Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pressuring Kolb, Sims and McGlynn

How will Kevin Kolb handle blitzes from opposing defenses once the season starts? And did linebacker Ernie Sims cross the line with a hit he put on running back Eldra Buckley today?

Pressuring Kolb, Sims and McGlynn

Kevin Kolb will have to prove he can perform under pressure this season. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Kevin Kolb will have to prove he can perform under pressure this season. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

Trent Cole and Brandon Graham backed off the line of scrimmage.

The two defensive ends in the Eagles' first-team nickel package took their places behind the defensive tackles, where the linebackers are usually positioned.

Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims moved up to the line, taking their place on either edge.

The scene played out during the installation portion of practice where there are no plays, but rather coaches and players working together on scheme. A chance for guys to make sure they know exactly where to be when different plays are called.

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In the last two days, I've seen a notable difference in the Eagles' defense, with Sean McDermott showing different looks.

And that's where Kevin Kolb comes in.

The Eagles' first-year starting quarterback has the job of identifying those different looks, making quick decisions and avoiding interceptions.

So far, Kolb has had his ups and downs. One of the biggest unknowns with him in his first season is how Kolb will perform when blitzed or pressured. To simplify it, the process boils down to two factors: knowing where he should go with the ball, and then getting it there.

For the past decade, Donovan McNabb was able to take a different approach. He was able to avoid pressure, fight off defensive linemen and buy time with his legs. That's not going to be how Kolb attacks pressure. Don't get me wrong. He's shown in camp he's more athletic than I thought. But for him, the key will be quick decisions, execution and avoiding turnovers.

I'm not sure we'll be able go judge this in the preseason when defenses often show vanilla looks. But it will certainly be a key early in the season. And the Eagles are doing their best to simulate the different looks Kolb could see.

Other practice observations:

* Eldra Buckley saw a lot of reps with the first unit today as LeSean McCoy left practice early because of the heat. On one play, Buckley turned around and jumped to catch a screen-type pass when linebacker Ernie Sims leveled him in the air. It's not the first time this has happened with Sims going after an offensive player during the non-hitting portion of practice. It's one thing to be physical and play with an attitude, but at some point, when a guy is defenseless and no one else is hitting, it crosses the line. Andy Reid did not seem to mind the hit, saying afterwards that Sims was going for the ball too. And Philly.com video intern Danny tried to convince me that Sims actually held up. I'm not so sure though. Would Reid have had the same reaction if Sims went after McCoy or another starter? Tough to say.

* One good thing came out of Sims' hit on Buckley though. It fired up the offense. I caught both Mike McGlynn and Jason Peters stick up for the running back and go over to where the defensive players were standing to let them know they had an issue with the hit. The defensive players did not make any apologies, and I don't think anyone expected them to. Sims said afterwards that he took a shot, and it was just football. He conceded that he expected the offense to stand up for its player, and he expected the defense to do the same.

As for Buckley, he laid on his back for a second, got up and prepared for the next rep. Tough to keep that guy down. He seems to be involvded in a big hit every day.

I like what I've seen from Sims in camp. Fast, physical, seems to have a passion for the game. I just think he crossed the line this morning.

* The Eagles' first-team nickel D-line has not changed the last few days: Graham and Cole at ends, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Trevor Laws inside. I talked to Sean McDermott yesterday about which linemen had the ability to drop back into coverage. Te'o-Nesheim was the first guy he mentioned. We saw him do that on one play today where Graham stood up at the line and Nate Allen and Sims blitzed off the left edge. Kolb beat the pressure with a screen to McCoy.

* A lot of work with the defensive backs blitzing today. Joselio Hanson brought pressure from the slot, which we saw a lot of last year. And Dimitri Patterson got to Michael Vick from the blind side when the second units were on the field.

* Speaking of Vick, he was intercepted by Quintin Demps in the 2-minute offense, but otherwise, I've seen improvement. He's airmailing fewer throws on the intermediate routes. And pretty much every day, he gets worked in with the first unit for a play or two.

* Rookie Keenan Clayton had been practicing with the second-team nickel, but missed a few days due to personal reasons. He returned this morning, but it was still Tracy White teaming up with Omar Gaither in the second-team nickel.

* Bradley is really having some good moments out here. It's tough to imagine that middle linebacker position not being significantly better with him returning. He made some nice plays in coverage and in the run game today. During one drill that matches up the linebackers with running backs and tight ends in coverage, Bradley shoved Leonard Weaver to the ground as he made the catch, but then immediately helped him up. They might be the two most-liked guys on the team. Just a guess based on player interactions on the field.

* During the same drill, Sims got a handful of Brent Celek's jersey, but there are, of course, no officials. The next time the two went at it, Celek threw a shoulder into Sims, created some space for himself and made the catch.

* Don't like what I've seen from McCoy as a receiver the past couple of days. Good job of getting open. Linebackers definitely can't keep up with him, but he's dropping too many balls. Noticed drops by Clay Harbor and Chad Hall also.

* Matt Millen and Charley Casserly (former NFL executive and current CBS analyst) were both at practice today.

* Dimitri Patterson did a good job of sticking with DeSean Jackson for about 8 yards during one-on-one WR vs. CB drills. Then Jackson left him in the dust. That's what happens a lot of times. Perfect throw from Kolb too.

* I'm not sure the Eagles have a cornerback who can stop Riley Cooper from getting inside position on a slant.

* Unlike yesterday, Jeremy Maclin participated fully in the morning practice. And he looked great. Did a good job of getting open and making plays. No signs of the hyperextended knee or bone bruise or whatever it was affecting him.

* Moise Fokou ran over Charles Scott, who attempted to pick him up as a blocker during one play. Scott ended up on his back, and Fokou's defensive teammates loved it.

* Max Jean-Gilles is probably the Eagles' most enthusiastic offensive lineman. Very demonstrative after the offense picks up a first down or has a big play.


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Sheil Kapadia Philly.com
About this blog
Sheil Kapadia is in his fifth season writing about the Eagles and the NFL for philly.com. His earliest memories as a sports fan include several trips to Veterans Stadium with his Dad. He's not a beat writer or an Insider, but is here to discuss the NFL 365 days a year. E-mail him at skapadia@philly.com or by clicking here

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