The pads were on as the Eagles practiced at Lincoln Financial Field today. It was also alumni day: many Eagles greats were individually introduced to the crowd out of the tunnel prior to the beginning of practice. Here's what I observed from today's practice:
• The practice kicked off with the Eagles introducing team alumni. Among notable introductions were Brian Dawkins and Brian Westbrook. But only one man could get the loudest ovation from the crowd, and that guy was... Donovan McNabb. McNabb will officially retire as an Eagle tomorrow. Even Eagles greats such as AJ FEELEY and RENO MAHE (!) were there. Watching Tommy McDonald (79 years old) skip out onto the field with lots of energy was a great sight. It was fun to hear "Duuuuuuce" chants again too.
• I thought the energy at this event was amazing. To have 30,000 people show up to an Eagles training camp practice is incredible. You would never know this team went 4-12 last year. Philly is obviously a football town, but that doesn't make today's turnout any less impressive to me. Eagles fans prove to be a diehard bunch that really care about their team. Here's a photo (link) of fans entering the stadium today.
• Jeremy Maclin received a huge round of applause when they showed him on the big screen. Eagles fans were eager to show their love for their wounded warrior.
• The practice wasn't as physical as I had imagined it would be. There wasn't a lot of hitting or tackling, just more bumping and roughing than usual. It was speculated that Chip Kelly was going to run a softer camp (in terms of physical contact) than Andy Reid, and so far that's been the case.
• The quarterbacks didn't look too sharp today. I didn't notice anything great out of Vick or Foles. I feel like Barkley throws short passes often. Dennis Dixon threw a deep beauty of a pass to DeSean Jackson who burned Bradley Fletcher for a TD.
• I watched a drill where the OLBs practiced dropping into coverage. Brandon Graham looked smooth doing this, but he couldn't catch the ball when it was thrown at him. Graham needs to work on his hands if he hopes to pick off some passes.
• Russell Shepard is working hard and it's paying off. He made a great deep catch at one point that excited the crowd.
• Brandon Boykin almost made an incredible one handed interception off a short Foles pass intended for WR Greg Salas. I also noted that Boykin lined up on the outside WR at times and not just in the slot.
• Speaking of Salas, I had said in yesterday's notes that he has made some nice catches. Today was no different. A diving grab near the sideline caused the fans to applaud.
• Jimmy mentioned in his notes yesterday that Brent Celek has dropped some passes. Once again, today was no different. I saw him drop a couple of relatively easy ones.
• DeSean Jackson, Damaris Johnson, and Jordan Poyer all saw reps as punt returners today.
• Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was on the sideline at Eagles practice today. Spoelstra has reached out to Chip before to pick his brain. That a rookie NFL head coach gets that kind of respect and attention is very interesting, although unsurprising given Chip's background.
• PUNTER BATTLE UPDATE: Donnie Jones looks more consistent to me than rookie Brad Wing. I've seen too many Wing shanks to think he's ahead of Jones.
In regard to whether or not the Eagles will look for outside help at the WR position after losing Jeremy Maclin, Roseman said he has a lot of faith in the skill position players already on the roster.
TE Brent Celek - (Video)
• On the fan attendance: "It's good. It's nice to see the support that everybody had, especially with what happened last year. But it's a new deal going on here now, and I'm glad to see everyone in Philly [come out to the practice]."
• Celek wouldn't elaborate on whether this offense will see tight ends featured more. He said he couldn't give away any secrets.
• He said the loss of Jeremy Maclin not only hurts from a production standpoint, but also because he's a good guy in the locker room.
WR Damaris Johnson - (Video)
• Johnson said he's never really played in the slot, and this is his first year doing that. He was more of an outside WR in college.
• "Last year Coach April gave us the leeway to field a punt no deeper than the 8 yard line. I got a little heat from the fans from fielding inside the 10. I was doing the right thing most of the times, but sometimes I got carried away fielding from the 5 or the 3." Johnson said it's definitely no deeper than the 10 yard line now, per order of ST coach Dave Fipp.
WR Riley Cooper - (Picture)
• Riley said there's a lot of changes in this offense compared to the Reid offense. New routes, new energy, new tempo.
OLB Brandon Graham - (Video)
• On the most challenging part of the new defense: "Playing in space. Trying to be able to cover guys and know where to be, when to switch off. It's a lot of stuff that goes into the passing part. I know I can rush the passer, I know I can play the run. But that's the part I that need to get better at, that's a weakness of mine. But as I keep going I know I'll be ready by the first game."
• "We have a lot of unselfish guys here."
• Cary Williams (hamstring) and Arrelious Benn (knee) didn't practice. Cary was on the stationary bike for a bit.
• Todd Herremans had to leave practice because he tweaked his knee. According to the Eagles it's nothing too serious.
• WR BJ Cunningham was seen on crutches and with a walking boot on. Not a good sign.
• Photo of Erik Spoelstra.
Up next: Back to the NovaCare for a full day of Eagles training camp practice tomorrow. Also McNabb will officially retire as an Eagle.
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