Eldra Buckley: Training Camp MVP
It's day number two here at Eagles training camp and the morning starts out mercifully cloudy (no tents out here for the media). The energy is high as Adam Schefter's Training Camp tour bus pulls up to the edge of the field and the crew begins unloading equipment. The crowds are as energetic as ever as the Eagles begin to trickle on the field. I'll try to account a few things that I notice as the action swirls around me.
- As Jimmy and I walk onto the field, we see DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant practicing fielding punts. Interestingly, they're keeping the balls that they catch. It's pretty impressive to see Jackson catching and running with a punt with two more footballs already in his hands.
- Heading down the field, I stop to observe Coach Castillo working with the offensive line. He is as energetic as ever, but that doesn't stop A.Q. Shipley from blowing a few snaps. I'm still not very confident in our center position here.
- The offense begins running through drills, Michael Vick looks a little shaky, but that doesn't faze Avant. Mr. 3rd Down hauls in a one-handed pass along the sideline that elicits cheers from the crowd.
Ernie Sims shows us his much-hyped speed as he blasts through the offensive line for a "sack" on Kevin Kolb. Our o-line is looking like swiss cheese right now. Kolb has had to scramble for his life on a few plays. Side thought: Between Sims and Bradley, our linebacking duo could be the NFL's next "Lightning and Thunder."
- Trevard Lindley makes a great read on the play and bats down Vick's pass. The receiver didn't stand a chance.
- Mike Bell, A.Q. Shipley, and Jeremy Maclin are done practicing with the rest of the team today. Time for rehab. As Maclin trots over to one of the exercise machines, I notice he is joined by Omar Gaither, who I would later find out had been held out for the day with an inflamed ankle.
- Time for one-on-ones. Joselio Hanson is playing very physical football, but Hank Baskett manages to hang on to the pass. What a trooper.
- Jared Perry continues making a strong case for the practice squad. He beats the coverage across the middle and hauls in a pass from (guess who?) Mike Kafka.
- Riley Cooper shows a great double move against Asante Samuel and beats him for the catch. Fans are screaming "Go, Sunshine!"
- DeSean, shifty as ever, drops Ellis Hobbs flat on his face. There's just no covering this guy.
- Eldra Buckley, who has been banged around a lot today, is playing with a giant hole in the seat of his pants. I wonder if he notices...
- Baskett goes down on a play clutching his knee and the team clusters around him. He is able to limp off the field with minimal assistance, and actually wants to return to practice, but the big receiver is ushered to the medical tent. He'll come back a few plays later.
- Leonard Weaver keeps yelling to rookie Charles Scott, who is taking reps with the second team at fullback. "Hit it harder!" he screams from the sidelines. The players are now calling him "Coach Weaver."
- Martell Mallett and Kafka look out of sync on one handoff, and Mallett ends up almost getting clotheslined. I'm pretty sure Mallett's just a camp body at this point.
- The special teams starts field goal drills and David Akers is perfect for the day, hitting a few 50+ yarders.
- The team begins 7-on-7's with Kolb at quarterback. Stewart Bradley comes up big to bat the pass out of Weaver's arms from behind.
- Vick steps in to take a few reps and forces Cooper to bend waaaay down to scoop a pass out of the dirt. One fan shouts, "C'mon, Vick! Donovan ain't here no more! We don't wanna see none of that!"
- Buckley, running with the second team now that Bell is out, splits out wide and makes a nice catch. His candidacy for the third RB spot is still very strong.
Quintin Demps, mostly silent until now, flows into the backfield for a "sack" on Kafka. Kafka should be thankful it wasn't Trevor Laws on the field or he would have ended up on his back.
- In the play of the day, Buckley rushes into the secondary, bowls over Asante Samuel with a very audible crack, and keeps moving until a horde of defenders bring him down. Buckley is clearly the MVP of the day.
- As practice winds down, special teams takes the field again to work on punts. Ken Parrish is looking less than impressive - he just doesn't have the distance on most of his kicks.
- Jason Avant is back returning today, but he looks a little shaky, dropping a few balls and juggling another. Let's hope Jackson and Maclin stay healthy.
- Coach April drags Asante Samuel into the punt coverage unit. Samuel looks a bit out of place and shouts, "I'm not used to this, coach!"
- The morning practice draws to a close and the players begin the long trek from the far practice field back to the locker rooms. I head over to the media tent for Bobby April's press conference.
- At first, it's just PhiladelphiaEagles.com's Chris McPherson and myself with April, but we are soon joined by a scattering of other reporters. It's surprising that there isn't much media interest in April today.
- April's talk was certainly not short on praise of Ken Parrish, but he made it clear that Sav Rocca was the frontrunner after an offseason of improvement.
- As for the return game, April mentioned that he wants players back there that have return experience in college, hence the addition of Avant as a backup. "Obviously, you need a contingency plan if your top two guys aren't available," April said. Guess that makes Chad Hall the odd man out on both the receiving corps and special teams. Danny Amendola, pt. 2, indeed.
- April also stated that he wasn't considering J.J. Arrington (still out with a foot injury) for punt returns due to his lack of experience. Anyone want to take bets on how many more days he'll last?
- The press conference closes with April praising the work of big receiver and special teamer Kelley Washington, who is still giving Baskett a run for his money. One thing's for sure, though, "It'll be a tough decision" to let many of these special teamers go.
- On the way out of the media tent, I catch up with a Quintin Mikell, who is surrounded by a cluster of reporters. He admits that last season's performance could definitely use some improvement, but the addition of new talent has certainly helped: "Last year, we didn't get enough guys to the ball. Speed will help with that. Tackling won't be an issue this year."
As my brief time at the Eagles' training camp comes to a close, I am more excited than ever to see our team go up against another squad. Although there are still holes to fill and kinks to work out, there is certainly a lot of young talent for the coaching staff to mold. I fully expect the team to come out swinging on week one and look forward to their matchup against the Jaguars this Friday. See you at the Linc!