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Separating Some Eagles Fact From Fiction

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

A dose of reality here: The Eagles have conducted three days of Training Camp, with one of those days in full pads. Not a single player has been taken down to the ground on a tackle. There is only so much observers - and I'm talking about the media, the fans, the coaches, the scouts - can glean from these kind of "training sessions."

With that, it's time to parse the facts from the fiction when it comes to the Eagles, circa 2015 ...

  • When you read about practice "standouts" or those who did not perform well, keep it all in context. Other than seeing a wide receiver or defensive back either catch or drop or break up a pass, it's almost impossible to make an accurate observation. Let's be real here. There is no tackling. How much can you tell about a defense, for example, when there is no tackling?

  • OK, so you can see the quarterbacks. The ones in the red jerseys. The ones who can't get touched in this Training Camp. They look good. I would say that Sam Bradford looks really good. And Mark Sanchez is throwing the ball well and Tim Tebow had a strong first three days of camp. But until they get into a game situation when the defense can actually, you know, bring them to the ground, how much does this all mean? Coaches are looking for decision making, recognition of defenses and shifts, and accuracy on passes. It changes a ton when the preseason games begin.

  • Much of the information I pass along comes from coaches and scouts, all of whom I trust implicitly because they do all the work. Just to clarify ...

  • JaCorey Shepherd has a chance to win some instant playing time, as I mentioned last week here. The Eagles have been high on Shepherd since they drafted him and he has played well in the training sessions. Long arms. Tenacious. A bigger body than Brandon Boykin, who was traded for the following reasons, in no particular order: 1) His physical profile (5-10, 185 pounds) isn't what the Eagles want. They want long-armed defensive backs who can press at the line of scrimmage; 2) The Eagles had a chance to get good value (a 2016 fifth-round draft pick that becomes a fourth-round draft pick should Boykin play 60 percent of the snaps in Pittsburgh) for a player in the final year of his contract; and, 3) Because the Eagles like the young talent they have identified in their secondary. Remember the name Denzel Rice. He is off to a good start here.

  • How much of a loss is Travis Long, who suffered another torn ACL on Monday? Had he made the team, it would have been as a bottom-of-the-roster player. Good player. Great kid. Not a difference maker. The Eagles need Marcus Smith to step up. Smith looks better physically, but it's very hard to say how a linebacker is playing right now. I think Brad Jones, a veteran acquired in free agency, is the third outside linebacker here before it's all said and done. And I think the Eagles can use Mychal Kendricks in certain pass-rushing situations off the edge, if needed.

  • The defensive front here is going to be outstanding this season. They are not star names. They are not going to put up big numbers. They are just going to kick butt up front. Mark my words. This is a strong group.

  • Riley Cooper has been terrific in this camp and he's been taking first-team reps with Josh Huff as Jordan Matthews runs from the slot. That may shock you. Why is Cooper taking first-team reps? Well, he's caught every pass that I've seen thrown his way all spring and summer. It may not last, as Nelson Agholor develops, but for now Cooper has been outstanding.

  • Can't tell a thing about the offensive line. The coaches seem pleased, but every coach is pleased one week into Training Camp.

  • One very obvious observation: Zach Ertz is a stud. He's a lot stronger, having done the MMA training thing in the offseason. He's more explosive. I don't know how linebackers can cover him this season. Safeties are too small. Big season ahead.

  • Does anybody think Darren Sproles will have more rushing attempts than receptions this year? I see Sproles getting upwards of 50-60 catches. And judging by the history of third running backs around here, Sproles may have more punt returns than rushing attempts this season.

  • I see a lot of plays designed to get the ball out of Bradford's hand quickly. Good idea. Minimize his risk of injury. He is quick releasing the football. Has been darn accurate.

  • Not until the preseason games is it fair to access the play at safety. Who challenges Walter Thurmond as a starter? Earl Wolff, perhaps. Jerome Couplin, perhaps. Otherwise, not sure who is equipped, unless Jaylen Watkins makes the leap up in his second season.

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