Sunday, November 23, 2014
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Eagles-Patriots practice observations: Ertz dominates, Barkley needs more reps, Concern about Cox?

Despite varying levels of rain – drizzling, steady, hard, driving, downpour – the Eagles and Patriots held the second of three planned joint practices today. They cut the session 30 or so minutes short, but there was still plenty of (slippery) action. Let’s get to it:

Eagles-Patriots practice observations: Ertz dominates, Barkley needs more reps, Concern about Cox?

Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. (Matt Rourke/AP)
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Despite varying levels of rain – drizzling, steady, hard, driving, downpour – the Eagles and Patriots held the second of three planned joint practices today. They cut the session 30 or so minutes short, but there was still plenty of (slippery) action. Let’s get to it:

ONE ON ONES (DRIZZLING RAIN)

- Same as yesterday: Four drills between pass-catchers and defenders were held at the same time on two fields cut in half. There were wide receivers vs. defensive backs nearest to the media tent and tight ends and running backs vs. linebackers on the far side. Most of my attention was on the receivers. Damaris Johnson slipped and fell on the first play. It was a sign of things to come. Here were some highlights:

1. Jeremy Maclin and Darrelle Revis faced off once again. Maclin caught a pass on a short route underneath and then beat the Patriots cornerback on a post route into the end zone. Just after Maclin ran through the end zone, he looked up to a handful of Philly reporters 20 yards up the hill as if to say, “You guys catch that?” Yes, we did. Revis hasn’t looked as if he’s been giving 100 percent all the time during these scrimmages. That’s his prerogative, but Maclin has looked the No. 1-receiver part for the first time this training camp. It almost seems too good to be true …

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2. Like yesterday, Jordan Matthews got off to a slow start when he had a pass sail through his hands. The wet ball may have been a factor. But he rebounded with a sweet grab in the back of the end zone.

3. Bradley Fletcher has had a rough two days, particularly in these drills. He’s a physical receiver and may be adjusting to the new restrictive rules. Tom Brady and receiver Josh Boyce hooked up after Fletcher lost his man. There was the belief early in camp that Nolan Carroll could push for Fletcher’s starting spot, but he has been out for a week with a hamstring injury and watched again today.

4. Curtis Marsh had another standout series of plays in this drill. He broke up two Brady passes, although one was an errant throw. The Eagles have always liked Marsh’s man-press defensive skills, but he has struggled in zones. On Friday against the Bears, for instance, he appeared to jump out of his zone in Cover 3 and allowed a receiver to get open and score a touchdown. I don’t think there’s a roster spot for Marsh but stranger things have happened.

5. Revis looked like he was going full speed when he was matched up against receivers not named Maclin. He blanketed Matthews on a corner and Matt Barkley threw short. Revis should have probably had the interception. He also batted a short crosser intended for Will Murphy.

SEVEN ON SEVENS (LIGHT RAIN)

-- Maclin caught a pass from Nick Foles, but signaled for a replacement. He walked to an Eagles staff member to get a drink and watched a few plays before re-entering. There’s often this feeling with Maclin that something bad is about to happen …

-- Foles missed an open Zach Ertz in the back of the end zone, but the throw was so high and off target, the ball may have slipped out of his hand. He went back to his tight end who was open all day, but Ertz dropped the throw.

-- Riley Cooper was in pads again, but only participated in warm ups. The wide receiver has missed most of camp with a foot injury and is slowly being worked back into the rotation. Cooper is unlikely to play Friday night against the Patriots in the second preseason game.

-- Mark Sanchez tried for Matthews in the back of the end zone and his receiver showed great body control in pulling in the catch, but the official nearby ruled that he didn’t get both feet in.

ELEVEN ON ELEVEN TEAM DRILLS (STEADY RAIN)

- Both teams worked almost exclusively on running plays early on. There wasn’t any tackling to the ground, but LeSean McCoy has sometimes looked as if he’s running at a different speed than everyone else. He recently threw out there that he’d like to eclipse 2,000 yards rushing this season. Chip Kelly’s thoughts: “I don’t care.” McCoy said today after practice that he threw that number out there during a promotional bit and as fodder for fantasy geeks. I think 2K is probably unreachable, but there’s no reason why he can’t duplicate last season’s 1.6K.

