Eagles Go ‘Live’ at Training Camp
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - For the first time in four years hitting is back in Philadelphia as the Eagles went live in training camp.
The team began to install its goal-line packages on Monday, according to right tackle Lane Johnson, and it was time to test them out as Doug Pederson decided on a format that allowed the first-team offense to battle the second-team defense and vice versa while the threes tested themselves against each other.
If the plan was intended to give the top group on each side some confidence, it worked as Sam Bradford and his group dominated the second-teamers, scoring on three of four chances, while Fletcher Cox and the No. 1 stop unit handled its business against Chase Daniel and Co. on two of three occasions. Carson Wentz, meanwhile, led the third-team offense to one TD in three tries.
More on the specifics later but the idea of tackling to the ground for the first time in since the Andy Reid era had everyone a little charged up now that the grind of training camp is in full effect.
"It's kinda fun to start practice like that especially with a day off yesterday and then to come back and do some hitting," nose tackle Beau Allen told 973espn.com after practice. "That's fun and it rally gets guys going."
Asked if he missed hitting, which Allen hasn't done in practice since college at the University of Wisconsin, the answer was emphatic, "Oh yeah, football is football but when you get those live contact periods ... it's good stuff and that's what we wanted."
Another of the Philadelphia's DTs, Mike Martin, agreed, "You crank it up another notch and it brings a lot of energy," he said. "Everyone gets hyped up and it makes these longer practices a lot of fun."
That fun started with Kenjon Barner, seeing added repetitions with both Ryan Mathews (ankle) and Wendell Smallwood (quad strain) sidelined, taking a stretch play around left tackle as linebacker Deontae Skinner got caught up in the wash. Barner scored, again, this time getting loose in the flat when Jordan Matthews executed a pick route to free the running back.
Zach Ertz made it three-for-three for the offense when we worked the back of the end zone and lost linebacker Joe Walker before Bradford found the big tight end. The second-team defense finally rose up when Marcus Smith blew up a lead play to Barber in the backfield.
"We want to pride yourself on being a physical football team on both sides of the football," Ertz said, "and I think periods like today are only going to help us."
The first-team defense continued that theme as they stopped Barner on back-to-back running plays, getting penetration from Bennie Logan first and then Vinny Curry and Fletcher Cox. The lone success for Daniel was when he found Trey Burton on a fade over Mychal Kendricks, who was right there in coverage but failed to make a play on the football.
Wentz's group started with another TD pass to Burton before faltering as the rookie QB was late on a quick out to Matthews that Chris Margaos jumped and nearly picked off. The final play of the period was a run by Byron Marshall that Martin sniffed out.
"We gotta awakening around here," Johnson said. "Everybody wants to win and we are tired of losing."
WEDNESDAY NOVACARE NOTES:
-Asked who the live work benefited the most, the offense or the defense, Johnson was at his folksy Texas best.
"It benefits whoever pops somebody in the mouth," the star right tackle said.
-Wentz was wearing the helmet camera on Wednesday and had an uneven day but did flash his arm strength later in the practice when he threw a frozen rope on an out pattern to rookie receiver David Watford. On the defense, Maragos was the guinea pig with the helmet cam.
-Besides Mathews and Smallwood, right guard Brandon Brooks remains out with the hamstring and rookie receiver Marcus Johnson was absent.
-The Eagles unveiled an interesting look in install when Dillon Gordon, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound guard who played tight end at LSU, was a lead blocker in the backfield.
-In the kicking portion of the practice, Caleb Sturgis again held the advantage over Cody Parkey by hitting all five of his field goals. Parkey was 4-of-5. Sturgis also got the call to kick the PAT when the Eagles' first-team offense scored in the hurry-up session of the practice.
-Usually, after an off day, you might see a few tweaks on the depth chart but there wasn't much change other that receivers Rueben Randle and Josh Huff getting the first rep on the outside ahead of Nelson Agholor and Chris Givens. The heavy mixing and matching at that position continued, however.
-The play of the day went to rookie receiver Cayleb Jones, who snared a one-handed catch on a go route that drew oohs and aahs from the fans in attendance.
-The individual star of the session was Burton, who showed his versatility by lining up in the backfield, in the slot, and outside the numbers, making play after play, including a stop and go route delivered by Daniel that left corner Denzel Rice looking lost.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen