- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles kicked off their joint practices on Tuesday, sharing the four fields outside of the NovaCare complex, just blocks away from where they'll open preseason action on Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
Below are some observations from the nearly two-and-a-half hour session.
1. Perhaps it was the competitive aspect of going against another team, but quarterback Tom Brady was locked in and as sharp as we've seen him throughout training camp. In our estimation, Brady was easily the best player on the field. Great day for him to go along with receiver Danny Amendola (minus one drop). Amendola made a sprawling catch in the end zone on a corner route that drew extensive handshakes and high-fives from his teammates.
2. Speaking of Amendola, he was -- as he has been throughout camp -- effective in one-on-one receiving drills. Patrick Chung, a former Patriot, and Kurt Coleman, another Eagles safety, were no match for Amendola in the slot, who nimbly dodged each in press coverage for easy catches.
3. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly noted after practice that the two teams had decided that if players got involved in a scuffle, they'd simply be removed for the balance of practice. A scuffle took place between Eagles cornerback Cary Williams and Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson, each of whom sat following it. Before he departed, however, Dobson made a highlight-reel one-handed catch, reaching behind his frame to haul in a throw down the sideline.
4. One of the areas where the Patriots struggled last season was with their safeties gaining depth and width in Cover 2, something that eventually improved when Devin McCourty was shifted to free safety. Second-year safety Tavon Wilson has had some struggles during training camp thus far, and it appeared as though he fell victim to a deep pass in Cover 2 on Tuesday. The completion down the right side of the field came behind both him and rookie cornerback Logan Ryan. Not knowing the coverage, it's tough to say with certainty where the breakdown occurred, but it looked like Cover 2 from afar.
5. Receiver Julian Edelman has had struggles with staying on the field throughout his career, and though he has good strength and explosiveness for his size, we'll be watching closely to see him take on press coverage when he aligns on the perimeter of the offensive formation. An Eagles defensive back was able to get underneath him and derail his route early during a one-on-one rep, and that's an area in which he'll need to be strong during game action. His ability to play physical and stay on the field is critical for this offense.
6. Today marked the first time that either team has been able to work against players with a different uniform on, and it seemed to pick up the pace in many of the team drills. One of the challenges for players on the kickoff-return team was to sort through not just one different color jersey (the Patriots split their team into white/blue), but four in total (Patriots white/blue; Eagles white/green). Kickoff returns can get jumbled up in a hurry, and it looked like players from both teams had a couple issues in sorting through which players were on their own team and which were on the opposing team.
7. While Patriots fans are used to seeing extensive pre-snap shifts and motions from their team, it was interesting to see the Eagles' offense in person. Kelly has installed an up-tempo approach that features multiple formations and personnel groups, and also calls for its own fair share of pre-snap movement. In fact, it looked like the Eagles were moving around even more than what we see from the Patriots. Should be fun to see this offense in action on Friday night.
8. With two lefty punters on the roster, we thought one of the advantages of a joint practice for the Patriots would be to have their returners work against right-footed punters. Turns out that wasn't the case, as the Eagles have their own pair of lefty punters. That'll change next week when the Bucs come to town, as they boast a pair of righty punters.
9. A group of NFL officials were on the field today, overlooking the practice and treating the 11-on-11 periods as opportunities to simulate plays. This helps the players get a feel for how they'll call all the rules, both the old and new ones, during games. Sarah Thomas, who hopes to become the NFL's first full-time female game official in 2014, was among those in the group.
10. Odds and ends: The Patriots aren't the only team that has used a quarterback on one of their special-teams units, as the Eagles had quarterback G.J. Kinne working as a member of the kickoff-return team... For those who recall the Patriots' use of tennis rackets to simulate defensive linemen with their hands up, they'll appreciate the Eagles ingenuity: A trio of staffers wore shoulder pads with a built-in board during passing drills to simulate long defensive linemen. In a division that features Jason Pierre-Paul and DeMarcus Ware, that'll help... The Eagles have routinely worked without a huddle throughout training camp, but they bucked that trend on Tuesday, huddling often during their 11-on-11 drills. In addition, no music was played during practice, a change from their regular routine... While the Patriots have just three quarterbacks on their roster, the Eagles have five. Interesting to see how they split the reps up... Aqib Talib appears to be becoming a vocal defensive leader, often leading the cheer for teammates departing the field after a good play.
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