Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations
The Eagles were at it again Thursday afternoon at the NovaCare Complex. Here’s what we saw.
11:45 – Big emphasis on press coverage the last two days. That’s something teams can’t work on in the spring, but the Eagles are drilling it on both offense and defense now that the pads are on.
During one period, wide receivers set up in one of four lines, and defensive backs do the same across from them. There’s no actual football involved, just technique work – defenders pressing at the line of scrimmage and wide receivers trying to get off their jams.
11:53 – We spend some time with the defensive backs today. They have four cones set up. The movement is: backpedal, sprint diagonal, backpedal, sprint diagonal and catch the ball.
Proof that I’m not lying:
Outside linebackers, meanwhile, work on their coverage. They start near the line of scrimmage, drop to an underneath zone and then chase the ball through the air down the sideline as position coach Bill McGovern lets it fly.
12:08 – 3-on-2 time. Three defenders go up against two receivers with the field split in half vertically. Bradley Fletcher and Nolan Carroll II come up with pass break-ups. Jordan Matthews can’t hold on to a Nick Foles pass. He was facing the QB in the middle of the field, and the ball was thrown slightly to his left.
Matt Barkley with a really nice ball down the sideline as Brent Celek beats Connor Barwin and hauls it into his body with one hand.
Josh Huff separates from Fletcher on a go route, but Foles leads him out of bounds.
12:13 – Special teams time. Per Jeff McLane of the Inquirer, both Alex Henery and Carey Spear went 5-for-5 from attempts between 36 and 52 yards.
12:24 – “I’m feeling a Cary Williams fight today,” says Jimmy Kempski of Philly.com, noting that the veteran seems a bit chippy.
12:25 – Williams chucks Jeff Maehl to the ground during 7-on-7s for no apparent reason. Maehl calmly goes back to the huddle. Not everyone would have reacted the way Maehl did. We could have been close to more fisticuffs.
More work on the back shoulder today. Foles throws a perfectly placed ball to Jeremy Maclin who turns around and makes the grab against Fletcher.
A rarity: Foles hits the fly-swatter contraption at the line of scrimmage. No worries. He had only two passes batted at the line of scrimmage all of last season per Pro Football Focus.
Mark Sanchez looks for Matthews deep, but he can’t make the grab (the ball was overthrown). Earl Wolff is not participating in practice today (undisclosed injury). Chris Maragos is taking his place with the ones.
Our first interception of the day: Brandon Boykin jumps in front of Brad Smith on a shallow crosser and picks off G.J. Kinne.
Bennie Logan is in pads, but not participating fully. Rookie Beau Allen is getting some run at nose tackle with the ones.
Sidenote: Chip Kelly shakes hands with all the defensive players before the team period. I’ve seen this every day. And there’s a chance he may have individual hand-shakes with each guy. Fletcher Cox gets a handshake, Connor Barwin gets a fist pound, and Cedric Thornton gets something in between.
If Kelly does the Fresh Prince/DJ Jazzy Jeff move with one of these guys, I may lose it.
[Why being a reporter in 2014 is great: Finding this video took me approximately six seconds, and at no time did I ever doubt the clip would be available].
Back to the field… Foles rolls to his left off play-action and finds Maehl near the sideline. I remember when Foles was a rookie, one of the things Andy Reid liked about him was that he could throw on the move.
Nice sequence for DeMeco Ryans. It’s a “thud” period, meaning you can make contact with the ball-carrier, but no tackling to the ground. Ryans is a powerful guy though, and he knocks LeSean McCoy on his butt. On the next play, he drops in coverage and intercepts Foles.
On the last play of the drill, Bryan Braman strips David Fluellen. I think that is the first fumble of the summer.
12:48 – Referees are at practice today, and at the beginning of this drill, they throw a flag on Fletcher for his contact with Maclin during 1-on-1s.
Ifeanyi Momah makes his best play in two years. It looks like a back-shoulder fade down the left sideline against Boykin. At the last minute, Momah leaps, reaches up and makes the grab. I’ve said he needs to learn how to use his size to have a shot, and he did so there.
Either Malcolm Jenkins can cover or we need to slow the Matthews hype down. The Eagles’ new safety just stuck with the rookie step for step on a corner route deep downfield and forced an incompletion.
Rookie Jaylen Watkins flashes, breaking up a pass intended for B.J. Cunningham.
On the last play of the drill, Foles and Matthews are not on the same page. Another reason why I think it’s about time the rookie gets all his reps with the starting quarterback.
1:02 – During 7-on-7, the Eagles show a dime package. I haven’t seen this previously: It’s Williams, Fletcher, Boykin and Carroll, along with two safeties and Mychal Kendricks. Given how good Carroll has looked, this could end up being a nice option in third-and-long situations or against specific opponents.
Sanchez throws three incompletions in a row, but the last one draws a flag on the defense. Williams finds the ref on the sideline for a lengthy discussion. I’m guessing he disagreed with the call.
Nate Allen does a good job of breaking on a ball deep down the left sideline from Barkley, but he can’t hold on for the INT.
No touchdowns by the offense during this period. The defense has stepped up the past two days.
1:15 – Red zone drill.
“Ref, move. I can’t see,” says a fan.
The official turns around and offers a dirty look.
“You just can’t turn it on and off, can you?” he says, changing to a smile. “It’s just practice!”
The great part about Philadelphia? Everyone on the sideline immediately does the Allen Iverson practice bit in unison.
Meanwhile, the first-team defense “sacks” Foles twice. One is by Trent Cole; some reporters thought the other was by him as well.
1:18 – Marcus Smith II does a nice job dropping in coverage on Arrelious Benn. Really looking forward to seeing how he looks when the Eagles play their first preseason game a week from tomorrow.
Barkley with another nice throw – this one to Johnson on a corner route for a touchdown. Diving grab by Johnson too.
Celek beats Brandon Graham for a touchdown from Foles.
1:29 – During the final team period, the defense blows up a screen from Foles to Celek. I don’t know that we’ve mentioned enough in this space how much Kelly loves Jenkins. “Nice hustle, Malcolm! Nice hustle, Malcolm!” he yells after the play.
The session ends with Spear missing a 46-yarder.
Another practice in the books. We’ll be back tomorrow before an off day Saturday.