There is no practice today so let’s talk about what we know so far. For now we’ll take a look at the defense.
DL – Lots of shuffling. We don’t know too much definitively about the guys up front. Generally the starters are Ced Thornton, Isaac Sopoaga and Fletcher Cox…or Ced, Soap and Fletch. Clifton Geathers has mostly been with the 2′s, but did a few reps with the 1′s. I’m encouraged by this. I really want him to pan out since he’s so huge. Antonio Dixon is hurt right now. That’s not a huge concern, but it’s not ideal in his bid to be the backup NT. Haven’t heard a thing about Vinny Curry or Joe Kruger. Bennie Logan has played NT and DE.
OLB – Connor Barwin seems to be what we expected. Trent Cole and Brandon Graham are learning on the fly. They have bad days and they have okay days. It doesn’t sound like either one has really stood out. As I wrote a few days ago, that’s to be expected. They need another week of practices before we can even start to get an idea of what they’ll do. Chris McCoy is having a good camp. The thing he’s done well is cover, which is impressive for someone 6-4, 261. Let’s hope he rushes the passer well. Haven’t heard a lot about Phillip Hunt or Everett Brown.
ILB – DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks have looked good. Kendricks has had some good moments in coverage. We don’t know a lot about the guys behind them, other than that the Eagles are mixing and matching players to see who can do what. Jake Knott, Casey Matthews and Jamar Chaney all have the potential to make the team. They need to step up.
S – Maybe the most mysterious group on the team. Patrick Chung and Nate Allen are the projected starters, but we’ve not heard much about them, good or bad. Since there is limited hitting and no full tackling, it can be tough to judge Safeties. Jimmy Bama says that Kenny Phillips does not look 100 percent. David Sims has played with the backups and even gotten some reps with the 1′s. Kurt Coleman is mostly on the 3rd team. Not good for him. Coach Kelly mentioned Colt Anderson the other day, which is a good sign. Earl Wolff got reps with the 1′s in the spring, but things have been quieter with him in TC.
CB – Cary Williams got hurt on Day One. Curtis Marsh took his spot. This is a good way for the coaches to evaluate Marsh and find out if he can play or if he’s even worth keeping. Bradley Fletcher has had some good moments. The real star is Brandon Boykin, both in the slot and outside. This is very encouraging news. Jordan Poyer and Eddie Whitley are getting a lot of work in the slot.
Overall, a mixture of good and bad. We will have a better feel for this group after a couple of preseason games when they’ve had to fully hit and tackle, and we also see them go against a new offense. These guys have seen the Eagles offense over and over since May.
* * * * *
Lots of talk about the Eagles and the lack of full tackling.
I’m not concerned by this. Chip Kelly is a smart coach. If he feels this is the way to go, I trust him.
Let’s talk about tackling for a minute. Most bad tackles are due to form, technique and positioning. What the Eagles are doing in camp still allows for the players to work on that. Players are going to their target and wrapping, but not putting the player to the ground. If the defender uses poor form, it will show even in the limited style. Remember that the practices are full speed. So the defender has to fly to the ball and then get in proper position and wrap. It isn’t like these guys are jogging over and patting Shady McCoy on the butt. There is enough going on that the coaches can study it and get some idea of who needs to work on what.
Baseball players don’t hit 95 mph fastballs in batting practice. Golfers go to the driving range to practice their craft. When you focus on technique, you might even be better off by doing what the Eagles are doing. If defenders were putting players down with sloppy technique, the coaches might say “Well, you got the guy down”. That won’t fly now. The focus is on the technique rather than the result. That can then be put into practice in games.
We’ll see if it works. 2013 is a time of learning for Kelly, his staff and the players. There will be some mistakes. Not all of Chip’s ideas are going to pan out. That’s okay. Trial and error is how we got all of our great scientific inventions (All-22 tape being online, Funyuns and DirecTv).