The first two days of practice are in the books at Eagles training camp. Monday will be the first practice open to the public at Lincoln Financial Field, and it will also be the first practice in pads. Let's take a quick look back at what some local and national guys observed at the first two practices over the weekend.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated was at Eagles camp Saturday, and he had a one-on-one with Chip Kelly. It's a good read worth checking out. Chip apparently didn't know how crazy the NFL Draft has become in recent years.
What’s the worst thing about the league? I said the draft. I mean, the hype that goes into the draft is insane. Totally insane.
The biggest thing for me is that everybody thinks whoever you drafted or whoever you signed is now gonna be a savior. They come in just like me and you come in as freshmen in high school or freshmen in college, or your first year on the job at Sports Illustrated - you’re not telling people what to do, you’re just trying to figure out what room to go to.
I think a lot of times the hype turns into really, really hard times for the individual who got picked, because there’s so many expectations of everyone building them up to be Superman because they had three months to write about them and talk about them. Then when they get picked, they’re a very, very good prospect, but there’s a learning curve when you go from any job out of college into a company.
If you take a job at Wells Fargo when you get out of college, your first day of the job they don’t say, ‘He’s our first-round draft pick, he’s the savior to the company!’
“I think the byproduct to the hype that bothers me, is that to some guys it’s overwhelming for them. The NFL has their Rookie Premier and they’re out there getting all these pictures taken and they’re missing practice time to go out to California and they’re treated like gods, and I’m like, I don’t know if he’s going to start. That’s not fair.
And the analysis … We drafted [pass-rusher] Marcus Smith in the first round, and Jordan Matthews in the second round. Then you listen to people around here that say, ‘Well, we don’t like their draft. If they had taken Matthews first and Smith second, we would give them an A.’ Who cares who went one and who went two?
It’s almost like there’s a lot of scrutiny on Marcus Smith because he went one, but Jordan gets a pass because he fell to the second round. If you ask both those individuals, they have the same goals and aspirations and they’re training exactly the same way. It’s just how people perceive things, and I think a lot of that has to do with the hype.
Former Eagles scout Daniel Jeremiah, who is now with NFL.com, was also at Eagles camp on Saturday. His reporting was limited to 140 characters at a time, but here were a few of his observations:
I said it while he was at Oregon & my opinion hasn't changed--Chip Kelly runs the most efficient practices I've ever seen.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
I had a good chat with Jordan Matthews after practice. He's getting a lot of reps in the slot. Eagles brass is very high on him.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
Marcus Smith is currently running with 3's. Easy to see his athletic tools but he's swimming right now. Chip's pace is a challenge for def— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
Foles had a solid practice. He looks very poised and comfortable in this system.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
Matt Barkley is throwing the ball with a lot more RPM's this year. He's not straining to drive the ball like he did last August.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
Just finished watching Eagles practice...good day for Ertz & Celek. I think they'll see more targets with DeSean's departure.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 26, 2014
Jeremiah wasn't the only former Eagles scout to move on to a cushy media job. Louis Riddick of ESPN also once scouted for the Eagles, and he too was in camp on Saturday.
Most impressive part of Chip Kelly's program/practices: the mental conditioning needed to operate that quickly w/minimal mistakes. Not easy.— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) July 26, 2014
#Eagles WR Jordan Matthews gets all the attention, but as I have said before: Keep a close eye on 3rd rounder WR Josh Huff. Just sayin'..— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) July 26, 2014
Sheil Kapadia, formerly of Philly.com fame, always brings the goods with his practice notes over at Birds 24/7. Here's his running diary from Saturday, which included little nuggets like this:
Defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro has a few choice words for his guys after one play. Last year, defensive linemen told me Azzinaro's motto was basically: give 'em hell during the week, and let 'em play on Sundays.
When one team's reps are finished, certain offensive players run to the far end zone before returning to the sideline. Foles does this every time, even if he's the only one. His whole "other players look at the QB to see what to do" belief is no act. He really thinks that way.
And here's Sheil's running diary from Sunday.
Zach Ertz lines up out wide, gets Curtis Marsh on his back and uses his size to make a catch on a comeback route. Ertz has looked good the past two days.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn dropped two passes today. He dropped at least one on Saturday. Benn's fighting to make the roster and the drops certainly aren't helping.
And from Sunday.
