- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Real quick, before I head home...
Thursday's Philadelphia Eagles practice wasn't as hard-hitting as Wednesday's was, but it was much hotter and there was a parade of guys leaving early with cramps and/or injuries. Those included running back LeSean McCoy and safety Nate Allen (cramps), safety O.J. Atogwe (groin) and linebacker Jamar Chaney (hamstring). Chaney was headed for an MRI, but none of the other issues were thought to be serious. It seems as though Andy Reid is trying to see how much his players can take, perhaps in an effort to make sure they don't lack toughness or stamina once the season begins and there are fourth-quarter leads to protect.
I thought DeSean Jackson was very active in Thursday's practice, and after speaking with him in the morning I took notice of the variety of routes he was running, including the underneath ones. "Defenses game plan on me," Jackson told me in the morning. "So all the downfield routes, all the deep routes that we always had success with, last year teams tried to prevent that and started backing up deeper. So I think whatever it is as far as underneath routes, getting the ball in our hands earlier and faster just so we can catch and make runs, I think that's going to be huge for us this year as well. Just not always trying to go deep for the home run."
Middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans looked like the proverbial "quarterback of the defense" as he called out the offense's formations and ordered the players around him into different looks and coverages depending on what he saw. Ryans left practice briefly with some kind of physical issue, but he only missed a play or two and was able to finish without any problems.
Once McCoy left, running back Dion Lewis ran with the first-team offense and looked good. I thought he was particularly impressive in traffic, whether it was catching the ball with a crowd around him or skittering around and finding a hole. He's clearly the primary backup to McCoy. As for the rookies, Bryce Brown still looks like the better, quicker and more decisive runner than Chris Polk, though he needs to do some work on his blocking.
Chaney was working as a first-team linebacker before he got hurt. His injury could result in an opportunity for Brian Rolle or Casey Matthews to assert himself as a possible starter along with Ryans and rookie Mychal Kendricks.
The defensive linemen who are playing as the first-team unit with all four starters out -- Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Darryl Tapp and Derek Landri, made life difficult for McCoy as the Eagles worked on their inside running in 9-on-7 drills, though it should be noted that the defense is the side that has nine in that drill.
Cox, the first-round draft pick, got through the line a few times against third-team offensive linemen, but in general he looks like a rookie tentatively working his way through drills as he learns. He's massive and athletic, but he definitely looks like someone who's learning. Which is to be expected.
That's it for me from Eagles camp, though you will see plenty more posts based off of the interviews I did while here. Eagles Camp Confidential is currently scheduled for Monday, so look out for that. And I will complete my NFC East training camp tour with a stop in Oxnard, Calif., on Monday and Tuesday to see the Cowboys. That's all for now. Heading up the highway. Enjoy your evening.