Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Eagles-Patriots practice observations: Brady held in check; Matthews returns; Jenkins shines

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Eagles and Patriots scrimmaged for the first of three days. It was a relatively quiet practice, Cary Williams didn’t get in any fights, but there was enough to fill up the notebook. Let’s roll the tape:

Eagles-Patriots practice observations: Brady held in check; Matthews returns; Jenkins shines

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Eagles and Patriots scrimmaged for the first of three days. It was a relatively quiet practice, Cary Williams didn’t get in any fights, but there was enough to fill up the notebook. Let’s roll the tape:

-- Before 7 on 7 and 11 on 11 drills, the Eagles and Patriots had WR-DB four one-on-one drills running at the same time on two fields at both ends. Choosing which one to watch made my head spin, but here’s a quick rundown on some of the highlights:

1. The first matchup pitted Williams vs. Pats receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. It wasn’t quite the rematch we were hoping for – Williams got into a fight with Aaron Dobson last year – but it sufficed. Thompkins ran a short crosser, Williams grabbed his jersey, but couldn’t stop the completion. Later, during team drills, Tom Brady hit Thompkins deep down the sideline over Williams’ outstretched hand. Malcolm Jenkins was late with help over the top, but gave Thompkins a whack to the ground.

2. Williams rebounded against receiver Brian Tyms, breaking up the pass with a slap. Fans razzed Williams throughout the practice because of his recent comments about hating the Patriots. Tyms tried to go deep on Brandon Boykin and had an early lead, but the Eagles cornerback caught up. The ball was too deep.

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3. Bradley Fletcher had trouble with the diminutive Julian Edelman. The slot receiver turned the cornerback around and was wide open for a Brady toss. Edelman faced someone closer to his size – Boykin – a few plays later and beat the slot corner for a long gain. Boykin barely missed knocking the ball away with a leap. The catch drew loud applause. Boykin had a pass break up earlier (I missed who the intended receiver was) and he gave a violent fist pump.

4. Ifeanyi Momah shined in one-on-ones on another field. He beat cornerback Alfonzo Dennard down the sideline and pulled in a high throw. Later, he scored a touchdown when he used his 6-foot-7 frame to ward off a defensive back.

5. Josh Huff continues to have difficulty bringing in passes that aren’t perfect, but certainly catch-able. This time, a Mark Sanchez fade glanced off his fingertips. Sanchez hit Jeremy Maclin for a 25-yard-or-so TD. Maclin and Darrelle Revis faced off one in one on ones, but Nick Foles threw short.

6. Jordan Matthews rebounded from his substandard preseason debut. During this drill, he hung on to a deep toss from Matt Barkley in the end zone.

-- During 7 on 7s, Brady tried to go to Thompkins deep on a corner, but Jaylen Watkins broke up the pass. Foles found Brent Celek alone in the end zone on one play. Sanchez connected with Arrelious Benn for a touchdown on a slant. The third team units didn’t participate, so there weren’t any reps for Barkley, G.J. Kinne, etc.

-- Team drills took up most of practice, as they should. Both teams worked on running plays through the first portion. LeSean McCoy found a crease and raced for about ten yards on his first carry, but was caught near the line on his next two totes. With Matthew Tucker limited because of a hamstring injury, Henry Josey took a lot of the second team reps at running back. He had limited success against the Pats’ second team defense.

The Eagles first team did a fine job against Pats running back Stevan Ridley. Brandon Bair took some first team reps at defensive end in place of Fletcher Cox, who was quiet. Mychal Kendricks popped running back James White at one point, even though it was just a “thud” (no tackling) period. Vinny Curry shot into the backfield twice and had what would have been tackles for loss. He looked dominant again.

Here are some of the highlights once the teams starting passing more:

1. I’m writing about the Eagles defense -- in particular, the secondary performing much better in this year’s scrimmage as opposed to last year -- for tomorrow’s paper. But it should be noted first and foremost that Bill Davis’ unit kept Brady in check. He hit some throws – he’s Tom Brady, after all – but it was almost never easy and he also missed his share. Jenkins looked excellent. Boykin was strong, too, once getting a little chippy with receiver Danny Amendola.

2. Maclin and Revis were matched up for most of the afternoon. I think I counted three flags thrown on Revis for holding. I wasn’t sure while watching from the stands, but when I asked Maclin after practice who those penalties were on, he said, “The defense.” Nice. Maclin beat Revis deep for a touchdown on one play, but Revis gave little effort once Maclin got behind him. Foles threw a jump ball to Maclin in the corner of the end zone, but Revis had tight coverage and Maclin, although he got his hands on the ball, couldn’t make a tough catch.

3. I thought Foles looked decent, not great, pretty much the same as he’s looked through most of training camp. He was never intercepted. He missed a wide open Zach Ertz at one point. Foles went back to the tight end a play later, but Ertz dropped the ball. Foles tried McCoy on wheel routes on successive plays. The first was overthrown. The second was on the money. Foles had trouble finding receivers on a few drops and likely would have been sacked or had to throw the ball away

4. Bennie Logan was back participating in team drills. The nose tackle has missed most of camp with a hamstring injury. Damion Square also took some first team reps at nose. Cedric Thornton batted a Brady throw at the line. Kendricks was beat in coverage by fullback James Devlin for a touchdown.

5. The Sanchez-Matthews bromance was back in full force. They hooked up on several occasions.

6. Barkley finally got some team reps on another field. He and center Josh Andrews fumbled the snap on one play. Wide receiver Damaris Johnson took some handoffs out of the backfield and found holes. Kinne threw behind Trey Burton, but the rookie tight end made a nice catch.

-- During kickoff drills, the Patriots’ Stephen Gostkowski, an all pro, drilled each of his kicks through the end zone. Alex Henery’s kicks were, on average, shorter, but he did manage to hit a few through the end zone. Carey Spear’s were shorter. During field goal drills, Spear hooked a 40-yard-or-so attempt wide left.

-- Riley Cooper (foot) was in pads, but he didn't participate in anything other than individual drills. Jeff Maehl (foot) was back and started on offense.

 

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