The biggest takeaway from the Eagles first TC practice was that Mark Sanchez looked way better than he did during the team's OTAs/minicamp practice. Sanchez looked lost in the spring. He threw a number of interceptions and there were plays when he threw to a spot where a receiver wasn't even in the area. Sanchez still had some errant passes here and there but his improvement stood out. He completed a few deep passes down field, including a bomb to Damaris Johnson along the sideline,that were right on the money. It wasn't a bad day for the leading candidate for the Eagles backup QB job.
And here are the Inquirer's Jeff McLane's notes, which sort of combine his observations with inside knowledge. From Saturday:
Nick Foles appeared to pick up from where he left off in June. He connected on most of his passes and wasn’t intercepted. Foles’ father, Larry, was in attendance. After practice and signing a bunch of autographs for fans, Foles walked over to his father and gave him a hug. Larry Foles is a successful restaurateur. He wasn’t walking around in gold-plated boots, probably much to Buzz Bissinger’s dismay.
And from Sunday:
Just as I was remarking to another scribe about how boring the first few days of camp had been, a fight broke out on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. It took a moment to figure out who were the main combatants because there was a pile up, but when the dust settled it was LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole that had to be separated. I didn’t see what initially set off the altercation, but Brandon Graham, who was nearby, said that Cole had given McCoy a “nudge.” McCoy, who had to be restrained by Chip Kelly and others a second time, didn’t seem to think it was a nudge. “I don’t know what’s up with him,” he said to me after practice. Cole wouldn’t say much expect that “We’re competitive. We’re cool.”
Fights are a part of almost every training camp, but the Eagles had just a few minor scuffles in Kelly’s first year. He made it clear last year that he doesn’t endorse fighting amongst teammates. It wastes time and most important, he doesn’t want that kind of friction between players on the same team. “Play with emotion, don’t let emotion play with you,” he once said. Some coaches like for their practices to be chippy, so to speak. McCoy joked to reporters afterward that he has noticed the defensive players recently using too much contact. “I’m trying to let them know, it’s OK if you can’t cover me,” he said.
I must admit, I miss the tackling to the ground and the full pad one-on-ones that were part of almost every Andy Reid practice. The Eagles are expected to wear their full pads for tomorrow’s open practice at the Linc, so we should finally hear the sound of pads popping.
In case you missed it at the Red Zone...
Eagles running backs are dominating in the passing game in camp so far. Nobody can cover them, and they're racking up an absurd number of receptions. The question then becomes, are they dominating because they're just really good, or because the Eagles' linebackers don't have the ability to stick with them? It's probably a combination of both.
And from Saturday:
Mark Sanchez was very good on the Eagles' first day of practices at training camp. Early on during team drills, he threw a pair of accurate bombs, and then later he hit Darren Sproles in stride on a wheel route about 30 yards down the field. The overwhelming feeling among the media was that Mark Sanchez looked bad in OTAs and minicamp, and I don't disagree. However, he also occasionally looked pretty good. He showed he could fit passes into tight windows, and make tough sideline throws with zip and accuracy.
And then there were moments where his passes were nowhere near anyone. He would often throw to empty spaces in the middle of the field. It was difficult trying to figure out what he was looking at and what he was trying to do. When you see passes that don't make any sense, more than likely they're miscommunications with receivers.
Sanchez was just beginning to learn the offense, and he still is. In June, on a new team, his erratic play was probably to be expected. If he continues to make a high number of weird throws now that we're in training camp, it's more concerning. But on the first day of training camp, it was all good from the Sanchize, and past history says that at some point this season, the Eagles will need him.
I also spoke with each of the Eagles' rookie draft picks. Here's what NFL players each of the rookies have tried to model their game after.
7th round pick, NT Beau Allen: "I've played in a lot of different defensive schemes. What's nice is, in college, we had all the NFL tape. They'd send over their sack reels, and their game tape. In pass rushing I always watched Warren Sapp. Every interior defensive lineman is going to say that. But one guy I watched a lot in the offseason, just getting ready for the transition from college to the NFL was Dontari Poe from the Chiefs. Obviously, he was a really good nose guard last year, and he's a young guy too. He's really big, really athletic, and I think that's kind of the archetype for nose guards in the league right now. I've been watching a lot of his film, and trying to emulate him a little bit."
Follow Jimmy on Twitter: @JimmyKempski