Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles took the field for their first training camp practice of the 2014 season today. Here’s what we saw.

11:20 – Before we get to the notes, an important piece of news broke right before Chip Kelly’s press conference: Jimmy Kempski of admitted that the black lid at Wawa is superior to the white lid. Big breakthrough for the good guys. Now we just need to get McManus on board.

11:35 – The first practice begins with Return Of the Mack, a timeless classic that may or may not have been blaring when my wife and I walked out together for the first time during our wedding reception.

The Eagles are in shorts and helmets today. Like last year, they won’t be tackling to the ground. Can’t argue with that. This was a very good tackling team during the regular season a year ago, especially when you consider how horrible they were in that aspect the previous two seasons.

Everyone (except for Keelan Johnson) is dressed and participating. And everyone passed their conditioning tests.

The practice fields look the same as last year. The only new addition I see is a Rita’s Water Ice stand. For the record, Rita’s makes my short list of the most overrated things in the world. Do people really like those little fruit bits? No thank you.

11:41 – Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez set up next to each other at midfield. Half the wide receivers form a single file to their right. Foles takes the snap, releases, and as soon as the ball is caught, it’s Sanchez’s turn.

Meanwhile, in the end zone, G.J. Kinne and Matt Barkley do the same thing in the other direction. They’re working more on fades and downfield throws.

11:45 – QBs now take snaps under center. They’re practicing handoff exchanges with the running backs. All four QBs go at the same time, and Brad Smith even mixes in. We’ll see how the summer plays out, but I have Smith making the team right now.

The running backs have to set up at the proper depth, and the quarterbacks have to carry out their fakes.

11:47 – A couple videos to share:

Those are the running backs using the contraptions we saw in the spring.

And a few reps of the QBs throwing to the RBs:

12:00 – “I still haven’t seen Chip,” says a fan next to me on the sideline. I point him out to her on the far side of the field.

Is it fair to say Kelly’s the face of the franchise? Sure, people want to see LeSean McCoy and Foles. But apparently they are also looking to catch a glimpse of the head coach.

12:08 – It’s 3-on-2 time. The Eagles split the field in half vertically. They have two wide receivers run routes against three defenders (usually a linebacker, corner and safety). After one side’s rep is completed, the other side goes. Sanchez airs out a nice deep ball to Damaris Johnson down the left sideline past Brandon Boykin and Earl Wolff.

Later, Foles looks for Jeremy Maclin down the right sideline. Roc Carmichael is all over him, but Maclin comes down with the catch as both players hit the grass. As they jog back to the line of scrimmage, both players get a nice cheer from the fans who appreciate the effort.

12:13 – Special teams time. The song of the day is All Gold Everything. I’d say at least 50 percent of the players are dancing or at least bobbing their heads while this song plays.

Jon Dorenbos takes a minute to throw balls to fans in between the action. A little gesture that those in attendance will probably remember for a long time.

12:25 – It’s 7-on-7 time, a good chance to update the depth chart. Offensively, Brad Smith (not Jordan Matthews) is still running with the first team in the slot.

Allen Barbre is getting all the first-team reps at right tackle in place of Lane Johnson. Barring something unforeseen, Barbre is going to be the man there for the first month of the season.

No changes to the defensive depth chart. Marcus Smith II is still manning the Jack spot with the third team.

Nolan Carroll II, practicing with the second team, picks up where he left off in the spring and breaks up a Sanchez pass intended for Ifeanyi Momah. For Momah to have a chance, he’s got to find ways to use his size better. It looked like he had a chance to make the catch, but Carroll knocked it away.

The second-team wide receivers are Arrelious Benn, Momah and Matthews

Kinne throws a nice ball to Riley Cooper in the middle of the field, over DeMeco Ryans and in front of Cary Williams and Nate Allen.

12:31 – During the teach period, I’m with the defense. Five garbage cans serve as offensive linemen. Billy Davis yells out shifts – by the tight end, the slot receiver, etc. The defense, and specifically the middle linebacker, then yell out the calls. That’s Ryans with the first team and Najee Goode with the second team.

12:35 – The offense goes against the defense – runs and play-action. The second-team offensive line is Lane Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde, Josh Andrews and Matt Tobin.

Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro has a few choice words for his guys after one play. Last year, defensive linemen told me Azzinaro’s motto was basically: give ’em hell during the week, and let ’em play on Sundays.

When one team’s reps are finished, certain offensive players run to the far end zone before returning to the sideline. Foles does this every time, even if he’s the only one. His whole “other players look at the QB to see what to do” belief is no act. He really thinks that way.

12:52 – The rain’s coming down, so it’s hard to take notes. But McCoy gets lined up one-on-one vs. Connor Barwin on a wheel route. Foles instead goes in another direction. McCoy (playfully) vocalizes his disbelief as Barwin lets out a little grin.

Barkley, meanwhile, hits Matthew Tucker on a wheel route down the right sideline against Marcus Smith.

1:05 – Lots of wheel routes today – a great way to set up mismatches against man coverage. Sanchez throws a beauty down the right sideline to Darren Sproles.

1:20 – On the last play of practice, Barkley looks for Josh Huff on a deep ball down the middle of the field. The rookie makes a nice sliding catch, but collides with safety Ed Reynolds. Reynolds’ left knee hits Huff in the ribs, but both players said afterwards that they were OK.

And with that, the first practice is in the books. We’re back at NovaCare Sunday. Then it’s a Linc practice on Monday and an off day on Tuesday.