PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:
There really wasn’t much to distinguish Saturday’s practice from the weeks of workouts the Eagles conducted in June. There was little 11-on-11 action and no more than a hint of all-out tackle football. That’s the way the NFL is going. “We’ll have a similar format [to last year],” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “We had live tackling drills where the offensive backs went against linebackers, wide receivers went against DBs, so we’re going to stick with that. We have four preseason games where we’re allowed to tackle to the ground, that I checked on.”
The Eagles have installed the taller goalposts that will be used in the NFL this season. Kicker Alex Henery managed to hit the right upright during the first field goal session of training camp. Rookie Carey Spear, who looked inconsistent during June practices, hit a slightly longer attempt wide right. It was not a stellar display for either kicker. It has seemed obvious that Henery has a commanding lead in this competition. A bigger concern might be that Spears’ ineffectiveness rubs off on Henery.
It’s hard to remember a first-round draft pick coming into training camp flying under the radar as thoroughly as Marcus Smith is this year. One suspects the coaches have a plan for Smith that ends with him playing significantly during the season. For now, though, Smith is the third-team left outside linebacker behind Connor Barwin and second-teamer Bryan Braman. The expectation was that Smith would eventually replace Trent Cole on the right side, but Cole is being backed up by Brandon Graham, who was the Eagles’ first-round pick four years ago.
Last year, the Eagles had three days at the beginning of camp for rookies and other young players. This year, the entire roster was here from Day 1. “After evaluating it from one year,” Kelly said, “we don’t have a rookie quarterback.” Last year, with fourth-round pick Matt Barkley in his first camp, Kelly wanted to get him some work before Michael Vick and Nick Foles began absorbing practice reps. “We also want to make sure there’s a certain tempo and pace if you’ve seen us practice. To try to run our rookies into the ground when you don’t have a quarterback, you know, we did that a little bit in our rookie camp. Press Taylor, one of our wide receiver coaches, was throwing and it wasn’t as productive as we thought it was going to be.”
Barkley is working with the third team, behind Foles and Mark Sanchez, this year. He looked especially sharp during some 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills late in Saturday’s practice. Foles picked up where he left off in June, throwing accurately and in rhythm for the most part. With Allen Barbre starting at right tackle, Lane Johnson is working with the second team. Andrew Gardner, a 6-foot-6, 308-pound free agent, is the second-team left tackle. Matt Tobin, who is still listed as a tackle, was working at left guard.