Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Eagles practice observations: Marcus Smith moving up depth chart; Henery winning; Wolff shines

The Eagles had their first padded practice of training camp today and it was held at Lincoln Financial Field before slightly less than 15,000 fans, according to the team. There wasn’t much hitting, though. The linemen were a little more aggressive than usual and Malcolm Jenkins tossed Brent Celek to the turf once, but for the most part there wasn’t much popping of the pads. Here’s the run down:

Eagles practice observations: Marcus Smith moving up depth chart; Henery winning; Wolff shines

The Eagles´ Marcus Smith. (Matt Rourke/AP)
The Eagles' Marcus Smith. (Matt Rourke/AP)

The Eagles had their first padded practice of training camp today and it was held at Lincoln Financial Field before slightly less than 15,000 fans, according to the team. There wasn’t much hitting, though. The linemen were a little more aggressive than usual and Malcolm Jenkins tossed Brent Celek to the turf once, but for the most part there wasn’t much popping of the pads. Here’s the run down:

-- 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.

-- There were four players that didn’t suit up and practice: nose tackle Bennie Logan, wide receiver Riley Cooper, running back Chris Polk and center Julian Vandervelde. Logan said he had a minor hamstring injury on Sunday. Cooper gave me only a thumbs up as he ran off after practice and I asked about his injury, but he did seem to get banged up a few plays on Saturday. Polk was wearing a sleeve on his left leg and was limping. Damion Square has been taking most of the reps with the first team in Logan’s absence. Jeff Maehl was at Cooper’s spot for most of practice today.

-- I wrote about Matt Barkley and how it’s appeared that the ball has been coming out of his hand with more velocity in camp than in the spring in yesterday’s notes, so I felt compelled to ask Chip Kelly if he thought that was true.

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“I don’t agree with that,” Kelly said. “I think Matt threw the ball well last spring.”

Barkley looked inconsistent to me during the spring practices I witnessed, but I did qualify my comments to say that I don’t know if all the missed passes were his fault. I didn’t get to watch all of OTAs either. Kelly, obviously, has greater knowledge, although NFL coaches have been known to praise a player that may be struggling.

 “I think people make misconceptions walking into practice where they say, … ‘The quarterback, boy, he threw a ball when nobody was there,’” Kelly said. “So it’s always the quarterback’s fault.’ Well, a lot of times it’s the receiver’s fault. They are not where they are supposed to be.”

Barkley may be throwing against third team defenses, but he’s also throwing to third team receivers. I’d like to see more of him with the second team, but he continues to split third team reps with G.J. Kinne.

-- Alex Henery continues to build a lead in the kicker competition with Carey Spear. He connected on 5 of 5 (33 yards, 42, 48, 44, 50) field goal attempts. Spear made 4 of 5, but was wide right on the 48-yard try. Henery was consistently longer on his kickoffs, driving most deep into the end zone or out of it. He was aided by a breeze, though, and, of course, warm conditions.

-- Earl Wolff had a nice practice. I think it’s going to be difficult for him to unseat Nate Allen as the safety opposite Jenkins (I wrote about this subject on Sunday), but he displayed some versatility today, exploding into the backfield to “stop” Darren Sproles and breaking up a deep pass by Mark Sanchez on the next play.

-- Ifeanyi Momah, every Eagles fan’s favorite long shot receiver, has improved. He’s cut down significantly on the drops that plagued him last camp and has been getting in and out his breaks with more ease. He caught a tough, back shoulder toss from Kinne at one point and pulled in a nearly-out-of-reach pass with his fingertips with Jenkins covering.

-- The business-like Jordan Matthews, who I will write exclusively about for tomorrow’s newspaper, made the observation after practice that he had never seen someone as comfortable in his own skin on the football field as LeSean McCoy. The running back has caught something like 78 passes (OK, I’m exaggerating) in three practices so far. After he beat Mychal Kendricks on a wheel route today, he ran all the way into the end zone, held the ball up in the air, raised his hands for the fans, asking for applause, and they answered with cheers.

-- I started yesterday’s notes with the fight between McCoy and Trent Cole. I’ll end with today’s fracas between Jeremy Maclin and Bradley Fletcher. Both threw haymakers (why, I don’t know, since they were wearing helmets), but the scrum was broken up quickly. Fletcher made an aggressive play on a low Nick Foles pass to Maclin a few plays prior. He could have just let the ball bounce rather than make contact with Maclin and break up the pass, but he didn’t and Maclin must have been bothered by it because he seemed to go after Fletcher first.

-- 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.


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

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