Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Photo By Jeff Fusco

Here’s what we saw during Tuesday’s practice at the NovaCare Complex.

11:52 — Gone are the days when the Eagles were hard up for a return man. Today’s session opens with punt return drills and there is a full stable of quality options back there, led by Darren Sproles and Nelson Agholor. (Jordan Matthews is out there, too, though I’m not sure Chip Kelly will want to go down that road when the bullets are live.) On kick return, the group includes Agholor, Ryan Mathews and Josh Huff. It looks like Kelly has some pretty serious firepower on special teams, which as we know is no accident.

11:57 — A light rain is beginning to fall, putting my observation note-taking in peril. What did Sheil do in these situations? Was his notebook laminated? So many questions I should have asked…

12:03 — Maybe it’s the weather, but the beginning of practice has a mellow feel to it. The music is down, the crowd is quiet and the scene is pretty serene. Until Jerry Azzinaro cracks like thunder. “Don’t waste time! Strike!”

Kelly was asked about Azzinaro’s group prior to practice.

“We don’t spend a whole heck of a lot of time when we’re making defensive personnel meetings on the defensive line just because you have so many veterans in those positions, and they’re young,” he said. “That’s the other thing. It’s not like they’re long in the tooth. Ced and Fletch are the older guys in the group. Bennie is just going into Year Three. That group as a whole is very consistent in terms of their production on a day‑in‑and‑day‑out basis, and it’s just kind of something you can always count on, is that our D‑line right now, barring any type of injury, is in pretty good shape.”

12:07 — Here’s a drill that we don’t get to shoot up close very often. The Eagles have all sorts of-high tech, state-of-the-art gadgets that they use to enhance their training. This is not one of them. But it gets the job done. Instead of a regular-old tackling dummy they employ one with two faux arms, one of which is holding a painted-on football so they can practice the art of the strip sack.

12:24 — 7-on-7s begin. Zach Ertz and DeMarco Murray were working off to the side with trainers for a portion of the individual drills but they’re participating here, which is a pretty good sign that it’s nothing serious. Mark Sanchez is a little high on his pass to Ertz along the left sideline, but rebounds with a nice ball to Miles Austin over the middle.

12:32 — It’s John Moffitt‘s turn at right guard today. The four-man rotation of Moffitt, Julian Vandervelde, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner rumbles on with no clear end in sight. In case you’re wondering what the second-team offensive line looks like, it goes (from left to right): Gardner, David Molk, Vandervelde, Tobin and Dennis Kelly.

Speaking of Kelly, he was on the wrong end of a battle with Marcus Smith today.

Later during team drills, Smith blows up a run play, bursting into the backfield to corral Kenjon Barner before the back even had a chance to make a move. “Good job, Marcus!” a group of teammates yelled from the sideline. Pretty good day for the second-year linebacker.

12:54 — Ertz and Mychal Kendricks accidentally collide during 7-on-7s and stay down for a moment. Ertz appears to have gotten the worst of it, but both shake it off and return to action. Sam Bradford is having another fine day. He connects with Nelson Agholor, then zips a back-shoulder throw to Brent Celek for the touchdown. Agholor is getting a lot of first-team reps today. It appears Josh Huff is not a full participant.

12:59 — Tim Tebow with a nice ball to Eric Tomlinson down the seam. No. 11 celebrates with a fist pump. Bradford finds Murray for a short-gainer and then tries a back-shoulder throw to Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone. But Jaylen Watkins, playing first-team nickel, has good coverage and the pass is incomplete.

1:17 — Bradford finishes strong. He finds Sproles in the flat, then connects with Jeff Maehl down the left side for a big gain. That’s followed by the play of the day. Bradford lofts a perfect ball to Matthews in the right corner of the end zone about 30 yards downfield. Watkins is on him and again has tight coverage but Matthews rises up and wrestles the ball in for the score. A fired-up Matthews celebrates with an angry flex and a series of chest bumps as he makes his way up the sideline.

1:35 — That’s it for today. Another practice at the NovaCare tomorrow at 11:35.