-- After four straight rushes, Foles hit a wide-open Maclin 40 yards downfield on a play fake. After Maclin ran into the end zone, he went to the sideline and was seen cursing to himself. He didn’t practice the rest of the day and told us afterward that his left hamstring “grabbed.” Here’s more on his injury.

-- With Maclin (and Cooper out), the first team wide receiving unit was initially Arrelious Benn and Ifeanyi Momah on the outside and Brad Smith on the inside. Jeff Maehl took some outside snaps later on. The group had trouble getting open for Foles, who often had to check down to his running backs and tight ends. He did manage to squeeze a pass in a tight hole to Benn and tossed a beauty to Maehl in the corner of the end zone that he couldn’t pull in.

-- Ertz dominated against the Patriots second team defense. They didn’t have a linebacker that could cover him. Sanchez went to Ertz on three straight plays – a screen, one over the middle for 15-yards, and on a 10-yard crosser. We saw some of Ertz with the first team against the Bears, and I imagine his role with the starters will increase. It will be difficult for Kelly to keep him off the field.

-- Brady and the Pats starting offense then took the field. There wasn’t any annoying music and fans weren’t permitted to attend practice today, so you could hear a lot of the sounds of practice. “95’s the MIKE!” Brady screamed as he pointed to Mychal Kendricks and let everyone in a three-mile radius know who the middle linebacker was on that particular play. Brady picked on Fletcher again, hitting receiver Brandon LaFell deep. The Eagles inserted most of their second team defense later in the drive, and Brady went to the end zone for running back Shane Vereen. Safety Keelan Johnson broke up the pass, but the official called pass interference. Johnson didn’t look back for the ball, but there didn’t appear to be any contact.

Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho stopped tailback James White for a short gain, but Brady went to Vereen with Acho covering and scored a short red zone TD.

-- The linemen up front give about 50 percent effort during team drills. The defensive linemen generally make immediate contact and may try a move or two, but for the most part they don’t attempt to get to the quarterback. So it’s difficult to draw any conclusions. But Eagles defensive end Fletcher Cox has been very quiet most of camp. He didn’t do much in the preseason opener either. During one play today, he was blocked to his back by Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer. Again, there shouldn’t be immediate concern until the games go live, but Cox hasn’t looked as explosive.

-- The third teams had about the same about of reps (10-15) as they had yesterday. Kelly didn’t seem too concerned. Asked about it before practice, he said, “Don’t count your reps, make your reps count.” Barkley threw a little high to James Casey down the seam, but the tight end pulled it in with one hand. G.J. Kinne split snaps with Barkley. I know the Eagles get more practice reps for their third unit than most teams, but I’m not sure why Kinne is on the roster. Unless the Eagles really think he can supplant Barkley or push him, he’s just stealing reps from a quarterback that needs as many as he can get. The Eagles expended a fourth round pick on Barkley for reason. They obviously have their doubts; otherwise they wouldn’t have signed Sanchez. But I don’t see the point of carrying more than three quarterbacks. The Patriots have just three and have been getting rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo plenty of looks.

- A few quickies … Patrick Chung intercepted Foles when a pass intended for Matthews was tipped to the former Eagles safety. … Vinny Curry got some first team reps and hurried Brady. … Carey Spear struggled during FG practice and was low and way wide left on a 55-yard-or so attempt. To be fair, it had to be difficult to plant and kick. … Practice ended after Brady hit Julian Edelman for touchdown. Edelman spiked the ball, drawing a chuckle from Philly reporters who noted that Roc Carmichael was the cornerback he beat. … A few more Eagles didn’t practice: Jaylen Watkins (hamstring), David Fluellen and Matthew Tucker were out, joining Carroll, Chris Polk and Jake Knott.

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Birds' Eye View is the Inquirer's blog covering all things Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL.

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