Today was the first full Eagles practice of training camp, and we're absolutely loaded with notes, so let’s just skip any kind of intro and get right to it.
• I timed 8 plays during an Eagles hurry-up session today, from the whistle on one play to the time the offense was legally set on the next. The times, in seconds: 13.7, 12.4, 9.8, 12.7, 13.3, 15.4, 9.8, 11.7. That’s an average of 12.35 seconds, which is very impressive. They achieved 9.8 seconds twice, which is incredibly fast, especially for the first day of camp.
Think about that from the defensive coordinator’s perspective. You want to make a substitution? Forget it. Want to think of your next defensive play call, get it in to your middle linebacker and have him communicate it to the rest of the defense? Good luck. Want to scan the field, assess all the matchups, be able to point out mismatches, and adjust pre-snap if you don’t like what you see? Ain’t happening.
We don’t know what the 2013 Eagles are going to look like yet, but there’s a pretty good bet that there are some teams around the NFL, and possibly some good ones, who will be ill-equipped to handle that kind of pace.
The added side bonus of running such fast paced sessions during practice is that the Eagles’ defense has to face it as well. When they start playing teams that run a far slower pace, making pre-snap adjustments could seem like a breeze.
• There were plenty of opportunities to watch the OLBs in pass coverage today. Not that “Best OLB in coverage” is a position, but if the Eagles had a “Best OLB in coverage” competition similar to the starting QB competition, Connor Barwin would be named the winner, as in right now. That’s not to say that Barwin is a stud in coverage. There was one play in which Brent Celek ran a post pattern, and he simply ran away from Barwin, although he did play the pass well on other occasions that didn't require a straight-line sprint. At a minimum, Barwin is functional, and looks the most comfortable, by far.
Here’s my scientific ranking of the OLBs in coverage, through the first full day of practices.
Cole did have a nice play as a pass rusher today. He used a nice inside rip move to get past Jason Peters for a sack. He’s way behind Barwin in terms of pass coverage for sure, but at least he didn’t look completely lost in that regard. Graham, however… Yeesh. Not pretty.
• Under Andy Reid, whenever the Eagles ran 1-on-1 drills, as in WRs vs CBs for example, all the WRs would line up, and all the CBs would line up, and every player would have a lot of "standing around" time in between reps. Under Chip Kelly, they run 1-on-1’s simultaneously back-to-back on two different fields, meaning that there are 4 groups of 1-on-1 drills going on at once. It looked a little like this:
That would be 4x the reps for everyone.
• At the conclusion of run plays, the running back will often “finish the run” by running down the field an extra 20-30 yards, even after he’s been two-hand touched several times. A defender will often try chase the runner down, and rip the ball out. It’s rare that the defender is successful in jarring the ball loose, as the runner can typically feel someone running at them from behind. They know it’s coming, so they tighten up on the football.
Today on such an occasion, Bradley Fletcher ran down Bryce Brown from behind and popped the ball out. I don’t think Bryce felt him coming. Perhaps that is part of the problem with Brown's fumbling issues. Maybe he just doesn’t feel the contact coming, and therefore isn’t tightening up on the football when a defender is near.
• On the second day of rookie practices (Wednesday), Zach Ertz had two drops that I saw. Early in today’s practice, he had another one. He made up for it later in the day. On one deep ball down the sideline, he went up high for a ball against Kenny Phillips and Brandon Boykin, and made the play. Then later, a pass was thrown behind Ertz, and he extended as far back behind him as he could while falling to the ground to make the catch. Highlight reel quality.
Ertz was widely regarded as one of the top 2 TEs in the NFL draft this year, and a website by the name of Second Round Snaps did a detailed comparison of Ertz and the other “Top 2” TE, Tyler Eifert. They made the case that drops were an issue for Ertz in college, as he dropped passes with double the frequency of Eifert.
That is something to continue to watch as training camp progresses. Ertz is making plays in between those drops, but the drops have to stop.
• Ifeanyi Momah had a play today worth noting. He was the target of a long pass down the sideline that was thrown high, where Momah could use his 6’7 frame to go up and get it. Based on the ball placement, Brandon Hughes had no chance of defending it, and he committed a pretty clear pass interference penalty. Tall receivers can often be beneficiaries of long P.I. penalties, as long as they compete for the football.
• Russell Shepard had two diving catches today. One was on a short laser that he had to react quickly to. The other was about 20 yards down the field. Shepard was often the last guy off the field during OTAs and minicamps, taking as many reps as he could get on the Jugs machine. It may be paying off for him.
• James Casey made several catches over the middle today. My first impression of him would be to say that he looked “smooth.”
• Jason Kelce had two bad snaps today. They were both high. I don’t recall that being a problem for Jason in the past. Dallas Reynolds also had a bad snap. He rolled a grounder to Michael Vick.
• You know how Jason Avant does that little “hands to the sky” thing whenever he makes a catch in games?Sometimes he does a much more restrained version of that in training camp.
• Brad Wing hit two bombs today. One had a hang time of 5.0 seconds. Another was 5.3 seconds. However, he’s very inconsistent. He had a bunch of shankopotamusses. Or is it shankopotami? Whatever. He just hit a number of crappy punts. Donnie Jones wasn’t perfect today either, but he was more consistent. Jones’ best hangtime on the day was 5.1 seconds, by my amateur stopwatch skills.
• The punt returners were Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, and Damaris Johnson.
• I loved DeSean Jackson’s energy today. He was dancing to the loud music while waiting to shag punts, and he made a great play as a receiver. DeSean was running down the sideline, and the CB had good position. It looked like the CB had the only realistic chance to make the catch, so DeSean turned into a defensive back himself. He jumped and backhanded the ball to knock it away, but when the ball took a surprise bounce up in the air, DeSean stayed with it and made the catch as he was falling to the ground. Play of the day.