of the time, so everybody treated us like we were a four-man line. But to the media and the fans, it was a 3-4, and vice versa.

“We play an even front, we play on odd front. I’m sure Philadelphia will do the same thing, even having not seen them. I’m sure that we’ll see an even front from them before it’s all over. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.”

12:23 – The Eagles surprised us and announced that Riley Cooper is back with the team after missing three practices. He runs out onto the field, has a conversation with his position coach Bob Bicknell, is greeted by Jason Avant and starts off practice having a catch with Ifeanyi Momah.

12:33 – A few things stand out. One, there’s no music today. And two, a lot of NFL guys are in attendance, including Jaws, Mike Mayock and Greg Cosell. The tempo of practice is also slower than we’re used to.

1:03 – Tom Brady put on an absolute clinic during one-on-ones. I got video of three of his throws:

Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams, Kurt Coleman, Jordan Poyer, Brandon Boykin, Colt Anderson and others. All tried, and all failed to force an incompletion. Anticipation, timing and accuracy from the future Hall of Famer. On several throws, Eagles defenders had good coverage, but Brady just put the ball on the money where only his receiver could get to it.

When the session was over, I commented to the person next to me that it seemed like Brady didn’t throw an incompletion. And apparently, I was right:

With all due respect to the Eagles’ quarterbacks, it looked at times today like Brady was playing a different sport.

1:21 – During 7-on-7s, Nick Foles gets the start with the first team. Jason Avant joins DeSean Jackson with the ones. Russell Shepard mixes in too.

Foles looks for Bryce Brown down the right sideline on a wheel route, but linebacker Jerod Mayo does a great job of sticking with him and forces an incompletion.

In the red zone, a Patriots linebacker sets up against Damaris Johnson in the slot. Mismatch? Yes. But not in the way you’re hoping. The linebacker simply shoves Johnson to the ground. That’s well within the rules, as long as it’s within 5 yards.

Foles makes a good throw to Jackson in the middle of the end zone for a touchdown. Jackson has been a non-factor in the red zone for most of his career. We’ll see if Chip Kelly can change that.

Foles then hits James Casey in the hands, but he drops it. Casey makes up for it when Michael Vick’s on the field, catching a touchdown on an angle route with a defender on his back. We saw him run a lot of those with the Texans (All-22 here).

Vick looks for Avant in the back of the end zone, but a defender gets his hand on the pass and forces an incompletion.

1:41 – Foles goes with the ones again during 11-on-11s. He gets off to a rough start, looking for Avant on the bubble screen. Patriots corner Aqib Talib reads it and should have had an easy pick six, but he can’t hang on.

Jason Peters is not practicing today. In his place is Allen Barbre. Barbre spent most of camp at guard, but has been playing tackle the last two days. He’s got a chance to earn a backup spot. The coaches clearly are looking to test his versatility.

Foles hands the ball off before taking off in the opposite direction. This fools no one.

This is a “thud” period. No tackling to the ground. But Brown’s strength is on display. Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins delivers a big blow that might have knocked down some running backs, but Brown doesn’t budge.

Foles throws a beauty, which travels about 45 yards in the air down the right sideline to Jackson for a touchdown. Looked like he beat corner Logan Ryan on the play.

I know I say it every day, but Chris Polk with another big run up the middle. Daniel Jeremiah of thinks Polk could challenge Brown for the No. 2 job.

Zach Ertz had a good day, but here he jumps early for a false start. Someone yells, “C’mon Zach!” Can’t tell if it was Kelly or someone else.

On defense, for the first time all camp, Kenny Phillips is running with the first team alongside Patrick Chung. Connor Barwin is out with an illness, meaning Brandon Graham and Trent Cole are your first-team outside linebackers. Graham had been playing mostly with the second team.

Cary Williams and Aaron Dobson get into a scuffle after one rep. Williams is pulled out of the drill and takes a knee on the sideline. That’s where he spent the rest of practice during team periods (more details here from T-Mac).

Brady carves up the Eagles’ secondary, but Mychal Kendricks shoots into the backfield and makes a nice play against the run.

Vick, meanwhile, finds Ertz down the seam for a big gain. He beat Mayo on the play.

Too many screens to Avant today. Not exactly your prototypical YAC guy.

Brown with a drop near the sideline on a Foles pass. More false starts from the Eagles. Looks like backup tackle Matt Kopa and then Brown.

Vick threads one to Ertz in traffic in the red zone and then finds Avant for a touchdown off play-action.

2:03 – Breaking! Brady just threw an incompletion! I’m sure there was one earlier, but this is the first I’ve noticed. Yes, we’re nearly two hours into practice. Good job by DeMeco Ryans in coverage on the play.

Some good moments for the Eagles’ defensive linemen. Cedric Thornton picks up a “sack” and Vinny Curry gets in the backfield on a run play. In the red zone, Kendricks blitzes, and Chung nearly intercepts Brady.

The Eagles’ offense is back on the field. Polk with ANOTHER nice run. Foles looks for Shepard on a go-route down the sideline. Not much separation against Alfonzo Dennard. Shepard had a quiet day.

Felix Jones with a drop from Vick. He has not shown good hands this camp. He’s going to have to earn his spot during the preseason games.

By the way, if you’re wondering where Kelly and Belichick are stationed during these team drills, Kelly stands behind the offense, and Belichick stands behind the defense, almost like a deep safety. In other words, just what you’d expect, given their backgrounds.

In the red zone, Kendricks makes another nice play against the run. In nickel, the Eagles go with Fletcher Cox, Thornton and Trent Cole as their three down linemen. Today, Graham is playing the “joker” role we’ve seen Barwin play in the past.

Brady again carves the Eagles’ secondary up. He ends the drill with a beautiful throw to Amendola on a corner route in the end zone. Phillips can’t get there in time.

2:32 – One more team drill in what has turned out to be a longer practice than usual. Vick goes with the ones. The play breaks down, he rolls to his left and chucks one up for Cooper, who does a nice job of coming down with it in the back of the end zone.

Graham finds himself matched up with Leon Washington on a wheel route down the left sideline and can’t keep up. Tight end Zach Sudfeld then beats Ryans for a touchdown.

Foles is up and makes perhaps his best throw of the day, a perfectly-placed pass on a corner route to Cooper, who beat Dennard.

Then Vick finds Cooper. In a strange twist, this might be Cooper’s best stretch of practice ever as a member of the Eagles. Nice throw by Vick too on the go-route down the left sideline.

2:43 – Lots to work on off this tape for Billy Davis and company. Nate Allen is called for pass interference against Amendola. Brady finds wide receiver Josh Boyce for a big gain down the middle of the field between Casey Matthews and Allen. Then Jamar Chaney is called for pass interference in the end zone.

Radio voice Mike Quick didn’t like the call. “Don’t throw the flag if you can’t see it!” he yells to the ref.

To end practice, the Eagles set up for a field goal. But it’s a fake. Donnie Jones, the holder, takes off around the right side for a touchdown. “I see you, Donnie!” yells a teammate.

2:58 – Nice change of pace today. Let’s do it again tomorrow.

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