Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Washburn goes to work

Jim Washburn took his place among the 12 defensive linemen that are at training camp in Lehigh.

Washburn goes to work

Jim Washburn took his place among the 12 defensive linemen that are at training camp in Lehigh.

One player stood to his left, and another to his right. Washburn lined up in the middle, holding a string that had a football attached to it.

On his count, Washburn would yank the ball from the ground, simulating the snap. Then he would watch his linemen's technique. Did they stagger their feet? Did they attack? How were their hands? A good 30 seconds or so was spent on how their thumbs should be positioned.

Among his students were plenty of veterans: Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp, Juqua Parker and others. Guys who have been in the league but are now being taught how to do things differently.

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And then there were the younger guys: Ricky Sapp, Phillip Hunt, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. Guys with little or no NFL experience, hoping to be Washburn's next successful project.

Be a man. Don't be a sissy. Do what I tell you to do. Throw him to the ground.

Those are the kinds of things Washburn preaches (although he uses more colorful language). He challenges guys. Some are so new to the team that they don't even have names on their jerseys yet. But he also challenges proven veterans, who have built reputations in the league over the years.

The horn sounds and Washburn moves to another practice field, his linemen joining him. We've heard quite a bit about how he is going to help the pass rush, but now it's time to focus on the run.

The drill is easy to understand. When the ball is snapped, get two hands in the chest of the offensive lineman, throw him to the ground, and attack the ballcarrier.

But, as Washburn explains, only throw him with one hand. If you try to throw with two, you're going to pull the offensive lineman right into you. It takes Antonio Dixon, probably the team's best lineman against the run, a couple tries to do it the way Washburn wants. He's not alone. Victor Abiamiri and others get an earful also.

This is the way it's going to be. And really, with no OTAs or mini-camps, this is the way it has to be.

I remember Marty Mornhinweg explaining once that players in the NFL want to get better. They want the instruction. They want to play for coaches who they think can help them. And that appears to be the case here.

"He definitely knows what he's talking about," said Tapp, who was first introduced to Washburn when he played in the Senior Bowl. "Everybody respects him. He had a proven track record so you can't do nothing but listen to him and get better."

What's so different about him?

"Passion, a lot of passion flowing out of that man," Tapp said. "He really cares about what he does, really cares about us as players and just trying to get us better each and every day."

MORE NOTES FROM TODAY

* Speaking of passion, it's evident with Howard Mudd too. At one point, an Eagles staff member asked him if he wanted a ride to an adjacent practice field. Mudd declined and walked over. The 69-year-old, who has had nine knee surgeries, did not move quickly. But he did move. And it was clear why one year of retirement was plenty for him.

* I heard a coach call Te'o-Nesheim Brandon (as in Graham, presumably) by accident. I guess that's what happens during a lockout-shortened offseason when everyone is just starting to get to know each other.

* Jamar Chaney lined up at strong-side linebacker today, with Casey Matthews in the middle and Moise Fokou on the weak side. We'll see if the Eagles add a veteran, but Juan Castillo had nothing but glowing things to say about Matthews, talking about how he commanded the huddle, made the calls, was a leader, and so on.

* The first-team defensive line, as expected, was Cole, Dixon, Mike Patterson and Parker. The first-team safeties were Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen.

* If you missed it earlier, I wrote about whether Vince Young is a good fit as the Eagles' backup quarterback. And I'll keep the all-day chat open with updates, links, etc. Remember, signings can become official at 6 p.m.


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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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