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August 5 Practice Report: The Corner Store

Posted Aug 5, 2014

On Tuesday, the Eagles donned the pads for the final time before Friday night's preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. It was a day for the cornerbacks, as the unit made play after play, eliciting a series of boisterous celebrations from their position-mates, and intern coach Lito Sheppard.

The highlight of the day for the defense came during a red-zone drill 11-on-11 session, when Brandon Boykin rose up to make an impressive diving interception in the end zone on a pass intended for Josh Huff by Mark Sanchez. As Boykin fell to the ground, his helmet came off, after which Boykin demonstrably spiked the football before he was greeted by an onslaught of fellow defensive backs.

"They tried to go deep on me," Boykin recalled after practice. "I figured they were going to try to do that because I had just come back from a long deep route so they were trying to take advantage of my fatigue. Helmet came off, all the dramatics, I slammed the ball to put an end to it.

"We did (do a lot of celebrating today), and that's what makes it fun. Today was a competition day and it was the last day of work for us before the game so we wanted to make sure we ended on a good note. In the red zone, that's pretty much where we pride ourselves. If they score, it's a touchdown and we never want that to happen, so we put a little more emphasis on getting the ball out and getting turnovers."

Cary Williams, the veteran statesman of the cornerbacks, explained the growing camaraderie among the cornerbacks.

"What's crazy is we're a tight bunch," Williams said. "It started, like I said, previously in OTAs, getting together, talking to one another and just getting a feel for one another. It started in OTAs and it's continuing to build. Hopefully, it'll continue that into the season. We're excited about guys out there competing, whether you're a 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, whatever it may be. We're all family and we want to see each other succeed."

He Is Marsh, All

During Monday's Practice Report, PhiladelphiaEagles.com broke the story that cornerback Curtis Marsh has been a standout performer through Training Camp thus far. Marsh once again proved us prescient with an outstanding day on Tuesday, breaking up several passes, both deep and short, in one-on-one drills, and following that up with more pass breakups during 7-on-7 drills and during the team session (when he knocked down a slant at the goal line during a Red Zone drill).

A former third-round pick, Marsh has spent his fourth Training Camp in relative anonymity. In a suddenly very deep group of cornerbacks, though, the former Utah State standout believes he can still be an impact player.  

"I've gotten better every year," Marsh said. "We just work to improve every day, every play, one play at a time. I feel myself getting better every year and this year, my game is at a higher level than it's ever been.

"I think it's just consistency. I've always been able to do things well, but I think at this point in my career, I'm able to do things well all the time and just focus. I've always competed. I feel like the consistency, the habits, the constant reps, it's just getting there. My game's at an all-time high. I feel really good."

Cary Williams volunteered himself as a member of the Marsh fan club as well.

"I think he's a playmaker," Williams said. "I think he's a guy that can come out here and compete each and every day. He's done that. He's proven that since I've been here, and I like the guy. I think he's a good teammate, I think he's going to work hard, I think he's going to bust his tail each and every day. He's doing everything you can ask and more. I don't know if he's forgotten among the guys, but to the media, yeah. But he's my brother and I'm proud of the improvement he's making and he's going to continue that this Friday."

The Slot Machine

Jordan Matthews has received his fair share of hype this Training Camp, and rightfully so. The second-round rookie has been a standout nearly day in, day out, as he works primarily with the second-team offense in the slot. On Tuesday, though, Matthews didn't find quite as much open space as he has over the last week or so. That's because this time he was one-on-one with Brandon Boykin, perhaps the league's premier nickel cornerback.

"He's a really good player, even though he's a rookie," Boykin said of Matthews. "People are expecting him to do great. We are too. So me working against him in the slot is good for him … We talked about it yesterday that we wanted to go against each other a little bit more to give him a realistic look about what it's like to go up against a slot corner instead of a safety … I think it helped him out a lot and I think it's going to continue."

