I decided to slip on 95 yesterday to watch the first open Eagles training camp practice of the summer. After getting through some horrid traffic, I finally arrived at the Mecca, Lincoln Financial Field. For the next few hours, I watched the team, and mostly the offense, go to work in the 95 degree sun. Here are some major takeaways:
1. Jordan Matthews looks like an absolute star. It was evident during individual drills that he was just going faster than any other receiver and that carried over when he started facing defenders. He made several tough catches, going full extension for a grab on the sideline as well having a few over the middle in traffic. Arguably more impressive is how quick he looked after the catch. His vision and burst helped him cut through the defense with ease. If yesterday was any indication, Matthews could be in for a huge season.
2. Josh Huff is not a slouch either. Playing outside for almost all of his reps, Huff was able to consistently make the DBs work their asses off to keep up with him. His quickness and precision was outstanding and he looked like a natural. His best asset is how quickly he can transition from receiver to runner and how dynamic he is with the ball in his hands. Not surprisingly, he also had a bunch of big runs in kick off drills.
3. Nelson Agholor looks like a rookie. There was much excitement when the Eagles took Agholor back in April, and there still should be, but Agholor had his little bumps and curves to deal with in practice. He moved great all day, consistently creating separation out of his breaks, but he also had some issues at the catch point. He had drops early on, one coming against air, but he did finish strong with a few great catches late in practice. Because of the talent ahead of him, Agholor will not be needed to perform out of the gate, which is good because he still has to nail down some consistency.
4. This team is huge. I have been doing Eagles camp for a while and I cannot remember a team being this large collectively. The linemen, the receivers, the backs, the defensive backs... Everyone. Even the shorter players, like Huff, are still rocked up. Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are an incredibly physically intimidating duo at running back. Kelly has wanted a big team since day one and, oh boy, does he have it.
5. Byron Maxwell is the real deal. Much was made about the Eagles making Maxwell a 60 million dollar man, but he looked liked every cent of that deal in practice. He was incredibly physical at the line and looked great in coverage, keeping step for step with any receiver across from him. The Eagles need a boost at corner play this season, and they may get an even bigger one than they expected.
6. Jacorey Shepherd does not look like a rookie. A lot of people called the Eagles getting Shephered on day three of the draft a steal, and he sure did not play like a day three draft pick. He got a ton of reps outside and in the slot, and made the most of each snap. While he had issues with Jordan Matthews (everyone did), Shepherd was outstanding covering downfield and had a few good plays with the ball in the air. With the way he is playing, he should be seeing more of the field sooner than later.
7. Sam Bradford looks good. Much has been made about the Eagles quarterback situation, but the starter seems pretty clear cut. A healthy Bradford in this offense= lots of points. His arm is on another level than the other quarterbacks and much better than Nick's was in camp last season. Bradford had a ton of impressive throws and looked good moving around. Every prayer in the book to keep him healthy, because I think he will be a hell of a player here.
8. The third quarterback spot is a wasteland. You know that scene in Lion King where Mufasa shows Simba where he shouldn't roam? Well, that elephant graveyard is the third quarterback spot on this roster. Matt Barkley has no juice in his arm his passes consistently died after a few yards and his accuracy down the field was shoddy. As for Tim Tebow, while he has an arm and good mobility, his accuracy is atrocious at every level of the field. Also, he cannot read a defense and his decision making is inconsistent at best. He is a mess. Barkley is a mess. God willing, neither will see reps at quarterback during the regular season, because of this offense cannot even make a player look alright in practice.... Welp.
9. There were so many Tebow jerseys. Shake my head guys. Shake my head.
10. Hey, this season is gonna be really, really fun. The Eagles have physical running backs, a ton of athletic pass catchers, a good quarterback (if he's healthy) and a fast, athletic defense. I promise this team just *looks* worlds better than last season. Get hype, y'all.