Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

JaCorey Shepherd (Jeff Fusco)

JaCorey Shepherd (Jeff Fusco)

Here’s what we saw during the Eagles’ first training camp practice of 2015.

11:56 – First off, congratulations to everyone for making it here. We got past the nonsense of June and July, and football season has finally arrived.

The Eagles celebrate the occasion with Justin Bieber’s Where Are You Now. Judge me all you want for this, but I don’t hate it.

On to football. All eyes are on Sam Bradford at the start of practice. Replacing the bigger, bulkier brace on his left knee is a black sleeve. It looks like the kind you buy at CVS when you turn 30 and realize an hour of pickup hoops now causes various aches and pains.

But Bradford participated fully today, and by my count, he took every snap in every drill with the first team. So that seems like a sign of progress.

12:04 – Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro begins summer practice by yelling like a madman. Three defensive linemen start on their knees across from three blocking sleds. They attack with their upper bodies, and then he instructs them on whether to shed inside or outside. Azzinaro asks the players for violence. And then more violence.

As I watch, a bead of sweat falls off my back. This marks the unofficial start of training camp.

When the offense goes against the defense for the first time, Byron Maxwell breaks up a Bradford pass on a slant intended for Nelson Agholor on. Jordan Matthews flashes good hands, reaching up and snatching the football away from his body on another rep.

12:17 – During 7-on-7s, Bradford finds Josh Huff, who also exhibits good hands. The most common trio of Eagles receivers today featured Huff and Riley Cooper on the outside with Matthews in the slot. Agholor ran mostly with the second team, but I don’t expect that to remain the same in a couple weeks.

Nolan Carroll picks off a Bradford pass that comes right to him. It was intended for Cooper. While it was encouraging to see Bradford move around and participate fully, he was up and down in terms of performance. I don’t think that’s anything to be overly concerned about considering this was the first practice of training camp, but the point here is to provide observations, so that’s what I saw.

12:23 – The inside linebackers continue to rotate. Chip Kelly gave Mychal Kendricks a huge vote of confidence before practice, saying Kendricks isn’t going anywhere, and we can write that down in ink.

12:25 – As for the offensive line, Allen Barbre lined up at left guard and Matt Tobin at right guard, to go along with Jason PetersJason Kelce and Lane Johnson with the first team.

In other depth chart news, JaCorey Shepherd appears to be in line to replace Brandon Boykin. Shepherd said he didn’t play any nickel in Kansas, so there’s obviously a serious learning curve here. We did a No-22 breakdown of Shepherd back in May. There’s plenty to like, but to label him as anything but an unknown here would require a leap of faith.

At safety, Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond are the starters. I’d be stunned if that changed between now and Week 1. Jerome Couplin and Chris Maragos lined up with the twos. Earl Wolff practiced fully and lined up with the third team.

12:41 – ESPN’s Louis Riddick was at practice today. Some notes from him worth sharing:

A nice period for Bradford here. He delivers a perfectly placed dart to Cooper on a comeback route with Carroll on Cooper’s back. Bradford is then on the money with his ball placement to Zach Ertz on a crossing route, delivering the pass out in front so Ertz can pick up yards after the catch.

As for the competition for the No. 3 QB job, Tim Tebow and Matt Barkley split reps today.

12:52 – During a teach period, Kelly puts his arm around Kendricks and has something to say. Kendricks later told us that the head coach was preparing him for the onslaught of questions he was going to receive from us about not being traded.

During 11-on-11s, it’s Bradford with the first team once again. Ertz shows great body control with a catch over the middle in between defenders on a crossing route. Bradford shows off his big arm and looks for Cooper down the left sideline on a go route, but Carroll runs with Cooper step for step and forces the incompletion. Carroll got the best of Cooper on several occasions today.

Barkley, meanwhile, finds rookie TE Justin Tukes on a beautiful ball in between defenders.

1:03 – During the next team session, DeMeco Ryans breaks up a pass intended for Brent CelekMark Sanchez throws a nice back-shoulder fade to Miles Austin down the left sideline, beating Eric Rowe.

Sanchez later airmails one over the middle, and Couplin nearly comes down with a diving interception.

Carroll breaks up a Bradford pass intended for Cooper on a comeback route. And Matthews does a great job coming back to the ball for a reception from Bradford.

Finally, linebacker Jordan Hicks flashes, showing some athleticism by leaping up and breaking up a Barkley pass on a corner route.

1:12 – That’s it for the first day. We’ll be back at NovaCare Monday.