FOXBORO, Mass. – Defensive coordinator Bill Davis walked off the field feeling, at first glance, that his group showed well against quarterback Tom Brady and the New England offense in the first day of joint practices between the teams outside of Gillette Stadium.
It was a stark difference to last year, when Brady dominated the Eagles defense.
"Tom Brady ripped through us last year, but that's what he does," said Davis. "It really is a great barometer for your defense. We are so far ahead of where we were a year ago. It's a much better feeling. I don't know how to explain it to you. That first year, you've just got to keep growing and growing and growing. I think it's people playing technique now and understanding their assignments. There's been a lot of growth."
MACLIN STEPS UP VS. CB REVIS
It was quality work against a quality cornerback, and Maclin was glad for the work.
"It's pretty cool. It gives us some fresh faces to go against to kind of see where we are," said Maclin. "I feel like we went out there and competed and handled our business.
"He (Revis) was on my side the whole time and we had some pretty good battles today. It was pretty fun. I got deep on him that time, a post route. It's the NFL and I feel I can go against anybody."
A CHANGE OF PACE FOR TE ERTZ
There was no music. The Eagles didn't practice at the breakneck speed they use at the NovaCare Complex. It was a joint practice and the Patriots hosted and the Eagles played by New England's rules.
With the stands filled and fans jamming the perimeter of the practice fields, the Eagles and Patriots spent long portions of the afternoon in 11-on-11 work.
"It was really good, really competitive and it was fun going against another team," said tight end
"But it was great work and we have two more days of it before the game, so we're going to benefit."
As an Eagle, Sanchez is in a totally different spot. He's backing up
"It was what I expected. I expected them to run a sharp practice and they did. I expected them to be as good in practice as they are on Sundays and they were. I think Coach Belichick has a great system here," said Sanchez. "Guys totally buy in and they do a great job."
The New England media wanted to know all about Sanchez and his feelings as a backup quarterback to Nick Foles, and Sanchez reiterated what he has said all along: He's extremely happy as an Eagle.
"After Nick's year last year, that's only fair to him," said Sanchez. "He played top five in the league and he absolutely deserves that and we're supporting him 100 percent. I just have to stay ready. Now that I'm healthy, it feels good to be back on the field. I'll do whatever they need me to do to help."
VIEW FROM THE STANDS
- As Zach Ertz discussed above, there was certainly a different feel to practice Tuesday than the breakneck pace of play we've been accustomed to over the past few weeks in Philadelphia. Practice began with each team warming up separately on two different fields (the Eagles had moved on to individual work while the Patriots were still going through calisthenics). Then, the co-mingling began, with the Eagles wide receivers working one-on-one against the Patriots defensive backs, and vice-versa.
- For the Eagles offense,
Ifeanyi Momahcontinued to open eyes with the increased efficiency of his route-running. First, he employed a nifty hesitation move at the line of scrimmage to beat the would-be jam of Alfonzo Dennard, after which Momah sprinted down the sideline and hauled in a nicely lofted pass from Nick Foles. Later, Momah went up against Brandon Browner down the field and varied his pace to create exactly the perfect amount of space to outleap the 6-4 cornerback for a touchdown.
- Third-round pick
Josh Huffhas been able to win consistently with the post-corner route throughout Training Camp and Tuesday was no different, as the rookie sold the post perfectly before breaking off from Patriots defensive back Justin Green for a big gain. Jordan Matthewscontinues to bounce back from a down performance in his preseason debut, as he hauled in a long touchdown down the seam, despite a holding call on Patriots defensive back Travis Hawkins.
- As for the Eagles' secondary, no surprise that
Brandon Boykinwas a standout again, though Tom Brady did manage to fit in a few tightly contested receptions. Cary Williamsmade an impressive diving breakup on a quick route over the middle against Brady, while rookie Jaylen Watkinsshowed impressive makeup speed to break up a deep pass from Brady to wide receiver Josh Boyce.
- Following the one-on-one session and a special teams period, the two teams faced off in 7-on-7s, with the offensive and defensive linemen working against their counterparts on the back part of the field. For the Eagles defense,
Marcus Smith IIand Brandon Grahamworked with the first-team defense, in what was perhaps an opportunity to gauge their play against Brady and the Patriots offense.
- The Eagles offense seemed to focus primarily on the running game during the 7-on-7 period, though Zach Ertz did make a few nice contested catches. Meanwhile, after undrafted rookie
David Fluellenreceived the lion's share of carries after Matthew Tuckerwent down against the Beard, fellow rookie Henry Joseyreceived more reps Tuesday and looked spry bursting through the hole on a few occasions.
- Next, it was time for an extended session of full, 11-on-11 team drills, generally pitting the first- and second-team offenses and defenses against each other. Aside from Foles' touchdown toss to Maclin described above, one of the highlights was
LeSean McCoy's continued ability to make his way open in the passing game, including a deep catch on a wheel route.
- The focus, though, was on the Eagles defense and its giant leap forward from last summer in its ability to handle Brady. While Brady was nearly perfect last year at the NovaCare Complex, the Eagles defense not only forced its fair share of incompletions on Tuesday, but there were several plays in which Brady simply refused to throw the ball because the coverage was so tight. At one point, linebacker
Mychal Kendricksalso fired through the line of scrimmage with a blitz that would have brought Brady down in live action.
- Brady, of course, did have his share of wins on the day, many of them coming in the direction of Kenbrell Thompkins, who had a bit of a coming-out party against the Eagles last year. On one play, Thompkins appeared to be well covered by Williams, only for Brady to fit in a dime 35-or-so yards down the field which Thompkins caught just along the sideline.
- When the day was done, Foles explained that the intensity of the day's practice was short of game action, but close enough. "It's a great speed, especially for practice, but game speed is so hard to simulate," Foles said. "We're definitely moving, guys are moving fast, but the defensive line can't hit the quarterback, there's not really collisions. So guys are moving, we're being smart, we're practicing smart, we're protecting each other. Game speed is going to be a lot faster."