Thursday, December 18, 2014

Practice notes: Graham inside; rookies slow down

Observations from Lehigh: Sean McDermott is still tinkering with his defense, which had Brandon Graham lined up inside in the nickel today.

Practice notes: Graham inside; rookies slow down

Brandon Graham lined up inside in the Eagles´ nickel package for a portion of today´s practice. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)
Brandon Graham lined up inside in the Eagles' nickel package for a portion of today's practice. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

Observations from Tuesday morning's practice:

* It's pretty clear to me that no matter how much we think we have figured out in terms of the roster and roles, a lot can change between now and Week 1 against the Packers. Just this morning, Sean McDermott tried out a different package with the first-team nickel during one portion of practice. Juqua Parker stayed in the game at left defensive end, and Brandon Graham moved inside with Trevor Laws. Trent Cole stayed at right defensive end. The odd man out was Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, who we had seen consistently playing inside the past week or so. He returned there during another part of practice.

* I've definitely seen a trail-off with the rookies standing out, but that's to be expected. Many of them have been here for over three weeks. By my unofficial count, that means 35 practices, a Flight Night and a preseason game in 23 days. Nate Allen missed the first day of practice, but has been out here for every session since. I don't think guys like Riley Cooper, Clay Harbor, Te'o-Nesheim, Trevard Lindley, Mike Kafka, Charles Scott, Jeff Owens, JaMar Chaney or Kurt Coleman have missed a single practice, and that includes special teams for most of them. It's been a learning process, but the Eagles have to feel good about what the rookies have accomplished.

* Based on what I've seen in practice, the Eagles will very rarely line up in their nickel package, rush the front four and drop the two linebackers into coverage. They practiced a little more of dropping the defensive ends into coverage today, and Stewart Bradley and Ernie Sims often lined up at the line of scrimmage. On one play, they both lined up inside, with Sims blitzing and Bradley dropping back.

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* Marty Mornhinweg praised Harbor for his work ethic and physical style, but he didn't sound completely comfortable with Harbor being the Eagles' No. 2 tight end if they had a regular-season game tomorrow. Harbor has been running exclusively as the second TE with the first unit, but it's obvious the coaches want him to be able to do a number of different things to best utilize his skills when he's on the field. That might mean lining up next to the tackle as a blocker. That might mean lining up in the slot as a receiver.

* On one play, Michael Vick threw a great ball on an inside route to Cooper, beating Geoff Pope. On the next play, he went outside to Cooper and should have been picked off by Macho Harris. He's shown improvement and has better speed, but really, that sequence is camp in a nutshell for Vick.

* Antonio Dixon is running with the twos at defensive tackle, alongside Trevor Laws. I'm going to try and sort out how the offensive and defensive lines might look on the 53-man roster later today. It looks like both those guys will probably be on it though.

* The play of the day might have been a flea flicker from Mike Kafka deep to Chad Hall, who beat Pope. DeSean Jackson was taking a knee on the sideline, but ran 50 yards downfield to congratulate Hall after the catch.

* I wrote this last week, but with every day Nick Cole misses, you have to think he comes closer to losing that starting center job. It's very difficult to handicap how that position battle is going to play out.

* Missing from practice were Cornelius Ingram (just a day off) and Ellis Hobbs (illness). Asante Samuel left early with a hamstring. Joselio Hanson got reps with the ones, and Dimitri Patterson came in in nickel situations.

* I would rank Keenan Clayton up there in terms of rookies who have impressed this camp. He looks like he can cover. Clayton is still practicing as the WIL with the second team.

* Macho Harris' hair is prolific. The braids are out and he's got the fro working. But not like a Dr. J fro. It's more down and to the sides. Intern Litty called it "well-conditioned." I should probably just move on here.

* Nice throw and catch from Kevin Kolb to DeSean Jackson in the back of the end zone. Kolb also found Jackson for a bomb, as he beat Samuel.

* I hear something from a fan that makes me take notice every day. Today, a little kid caught a glimpse of No. 65 and said: "I want to be tackled by King Dunlap."


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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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