Monday, July 28, 2014
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Practice notes: Education continues for Matthews

The Eagles couldn't have been more than 20 minutes into practice when Juan Castillo delivered his message to Casey Matthews.

Practice notes: Education continues for Matthews

Linebacker Casey Matthews has been the man in the middle for the Eagles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Linebacker Casey Matthews has been the man in the middle for the Eagles. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles couldn't have been more than 20 minutes into practice when Juan Castillo delivered his message to Casey Matthews.

The central points? He doesn't care what Matthews' personality is off the field. On the field, he has to be the man  and take charge of the huddle.

If they're messing with you, they're messing with me.

The language was a bit more colorful, but the message was clear.

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Since the start of free agency, the Eagles have added a couple cornerbacks. And their defensive line looks dramatically different than the group that took the field in 2010.

But as we sit three days away from the first preseason game, there have been no moves at linebacker.

While players at other positions have shuffled in and out with the first team on a consistent basis throughout the past two weeks, the linebackers have stayed the same: Matthews in the middle, Jamar Chaney at the SAM and Moise Fokou at the WILL.

I asked Matthews if Castillo expects him to be an extension of his defensive coordinator on the field.

"He looks at everyone like that. It doesn't matter who you are," Matthews said. "We had fights yesterday. He's jumping, he's in the thick of things. That's just how he is. He makes practices fun, just him running all over the place, celebrating. ...He wears his heart on his sleeve so it's great to play for a coach like that."

The words Castillo and Andy Reid have used to describe Matthews are calm, cool and even-keeled. His demeanor actually seems to be the opposite of the coach he plays for. And also different than some of the team's new players like Jason Babin and Anthony Hargrove, who run around like wild men during practice, jumping and screaming.

"They got the little four-man rotation. They can do that," said Matthews with a laugh. "They're all screaming, acting like they can't get tired, but sure enough, they come off on the sideline, I know they'll have the oxygen. That's just their personality. It's different when you're practicing than in a game. Your emotions will go a little more, especially when you play against opponents you're not familiar with."

I asked Matthews if that means we'll see him yell a little bit on Thursday.

"I'm gonna try," he said.

OTHER PRACTICE OBSERVATIONS

* The cornerback situation continues to take shape. Nnamdi Asomugha played mostly outside at right cornerback today. And Joselio Hanson continued to run with the first team in the slot. But today, we saw Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie get quite a bit of time inside, although it was with the second team. It seems clear that Castillo and the coaching staff are still deciding how they want to use the sudden overflow of talent in the secondary.

* Brandon Hughes seems to be a guy the Eagles like. He's been mixing in with the first team here and there. And as I mentioned the other day, it looks like rookie Curtis Marsh is seeing more reps than second-year player Trevard Lindley.

* Ryan Harris continues to take first-team reps at right tackle, and Jason Kelce continues to mix in as the starting center with Jamaal Jackson.

* The first-team O-line was Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Kelce/Jackson, Danny Watkins and Harris. The second team was King Dunlap, Julian Vandervelde, Mike McGlynn, Evan Mathis and Austin Howard.

* Jason Babin took some first-team snaps at left defensive end in place of Juqua Parker. As I mentioned on Twitter, don't get too caught up in who starts. The Eagles will likely use eight defensive linemen who get a similar amount of snaps. The first team was Babin/Parker, Anthony Hargrove, Cullen Jenkins and Trent Cole. The second team was Babin/Parker, Derek Landri, Antonio Dixon and Darryl Tapp.

* The second-team linebackers were Greg Lloyd in the middle, Akeem Jordan at SAM and Keenan Clayton at the WILL. I saw Clayton get some first-team reps at WILL in place of Fokou during 7-on-7s. Castillo said there will still be competition for the linebacker spots, and emphasized that the coaches will be able to tell more from the preseason games than practices.

* During blocking drills, Fokou went right around Ronnie Brown on one rep. The coaches had Brown try again. The second time, he stood Fokou up and drove him back, much to the delight of Duce Staley and the fans who yelled "Duuuuuuuuuuce."

* One guy who we haven't talked about a lot is Riley Cooper. He's having a nice camp. Cooper's chemistry with Vick goes back to last year when the pair played mostly with the second team during camp. If the Eagles find themselves in a situation where DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin is injured, Cooper would probably start and Jason Avant would remain in the slot. The Eagles play with three receivers most of the time anyway.

* Speaking of Avant, he wowed the crowd with his daily one-handed grab. This time, he had Hughes draped all over him, but it didn't matter.

* It'll be interesting to see how Mike McGlynn fits into the offensive line picture. He played today at center with the second team but has also seen time at guard.

* If I had to describe Michael Vick in one word this camp, it would be comfortable. He fit the ball into a small window when Chad Hall found himself matched up with Chaney. Vick has been making those throws all camp.

* Maybe it's because he's only 23, but LeSean McCoy gets picked on quite a bit by the defense. He ran up the middle on one play, and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett wrapped him up, but didn't tackle him, like he's supposed to do. However, Babin and Cole came running in after the play was over and gave McCoy a couple smacks on the helmet, which he didn't seem to appreciate.

* Kurt Coleman did a great job diagnosing a short pass to McCoy and crushed him once McCoy caught the ball. Coleman's teammates, specifically Babin and Hargrove, went nuts.

* Samuel takes some heat from fans and reporters for being a "me-first" guy, but I've seen him help the younger cornerbacks time and again the last two seasons. After one play, Samuel was on the sidelines, yelling over at Hughes, a 25 year old cornerback looking to make the team. He took him aside and pointed out a flaw in Hughes' coverage, specifically where he was looking. "Gotta get those eyes trained," Samuel said.

* Owen Schmitt had zero carries in 15 games last year, and he has five career rushes in three seasons. But the Eagles ran a play today where they actually gave him the ball.

* Great scene at the end of practice. Bobby April was running through drills on one field. Off to the side was Howard Mudd, in the passenger side of one of the carts that drives him around much of the time. Kelce walked up first, receiving some extra instruction as he looks to compete for the starting center job. Then it was Evan Mathis, the veteran who should provide depth on the interior. And finally Watkins, the first-round pick, determined to get up to speed. I get the sense most of the Eagles' offensive linemen know about Mudd and his reputation. They are looking to soak up every ounce of wisdom he has to offer, knowing it will help their careers either here or somewhere else down the line.

* By the way, I saw Watkins take Hargrove to the ground on one play. The rookie is getting there, slowly but surely.


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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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