The Eagles held their eighth practice of training camp on Monday. After two days in pads the players were in shells and shorts for a 10-10-10 session, meaning a cycle of ten offensive and defensive plays and ten minutes of special teams. Here's what I saw:
-- A brief description of 10-10-10 practices: They're designed so that each side of the ball has the opportunity to succeed. So when the offense runs a play, the defense will act as a scout team to give a certain "look" the offense might see on game days. So they aren't aggressively trying to defend. The same applies to the other side of the ball. So it's virtually pointless to evaluate the units or the players. For instance, poor McLeod Bethel-Thompson had three of his passes intercepted during one session. The Eagles are off on Tuesday, but they return on Wednesday for a padded practice and will hit for five of the next six days.
-- While practice didn't provide new info on the players, it did give some insight into some of the schemes and personnel groupings the Eagles plan to use this season. On defense, Jim Schwartz's group worked significantly on their eight-man front. It won't be one of the defense's base packages, but it will be employed on some run downs -- especially against run-heavy offenses. Najee Goode has been the extra linebacker with the first team. Left to right, the linebackers were Nigel Bradham, Jordan Hicks, Goode and Mychal Kendricks. Schwartz takes a cornerback off the field in the package -- whichever one is opposite Leodis McKelvin. I could see Schwartz using his eight-man front against an offense that utilizes the zone read (e.g. the Seahawks). During one play on Monday, quarterback Carson Wentz tucked the ball after a fake and Kendricks met him at the line.
Schwartz also worked on a decent amount of the prevent defense. The Eagles hope they get to use it a lot – at least at the end of games – because it would signal they had the lead. Eagles fans hope Schwartz's defense handles the prevent better than Bill Davis' did last season in Washington.
-- Doug Pederson's offense worked a bunch on their two-minute drill. Going no huddle should be no thing for leftover players that played in Chip Kelly's up tempo offense. The offense also worked on several plays in which they split running back Darren Sproles out wide and have an empty backfield. Kelly had difficulty finding ways to get Sproles the ball, especially last season. He would bring him in on third down and defenses knew that there were several plays that were designed to get the speedy tailback involved. Sproles is mostly filling in for the injured Ryan Mathews during this early portion of camp. How does Pederson plan to utilize him as a change-of-pace back? Will he dip into Andy Reid's bag of Brian Westbrook-type plays?
-- Pederson continues to rotate the receivers in and out of the first team offense with Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Chris Givens, Rueben Randle and Josh Huff as the primary players. Matthews will spend the bulk of his time lining up from the slot, but he still sees time on the outside. There's competition for the "X" receiver spot, which is the DeSean Jackson-receiver role in Reid's offense. That guy is ideally the game-breaker, the outside receiver the quarterback needs to rely on the most because he typically starts on the short side of the field. Givens has the most speed of the group. Agholor has the most riding on his success. Randle may have the most talent of the three. Huff's role may morph. He's received a lot of screens over the last week.
-- Wentz had a few highlights, although they should be taken with a grain of 10-10-10 salt. Nevertheless, he tossed a nice pass to tight end Trey Burton in the back of the end zone behind safety Chris Maragos and, a few plays later, he lofted a corner fade to Randle over corner Eric Rowe. Zach Ertz stretched out for a play-action pass from Wentz. The fourth-year tight end seems to be tiring of the "breaking out" questions, as in "When will Ertz finally break out?" I'd argue he's already broken out, but he certainly has the ability to put up better receiving – and certainly touchdown – numbers. Ertz has caught 169 passes over his career, but "only" nine for touchdowns.