We are just over a week into Eagles training camp 2014 and for the most part things have been relatively quiet, with the exception of a few headline-grabbing quotes from players.
With no tackling to the ground anymore, training camp isn’t quite what it used to be. And unlike last year, there aren’t many true battles for starting positions. Hell, I haven’t even heard word-one about smoothies this year so far.
However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any news to catch up on. Here’s a run-down of what’s been happening as well as a quick update on injuries…
Rookies and new guys
Nolan Carroll has been generating a lot of buzz with his performance in camp so far. He’s been getting his hands on the ball quite a bit apparently and is making his case to supplant Bradley Fletcher or Cary Williams as a starter.
I still think Fletcher and Williams will be the starting CBs on opening day, but I could see Carroll getting significant playing time and possibly take over a starting position during the season.
Either way, it’s good to hear that he’s doing well. He could be an important piece of the puzzle for this year and the future.
Rookie WR Jordan Matthews has garnered quite a bit of attention himself during camp so far. Hell, going by all the reports, he’s a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame!
Matthews is getting all the positive reviews by how he finishes every play by running it out full speed and catching everything that comes his way…
“The other advantage is he’s young and he’s got courage. So he can run around and catch the ball with people around him. Lastly, when he catches the ball, he sets his hair on fire and runs. If we didn’t have fences around here, he’d run into the street. He’s one of the best finishers we have.’’
In regards to Matthews, Pat Shurmur also said…
“He can play anywhere,’’ Shurmur said during a 15-minute morning interview session with the media. “He’s got size. He’s good against bump-and-run coverage. His spacial awareness is good.’’
It seems as if every practice, there is a beat writer tweeting positive things about him. Hopefully he can live up to the hype come the regular season.
Matthews has undoubtedly received all the attention as far as the rookies go, but what about first round pick Marcus Smith? With the lack of news and attention from reporters, it’s almost as if he’s not there.
However, Reuben Frank delivered with at least something to give us an idea as to where he stands and how he’s coming along…
It may seem like nobody is noticing the rookie first-round pick. But his teammates sure are.
And they can’t stop praising him.
“Rookies, you’ve got a lot on your plate, so it can get discouraging at times, but Marcus, he’s a high-spirit guy and he’s been good about it,” DeMeco Ryans said.
“He’s really stepped in and you really don’t see him as a rookie. He’s like one of us already, like a vet already, the way he’s stepped in and just meshed with everybody in the locker room.”
“He’s going to get on the field, he’s going to play,” Connor Barwin said. “It’s exciting to think what he’s going to be able to do, out there with Trent [Cole] or out there with me.
“The one area I’ve been impressed with him is his natural ability to cover. I think he’s very patient. He doesn’t know exactly where he needs to be yet — he knows a little bit but not exactly where receivers and backs might go. But you can see his athleticism in coverage.”
Smith has been repping at both outside linebacker spots but mainly at Barwin’s Jack position, a hybrid of setting the edge, stopping the run, dropping into coverage and rushing the passer.
It’s hard to gauge how Defensive Ends and Linebackers are performing in practice with the exception of how they may look in coverage. We won’t get a good idea of how Smith is really doing until we see him in game action.
Beau Allen has been getting reps with the first-team defense and while he hasn’t exactly stood out, he hasn’t looked like he doesn’t belong either (according to Les Bowen of the Philly Daily News). Jason Kelce also chimed in a little on Allen…
The big picture here is that Allen practiced with the starters yesterday, not for the first time, as the Eagles’ heftiest defensive lineman (6-2, 333) continued to take advantage of the opportunity created by starter Bennie Logan’s hamstring injury. Allen has not looked out of place in that group, though Logan, as a third-round pick a year ago who played well as a rookie, certainly will have an edge when he gets healthy.
Logan suited up for yesterday’s session but sat out the team work. He said he was “being patient” with his hamstring.
“Beau’s an intriguing guy,” Kelce said. “For how big he is, he has very, very good feet. He’s quick, he’s very strong. He has a lot of raw ability that you like to see in a nose tackle. Right now he’s just working on his technique. Getting to know the plays, getting to know our offense. Some of the other ‘noses’ are ahead of him in terms of the knowledge, but you see a lot of the things you want to see in terms of the skill level in him . . . The nose guards that I see that are the most consistent . . . are big guys that have really quick feet, or really long arms.”
Fifth-round Safety Ed Reynolds has probably generated the least amount of news of all the rookies. Not much has been said about him one way or another. Here is a blurb from beat writer Elliot Shorr-Parks as he mentions Reynolds during one of his practice observations:
Ed Reynolds: Rookie safety Ed Reynolds has had a pretty quiet camp so far, as he runs with the third-string safeties and tries to catch up from missing OTAs and minicamps this summer. Reynolds still has a ways to go before he sees the field in the regular season, but the safety did make an impressive play on Thursday, flying in at the last second to bat away a Matt Barkley deep pass. Reynolds showed good closing speed on the play, and good instincts to get there and break it up.
