The Eagles were in full pads for the first time in the 2014 offseason and practiced at The Linc today. All the reports make it sound like a pretty interesting day.
— The Eagles mixed up their defensive personnel yesterday, sometimes having the first team secondary rolling with the second team unit and vice versa. So when I saw Marcus Smith running with the twos I wasn’t sure if coordinator Bill Davis was simply shuffling things up. But Smith, who was with the third team throughout spring and the start of camp, was once again with the second team today. My guess is he’ll stay there backing up Connor Barwin at the “Jack” outside linebacker spot opposite Brandon Graham, who backs up Trent Cole at “Predator.” It’s difficult to say if Smith as earned the promotion or if the Eagles just want to see him playing against better competition, but it’s a natural step for the first round draft pick. Jake Knott was the other promotion, jumping from third team inside linebacker to the second team ahead of Jason Phillips. Looks like he’s out of the doghouse after being suspended four games.
— A few quickies … Zach Ertz made a strong grab in traffic when he hauled in a pass by Sanchez that was thrown slightly behind him. … But I’ll give catch of the day honors to B.J. Cunningham, who went over defensive back Davon Morgan to pull in a short-armed throw by Barkley. … Cedric Thornton, at least on one play, picked up where he left off last year when he sliced through the o-line and “dropped” McCoy. … Casey Matthews, after moving to outside linebacker last season, has been taking all his reps at inside linebacker this camp. … Celek dropped a pass from Foles. … The Damaris Johnson daily mistake came when he put the ball on the turf during a kick return. He retrieved it, but Johnson hasn’t done himself any favors through three practices.
It is good to see Marcus Smith moving up the depth chart. He’s now the backup Jack LB. No offense to Byan Braman, but I want Smith on the field as much as possible this summer. As McLane points out, there is also the benefit of getting to see him go against better competition. Right now he’ll be going against RT Lane Johnson a lot.
Also good to hear about Jake Knott. The Eagles coaches liked him quite a bit last summer. Things had been very quiet in regard to him this offseason, aside from his 4-game suspension. I wondered if Knott just hadn’t made progress or if he was in the doghouse for the suspension. I don’t know if Knott will challenge for a starting role down the road, but he can be a solid backup and good STer.
Damaris Johnson is headed in the wrong direction. He isn’t the type of WR Chip Kelly prefers so it is critical that Johnson stands out on STs. Right now he’s doing that, but in the wrong way. You want to stand out for good reasons, not mistakes. Johnson showed excellent promise back in 2012. It is really frustrating to see him struggle like this.
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Another day, another fight. Jimmy Bama offers his take on things.
For the second consecutive day at Eagles training camp, a pair of Eagles fought at the end of a play. On Sunday, it was LeSean McCoy vs. Trent Cole. On Monday, Jeremy Maclin and Bradley Fletcher squared off and threw haymakers at each other. Interestingly, not only are all of those players locks to make the team, they’re all currently first team veterans.
Before practice on Monday, Chip Kelly likened football practice fights to little kids throwing temper tantrums.
“Yeah, their emotions got the better part of them,” said Kelly. “Those things happen. It’s no different than sometimes little kids don’t get along very well and throw Tonka trucks at each other. I (think) the fact that it made SportsCenter must have meant it’s the world’s slowest sports day, I can tell you that. That two kids push each other in practice somewhere… It’s not a real big deal.”
Not a big deal?!? Did Chip not go to grade school? Where I grew up, if a fight was brewing, somebody yelled “FIIIIIGGGGGHHHT!!!!!!” Everyone within earshot immediately stopped what they were doing and watched. Is that not what it was like growing up in Manchester, New Hampshire, Chip? Because we were far less mature down here in the Philly suburbs.
I have to side with Chip on this. Fights aren’t a big deal to me unless they get out of hand (which is very rare) or the two guys going at it have something noteworthy about them. Nick Foles vs Cary Williams? I want to read about that. Maclin vs Williams? Not so much. But I’m probably in the minority on this…so read Jimmy’s post and enjoy his artwork.
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Now onto Sheil Kapadia and his take from Monday.
12:44 – The Eagles have a “Formations” period every practice. The offense lines up against the defense, and it’s all about motioning, shifting, etc. Football coaches at all levels will tell you success depends on execution. But so much is determined before the ball is even snapped. Just think back to Week 17 last year when the Cowboys got Dez Bryant lined up on Chung. Anyone watching live or on TV knew that one was going to be trouble.
1:15 – We see one of these every day. McCoy and Darren Sproles together in the backfield. Sproles motions to the left, Foles fakes the handoff to McCoy to the right and then delivers the ball back to Sproles on a bubble screen.
1:20 – Perhaps the play of the day. Earl Wolff breaks on a deep ball near the sideline intended for Arrelious Benn and breaks it up. Excellent range and closing speed. Wolff is the best athlete the Eagles have at safety. If the coaches can get him to play to that athleticism, he’ll be on the field. Smith, Cary Williams and others give Wolff love for his effort.
Great point about the Formations period. Getting lined up correctly is huge. The best schemes in the world are meaningless if the players aren’t in the right spot when the ball is snapped. This isn’t as easy as it was 20 years ago when football was more static. There was less substitution. There was less going on in the way of formations and motion. You were going to see the Pro Set or the I-formation. It wasn’t hard to line up. These days a lot goes on before the ball is even snapped.
I need to write something more about Sproles. He has really grown on me. The players and coaches seem to love him. Kelly seems to have plenty of plans for him. Peter King pointed out the other day that the only reason the Saints let him go was salary.
I will not be the least bit surprised if Wolff starts opposite of Malcolm Jenkins. Wolff is more athletic and more physical than Nate Allen. Wolff needs to show he’s got the mental side of things. If he does that, he can beat out Allen. I don’t care which guys wins the job. I just want good Safety play this year. I think both will end up starting games at some point.
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Maybe Chip Kelly really is the genius he’s often portrayed to be. After two days of having some of Matt Barkley’s reps handed to fourth-string quarterback G.J. Kinne, Barkley responded by having perhaps his best practice of the season. Barkley made some tremendous decisions in the scrimmages and showed some extra life with his passes.
Catch of the Day
B.J. Cunningham doesn’t get much press, but the second-year wideout turned in the day’s smoothest catch, leaping near the left sideline to reel in a fastball from Barkley despite being smothered by cornerback Davon Morgan.
Towering wideout Ifeanyi Momah, a 6-foot-7 prospect who didn’t make the team last year and didn’t sign with anyone, made two sterling catches — a fingertip grab across the middle and another against tight coverage on the left sideline. Should be a boost for Momah’s confidence.
Mosher was really impressed with Matt Barkley, which is good to read. “Best practice of the season”? I like that. Barkley can’t relax after a good practice or two. He must work his butt off if he’s going to push Sanchez for the backup job and really impress the coaches.
I’m still on the BJ Cunningham bandwagon, but I can’t say it feels like we’re going all that far. One practice at a time, I guess.
Momah sounds night and day better than last year, but he would need a phenomenal camp to push for a roster spot. The best hope for him is to play well enough to win a practice squad spot. Even that isn’t likely, but I’m certainly glad the young man is getting a taste of success after a miserable summer last year