Practice notes: Decisions on the D-line

Juqua Parker is learning under the tutelage of Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

During the "individual" portion of practice, Jim Washburn ran through a drill with his 11 defensive linemen.

Guys like Marlon Favorite and Cedric Thornton who don't have much of a shot to make the team.

Others like Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Phillip Hunt who are fighting to be one of the final 53.

Veterans such as Trent Cole and Darryl Tapp. And newcomers Cullen Jenkins and Jason Babin.

Two offseasons ago, the Eagles knew they needed to revamp their defensive line. They traded up to draft Brandon Graham in the first round and later spent a third-rounder on Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. The Birds also traded for Darryl Tapp. They didn't see a right cornerback option they liked and decided to take their chances with Ellis Hobbs, Dimitri Patterson and company, banking on the concept that they'd be able to pressure the quarterback.

We all know how that turned out.

This past offseason, while the Eagles made massive upgrades at cornerback with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha, the defensive line has still been a focus. Would Andy Reid have named Juan Castillo his new defensive coordinator without first adding Washburn? I'm not so sure.

From the first day of camp, Washburn has been a must-see attraction here. Today, during one of the final practices at Lehigh, he gave Jason Babin an earful as he ran over to the sideline.

Babin's heard it before. He probably wouldn't be here without Washburn, the guy who turned his career from disappointing to promising in one season in Tennessee. He took his medicine, received a fist-pound from Hunt and kneeled on the sideline.

Babin's assured a roster spot. So are Cole, Jenkins and Tapp. Juqua Parker, Anthony Hargrove and Antonio Dixon likely are in that mix too.

But there will be decisions to be made. We don't know Mike Patterson's status, and Trevor Laws has missed time with an injury.

Derek Landri started 16 games last year in Carolina and has been very impressive - both in Thursday night's preseason game and in practice.

The Eagles might have made a mistake with Te'o-Nesheim in last year's draft, but will they admit it when cuts are made? Or do they see potential now that he's working under Washburn?

And Hunt shows flashes, but is he ready to contribute this season?

Towards the end of practice, during the special-teams portion, Howie Roseman huddled with Washburn behind the end zone. There will be a lot of discussion in the coming weeks as the Birds decide who stays and who goes on a defensive line that should provide a massive upgrade from last year's unit.


* I'm not sure there's a corner in the league that could cover DeSean Jackson in the one-on-one wide receiver/defensive back drills. On one play, Asante Samuel (not known for his physical nature), tried to press Jackson. He got around it and raced to the end zone where a pass from Michael Vick was there waiting for him. After practice, Marty Mornhinweg sounded like the happiest man here to have Jackson back in camp, saying No. 10 is a little different and has a uniquely high level of talent. No word yet on whether Drew Rosenhaus has obtained a copy of the sound byte for use in negotiations.

* Riley Cooper made an outstanding catch in the corner of the end zone with Curtis Marsh draped all over him. It was a fade, and Marsh looked like he was facing Cooper when the ball arrived. After the play, defensive backs coach Johnnie Lynn showed Marsh how to get both hands in between Cooper's to break up the play. Lynn hasn't received much pub here, but he definitely seems like he's getting through to the secondary guys. Oh, by the way, nice throw by Vince Young on the play.

* During linemen one-on-ones, Howard Mudd had another message for Danny Watkins. GET YOUR HANDS INSIDE! Watkins had been blocking Hargrove, and his hands moved to the back of the defensive lineman's jersey as he tried to contain him. Mudd explained that such a move would draw a penalty in a game, although he did so in a way that made me think this wasn't the first time he was trying to get the message across to the rookie. This type of instruction is commonplace at Lehigh, especially between Mudd and Watkins, and based on Watkins' body language, he appreciates every minute of it.

* At one point, during 11-on-11s, Castillo noticed something he didn't like from veteran safety Jarrad Page. During this part of practice, the coaches do their best to simulate a real game, with limited time in between reps. But Castillo didn't care. He ran onto the field with his headset on and chewed Page out, telling him he should have run with the offensive player. Castillo didn't care that the play was over. He made Page, a five-year veteran, run anyway, long after the whistle. Reid told his defensive coordinator to let the guys play (and presumably chew them out later), but it was too late.

* Johnnie Lee Higgins was the main guy back to return punts at the end of practice. Sinorice Moss and Rod Harper were also back there. I asked Bobby April about Higgins, and he said he's looking forward to seeing him more in the preseason. Higgins is squarely on the bubble, as is Chad Hall.


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