He ran a slant to the 5-yard-line, stopped, changed direction and headed to the back left corner of the end zone. Vick let go of the ball, Maclin made the catch and kept his feet in-bounds for the touchdown.
But wide receivers coach David Culley saw something he didn’t like. He wanted Maclin to make sure he sold the slant with his final steps inside. Maclin did it again later, and this time, Culley approved.
To date, Mychal Kendricks’ transition to the pros has been about as smooth as you can ask for. The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year out of Cal was plucked by the Eagles with the 46th overall pick in April’s draft, and immediately plugged in as the starting strongside linebacker. He stood out above all others at rookie camp, and kept that positive momentum rolling into the OTA’s and eventually training camp.
He looks comfortable, and it was no different Thursday night during his first taste of NFL action.
If you were expecting Mychal Kendricks to look like a Pro Bowler in his first game action in the NFL, you were disappointed. If you wanted to see him show flashes of the player the Birds hope he eventually becomes, well, you got that.
But since an NCAA rule prohibited Harris (Oregon) from participating in spring practices, he’s still playing catch-up.
“Cliff is a competitor,” defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said today. “He is still learning our system. The hard thing is that when you miss those OTAs, it’s hard, so he is just trying to get a complete understanding [of the defense]. In the classroom, he understands the scheme, but when it is going fast, I think that is the part in time he will get better and better at.”
On one of the first plays today, Nnamdi Asomugha lined up inside against backup tight end Chase Ford. Last year, playing Asmougha inside was simple because the Eagles had Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the outside. But Samuel’s gone, and the new wrinkle today was that Curtis Marsh lined up outside at right cornerback.
Marsh, a third-round pick in 2011, played only 13 defensive snaps as a rookie. But with Samuel gone, he’s looking to fill a bigger role in his second season.
“We rotate. We have different guys that do different things well. It’s by gameplan,” Marsh said.
Here are some practice observations from the first two days of training camp with rookies and selected veterans.
One guy who’s stuck out the last two days is rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Kendricks tested out extremely well in just about every category at the combine, but he had an impressive college resume too, earning Pac-12 Player of the Year honors last season. We’ll have to wait and reserve judgement to see how he holds up against the run, but he looks to have good cover skills. Yesterday, he made a nice play on the ball while matched up against tight end Chase Ford. And he was step-for-step with fullback Stanley Havili down the sideline, forcing an incompletion out of bounds.
Earlier today, I wrote about Kendricks’ height, but in the afternoon, he leaped at the line of scrimmage and batted down a Mike Kafka screen pass. Obviously still a long way to go, but Kendricks looks good so far.
As I mentioned in a previous post, linebacker Casey Matthews had a bizarre rookie season, beginning the season as a starter, getting benched and then eventually finding a role in the nickel package.
In the final four games, he played about 61 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. And according to linebackers coach Mike Caldwell, that’s when Matthews got his confidence back.
“The thing about Casey was he never sulked about it,” Caldwell said. “He understood, he continued to work hard and that hard work paid off. He played well on special teams, then he ended up getting his role in the third-down package, and he did a good job in that package, so now that confidence is back and he can build on that coming in this year.”
DeMeco Ryans arrives with high expectations after the Eagles have continually failed in recent years to find an adequate middle linebacker. Barring injury, he is a lock to start in the middle when the Eagles open the season against the Browns. But can he be good enough in coverage to stay on the field for all three downs?
The Eagles were in nickel about 46 percent of the time last year, according to Football Outsiders (you’re going to see me cite that stat quite a bit). In Houston, Ryans earned the reputation of being a great leader and a great teammate. But it’ll be hard to lead if he’s replaced in sub packages and on the sidelines nearly half the time.