For the third consecutive practice, a player in the Eagles' defensive secondary flashed. Today it was free agent acquisition Nolan Carroll, who had an impressive diving interception. Before we commence with the Carroll love, there are two important disclaimers to note:
1) Like we noted previously with Jordan Matthews, Nolan Carroll is running with the second team. Therefore, he's not seeing the same level of competition as Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher, who are typically facing the first team offense.
2) While Carroll has had an inordinate number of pass breakups, he did not have an interception until today. Some of those chances have been outright drops, like today, when he had a chance to pick off two additional passes. Pass breakups are good, but it would be preferable, obviously, if Carroll could convert those opportunities into turnovers.
Still, what Carroll has shown so far has been very impressive. In OTAs and minicamp, when defensive backs are not allowed to jam receivers, the advantage is blatantly slanted toward the offense. Even then, Carroll did a great job breaking up passes. Now that the pads are on and the DBs are allowed to get their hands on receivers, the secondary has looked better to an obvious degree. The defense as a group has in turn also gotten their hands on a lot of footballs, but none more than Carroll. He has been a pass breakup machine.
At the end of the 2014 season, Bradley Fletcher will be a free agent. In 2015, Cary Williams will count for over $8 million against the salary cap. Carroll is a legitimate candidate to start this season, but even if he can't crack the starting lineup, he'll serve as very good depth, and could provide the Eagles with another option at CB in 2015 if Fletcher's or Williams' long term standing with the team are in doubt.
• Big day for Emmanuel Acho, who has become somewhat of a forgotten man after many thought he would make the final 53 roster last season. With the offense running plays from their own two yard line, Acho made a pair of big plays. On the first one, he darted through the line and if the Eagles were tackling in practice, Acho would have had himself a safety. On another play, Acho was once again able to get immediate penetration and blow up a play before GJ Kinne could hand off to the running back. Kinne then had to scramble just to get out of the end zone.
• Early in June I did a film breakdown of Allen Barbre in his game against the Packers last year, which is really the only game we have to go on for Barbre as a player. After watching Barbre in that game, I came to the conclusion that he would be fine (and perhaps even a temporary upgrade from Lane Johnson) in pass protection, however, he would not be as effective as Johnson in the run game. I felt that Barbre was particularly effective against speed rushers, since he, like Johnson, is blessed with very good athleticism.
Today I had a chance to watch Barbre in one-on-one drills, and he did not disappoint. In the reps that I saw of him, Barbre was able to shut down anyone he faced in pass protection.
• Watching Jason Kelce do agility drills, it's amazing how athletic he is for an offensive lineman. I hope to get video of that in the next few days, but it's extremely impressive. He's better at those drills than most of the running backs.
• Nick Foles is so calm in the pocket at times. There was a play in which the offense was backed up on their own two yard line, where they faked a run to the right, and Foles rolled left. Fletcher Cox had gotten free and was bearing down in Foles' face. Foles stopped, calmly located an open receiver, and got the ball out quickly. To note, there is obviously no hitting the QB in practice, but I think a number of other QBs would have panicked in that situation and simply thrown the ball up for grabs rather than risk being sacked in the end zone for a safety. Foles didn't have to fear being hit, but his poise was nevertheless impressive.
• Darren Sproles is 5'6, and therefore you wouldn't think of him as being an effective running back in pass protection. He stoned Najee Goode today, who had gotten free into the backfield.
• The referees were in attendance today, and during one-on-one WR vs. DB drills, it felt like there a flag on every other rep. Pass interference, both on the defense and the offense, will be a point of emphasis this season for officials, and it showed today.
Who won the day?
July 26: Mark Sanchez
July 27: Eagles running backs
July 28: Jordan Matthews
July 30: Malcolm Jenkins
July 31: Cary Williams
August 1: Nolan Carroll
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