Running Diary: Eagles Practice Observations

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

The Eagles and Ravens held a joint practice at the NovaCare today. Here’s what we saw.

11:50 — The Ravens customarily practice for three hours (compared to the Eagles’ two-hour sessions) so they’re getting a little extra work in before the Eagles take the field. Still, it’s a short day for Baltimore compared to its normal routine.

“Man, this is like apple juice,” said Steve Smith Sr. “It’s great.”

Otherwise, Smith is not pleased about being in Philadelphia.

“No,” he said, when asked if he likes these joint practices. “I’d rather be at home. Today is my wife’s birthday. I’m not at home, I’m over here doing this bullsh***, and I’m missing my wife’s birthday. I’d rather be at home singing happy birthday to my wife. Instead I’m out here getting questions to assess a rookie corner.”

That rookie corner is Eric Rowe. More on him later.

12:12 — It’s one-on-one time, and Smith decides to take out his aggravations on Byron Maxwell. The two get physical before Smith separates and steps in for a short completion. He wins another battle with Maxwell moments later.

Maxwell’s spirits are still high, though. He’s talking it up on the sideline as the drills play out, encouraging each defensive back after they make a play. Denzel Rice makes one while covering Jeremy Butler. Same with Nolan Carroll, who gets the better of Darren Waller to force the incompletion. E.J. Biggers shines the brightest, though. He nearly picks off a pass from Joe Flacco intended for Aldrick Robinson, then comes back with another pass breakup moments later.

12:22 — Team drills begin. A chance to see Sam Bradford go up against another squad for the first time in a year. He’s up-and-down. Hangs in there and delivers a perfect strike to Jordan Matthews (who is developing into a nice security blanket for No. 7) before firing low to Darren Sproles on a swing pass. Andrew Gardner is at right guard again. Looks like that competition is nearing its end. DeMarco Murray is practicing today and lowers his shoulder as he takes a run off the left side. Mychal Kendricks, DeMeco Ryans and Kiko Alonso are all practicing but don’t take part in team drills. Emmanuel Acho and Brad Jones get the nod in their place.

12:39 — 7-on-7s. Eric Tomlinson with a pretty one-handed grab over his shoulder on a pass from Matt Barkley. Nelson Agholor steps in with the ones in place of Josh Huff, with Riley Cooper on the other side. Bradford’s throw to Matthews is a little off the mark but the receiver uses his athleticism to haul it in, then it’s Bradford to Cooper for a 10-yard gain down the left seam.

Malcolm Jenkins comes up with a play on defense, deflecting a Flacco pass in the back of the end zone.

12:45 — John Harbaugh talked nostalgically about his return to the NovaCare. “It was just cool to come back. You walk through the gates, you walk through the facility, you see the weight room, you spend a little time in the weight room,” said the former Eagles assistant coach. “You walk onto the field, you see the bushes [that outline the practice field]. The bushes are all grown up, they’re taller now.”

As fate would have it, those bushes come into play. During red zone drills, Tim Tebow sails a pass so high [an intentional throwaway most likely] that the ball nearly clears those giant bushes. If not for that mature shrubbery, that thing is on Broad St. He follows that up with a touchdown toss to Rasheed Bailey in the left corner of the end zone.

12:51 — Brandon Graham makes his presence felt. It’s been pretty quiet on the hitting front but here Graham brings fullback Kyle Juszczyk to the ground with a thump, drawing some “Whoa!”s from the Baltimore sideline. Graham then comes up with a pick on a tipped Flacco pass.

Maxwell is looking good in team drills. Twice Kamar Aiken tries to beat him on a fly route down the right sideline, and twice he is denied. Walter Thurmond then comes up with a pick on a pass that gets away from Flacco.

1:35 — This session is not feisty enough for Tucker’s taste. “Someone say something about somebody’s sister and get things going,” he suggests. Ravens linebacker Zachary Orr doesn’t take it that far, but picks up the intensity level by sending John Harris to the ground after the catch. Tucker gets his wish moments later, as the third team Eagles offense and Ravens defense come together for a little dust-up in the far end zone. We’ll hand off the commentary to Jeff McLane.

1:40 — Back to the Smith-Rowe thing. The veteran receiver catches a pass in the back of the end zone, but Rowe gets his arm in there at the last second and pops the ball loose.

“The light’s coming on for him,” said Maxwell. “He punched three balls out [today]. I don’t know if y’all realized that. He had three turnovers. He’s a playmaker, man. He’s got a knack for the ball.”

Smith apparently told Rowe, “I saw it in your eyes, you about to [expletive] yourself,” but obviously Rowe did just fine.

“He made a play, I think,” said a disgruntled Smith afterwards when asked about the rookie. “You can write whatever you want. You’re going to find out on Saturday.”

1:51 — Rowe is flagged for pass interference while defending Aiken. It was a questionable call, and Rowe raises his arms in the air and starts barking at the official. Cory Undlin quickly puts and end to that, shouting at Rowe to knock it off. Another learning moment for the rookie.

Practice ends on that note. Joint sessions resume tomorrow at 11:55.