Monday was the first day for the full Eagles squad to practice together. The media was able to watch and share some good info on what went on.
As always, things must be put in the proper context. Chip Kelly likes to point out this is May 13th and the season starts in September. A lot can and will change between now and then. The coaches are in the process of teaching the systems and trying to get the players indoctrinated in the Chip Kelly way of doing things. Do not make too much of anything that did or didn’t happen today.
OL depth chart for now:
LT Jason Peters – LG Danny Watkins – C Dallas Reynolds – RG Todd Herremans – RT Dennis Kelly
LT Ed Wang – LG Allen Barbre – C Matt Tennant – RG Matt Kopa – RT Lane Johnson
Why Kelly over Johnson? I think this is just a matter of Kelly being more advanced. Johnson will be the RT before too long. Since Kelly wants things to move at a brisk pace, it is easier to go with veteran players over rookies for now. As each practice goes along and the players become more comfortable with things, being a veteran will mean less. This could be days from now or a couple of weeks.
I do think it is interesting to see Wang at LT. Coming out of college, I thought he projected to RT or OG. I see him as a longshot to make the team, but it will be interesting to see how he plays now that he’s been around the league for a few years.
Jason Kelce was at practice and participated in some limited sets. He’s still on the mend from a torn ACL.
There weren’t any major surprises with the pass catchers. Ifeanyi Momah, Derek Carrier, and BJ Cunningham didn’t practice since they had run so many routes in the last 3 days. Dave Spadaro mentioned that Arrelious Benn was on the field with the starters quite a bit. Dave also mentioned that James Casey looked great and Clay Harbor was impressive. I was happy to hear that there were blocking drills for the WRs. Kelly is going to emphasize blocking this year. The WRs need to know that up front.
There isn’t too much to say about the QBs. Reports indicated that Dennis Dixon looked the most comfortable with running the offense (due to his experience with Kelly). Mike Vick got most of the snaps with the starters, but Nick Foles got plenty as well. Several people said Matt Barkley’s arm strength was not an issue. Adam Caplan mentioned that he saw a couple of throws that lacked ideal zip.
There was plenty of zone-read being mixed in. Some people are making too much of this. You have to teach it now so you can run it during the season. The fact you are teaching it doesn’t mean that it will be a major part of the offense, though. Chip Kelly is going to mix it in, no matter who the QB is. If Foles or Barkley get the job, there will be much less of it. Still, you must teach the offense how to run this. Remember that this isn’t a play the offense is familiar with. The QBs know how to throw every pass. Zone-read is something new. You must work on new concepts.
Now for the defense.
Here is what we heard for the DL and LBs in terms of depth chart.
DL #1 – LDE Cedric Thornton – NT Isaac Sopoaga – RDE Fletcher Cox
DL #2 – LDE Clifton Geathers – NT Antonio Dixon – RDE Vinny Curry
LB #1 – SAM Connor Barwin – ILB DeMeco Ryans – WILB Mychal Kendricks – Predator Trent Cole
LB # 2 – OLB Brandon Graham – ILB Jason Phillips – WILB Jamar Chaney – OLB Phillip Hunt
I’m unsure about who was SAM/Predator with the backups. Dave did mention that he thought UDFA Jake Knott got a lot of reps at ILB. I’m guessing he would be at WILB. Knott was a playmaker in college and that’s more of a playmaking role.
I’m guessing Bennie Logan was the #3 NT, but don’t know that for sure.
There were quite a few different packages. There was one with 4 DL where Thornton played LDE with Sopoaga, Cox, and Cole as the other 3 guys. Seattle runs the 4-3 Under with 4 down linemen and uses DT Red Bryant as the LDE so using Thornton in that role isn’t a new idea.
Trent Cole got a few snaps at DE in 3-man looks. There were some 4-man sets with Cole and Graham at DE.
The starting Safeties were Nate Allen and Patrick Chung. The backups were Kenny Phillips and Kurt Coleman.
CB Cary Williams got married on Sunday so he is on his honeymoon and missed practice. Curtis Marsh replaced him with the starters. I think this is more of a chance to see him in action rather than a sign the coaches are high on him. Marsh did say that they played a lot of press and that he is comfortable with that. Bradley Fletcher was the other CB. The backups were Brandon Hughes and Brandon Boykin.
Special Teams is an area where the Eagles must get better this year. Jimmy Bama noted on Twitter that STs was mixed in throughout practice rather than being done at the end, which is how Reid did things. Donnie Jones reportedly showed a stronger leg than Brad Wing. DeSean Jackson was back on punt returns. Other guys who got a look there were Jeremy Maclin, Damaris Johnson, and Nick Miller.
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The practices were very up-tempo. Many of those watching were very impressed at how briskly things moved. Adam Caplan said on Eagles Live that he’s seen at least 10 other NFL teams practices over the years and he’s never seen anything like this.
Much was made of the fact that music blared through much of practice. Writers tweeted out each song and seemed very caught up in that angle. I hope this is a one time thing. The music is here for the long haul. I’m more interested in what’s going on on the field rather than what’s blaring out of the speakers.
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The Eagles cut OL Matt Reynolds and signed OL Nic Purcell, who tried out for the team this weekend. Purcell is a very interesting prospect. He might have LT potential.
The Carolina Panthers cut OLB Thomas Keiser. He played LB and DE for them. Keiser had 4 sacks in 2011 and impressed. He had elbow injuries that hurt him in 2012. Keiser (6-4, 265) play OLB for Stanford’s 3-4 defense in college and is a more natural fit for the 3-4 in the NFL. He could be someone the Eagles take a look at. Kelly will know a bit about him from the Oregon/Stanford days.