Eagles TC Day 4: Chris Long: ‘I’m not sure where we’re going’
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - A day after NFL officials briefed Eagles players and the media on the already controversial helmet rule set to be implemented for the 2018 season, Philadelphia defenders chimed in on the uncertainty of the impending landscape.
"I'm not sure where we're going," veteran defensive end Chris Long admitted to 973espn.com at his locker after practice on Sunday when discussing the rule change. "I think the frustration stems from the definition."
Long was referring to the lack of clarity offered by the league and how the rule is going to be officiated.
That's way amplified when official Mark Perlman, an 18-year veteran who is currently a line judge on Bill Vinovich's crew, led a meeting with reporters on Saturday.
When Malcolm Jenkins' hit on Brandon Cooks in Super Bowl LII was brought up, something that was used by the NFL as an example of a play which would now be a penalty under the new rule at the league meetings, the officials on hand, which also included side judge Gary Cavaletto and field judge Mearl Robinson, demurred, instead calling it a judgement call.
"I'm going to make that play 10 times out of 10," Jenkins said. "If it's a flag, it's a flag. You can't slow yourself down thinking about rules in a split second. The game happens really, really fast, faster than the rules, I think, take account for, but I won't let it affect the way I play."
Long agreed and even sympathized a bit with the on-field officials.
"The game is so fast, it makes things more difficult for the players and them as well," Long said. "When judgment enters the equation you're just going to have more people upset and questioning things."
Jon Runyan, the former Eagles right tackle who is now the NFL VP of Rules and Administration, was at practice on Sunday and intimated that the rule was just a clarification on what is already on the books and shouldn't be all that cumbersome to the game itself.
The players aren't necessarily buying that, however.
"I just don't think it's going to work that well," linebacker Nigel Bradham countered. "...Everybody was watching the videos because everybody was trying to get an understanding of what to do. We really didn't get that answer."
Coach Doug Pederson is also trying to stress that the new emphasis isn't as drastic as it might seem.
"The general rule is just don't drop your head," Pederson said. "As a ball carrier, as a defender, and in all things that we were taught as young players and playing football is keep your head up. See what you hit. So, kind of getting back to that and just don't -- can't be in a straight linear position, obviously. Can't launch yourself. They're trying to eliminate those types of plays and try to get the head out of the game."
Pederson is always mindful that every NFL team is facing the same hurdle and the one that adapts to it as quickly as possible will likely be rewarded for its prepearation.
"We did spend a little time with the officials that are here this week the other night, just to clarify some things," the coach said. "And it's really a nice forum for our team to ask questions. If there is something that they're not familiar with or not sure of, and it's just any rule. But my job is to make sure that our guys are well-educated on the points of emphasis, the new rule changes. And then our coaches are well-versed, and so we can continue to communicate and teach our players when we're out here on the field."
DAY 4 NEWS AND NOTES:
-There was no Carson Wentz in team drills Sunday. He just did individual and 7-on-7 work, a day after wowing observers with his agility in team drills. Coach Doug Pederson said it was part of the plan with Wentz and isn't divulging what the plan actually is but said this week had gone well and that Wentz and his surgically repaired knee has responded well to the workload.
"It's just the plan that we have," Pederson said. "I'm not going to divulge the plan, but there is a plan. There is a progression. There are steps that we're going to take with him, and this is all part of that progression."
-Starting right guard Brandon Brooks didn’t practice due to an illness but Pederson said: “He’s okay though.” Chance Warmack got the first opportunity with the first team in Brooks' absence but a quick false start had Pederson saying he "needed a right guard" and in came rookie Matt Pryor. Warmack did return to the rest of the first-team reps after that series, however.
-When asked about young players who have stood out during the first four days, Pederson mentioned receivers Greg Ward and Shelton Gibson as well as running back Corey Clement. On defense, he singled out cornerbacks De'Vante Bausby and Rasul Douglas as well as defensive tackles Destiny Vaeao and Aziz Shittu.
-Shittu, by the way, left the field for a bit and entered the medical tent but was able to return.
-Gibson is further helping his cause with special-teams work. Along with coverage, Gibson was also the second-team kick returner behind Corey Clement.
"I think he has improved, and the second part of that I think is just confidence, just playing," Pederson said when discussing Gibson. "He played some special teams roles for us towards the end of the year last year. It gives him a little bit of confidence. He's really embraced the offseason. He's studied, he's worked hard, and he's done a nice job. He's off to a good start to this year's camp."
-The nickel back rotation continues with Bausby taking the first-team reps so it's been Sidney Jones-Bausby-Jones-Bausby through the first four days.
-Got an extensive look at the 1-on-1s between the defensive backs and wide receivers. Ward has special short-area quickness and gets in and out of routes quickly. The best route runners are Nelson Agholor and Markus Wheaton, however. The most physical defensive backs are clearly Malcolm Jenkins and Jalen Mills while Jones has been a bit handsy and has been drawing PI flags. Newcomer DeAndre Carter is very quick and Kamar Aiken certainly has the size to catch the comeback route.
Mike Wallace got Rasul Douglas on a go-route which was the highlight of the period. For the defense Tre Sullivan showed nice recovery speed on a poorly thrown ball after Ward got separation, resulting in an INT.
-The play of the day in team drills was Gibson hauling in an underthrown Nick Foles deep ball in sandwich coverage between Ronald Darby and Jenkins. A close second was tight end Richard Rodgers snarling a great pass from Nate Sudfeld down the right sideline for 25 yards or so.
-The first live contact period of the summer is set for Tuesday.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen