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August 13 Practice Report: Wet And Wild

Posted Aug 13, 2014

FOXBORO, Mass. – The Eagles and Patriots proved flexible Wednesday, moving up the scheduled joint practice time to 9 AM in order to fit everything in on a day where flood warnings are in effect. Despite the morning conditions, Wednesday’s affair was another spirited practice, with plenty of competition between the two teams. It also served as good preparation for the eventuality of a game played this season in inclement weather.

“You might have a game in this type of weather, so why not practice in it every now and again?” said tight end Brent Celek. “Hopefully this is the only one. Hopefully we got it out of the way, but it was a good practice.”

“You can’t control what it’s going to be like on a game day,” said guard Todd Herremans. “I think you definitely have to watch your footwork a little more, take more precise steps, you can’t cut so hard. You have to break down a little bit before you make your cuts and stuff, so I think it’s beneficial.”

MACLIN FEELS HAMSTRING “GRAB”

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was in the midst of another excellent day working against cornerback Darrelle Revis when he injured a hamstring after catching a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nick Foles while running a post route.

He went to the sidelines and didn’t practice for the rest of the rainy morning.

“My left hamstring kind of grabbed on me a little bit so I shut it down,” said Maclin. “It feels alright now, so I’m just going to treat it and go from there. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Go back and treat it and get back out tomorrow.”

Maclin said he is hopeful to play on Friday, but the Eagles won’t rush things. The Eagles and Patriots conclude their practice week with a walkthrough on Thursday.

THE RISE OF CB CURTIS MARSH

A third-round draft choice in 2011, cornerback Curtis Marsh has not found his stride. By the looks of his performance in Training Camp and in the preseason, it could be happening right now.

Marsh has been strong on the field all summer as he makes a bid on surviving the cuts down to 53 players.

“What’s really come together this year for me is the focus aspect and being able to do it consistently,” he said. “When the game slows down, it really slows down and that’s the main thing for me, and my ability to concentrate on every single play has increased, and I can tell the difference.”

Marsh spent 2011 and 2012 with the Eagles before being cut prior to the start of the 2013 campaign. He signed with Cincinnati and played with the Bengals for a couple of games last year. Then he was released by the Bengals and signed back to the Eagles’ 53-man roster in November.

MARCUS SMITH II MAKES STRIDES ON DEFENSE

First-round draft pick Marcus Smith II saw some reps with the No. 1 defense on both Tuesday and Wednesday in the joint practices with New England and continues to make progress learning the outside linebacker position in this defense.

“I think it’s getting a lot better. Practicing against the Patriots has helped me a lot, going against real big guys that protect (quarterback) Tom Brady,” said Smith. “I think it’s great for me.”

Smith had a strong outing in the preseason opener against Chicago and is looking for another step in the right direction against the Patriots.

“Percentage wise, I would say I was 75 percent against Chicago. There are things I can do better, especially pass rushing and maybe dropping into coverage,” said Smith. “I think one of the better things I did was not having any mental errors. I knew what was going on. I was communicating with my team, and that’s the best thing I did.”

Smith said the pass-rushing aspect of his game is behind his play in coverage and against the run, and he’s working on the technique part of things to improve.

VERSATILITY ALWAYS A KEY

Surely, the importance of “versatility” has been overstated for Chip Kelly, because what coach wouldn’t want versatile players? But when it comes to the players fighting for spots on the bottom of the roster, there is a real benefit to being able to do multiple things.

“If you’re not the starter, because you only have 46 guys active on special teams, your backup receivers, your backup running backs, your backup tight ends, your backup linebackers and (defensive backs), they all have to contribute,” Kelly said Wednesday. “That’s the battle for all those guys. If you’re not in the 1, 2 and 3 at the wide receiver spot, you have to be a great special teams player and I think evidence of that is what Brad (Smith) did when he came in last year … Before he even set foot on the field as a receiver, he made an instant mark for himself as a special teams player for us. So that’s what I think he’s battling with.”

For Smith, a former college quarterback, embracing the do-it-all nature of his position took some time, but it has proven integral to his career.

“You always hear the vets say, ‘The more you can do, the more you can do,’ but when it actually comes down to it, it’s like (that’s true),” Smith said. “But it’s all the special teams and then within your position, like, can you block as a receiver? Can you run the short routes? Can you run the different types of stuff? You can’t just be one-dimensional.”

