Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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Eagles practice observations: Kelly explains Kendricks; Henery outkicks Muderleg

The Eagles held their last open OTA today. Here are some practice notes:

Eagles practice observations: Kelly explains Kendricks; Henery outkicks Muderleg

Eagles kicker Alex Henery. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles kicker Alex Henery. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles held their last open OTA today. Here are some practice notes:

-- Before we get to what I saw at practice, here’s what Chip Kelly had to say about Mychal Kendricks also making the calls on defense with DeMeco Ryans. I wrote a column about the subject in today’s newspaper and wrote that it was difficult to ascertain the meaning behind the added responsibility for the inside linebacker because Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis were unavailable for comment. Kelly wasn’t scheduled to speak on Monday and Davis hasn’t spoken this spring, but I didn’t specifically ask the Eagles for comment and should have. Here’s Kelly’s answer when I asked Tuesday if there was anything behind Kendricks making calls:

“No, he did that one day so far because DeMeco wasn’t here. He mimics what DeMeco says but if you listened to the call, DeMeco is making the call. Mychal is just getting comfortable; if for some reason DeMeco is not here, gets an injury, rolls an ankle, he’s sick, Mychal can step in. That’s just part of everybody getting outside of their comfort zone and expanding their role. Instead of waiting for someone to tell him what we are going to call, he’s going to make the call himself, not a big deal.”

-- The Eagles once again worked a lot on special teams and the kickers, in particular, were busy. Alex Henery and Carey Spear took turns kicking field goals from distances in between about 40-50 yards. Henery was 6 of 6 as far as I could tell and Spear made 5 of 6, pushing one wide right. On kickoffs, Henery was stronger and more consistent, although the Eagles could have been working on directional kicks in Spear’s case. The undrafted rookie did shank one of his kicks out of bounds. Henery booted one of his kickoffs through the end zone and two were deep into the end zone.

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-- Henery recently told me that he spent more time this offseason trying to improve his strength. His kickoffs weren’t as deep as the Eagles would have probably liked late last season. I asked Kelly if Henery’s leg has looked stronger this spring. “Yeah, I think he’s gotten a little bit stronger in terms of the distance he’s kicking the ball and in terms of where we are placing the ball during kickoff drill,” Kelly said. “Excited to see where it is, especially when we get into some real live situations. The tough thing with the kickers is we can’t rush them, we can’t do anything. A lot of times right now it’s like they are going out on the driving range and hitting balls. It’s not real live action for them.”

I wrote this last week and will again: I have a hard time seeing Henery not winning the job this season, unless they bring in more competition.

-- There were returners at the other end of those kickoffs and the Eagles practiced with seven – Darren Sproles, Josh Huff, Jordan Matthews, Damaris Johnson, Brandon Boykin, Nolan Carroll and Jeremy Maclin. Sproles has the most experience returning kicks, but the he may be limited to returning punts this season. My co-pilot on the beat, Zach Berman, thinks that Huff will win that job and there’s probably a good chance of that happening. I won’t make any predictions, though, until I see him in the preseason. With so much depth at the skill positions, having Huff return kicks may be the best way to get him on the field every game.

-- The quarterback “depth chart” – for lack of a better term – was the same as it’s been during the three previous open sessions. Nick Foles ran with the first team, Mark Sanchez with the second team and Matt Barkley with the third team with a sprinkling of G.J. Kinne thrown in. Kelly was asked about the decision to have Sanchez with the twos ahead of Barkley.  

“There is no decision,” Kelly said. “We’re just getting reps.”

It was then pointed out to Kelly that Sanchez had been getting more reps – at least during the open practices – because Barkley and Kinne have been splitting third-team snaps.

“It’s not less. They chart it every day. Our ones and twos and threes are getting the same amount of reps,” Kelly said. “G.J. sometimes takes the ones reps when it comes back. If anybody is trying to make anything of who’s playing what or how many reps, all we’re trying to do is see if we can get three reps as fast as we can go, get it on tape and coach off of that. So there’s nothing to read into who’s where or what, whatever, because we’re not playing a game until September.”

For the record, Foles took 35 total reps during 7 on7s and 11 on 11s, Sanchez took 28, Barkley 26 and Kinne eight on Tuesday. The day before, the snaps between Barkley and Kinne seemed more evenly split.

-- As for highlights, the best pass-catch of the day might have been when Foles rolled to his right and fired a 40-yardish bomb to Maclin with cornerback Cary Williams singled up on the receiver. Foles also completed a perfectly-tossed BB to Arrelious Benn on a 20-yard out. The Sanchez-Matthews love fest continued. At one point, the quarterback-receiver combo hooked up for five straight passes.

Despite what some of us in the media have thought of Sanchez so far, Kelly said that he’s been impressed. “He’s probably ahead of where Nick and Michael [Vick] were last year because he has Nick to rely on,” Kelly said. … “I’ve been real impressed with his football background. I think he’s still working his shoulder through. I wouldn’t believe he’s 100 percent now. But he hasn’t missed any reps.”

-- I spent an inordinate amount of time watching the tight end blocking drills, probably more than any human needs. All six of the tight ends give tremendous effort on even the most mundane of drills. Brent Celek has become one of the top blocking tight ends in the league. James Casey never gives less than 100 percent. And Zach Ertz seems to be devoting himself to improving in the discipline. Undrafted rookie Blake Annen (6-foot-4, 247 pounds) is build like a ton of bricks. He didn’t catch many passes (16) during his career at Cincinnati, but was regarded as an excellent blocker. Annen has good speed but you can see that he needs to work on his receiving. He dropped a pass from Barkley on Tuesday. The Eagles are stocked at tight end, but they may want to stash Annen on the practice squad this season – if they can.  

-- A few quick hits: Nate Allen left practice early and was replaced by Earl Wolff on the first team. Wolff told reporters after practice that Allen left with an illness. … Riley Cooper stood and watched most of team drills. He didn’t appear to be seriously injured. Jeff Maehl, who missed practice last week, took a number of reps with the first team for the second day in a row and pulled in a handful of grabs. … Kelly had this to say about reserve running back Chris Polk, who had shoulder surgery a few months ago: “He’s really had a great offseason. Worked extremely hard rehabbing his shoulder.”

 

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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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