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Issues And Answers Abound In Philly
PHILADELPHIA — With the biggest question going into mini-camp being “How will unhappy CB Sheldon Brown react in mini-camp?”, Brown disregarded all of the attention from media outlets and just concentrated on doing his job. He did not sulk and was solid in coverage especially in one-on-one drills with receivers where he showed his physical nature.
You can tell that Asante Samuel, Joselio Hanson, and Brown are a tight group as they worked together cohesively. The Eagles mixed and matched their corners in a variety of coverages, so you could never tell who was getting more reps. We will have to see how the Brown situation and the rest of the DB’s shake out in passing camps leading into training camp.
Maclin Looks Good So Far – With all eyes waiting to see what kind of playmaker Jeremy Maclin (#18) would be in mini-camp, he looked solid. Maclin is a little taller than last year’s star rookie DeSean Jackson, but you could clearly see he is still learning despite having comparable quickness to Jackson. The areas where Maclin, who clearly has loads of swagger, will need to improve are his route running and getting off a jam at the line of the scrimmage. Right now everyone seems to understand that Maclin is coming from a spread offense to a totally different NFL West Coast system. Coach Andy Reid said in his post mini-camp press conference of Maclin, “He looked good and the other rookies, but they will have some homework to do”.
I think the prized rookie’s biggest impact area at first will be in the return game. Maclin fielded punts and well in the Eagles’ bubble and he also was taking pointers from Jackson on them. I also observed that Maclin needs to move more swiftly after plays are completed as he and other rookie had a “glide” about them – trust me the coaches let all the rookies know about it as they are no longer the “Big Man on Campus”. Overall, Maclin is an exciting player, who once he learns the “NFL Game” will be a dangerous piece to an improving Eagles offense. Maclin received reps with the first team at times as receiver Kevin Curtis recovered from his latest sports hernia surgery.
Training camp will be a challenge for Maclin as he tries to rip off his “redshirt” while trying to impress the coaches in reps versus veterans like Asante Samuel.
Jason Peters happy to be in Philly — When GCobb and I talked to the Eagles’ newest left tackle after practice, you could clearly see Peters was glad to be in Philly. He has great camaraderie with the Andrews brothers and you could see the three of them hanging around together. Right now Peters was at Left Tackle and Shawn Andrews was at Right Tackle as his brother recovers from knee surgery.
It will be interesting to see which Andrews brother ends up on the outside, but Peters is clearly up to the challenge of playing the key position on the offensive line. He has grab feet and is very explosive on coming out of his stance – unfortunately these practices are no pads, so we really didn’t get to see him manhandle anyone.
One area that where Peters and head coach Andy Reid talked about his development is working out of a three-point stance, because the big former Bills lineman is more familiar working out of a two-point stand-up position. Peters said that he would continue to work hard with O-line coach Juan Castille to learn the Eagles’ system (little different than Bills scheme) and should be ready to hit the ground running for training camp.
Speaking of the Eagles new wall offensive line, Reid in his press conference said, “We are striving to lead the league in rushing. The comment brought a chuckle from everyone at the press conference. But you could tell with their huge offensive line and a backfield with Westbrook, new fullback Leonard Weaver, and rookie LeSean McCoy that there was some validity to his comment. We will have to see in training camp and during the season on third/fourth down and shorts if Big Reid was truly serious.
Quick Hitters from Mini-Camp
–Donovan McNabb was very sharp and loose in practice, so we know his blog about him moving on is true. He threw long balls well to Jackson and Maclin plus found his tight ends including rookies Cornelius Ingram (#88) and UDFA Eugene Bright (#82) often. McNabb will take a few weeks off then he will resume his work in Arizona with several of the pass catchers. Reid said the idea of players going to Arizona to work with McNabb was a very good thing in terms of repoire and learning the offense from the guy who knows it inside and out. Rookies Maclin, Ingram, and Brandon Gibson (#19) were all planning on going to work with McNabb. Speaking of Gibson, he very well could be the biggest surprise of this draft class as the 6th rounder showed confidence and was solid catching the ball.
– The receiver position is very crowded and there will be some hard decisions to be made in training camp. Back for another season are Reggie Brown, Hank Baskett, Danny Amendola, Jason Avant, and Shaheer McBride. That group along with Gibson will have to compete for spots behind Jackson, Maclin, and Curtis.
– Florida rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram is a real athletic looking player and you could tell that the coaches have high expectations for him. Ingram is fully recovered from an ACL injury that kept him away from the field last season and he looked explosive in drills. Now Ingram will need to learn pro techniques on route running and blocking. Undrafted rookie free agent from Purdue TE Eugene Bright opened some eyes with some nice catches in the redzone. Bright will be battling veteran Matt Schobel and fellow rookie Ingram for catches in two tight end sets playing with starter Brent Celek.
– Safety Sean Jones (#26) will be an interesting player to watch this off-season as he has been at the Nova Care Complex often immersing himself in Jim Johnson’s scheme. Jones right now is running second team at both safety positions to the “Quintin’s” as Quintin Mikell is the starter at strong safety and Quintin Demps is the starter at free safety. Jones is a very smart player, who should have no problem learning Johnson’s defense, which is a lot different than the Browns system.
– Fullback Leonard Weaver (#43) may have been the Eagles biggest off-season acquisition. Weaver said that he had heard about the Eagles’ difficulty in short-yardage situations in ’08 and he believes that whether carrying the ball or blocking for Westbrook that he can be a difference in that area.
– The best part of mini-camp for me was watching and listening to the banter between the DB’s and WR’s. The two biggest talkers were veterans Asante Samuel and DeSean Jackson, who each kept score of which unit got the best of the other in passing drills.
– Rookie Victor “Macho” Harris sat out Sunday with an illness, but head coach Andy Reid was high on the former Hokie DB. Reid thought that Harris is fast enough to play corner, yet physical enough to play safety. It seems DB’s coach Sean McDermott will continue to work with Harris at all positions in the back four and then they will see in training camp where he fits best. The area whether Harris should make an immediate impact is on special teams.