The 2014 Eagles assembled for the first time as a 53-man team today, beginning preparations for Sunday's opener against Jacksonville. Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters that wideout Josh Huff (shoulder) would not practice, and said that if Huff isn't healthy by the end of the week, Nolan Caroll gets first whack at returning kickoffs, with others potentially in the mix, including Brandon Boykin and punt returner Darren Sproles.
Other topics touched upon:
*Kelly said offensive lineman Matt Tobin (ankle) also would not practice today. Tobin watched the early part of practice -- all that reporters were allowed to observe -- wearing a black elastic sleeve over his lower left leg. Tobin said after practice that he has a high ankle sprain and will be sidelined two to three weeks.
*Kelly, asked about keeping only three running backs on the 53-man, with Chris Polk not having played in the preseason because of a hamstring injury, said the Eagles kept only three most of last season. He said he expected Polk to be full-go today. However, in the early drills, Polk gestured to his back and lay down on the field to be checked out by an athletic trainer. Polk said later that he just needs more stretching out than usual, as he comes back from a period of inactivity. He said he felt good.
*Kelly lamented the loss of reserve linebacker Travis Long, who tore his right ACL in the final preseason game. The Eagles are light at linebacker, particulary when it comes to guys like Long who can play both inside and outside. Kelly referenced how Long went undrafted after tearing his other ACL at Washington State, then really came on for the Eagles on last year's practice squad.
*The loss of Long puts the focus more squarely on first-round rookie Marcus Smith, who now would seem to be Connor Barwin's chief backup. Kelly said Smith was "still developing," played better in the final two preseason games, though not as well in the finale against the Jets as in the previous game against the Steelers. He said Smith has always been good at dropping into coverage, but is working at setting the edge and at fighting through NFL protections to get to the quarterback.
*Kelly complimented LeSean McCoy's drive, observing that McCoy is "in the prime, the meat of his career. He doesn't want to be a woulda coulda shoulda guy."