Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Eagles Wednesday practice observations
By Dan Graziano
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Yeah, they hit pretty hard at Philadelphia Eagles training camp. They go at it for about two hours in pads and in anger. When they're not in 11-on-11 drills, they're off to the side hitting each other. The most entertaining drill in camp is the ferocious one-on-one work the offensive linemen and defensive linemen do against each other, though part of the entertainment is the coaching duo of Howard Mudd and Jim Washburn.
Too much hitting? Too hard? Maybe. The Eagles have a bit of a walking-wounded thing going on. Starting defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole are out (though Babin's injury isn't a contact injury), and defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left practice Wednesday with a hamstring injury and is scheduled for an MRI on Wednesday night. Backup quarterback Mike Kafka took a hard shot from the first-team defensive line as he dove for the end zone in goal-line drills. And wide receiver Jeremy Maclin sat out a few plays after injuring his left hand on a hard hit he took in 11-on-11 drills, though he went back in and said afterwards that he was fine.
Yeah, if you need your football fix in early August, I'd say come on out to Lehigh and watch the Eagles pound on each other for a couple of hours. It was certainly the most lively and entertaining practice I've yet seen on my trip.
Michael Vick didn't have his best day during training camp at Lehigh University on Wednesday.
Some other thoughts from said practice:
Michael Vick didn't have his best day. He threw into double coverage too often, was picked off twice and didn't dazzle the way we've seen him dazzle in training camp practices in the past. I doubt it's any cause for concern, but I know some people are going to ask how he looked, and the answer is I've seen him look better. And expect that I will again.
Backup quarterback Mike Kafka shows a decent command of the offense, but they reason the Eagles are in trouble if he has to go into a game is that he really can't throw the deep ball very well. And it's not as if this offense is going to want to live on dump-offs to the backs and tight ends and short passes over the middle. Maclin and DeSean Jackson are on this team, which makes the offense about field-stretching speed. Kafka's shortcomings in the deep passing game would be an issue if he had to play extended time.
Sticking with the quarterbacks for a second, it's easy to see what they like about rookie Nick Foles. First of all, he's 6-foot-6 and 243 pounds. But he has a big arm that really stands out when he takes the field with the third-team offense after Kafka's had his turn. He hit Mardy Gilyard with a beautiful deep pass down the right sideline at one point in practice, and while he can look scatter-armed at times, you can see the raw ability.
The first-team defense had a rough time against Kafka and the second-team offense in team drills, as the offense went down the field and scored on a Kafka touchdown pass to tight end Brett Brackett from the 1-yard line. (Brackett beat rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks in coverage.) Of course, that first-team defense was without Cole, Babin and Jenkins, so that has to factor in. But it's not as though the replacements for those guys are no good. It suffices to say that the linebackers and defensive backs weren't thrilled with the way that series went.
I saw a fair bit of the two rookie running backs, and to my untrained eye Bryce Brown looks better than Chris Polk. Brown needs to get his pads lower, but he's running forward with burst and some power while Polk seemed to me to be running side-to-side too much. At some point, you need to go forward. They used Brown at the goal line.
With the injuries on the defensive line, the first-teamers up front were Brandon Graham and Darryl Tapp at the ends and Derek Landri and Fletcher Cox at the tackle spots. Graham looks fantastic. He was the star of those one-on-one lineman drills and looked good in the 11-on-11s as well.
A lot of people have asked me about rookie receiver Marvin McNutt. He's big (6-2, 216) and there was at least one play on which he was able to use his size to beat Marsh on an inside route by shielding the ball with his body. So it looks as though he has good instincts.
I'm back for one more day here tomorrow, then I'll head home for a couple of days before completing my NFC East training camp tour with a trip to Oxnard to see the Cowboys early next week.