Thursday was the first opportunity to observe an Eagles full team practice this offseason, and so, back again in 2014... Practice notes!
• Among the obvious things that stood out today was that Mark Sanchez was taking reps with the 2nd team, while Matt Barkley will start out his 2014 campaign running with the 3's. Last year, during the competition for the starting QB job between Nick Foles and Michael Vick, the two QBs would alternate days taking first team reps. That does not appear to be the case with Sanchez and Barkley, as Barkley explained after practice that he also took reps with the 3's on Tuesday and Wednesday.
• The Eagles have some new advancements in their practice arsenal. To begin, the flyswatter guys who act as defensive linemen trying to bat down passes at the line of scrimmage have been upgraded. It's difficult to explain how, exactly. They just look nicer and they're going to result in two added wins this season, OK?
The Eagles also have a new obstacle for the running backs. They have implemented 5 foot high upside-down U-shaped thingamajiggers that I believe are designed to train the running backs to get low as they burst through the line. Photographs were not permitted during that portion of the practice, but they look like this:
• Here's an easy observation -- Darren Sproles is little. In fact, he doesn't even need to duck to get under the red thingamajiggers:
• Of the Eagles returning from ACL tears, Jason Phillips looks like he is the furthest away from a full recovery. On the other hand, Arrelious Benn had a really good day. On one play he leaped up high for a pass, snagged it, and then looked quick darting up the field. Later he made a tough sliding catch. His play today was encouraging. I didn't see Jeremy Maclin tested all that hard today, but will continue to keep an eye on him.
• Last year, Chip Kelly introduced the idea of having 5 QBs throw simultaneously to receivers to maximize the reps the receivers got in practice. Here's what that looked like:
However, this year, the Eagles currently only have 4 QBs. So who filled in? That's right -- Chip Kelly himself.
Again, this happened during a portion of practice in which photography was not allowed, but here's my Chip Kelly scouting report: Throws a nice spiral, accuracy is OK, no zip on his throws at all, looks like he'd be concussed instantly if he took a hard hit, only threw checkdowns. NFL comparison -- Kevin Kolb. (h/t to @zoowithroy for the Kolb comp).
• Maclin, Riley Cooper, Damaris Johnson, and Sproles all took some reps fielding punts today, while Brandon Boykin, Jaylen Watkins, Curtis Marsh worked as gunners. Boykin might be the best gunner in the game. His work along with Donnie Jones downing punts inside the 10 yard line was phenomenal last season, and when you think about it, what Boykin does is a very difficult thing. He has to beat the jam off the line at the snap, sprint down the field, locate the punt, know where he is on the field, and keep the ball out of the end zone. And he makes it look easy. Watkins looked good at it too today, for that matter.
• Cooper had at least two drops today, as well as an "alligator body." I say "alligator body" because he not only kept his arms in as he was going after a ball thrown over the middle, but he managed to curl into the fetal position mid-sprint. I think that's OK for OTAs, frankly.
• Nolan Carroll had a nice day. He had a good diving PBU (pass break-up). It was odd seeing an Eagles wearing 23 (Patrick Chung's former number) do something positive. Carroll could be legitimate competition for a starting spot.
• Nick Foles is clearly the best QB on the team. That's evident after one practice. Sanchez struggled some today, and Barkley simply can't throw like Foles. On one play, Foles was on a rollout to his right, and he threw a semi-deep ball to Cooper that he dropped in the bucket between several defenders on the run. Gorgeous throw.