Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Another day at NovaCare. Here’s what we saw:

11:54 – We begin today with Eagles wide receivers, who are working on double moves. They head about 12 yards upfield, turn their bodies out towards the sideline and then bang the post inside. “Drive it!” yells wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell.

Then it’s a Birds 24/7 favorite: the sluggo. Wide receivers head inside on a slant, but then turn upfield for the go route. “I gotta see your eyes and hands,” instructs offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, talking to rookie Josh Huff. His point is simple, and it’s a familiar one on all these double moves: Sell the first part of the route well, or the second part won’t be effective.

If you’re wondering about the wide receiver corps, Riley Cooper is still not practicing, and Jeremy Maclin was limited today, although he said afterwards that he’s fine and will be playing Friday night against the Bears.

Jordan Matthews makes the grab on a corner route and then runs into some fans on the sideline. Based on Birds 24/7 comments, this is the equivalent of being blessed by the Pope for those onlookers.

12:05 – During the 3-on-2 period, Nick Foles throws a beauty to Damaris Johnson on a corner route near the sideline. Connor Barwin was dropping in coverage, but Foles placed it right above his out-stretched arms and into Johnson’s hands.

Jaylen Watkins registers an aggressive pass breakup on a Quron Pratt slant. Assistant defensive backs coach Todd Lyght loves it.

12:17 – Zach Ertz had a strong day. It would not surprise me one bit if he led the Eagles in touchdown receptions this season. He’s going to be a tough matchup in the red zone.

On one play, Foles slings a bullet high to Ertz in the middle of the end zone. He stretches his arms up high and makes a beautiful hands catch above his head. Among all the Eagles pass-catchers, Ertz is the best at making contested grabs.

Earl Wolff, who is back practicing, makes an aggressive pass break-up against Josh Huff on a slant. And Emmanuel Acho gets love from his teammates for forcing an incompletion on a Matt Barkley throw to James Casey.

12:29 – Darren Sproles draws ooohs and ahhhs every day from the fans for his quick feet. It will be fascinating to see what the 31-year-old has left once the regular season begins.

Bennie Logan is still not practicing fully. The first-team defensive line has been Cedric Thornton, Beau Allen and Fletcher Cox. The second team is Brandon Bair, Damion Square and Taylor Hart.

This is a run/play-action period. Offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland and defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro are doing a lot of yelling. Nick Foles (who is practicing with a depleted group of WRs) rolls to his left and can’t find a receiver. Defensive backs coach John Lovett claps and voices his approval.

Casey and Marcus Smith mix it up after the whistle. It looked from my angle like Smith delivered a blow to the side of Casey’s head (helmet on), but the two are quickly separated.

“That’s just tough love,” Smith told me afterwards. “Me and James Casey, we go out there, we just try to work hard. Even afterwards, we’re back on it, we tell each other that play is over. We’re teammates, sometimes it gets chippy, but that’s just the way it is.

“Since I’ve been playing football, just being in camp and just being around each other for so long, you just want to go up against another body. You just want to go through something else. Sometimes it may get a little chippy.”

12:41 – Brandon Boykin vs. Matthews in one-on-ones. Who’s got popcorn?

Matthews runs down the seam and turns for the ball, but Boykin breaks it up. After practice, Matthews explained that he specifically requested to go up against Boykin today.

“It’s just seeing different looks,” Matthews said. “The first couple days I was going against Malcolm [Jenkins]. I said, ‘Malcolm, let’s get together. I want to work against you. You’re a safety. I want to see how it is to go against somebody a little bit more physical in there, somebody that’s gonna try to get their hands on me.’

“And then yesterday and this morning, I said, ‘Yo Boykin, let’s go together. I need to make sure I work against you a little bit.’ So that’s why we took a lot more one-on-one reps together today. And then I also got to work against him some in team too. So it’s just about seeing different looks, being able to work against different type guys and then try to put that all together in my game.”

The next time they get matched up, Matthews uses his size advantage to create space within the 5-yard window, gets open and makes the grab on a shallow crosser.

12:57 – Many of the team periods are about situational football. Chip Kelly announces the details beforehand: no timeouts, up by three, protect the end zone.

The ball is placed at midfield. Matthews gets some run with the ones. Foles looks for him underneath, but Boykin comes through with another pass breakup. Sometimes his physicality gets overlooked. But Boykin is playing with an edge today.

Cary Williams forces an incompletion on a deep ball intended for Ifeanyi Momah.

“Perfect technique, 2-6,” shouts Lito Sheppard from the sidelines. Sheppard is with the Eagles as an intern. He was very spirited and loving life during today’s practice.

Ertz runs a curl, gets Wolff on his back, uses his size and makes another grab.

Sanchez throws a beauty down the seam to Johnson, who beats Roc Carmichael. Perfect placement in traffic; one of Sanchez’s best throws of camp.

Boykin bats another ball down against B.J. Cunningham. At this point, he might as well start using the Dikembe Mutombo finger-wag.

1:09 – During a team period in the red zone, Matthews lines up outside. Brent Celek gets past DeMeco Ryans on a skinny post. Nice pump and throw from Foles for the touchdown.

Once the second team gets up, Sanchez looks for Huff on the fade, but Boykin goes up and gets it for the interception. His helmet got kicked off on the play, but Boykin sprang up and tossed the ball as the defensive sideline went nuts. I’m no defensive coordinator, but I’d take my chances with that guy on the outside against bigger receivers.

Later in the drill, Carmichael delivers a great effort, breaking up a pass to Ertz on a corner route in the end zone. Again, the defensive sideline goes nuts. Carmichael gets an: “I see you, Roc” from an offensive player, which in football terms is about as great a compliment as one can receive.

1:22 – One last team period. Nate Allen sticks with Matthews on a corner route in the end zone and breaks up a pass.

Huff delivers a great effort, keeping his feet in bounds on a grab from Barkley near the sideline in the red zone.

On the final play, G.J. Kinne rolls to his left and throws across his body to the end zone. Curtis Marsh breaks it up, and Williams loses it, racing over from the sideline to congratulate his teammate.

The Eagles have a walk-through tomorrow, and practice is closed Thursday. Then we get real (kind of) football on Friday when they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears.