BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- I'm not sure if there's a perfect approach to training camp, but Andy Reid's the only coach in the division who seems to encourage big hits. It's hard to believe that poor Eldra Buckley made it through practice in one piece. While I've watched the Cowboys and Giants deliver love taps in practice, Eagles defenders try take ball carriers to the ground. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman explained to me Wednesday morning that he thinks it's important to quickly familiarize young players to the physical nature of the game. With that in mind, here's what caught my eye in practice this morning:
It's a good sign that DeSean Jackson was able to do some light jogging on the side Wednesday with his sore back. The Eagles won't rush him back onto the field, but he needs to maintain his conditioning. Meanwhile, Riley Cooper is taking full advantage of the extra repetitions. He made the catch of the day when one of Kevin Kolb's passes was tipped by Darryl Tapp. Cooper cut off his route and made a diving catch in the flat. Seems like he's quickly becoming a fan favorite and he could actually play himself into the rotation this season. I don't think Hank Baskett is long for this roster, but he and Kolb did hook up on a deep ball Wednesday.
I talked to second-year running back LeSean McCoy about how he's improved his lower-body strength. He thinks he left a lot of yards on the field because he didn't break enough tackles. He did more squats than he's ever done in his career in the offseason and he appears to have better balance and power. McCoy said he's really enjoyed having former running back Duce Staley hanging around serving an internship.
Rookie free safety Kurt Coleman out of Ohio State has made a favorable impression but was called for pass interference when Kolb used an excellent play-action fake to free up McCoy down the sideline. I think McCoy's going to be dangerous in the passing game this season.
This is the only camp I've attended where fans tailgate in the parking lots between morning and afternoon practices. I'm sure Latrobe, Pa., is also nice, but I can't imagine a better scene than Lehigh University. Lush green practice fields on the side of a mountain. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to get caught up in the moment. He said he remembered visiting the Lehigh campus when he was trying to decide which college to attend a few years back.
Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley destroyed Buckley when he made the mistake of trying to jump over a pile. And when Buckley made a catch in the flat, former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims lit him up. Sims stared down at him like Chuck Bednarik once did to Frank Gifford. And like Gifford, Buckley remained on the ground. It seems like this defense is trying to regain its swagger after being embarrassed by the Cowboys at the end of the 2009 season. And I haven't seen Reid tell anyone to calm down.
I watched Reid take Kolb aside Wednesday and have a long conversation. I think he and McNabb had such an understanding that they rarely had to have a bunch of discussions. But I'm not saying that's a negative about Kolb. It seems like Reid's sort of rejuvenated by the thought of having to coach a quarterback all the way through practice. I remember Bill Parcells saying that about Tony Romo all the time. "You have to coach all the way through the game. If you don't, you'll be sorry," Parcells would say.
It's too early to know what rookie safety Nate Allen's going to be, but he certainly looks like a starter. I had a long talk with him after practice. He grew up watching Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins, but he wants to carve out his own identity. Just seems a lot more mature than I realized.
There's no way you can keep rookie defensive end Brandon Graham out of the starting lineup. Really enjoyed watching him in some one-on-one drills against Winston Justice. Graham's initial burst is pretty remarkable, but he's also developing some nice counter moves. He's smart enough to have asked for tape on some of the smaller defensive ends across the league. He can watch Elvis Dumervil on tape for an hour and then try to take some of his moves straight to the field.
Fourth-round pick Clay Harbor is eventually going to be the Eagles' second tight end. Cornelius Ingram's the better athlete, but Harbor's already doing a really good job running routes. And it looks like he and Kolb already have some good chemistry.
I've had my doubts about Ellis Hobbs as a starter, but he had a nice day Wednesday. He broke a couple passes and he's bringing a lot of emotion to the field. I told Roseman that I didn't think the Eagles had enough depth at cornerback. I'll give you his answer later Wednesday, but mainly he thinks that Hobbs' Super Bowl experience outweighs any injury concerns. And he also thinks Joselio Hanson gives the Eagles a great option at the nickel. I'm still not sold, but we'll see how things develop.
I think Moise Fokou will eventually have to play defensive end if he wants to stay on this roster. I've been watching him in pass-rushing drills. Sean McDermott hasn't admitted anything, but everything's pointing that way.
Third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim might be the most intense player on the roster, but he's not anywhere close to Graham as a pass-rusher at this point. Put a decent little rip move on Greg Isdaner, but that's about all I was able to see.
Tapp hasn't really done anything to distinguish himself at this point in camp. It seems like the offensive tackles have been able to keep him in check for the most part.
Offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou is a much improved player. He's an enormous guy and his technique looks pretty solid right now. I'd sort of written him off, but he's caught my eye in one-on-one drills.
I'm not sure the Eagles have done enough to improve the depth at defensive tackle. OK, I'm off to watch special teams practice and then visit with Reid.