Smith, meanwhile, is part of a group that includes the likes of defensive end Brandon Bair, linebacker Najee Goode and wide receiver Jeff Maehl who joined the Eagles mid-stream last season and who are now benefitting from increased knowledge of the system.

“All those guys missed the benefit of a whole offseason program, they missed the benefit of preseason and Training Camp,” Kelly said. “I think you’re seeing from all those guys, Najee has really stepped his game up at linebacker, Brandon has. I think it’s just a situation where they understand what we’re trying to get accomplished. Last year, they were probably playing catch-up, so to speak, and this year they’re not playing catch-up, they’re getting a chance to really show what they can do to contribute.”

“It’s big just to have the whole offseason and sit in meetings and talk to position coaches and actually understand the big picture of the offense instead of just trying to learn the gameplan from week to week, which is pretty difficult,” Smiith said. “So it’s been great to actually learn the whole thing.”

VIEW FROM THE CONCOURSE

With practice in the rain, your intrepid reporters took in the action from a bird’s eye view on the Gillette Stadium concourse. Here’s what we saw:

  • As mentioned above, Curtis Marsh was a standout during the 1-on-1 drills, as he made three impressive leaping pass breakups, once on Josh Boyce and twice against Brandon LaFell. Former Eagle Danny Amendola proved to be the most difficult cover of the session, as he bested Nate Allen once and Roc Carmichael another time, though Allen would later force an incompletion. Boyce also made a nice catch in the corner of the end zone on a perfectly thrown ball by Tom Brady over Bradley Fletcher. Carmichael also bounced back with two forced incompletions on snaps from the 5-yard-line.
  • For the offensive side of things, Jeremy Maclin bested Darrelle Revis for a touchdown for the second straight day. Kadron Boone caught an impressive throw from Nick Foles in the corner of the end zone to beat Malcolm Butler before the offense moved things to the 5-yard-line. From there, Jeff Maehl made a nice catch on a contested jump ball against Brandon Browner. Revis would buckle down in the red zone, breaking up a quick slant intended for Will Murphy from Matt Barkley
  • The next period was marked with 7-on-7 action and 1-on-1s or 2-on-2s with the respective offensive and defensive lines. For the guys up front, Brandon Graham was a standout, speeding past Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer, while Travis Long looked to dip around the outside of Patriots tackle Nate Solder. The standout combination for the Eagles offensive line was the second-team right side of the line, with David Molk, Dennis Kelly and Lane Johnson working well together to stonewall combination rushes from second-team Patriots defensive linemen. 
  • On Tuesday, Nick Foles remarked on Tom Brady’s willingness to consistently take the open short pass in order to keep the offense’s momentum moving. Foles did plenty of that himself during the 7-on-7 period, finding the likes of Maclin, Brent Celek and Darren Sproles for quick completions. On defense, Najee Goode made an impressive play in the red zone, leaping up to knock away a Brady pass intended for Julian Edelman. 
  • The highlight of the full team session was the aforementioned long touchdown to Maclin, which would prove to be the receiver’s final play of the day. Elsewhere, Patriots safety Devin McCourty broke up a would-be touchdown pass to Zach Ertz in the end zone. During the final session, Jordan Matthews made an impressive catch over Logan Ryan on a pass from Foles. 
  • For the second-team offense, Henry Josey got the lion’s share of the work and ran well, especially behind Kelly and Johnson on the right side. 
  • The first-team defense, meanwhile, continued its strong play against Brady, especially in comparison with their performance last summer. Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen worked alongside each other at safety while DeMeco Ryans made the highlight reel play, rising high to bat down a Brady pass in the red zone. Later, Brady would find Edelman for the day’s final touchdown when the receiver worked his way past Carmichael. 
  • The second-team defense saw Chris Maragos and Keelan Johnson working together, with Johnson making some nice plays in coverage on slot receivers and tight ends. Brandon Boykin filled in well against the run, though the defense was beat for a big run on one occasion when Brandon Bolden raced past Brandon Bair and Travis Long. 
  • Finally, the action between the respective third teams was highlighted by an inch-perfect pass down the seam from Matt Barkley to tight end James Casey, beating three defenders in the area for a would-be touchdown. Meanwhile, Patriots rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo moved the offense with much more consistency and looked to be more decisive and accurate than Ryan Mallett, the leader of the second-team Patriots offense.

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