For the first time in 2012, the full Eagles squad of veterans and rookies alike to the practice fields at Lehigh University, kicking off the full portion of Training Camp. Eighty-six players began practice, meaning the entire 90-man roster was accounted for with Mike Patterson, Jason Peters and Colt Anderson sidelined with injury and Mat McBriar waiting the mandatory three-day period before he can practice.
Tight end Brent Celek left practice after a few plays with a mild right knee sprain, but he assured reporters afterward that it's nothing to worry about. "I'll be fine. I promise," Celek said.
Because it was the first practice, it was our first look at how the depth chart currently sits at several positions. One of the more intriguing pieces of news depth-chart wise, was the alignment of the cornerbacks when the first-team defense took their first reps. On the left, as expected, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. However, rather than Nnamdi Asomugha lining up on the outside, the All-Pro was inside covering the slot and second-year man Curtis Marsh manned the right side. Even though it was an alignment the Eagles used occasionally in the spring, Marsh was pleased with the opportunity.
"It felt good just to be out there with those guys," said Marsh after practice. "You play up, because you have some of the best in the league looking at you, relying on you, trusting in you. So you step your game up.
"We rotate. We have different guys that do different things well. It's by game plan and coach is going to get the best players he thinks to put in certain situations. You just trust in the coaches and when you asked to go in, you do your job to the best of your ability and try to make a play."
Asomugha was utilized in the slot at times last season, and his versatility gives the Eagles an advantage over the opposition, Marsh says.
"I think it's great, just because of matchups," said Marsh. "It depends on who's in the slot and who's on the outside. If we have a better matchup for all three guys and we have Nnamdi in the slot, then it's better for us and it makes it more difficult for them. And then, just like sometimes today, we were running nickel versus base and Nnamdi was on the tight end. If you play a team with a really good tight end, you virtually take that tight end out of the game. So that's another advantage from doing that."
One other interesting note on the cornerbacks was something the team wouldn't have done last season with Asante Samuel in tow. Samuel preferred playing on the left side, keeping Asomugha on the right side. For a few plays Thursday, Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie flip-flopped sides.
As for the rest of practice, here's your rundown of the noteworthy nuggets. Remember, any depth chart notes can change as quickly as tomorrow.
--- With Patterson out, Derek Landri took the reps alongside Cullen Jenkins at defensive tackle with the first team. Of course, the Eagles will rotate their defensive tackles constantly under Jim Washburn and the tandem of Fletcher Cox and Antonio Dixon worked with the second unit Thursday. Darryl Tapp and Brandon Graham were the second-team defensive ends behind Trent Cole and Jason Babin.
- Riley Cooper and Jason Avant both saw action as the two receivers in the base offense.
--- with Celek out, all three other tight ends (Clay Harbor, Brett Brackett and Chase Ford) all saw action with the first team. At one point, Brackett hauled in a long pass down field from Michael Vick.
--- Dion Lewis was the second running back and also worked in with the first-team offense, as did fullback Stanley Havili.
--- No surprises with the first-team offensive line (Demetress Bell, Evan Mathis, Jason Kelce, Danny Watkins and Todd Herremans), but the second-team offensive line was worth noting: from left to right, King Dunlap, Julian Vandervelde, Dallas Reynolds, Mike Gibson and Dennis Kelly. Howard Mudd has already indicated that Reynolds and Vandervelde are the top contenders in the jockeying for the backup center spot.
--- Casey Matthews continues to take his reps at middle linebacker with the second team. Today, he was flanked by Jamar Chaney and Akeem Jordan. Meanwhile, with the first team, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Rolle were the initial two nickel linebackers, though Kendricks later worked in as well.
--- Six different players took reps fielding punts backed up against the goal line: Chad Hall, Brandon Boykin, Damaris Johnson, Mardy Gilyard, Cliff Harris and, in a mild surprise, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
--- Finally, After Phillip Hunt blew up a run in the hole, eliciting a strong reaction from the defensive line, Darryl Tapp, who has taken the mantle from Asante Samuel as the most boisterous practice participant, yelled to the offense: "Saturday's coming," expressing the defense's excitement for the first day of hitting.