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Spring Sessions End With Optimism

Posted Jun 19, 2014

The final training session of the Eagles’ 2014 spring ended with a collective cheer from the team gathered on the field, and after a team meeting players went their separate ways. Training Camp begins in 35 days. The countdown is on ...

The final training session of the Eagles’ 2014 spring ended with a collective cheer from the team gathered on the field, and after a team meeting players went their separate ways. Training Camp begins in 35 days. The countdown is on.

In the meantime, the Eagles emerged extremely optimistic about what they gained from the spring. There were no injuries, which is the most important news. Those who were here last year understand that Chip Kelly’s program works, and they worked at a tempo and with an understanding of things far beyond what they experienced in 2013. The new players got up to speed quickly. Everyone helped the player next to him.

Really, it was a spring that went as well as anyone could have wanted. And as the final training session ended, a handful of players talked about the offseason that has been …

DARREN SPROLES, RB

Acquired in a trade from New Orleans, Darren Sproles figures to add a tough-to-match element into the Eagles’ offense. He’ll be a running back, and the Eagles made sure to clarify that, but Sproles figures to be involved in a range of formations and offer options in both the running game and in the passing game.

He is excited about the offense and the possibilities that exist.

“I love it,” said Sproles. “I love the way they have us in space. I like it. I like the way the coaches use space. It’s creative and it’s fast.”

Sproles looked every bit as quick and explosive as he’s been in his career, and one of the most-anticipated parts of the season is how involved Sproles is in the offense and in the return game on special teams.

“Whatever they want me to do, I’m going to do it,” said Sproles. “Just line me up and tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”

JEREMY MACLIN, WR

After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Jeremy Maclin returned to the Eagles with a one-year contract and participated on the field every day and couldn't be happier with his progress.

Is there any better news to come from this spring?

“There have been no restrictions and no complaints on my behalf about my knee so I’m just excited to be healthy and to help my team,” said Maclin. “The mental part has always been where it should be, so going through this again has been great for me. I’m right where I want to be.”

Maclin plans to spend most of the next month in Philadelphia continuing his conditioning and making sure he is in the right place physically when Training Camp begins.

He looked like he hadn’t missed a step in the three-day minicamp that wrapped up on Thursday.

“I’m going to stay on top of everything and just make sure I get my rest where needed and start to peak when camp opens,” he said. “I really haven’t had much time off, so this is going to be great. Still working hard and pointing in the right direction.”

JORDAN MATTHEWS, WR

One of the most talked-about players after the Eagles selected him in the second round of May’s draft, Jordan Matthews impressed in the spring on and off the field. By the end of the minicamp, he was right there gaining as many reps as anyone, although it’s sometimes foolish to read too much into that, given the way Kelly rotates his players in the up-tempo training sessions.

“Whether I was in there with Nick (Foles) or with Mark (Sanchez) or Matt (Barkley) or GJ (Kinne), I was just trying to do my job and finish my assignment,” said Matthews. “The main thing for me is to use these five weeks the best way I can and to improve myself with my diet, working hard and conditioning.

“It’s been great. Informative. Definitely a great learning environment. I couldn’t ask to be part of a better team or better environment. Coach Kelly, Coach (Bob) Bicknell, Coach Pat (Shurmur) they’ve all made it a great atmosphere for me to come here and actually learn and get better. I appreciate them for that, so I’ve just got to go out there and make plays for them.”

Can Matthews be a starting slot receiver in September? Can he contribute heavily as a rookie?

He doesn’t think that way. He’s keeping his focus on what he can control.

“I think I did alright. The main two things I want to control are my attitude and my effort,” said Matthews. “I feel like each day I was able to come out and give that 100 percent, so I’m happy with those things. I’ve got to get better at the little things, too.”

MARCUS SMITH II, LB

The team’s first-round draft pick is very much in the learning phase of his career, and he certainly has a lot on his plate. Marcus Smith II, though, is handling the responsibilities well.

“I think I’ve played really well. I’ve been learning every day behind Connor (Barwin) and I try to come out here and get better at one thing each time I’m out here," Smith said. "That might be how fast I play, one day it might be my hands, another day it might be shedding my blocks. I just try to come out ever y day and work on something.”

Smith is playing the “Jack” linebacker position, and he will spend time in the next month in Atlanta with former Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith working on some pass-rushing techniques. Marcus Smith II has a lot to learn and a long way to go in a defense that mandates precision.

He’s willing to put in the work.

“It’s exactly what I anticipated. I knew it was going to be a lot to learn, but since it’s just football and no school or anything like that, it’s coming easier,” said Smith. “I’m going to continue to train and work and build on what I’ve learned here.”

MALCOLM JENKINS, S

Signed in free agency to “quarterback” the defense, Malcolm Jenkins has it down pat. He and Nate Allen are on the same page with what they’ve seen in the defense in the spring, so the next step is to see how much different the game will be when the pads go on.

Jenkins is optimistic with the next step.

“The way we practice, I don’t think there’s going to be a big difference,” he said. “The tempo, pace and speed that we go at give us realistic looks as a defense. When you put pads on you have to take guys to the ground and finish, but I think we’ve done a good job getting those game-type reps in practice.

“I feel good about the work we’ve put in and the progress that we’ve made. Nate and I have a good feel for each other. We’re seeing the same things and making the same checks. I think we grew a lot as a defense and I’m really excited about what we’re putting together here.”

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