Morning practice: Back to basics

It’s very much back to basics at Eagles training camp.

I spent a long time this morning watching Howard Mudd teach his linemen, and it was clear they were breaking things down to very fundamental levels.

For a long portion Mudd had his men working on shuffling side to side – not just in a small area, as they did last year, but over relatively large distances. One lineman rush, work right, then left, give a spin move. The blocker would try to stay low and shuffle his feet, staying in front like a guard in basketball trying to prevent a drive. (Mudd talked to Jeff in May about his affinity for translating basketball technique to offensive line play).

Later the linemen were practicing getting out of their stances and shooting their hands out – they’d line up, and the blocker would try to make sure his hands slapped the palms of the “rusher” – like a double high-five.

Mike McGlynn told me the line’s technique might not change much, but the teaching is different.

I spent less time watching Jim Washburn, but it appeared clear there he, too, was also working on building blocks, talking to Trent Cole, for example, about where to keep his eyes as he races toward the quarterback. (Juan Castillo has made clear, and did again today, that the defensive line will be attacking nearly every play, not just in passing situations. We wrote about the new look D today).

Later the defense was divided into four stations – one practicing stepping over pads and into a tackle, one for stripping ball-carriers from behind, one for getting off blocks (a major problem last season) and one where the defenders had to push off of a large rolling medicine ball – simulating a cut block, I believe – and step into a tackle. Basics. With new coaches all around on defense and no mini-camp, we’ll see a lot of this kind of work early.

-- There was a lot of attention paid to Casey Matthews working with the first team at middle linebacker. As we reported yesterday, Jamar Chaney, the only experienced middle linebacker on the team, is working at strong side and Moise Fokou is at weak side (Chaney goes to WIL in nickel). Castillo praised Matthews’ presence in the huddle, even as a rookie.

While Trent Cole and Asante Samuel are the top playmakers, “In the huddle, he’s the guy,” Castillo said.

“He’s here right now, so he’s our MIKE linebacker and he’s done a good job,” Castillo said. Looking at that comment, it doesn’t take much of a leap to read into that someone else might be here soon, as well. It would be difficult for a rookie middle linebacker to start from day one, especially without the benefits of mini-camp.

-- Nate Allen said he feels good – better than expected -- but his knee was sore after practice. He said he’s not doing drills involving cutting or planting.

-- DeSean Jackson still isn't here. Jeremy Maclin and Asante Samuel were also absent - they were excused, though, for "personal reasons," according to the Eagles.

-- In drills, AQ Shipley was starting at right guard (while we wait for the Danny Watkins signing). He's never played guard before.

-- Victor Abiamiri was running with a hitch in his step. He's trying to come back from microfracture in February 2010.

-- The Eagles signed WR Keith Carlos (from Purdue) and RB Derrick Locke (Kentucky). Both were undrafted free agents.

-- Jason Peters and Trevard Lindley were each back after leaving practice early yesterday.