The pads finally went on at Lehigh, as the Eagles had their first real practice of the season, giving young players their first real chance to get noticed by coaches.
Two players that definitely took advantage of the opportunity were first-year wide receivers Marvin McNutt and Damaris Johnson.
McNutt, a 6'2, 216lb WR from Iowa, made a play every time he had the opportunity to.
Early in the practice during 1 on 1 drills, McNutt streaked down the sideline and hauled in a long pass over Joselio Hanson from Mike Kafka. McNutt had a serious height advantage, but he showed great technique as he went up and got the ball instead of waiting for it to come to him. It was a great example of McNutt using his height to his advantage, a trait the Eagles could definitely use in their wide receiver core, especially with Riley Cooper going down today.
McNutt also made a big play when he caught a tipped pass on a wide receiver screen before breaking some tackles and gaining about 30 yards on the play. The play really showed the difference between Cooper and McNutt, the rookie is much more dangerous with the ball in his hands. Cooper may have more experience, but he simply can not make the kind of plays McNutt did today.
Another rookie receiver who made plays today was Damaris Johnson. Despite being the smallest player on the team (him and King Dunlap look like different species), Johnson showed that when given space he has an elite talent, speed. Johnson caught a pass on the sideline and made a cut to get some space, once he did, it was basically over as he jetted straight up the middle of the Eagles defense untouched. The only thing that stopped him from getting the endzone was himself, as he tripped up towards the end of his run.
Johnson's speed may be 2nd to only DeSean Jackson on the Eagles. It was a rough day for the Eagles offense, but Johnson's play provided perhaps the most exciting moment of the day. If he can make this team as a punt returner, the Eagles would be smart to try to get him involved in the offense in some capacity. He is a real home run threat.
Other Observations From Today:
Brandon Graham: Graham came into camp trying to prove he can be the player the Eagles hope he would be when they used a first round pick on him, and he looked like that player today. Graham is lighter than he was last year, and looked much quicker coming off of the ball. A few times today Graham got into the back field and would have had a sack if Vick wasn't wearing a red jersey. If he can get that close to Vick, he should have no trouble bringing down the slower Eli Manning or Tony Romo. With Jason Babin going down today with a strained calf, Graham could be this teams starting defensive end.
Jamar Chaney: It's hard to tell at times how linebackers look early in camp, as the defense is still installing plays. But Jamar Chaney made some nice plays today as he ran with the 2nd team defense. On one play, Chaney sniffed out the screen and brought LeSean McCoy down as soon as he got the ball. Stopping screens and over pursuing them were a problem for the Eagles linebackers last year, so it was good to see Chaney make the adjustment early on in camp.
Nnamdi Asomugha: During the live 11-on-11 drills, Nnamdi Asomugha was matched up with DeSean Jackson. Jackson got Asomugha to bite on a fake and hauled in a pass along the sidelines, which Asomugha just laughed off as he ran back to the huddle. It was funny at the time given the rivalry the two have developed during camp, but in all reality it's no laughing matter after how he played last year. Asomugha also dropped an easy interception later in the day. It's still early, but it's clear right now that Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie is this teams best corner, and it's not even close.
Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown, Chris Polk: Had it not been for the intense discussions amongst the fans and writers about who will be this teams back up running back, an average observer on Saturday wouldn't even know there was a competition. Dion Lewis looked great as he showed off his speed and hands in making several plays out of the backfield. Brown and Polk, on the other hand, were basically non existent. It might have been a lack of opportunity, but neither of them made even a peep during the first live hitting session. After one time out on the field, Brown was ripped by Duce Staley for not keeping his eyes up during the play. The two young running backs might still win the job, but they did not help themselves on Saturday.
Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks