Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Day 2 of camp in is in the books. Here’s what we saw.

11:44 – One thing that’s fun about watching practice this summer is you can see many of the concepts from last year being repped over and over again on the field.

For example, earlier this offseason, we did an All-22 piece on the mesh concept and its variations. One of the variations involved pivot routes, where two players started inside like they were running crossing routes, but then pivoted outside.

Now check out this video:

It’s the exact same idea – here, it’s two tight ends running the pivot routes.

Meanwhile, the Eagles (and really, most teams) are always trying to replicate game situations during practice. During one drill, wide receivers run behind four tackling dummies (simulating defenders) before catching the ball. Here’s a pic:

We talk plenty about how Chip Kelly wants to get his playmakers the ball in space. But he also emphasizes catching the ball in traffic and making contested grabs – especially when you’re seeing a lot of man coverage.

11:51 – Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur runs the next drill for the offense. Outside receivers line up in a single file and run through a variety of routes – fade, intermediate hook, deep hook. Then the slot guys go – crossers, outs, corner routes.

12:08 – Boooo! Practice moves to the middle field where it’s much harder for the media to see. Don’t they know we’ve got a running diary to produce?I decide to move to another field to check out the offensive linemen. Todd Herremans and Allen Barbre line up next to each other. Huge surprise: the Eagles are working on techniques associated with the inside zone.

Backup Donald Hawkins holds a blocking pad and acts as the defensive tackle. Another reserve, Karim Barton, stands behind Hawkins with a blocking pad and serves as the linebacker. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, meanwhile, sets up behind the line of scrimmage. He looks at Barton and points to his right. The ball is snapped. Herremans and Barbre have to double team the lineman, and then one of them has to climb to the next level to get to the linebacker.

Getting the timing and chemistry down on these plays is crucial. Knowing who is supposed to leave the lineman for the linebacker and executing the blocks correctly requires a lot of practice. That’s the biggest reason Kelly has Barbre taking all the first-team reps at right tackle. He needs the run game to be rolling right away in Week 1.

12:23 – Fight! On the first play of 7-on-7s, Trent Cole gives LeSean McCoy a little “nudge” as Brandon Graham put it. McCoy took exception, and a scrum ensued. Darren Sproles and some others break it up. McManus with full details here.

12:33 – Before practice, Billy Davis said the Eagles would be mixing up their first, second and third teams throughout the first two weeks of camp. That is evident today. We’re seeing the usual second team secondary (Nolan Carroll II, Brandon Boykin, Chris Maragos and Earl Wolff) practice with the starters.

12:52 – After a special teams period, more 7-on-7s. Roc Carmichael breaks up a pass to Brad Smith on a corner route. Nick Foles has been sharp, but this was not one of his better balls. It hung in the air way too long.

Matt Barkley, meanwhile, finds Damaris Johnson on a deep out, placing the ball perfectly over defenders. Barkley has looked much better in two summer practices than he did all spring.

We see a package with McCoy and Darren Sproles on the field together. On one play, they both line up in the backfield. On the next play, Sproles sets up in the slot and runs a shallow crosser. Mychal Kendricks does a great job of sticking with him, dives and knocks down a Foles pass.

Mark Sanchez gets a shot and finds Jordan Matthews down the seam for a big gainer. It looked like Matthews beat Jaylen Watkins on the play.

Zach Ertz lines up out wide, gets Curtis Marsh on his back and uses his size to make a catch on a comeback route. Ertz has looked good the past two days.

1:00 – It’s a teach period. Even though Davis is at the opposite end of the field, you can hear him yell “Fire zone!” For the Eagles Almanac, we wrote about the Cover 3, a three-deep zone with four underneath defenders.

The fire zone is also a three deep zone – only instead of four underneath defenders, it has three. The extra guy rushes the quarterback. It’s something we saw last year and something we’ll continue to see going forward.

1:04 – When wide receivers run fades down the sideline, they are taught to not get their hands up until the last second so that the defender can’t react. I’m not sure if Jeff Maehl just did that really well or if he really didn’t think the ball was coming. Carroll had Maehl covered, but Foles threw it his way anyway. At the last second, Maehl got his hands up and came down with the grab. But he seemed legitimately surprised.

Ertz, meanwhile, makes a nice catch in traffic on a ball from Sanchez, showing strong hands with defenders around him.

Later, Foles runs play-action, rolls to his left and looks for Ertz near the sideline, but Carroll breaks it up. I repeat myself every day, but Carroll gets his hands on more passes at practice than any other defensive back, and it’s not even close.

1:17 – Barkley drops back and hits Kadron Boone in stride down the left sideline. The ball probably traveled 40 to 50 yards in the air and was on the money. Quite possibly the best pass we’ve seen Barkley throw in two years. That was a beauty.

Prevailing thought of the day: All three quarterbacks have looked really good the past two days.

That’s it for today’s session. We return tomorrow from the Linc where the pads go on.