Nothing too exciting on the Reynolds front so far. He’ll likely make the roster, but barring injury we likely won’t see too much of him in 2014.
Rookie WR Josh Huff has been relatively quiet as well as he learns the new nuances of coach’s offense. Here’s a quote from Pat Shurmur on Huff, courtesy of Sheil Kapadia:
“He walked in here thinking, ‘Hey, I know this offense,’ ” Shurmur said. “He’ll be the first one to tell you there are a lot of things that have changed and been added from what he did at Oregon, which he just really had to do. We see a lot more defense. We see a lot more man coverage in the NFL than they did in college. So we’ve got a lot of the traditional things in the passing game that you would run at this level.
“So that kind of shocked him I think initially that this isn’t exactly what we did at Oregon, but he settled in. He’s done extremely well. He competes every day. He’s very good against bump and run. He’s a strong, physical body. He almost looks like a running back because he’s kind of a powerful type guy. And he’s doing a good job.”
In other words, Huff is still learning. He’ll be the fourth receiver in the offense and will get some playing time over the course of the season, but if he’s going to make his presence felt this year it will likely have to be as a kick returner.
Taylor Hart and Jaylen Watkins have also been somewhat under the radar as far as garnering attention. For the most part, though, they’ve been holding their own.
None of the rookies appear to be in any danger of not making the roster at this point.
Malcolm Jenkins, the Eagles’ marquee free agent signing, has received a lot of accolades from his new teammates as well as the coaches. He’s said to have picked up the defensive scheme very quickly and has already established himself as the leader of the secondary.
Darren Sproles has received many positive reviews as well. From his practice habits to his quickness and to apparently being used in a multitude of ways in the offense, all reports are good on that front.
Surprisingly (or not), Mark Sanchez has received several positive reviews as well. He’s said to be leading the second-team offense efficiently and making throws. That’s good news because if Nick Foles goes down for any length of time, the season will ride on Sanchez’s shoulders.
The returning veterans
Speaking of Nick Foles, he’s been having a good camp as far as I can tell. It’s been said repeatedly that there is no question who the best QB on the team is right now. He’s developing a leadership role and is taking command of the offense.
He hasn’t been perfect every day, but he’s clearly “the guy.”
LeSean McCoy has been studly, as usual. He even shed a little weight in an effort to improve his quickness this year. He’s going to be fun to watch again this season!
Jeremy Maclin appears to be fully recovered from his knee injury and has been practicing without any issues (quote courtesy of Geoff Mosher):
“I didn’t come in here thinking I have any limitations or anything like that,” Maclin said after practice. “The knee has felt fine. It’s held up. I feel great. I’m out here getting better each and every day. That’s all I can ask for.”
“I don’t think I necessarily needed confirmation (that I’m 100 percent recovered),” he said. “Maybe you guys do. Like I said, I’ve been feeling fine. I’ve been out here since April 21, continuing to get strong, continuing to get better, just working on my craft.”
Mosher notes that he’s been going full speed without limitation or hesitation.
Allen Barbre has been getting the first-team reps at Right Tackle since he’s going to be the starter there for the first four games. Chip Kelly even hinted that Barbre could remain the starter even after Lane Johnson returns from his suspension.
However, it would be a surprise if that ends up being the case. You don’t want the guy you just picked fourth overall last year to ride the bench. Plus, Johnson is a talented player.
Based on the buzz so far from the beat writers, I’d say that Earl Wolff is ahead of Nate Allen in his bid to be the starting Safety next to Malcolm Jenkins. Wolff has been making some plays during practices and getting himself noticed.
In fact, the starting secondary combination during Sunday’s practice was Bradley Fletcher, Nolan Carroll, Malcolm Jenkins and Wolff. That was due to Cary Williams sitting out the day, but that combination seemed to spark a buzz.
Vinny Curry may be in line for more snaps this year as it has been noted that he seems to have replaced Cedric Thornton in the nickel package on defense. Makes sense to me, Curry is a good pass rusher and should get more snaps!
In case you’re wondering about the kicker situation, it doesn’t appear that “Murderleg” is in any danger of winning the job. I just hope Alex Henery can improve on his power and distance this year.
The injury front
Not to jinx it, but this is probably the best news from training camp so far: no major injuries!
Several players have been dinged-up, but nothing serious. Riley Cooper has been MIA with an ankle issue for a little while but is expected to return soon. Ditto Jeff Maehl.
Earl Wolff had some soreness in his knee and missed a practice (but returned already). Jeremy Maclin also missed a practice but has returned.
By this time last year the Eagles had lost three players for the season with an ACL injury. Here’s to hoping the good fortune continues!