Thursday, December 25, 2014

Eagles minicamp practice notes: Jordan Matthews, Nick Foles continue to impress

Apologies for the lateness of my notes from Thursday's practice. Let's just get right to it.

Eagles minicamp practice notes: Jordan Matthews, Nick Foles continue to impress

Eagles rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)
Eagles rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports)

Apologies for the lateness of my notes from Thursday's practice. Let's just get right to it.

• I continue to like what I see from Jordan Matthews. On a play in which he was streaking down the sidelines, the ball was a little under-thrown. Matthews located the ball but waited until the last second to put on the brakes and reach back to catch the pass. He did not tip off the defensive back that the ball was under-thrown, giving the defender less of a chance to make a play on the ball. That was a nice savvy play executed perfectly by the rookie.

• There are times during practice in which I find myself liking some of Nick Foles' incompletions. For example, there was a play over the middle in which the defender had cut off the receiver's route, and Foles mental clock was ticking down. The receiver had all but stopped running and faced the QB. They were positioned sort of like this, and the target is where Foles threw the ball, with velocity. (Eagles' offense wears green.)

The receiver was not able to react to the pass quickly enough, and it fell incomplete. However, it seemed like a very accurate, very smart throw in a situation in which Foles didn't have an open receiver. If Foles' receiver was able to make the catch on his "purposely off-target" throw, great. If not, there was no way the defender was going to be able to fight through the receiver to make a play without drawing a pass interference call. It's either a catch or a harmless incompletion. These are the kinds of passes that help explain why Foles only threw two interceptions last season, assuming of course that what I think I saw is what Foles was truly trying to do.

• One little wrinkle that the Eagles have in their hurry-up offense is trying to pick up a cheap 4-5 yards instead of spiking the ball. They'll rush up to the line, snap the ball quickly, and instead of Foles spiking it to stop the clock, he'll look to the outside receiver to see if he can make a quick throw, with the receiver immediately stepping out of bounds to stop the clock. If a defender is playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, that's a cheap and easy pitch and catch. What would have been 2nd and 10 is now a 2nd and 5. If nothing is there, Foles can simply throw the ball into the eighth row of the stands. The Patriots have done that for years.

• Mark Sanchez had a nice day throwing the ball. He fit some passes into some tight windows with zip. It was good to see him close out minicamp on a high note.

• I'm not in love with the way Josh Huff sometimes fields kickoffs. Occasionally, he'll catch the ball over his head, which is not ideal. That's less of an issue on kick returns than it is on punt returns, because if you drop a kickoff, you have plenty of time to regain possession of the ball if you muff it. If you muff a punt, the opposing special teams unit is going to be right on top of you. Huff didn't fumble any kick or punt return opportunities that I could see, however, I wouldn't feel comfortable with him as the punt returner until that little quirk is fixed.

• In Wednesday's post-practice notes, I questioned Matt Barkley's arm strength. That article showed up on the Eagles' Reddit page, where a few Eagles players like Barkley and Evan Mathis will check in and interact with their community from time to time. Barkley saw the post and responded to the criticism:

In case you can't read that, it says:

"Shut up Jimmy, you don't know a thing about that route, the defensive coverage, technique of the wide receiver, the route he was actually running, let alone my maximum velocity arm strength.

We can play catch sometime if you want to figure out for yourself how hard I can throw it, just lemme know."

Now, I don't if Barkley's challenge means that I'm supposed to stand there from 20 yards away while he winds up and fires lasers in at me to see if I can handle them, or if we're going to have some kind of QB skills challenge:

Or maybe we can just go Varsity Blues style:

Barkley can try to knock a beer can off Chip Kelly's head, and I'll try to knock a beer can off Les Bowen's head.

Whatever you have in mind, Mr.Barkley, respectfully... I'm in.

Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski

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