PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:
While at least one Eagle, cornerback Cary Williams, has made it clear he’d rather not be spending three days practicing against the New England Patriots this week, most of the players seem to be on board with the idea. “I’m really excited about this,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “This is awesome. I love practicing against another team. I’ve done it for most of my career. It’s perfect timing for us.” The Eagles had a brief walk-through session at the NovaCare Complex and headed for Foxborough, Massachusetts, early in the afternoon Monday.
Head coach Chip Kelly likes practicing against another team because it gives the coaches a chance to evaluate players in a different setting and against different competition. “It's going to help a lot,” defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. ”Tom Brady was great last year to see. You really do know where you are against the elite of the elite when you get to play and practice against them a couple days in a row. So we're all really excited about going up there and challenging ourselves and going against the best.”
In the preseason opener in Chicago Friday, the Eagles did not get a lot of pressure on the Bears’ quarterbacks. But Davis said that was partly because they didn’t do anything exotic in order to generate pressure. The whole idea was to evaluate the players’ abilities in a base defense. “I knew halfway through that we were struggling on third down, and we were losing different one-on-one battles,” Davis said. “You can go to the pressure package, if you want. But it takes you away from the evaluation process. So the whole goal is to evaluate and grow the players, and that's what we're working on right now. It hurt a little bit on third down.”
Kelly and Davis also expected the blizzard of yellow penalty flags that came down in the game. The officiating crew that worked the Eagles’ practices a week before the game said as much. Still, the players have to be able to adjust to the way the games will be called. “We're learning how the officials are calling a tighter game,” Davis said. “The other night, they called it pretty well. I mean, we grabbed cloth. They called everything they told us they were going to call, and we made the mistakes. If we put our hands on someone past five [yards], they called it. It's a matter of us adjusting. … We can still be aggressive, we can still attack, we can still press. We just have to do it a little tighter than we did a year ago.”
The Eagles and Patriots will practice together at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday and Wednesday at Gilette Stadium in Foxborough. Both practices will be open to the public. Thursday’s abbreviated session is closed. The Eagles are in relatively good health heading up to Massachusetts. Running backs Chris Polk and Matthew Tucker and cornerback Nolan Carroll were working out with trainers on the side Monday. Kelly said he expected linebacker Casey Matthews to practice Tuesday.