The Eagles held their most action-packed practice of training camp so far. Let’s roll the tape:
-- The Birds were in full pads for the second straight practice, but they were able to do so much more at the NovCare Complex than they did during Monday’s practice at Lincoln Financial Field. There were two one-on-one sessions between the defensive and offensive line. Well, not entirely one-on-one since there was zone blocking elements to the drill, but it was the first opportunity to see both units – and some of the new linemen -- going at it in pads and up close. And it was great. Here are some of the highlights:
1. Taylor Hart seemed to hold his own against some pretty tough competition, taking on Allen Barbre and then Lane Johnson. The rookie defensive end didn’t get the better of either, but he stood his ground against two athletic linemen. Hart looks like a choir boy. He looks like he needs to add more muscle to his frame. But the Eagles love him as a 4-technique and a scheme fit. It’s way too early to say for certain, but he may end up being more than an after-thought fifth rounder.
2. Tackle/guard Matt Tobin was hot and cold. He couldn’t handle defensive end Fletcher Cox (join the club!) but dominated rookie end Frances Mays. The Eagles like Tobin. He was the second tackle/guard off the bench after Barbre last season. It will be interesting to see how he’s grown once the preseason starts. Mays moves fairly well for 6-foot-9.
3. With Julian Vandervelde out (back), rookie Josh Andrews moved from center to guard. He had his struggles, but did a pretty good job when matched up against rookie NT Beau Allen. Center David Molk isn’t very big (6-1, 290), even for a center, but he did a solid job holding Allen up. Molk could supplant Vandervelde for the backup center job.
4. A few of the rookies went to school when matched up against veterans. Tackle Jason Peters drove end Alejandro Villaneuva back ten yards. It was like the former Army Ranger was a blocking sled. End Cedric Thornton toyed with guard Donald Hawkins, bullrushing him off his blocks and then gave him a little extra shove at the end for good measure. Funny stuff.
5. Vinny Curry was upended by Todd Herremans during a one-on-one. He literally flipped over his head. Curry came back later, though, and jetted around guard Evan Mathis. Mathis ran inside afterward … for a new jock. Rim shot!
6. The outside linebackers joined the fray during the second session. Connor Barwin went outside in past rookie tackle Kevin Graf. Travis Long couldn’t get past Andrews. Top draft pick Marcus Smith tried to fight off a double team to no avail.
-- I skipped watching 7-on-7 drills in favor of the DL-OL one-on-ones, but there was plenty of action during team drills. The defense struck back after a so-so effort on Monday. They tallied four interceptions on the day, although not all of them came during 11-on-11s. Safety Malcolm Jenkins picked off Mark Sanchez for the first known interception of camp. Cornerback Cary Williams out-jumped Josh Huff for a Matt Barkley fade. During team red zone drills, cornerback Brandon Boykin beat receiver Arrelious Benn on an inside pass from Sanchez. And Jenkins had his second turnover of the day when he jumped a Nick Foles quickie to Darren Sproles. Jenkins would have likely taken the interception to the house had it been a real game.
-- I thought the defensive backs also got the better of the Eagles’ receivers and quarterbacks during one-on-one drills – at least at the end of the field I was watching. Jordan Matthews, though, shined for the offense. Say what you want about the competition, but he has made all the catches so far. Now can we get him on the first team against Boykin in the slot? That’s when I’ll start making proper judgments about Matthews. Here are some other highlights (note: the receivers should generally have the advantage during one-on-ones):
1. Boykin had stick-em glue coverage Benn, but the receiver hung on for a short grab over the middle.
2. Ifeanyi Momah ragged dolled Nolan Carroll with a (legal) push off and made the catch after he cut inside. Momah is still a long shot, but he looks better than a year ago.
3. Jeremy Maclin beat Jenkins. Quron Pratt dropped a pass after he beat Curtis Marsh. Huff dropped a pass, but Williams had tight coverage. Will Murphy got the better of rookie corner Jaylen Watkins. Not sure if that’s a moment Watkins will be telling the grandchildren about. Barkley lofted a picture perfect pass to Brad Smith in the end zone after he got behind Earl Wolff, but the receiver couldn’t pull it in.
-- Wolff was up with the ones for the first time this camp. Bill Davis may have been just shuffling the depth chart to get different looks, but I felt like Wolff’s promotion – however brief – was well-earned. He’s played well. “I’m not going to look at it as I’m running with the ones,” Wolff said. “I’m looking at it as I’m taking advantage of every opportunity I have with the ones and I feel like I did a pretty good job today.” Najee Goode also got some reps with the ones at inside linebacker. It looked like DeMeco Ryans was just getting a breather. Chip Kelly has said that he will occasionally give some of the older players breaks.
-- Kelly was like a kid in a candy store during a drill that simulated blocking during punts. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so animated as he cheered on his players or offered tips. Millions of people in this country love football, but I’d imagine he’s somewhere in the top 5. Marcus Smith did a nice job riding Zach Ertz up the line on one block. Ed Reynolds had trouble against Brad Smith both as a blocker and as a pursuer. Chris Maragos, a special teams ace, deked Murphy.
-- Huff left briefly and headed to the trainer’s tent for a look-see, but returned. Nose tackle Bennie Logan (hamstring) returned to practice, but wasn’t full go. Receiver Riley Cooper (foot) and running back Chris Polk (hamstring) didn’t practice again.