"There are a lot of distinct differences," Matthews said, when asked about the difference between working against cornerbacks and safeties. "When it comes to safeties, those guys aren't used to always covering. Those guys are used to coming down and hitting. So whenever you get in their area, they're going to want to be physical, they're going to want to put their hands on you because that's when they're going to feel comfortable, that's when they actually feel safe in coverage. But with those DBs, they can play you either way. Boykin can come up and be physical with you, then he can back off and play off man, just like if we were on the outside, versus an outside receiver. You just have to watch your guys, know your guys, continue to study each one."

Meanwhile, running back LeSean McCoy registered his impressions of the young receiver.

"That rookie we got, Matthews, he's looking real good," McCoy said. "I think there's been a lot of talk about this draft class being deep in wide receivers, but I'm real confident in this one being the best one out of that class. It's still early. You have to go through the season and see how he does, but he looks amazing.

"As a rookie, I don't want to put too much pressure on him. The good thing is he doesn't have too much pressure because of myself and other guys doing the load, but the kid from being 6-3, he can run like a deer, he's strong and physical, he works extremely hard. That's all you can ask for from a player like that. I'm sure he'll make some damage. Not a lot of pressure. He's not the number one receiver. He doesn't have to do that as much, but just enough when he's called on to make plays."

Maclin "100 Percent" Certain He'll Play

Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin missed most of Tuesday's training session with what he described as "just a little soreness" in his legs, but he's "100 percent sure" that he'll suit up and play Friday night in Chicago.

"It's not a big deal. Today, I probably could have gone. I just wasn't 100 percent," Maclin said. "Tomorrow, I should be fine and then Thursday be fine and be able to play Friday."

If the Eagles had to play a game, Maclin said that he "could have gone," but he just wouldn't "have felt like myself."

After missing the entire 2013 season with a knee injury, Maclin is looking forward to suiting in a game for the first time since December 30, 2012.

"I'm trying not to let it get to me, but it's going to be special," Maclin said. "I haven't played in two years. I'm looking forward to it so I'm excited."

McCoy: Film Won't Do Offense Justice

Sure, defenses will watch the game tape to see how the Eagles deploy LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles on the field at the same time. Opposing coaches will scheme and align the defenders to try and match McCoy and Sproles' ability to stretch the field not only horizontally, but vertically as well.

However, McCoy thinks the true challenge for defenses will be seeing the Eagles' offense live and not on tape.

"It's going to be tough because you don't know who has the ball. There's so many different options. Once we get (Jeremy) Maclin out there stretching the field a little bit, with myself and Sproles, so many different motions and the hard part about it is not only having me and Sproles in the game at the same time, we're going at such a fast pace," McCoy said. "I think just us working together and from passing the ball and running the ball, we should do a lot of damage."

View From The Stands

  • A day after the Eagles unveiled their unofficial depth chart, the starting secondary returned to its listed form, with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher at cornerback and Malcolm Jenkins and Nate Allen at safety.
  • Josh Huff had a couple drops on the day on difficult catches, but he also used a nice stutter move to free himself from Curtis Marsh during 1-on-1 drills, prompting the following reaction from Mike Quick, a man who knows a little something about the receiver position: "That kid knows how to run routes." Later, during the final team session, Huff would make an impressive diving catch along the sidelines. 
  • Kadron Boone made a few nice moves during the 1-on-1 drills, catching passes while working against both Earl Wolff and Daytawion Lowe. Boone and Quron Pratt have done well for themselves while fighting an uphill battle in a very deep group of wide receivers. 
  • The Willy Loman Dime of the day came courtesy of Mark Sanchez, who spun an absolutely perfect ball down the seam to find Damaris Johnson despite tight coverage by Roc Carmichael
  • While Zach Ertz continues to make big plays each day (today's highlight was a leaping reception over Earl Wolff near the sideline), Brent Celek won't be giving up reps any time soon. Celek has been among Nick Foles' favorite targets, and the two hooked up for another touchdown Tuesday during the Red Zone session. Ertz, though, showcased his blocking on a screen pass to Josh Huff.

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