Philadelphia Eagles News

5 Things: The Pads Start Popping

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Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz addresses the media beginning at around 10:45 AM. Watch it live online or on our mobile app. Dave Spadaro and I will have highlights from the day's action on Inside Training Camp presented by Xfinity. Until then, here are the 5 Things to Know for Saturday, July 30.

1. Tackling Begins Today At Training Camp

There's an evolution throughout the course of Training Camp. First, the rookies arrived and competed for the first couple of days to get acclimated to the pace and schedule. The veterans arrived in earnest on Wednesday and the intensity ratcheted up at the first full-squad practice Thursday.

Now, the heat intensifies - both literally and figuratively.

Saturday marks the first padded practice of Training Camp. Head coach Doug Pederson wants to evaluate players in as realistic a setting as possible. In addition, the team wants the players to get the first taste of hitting now rather than in two weeks when the preseason kicks off. Every year, there are players who shine in the T-shirts and shorts, but fade when the contact begins. Will that be the case once again this year?

2. Join Us Tomorrow For The Open Practice

You don't have to wait long to see the Eagles in action for the first time in 2016. Sunday marks the first of two Open Practices being held at Lincoln Financial Field. The theme is Kids Run the Show Day and there are tons of great activities for fans of all ages. Parking and admission are free. Gates open at 8 AM. Practice is set for 10 AM. It's a great opportunity to watch the team up close, check out the stadium or just have a fun morning with the family. Details can be found here.

3. Eagles Pleased With Running Back Depth

The Eagles signed running back Darren Sproles to a one-year extension through 2017 on Friday. Sproles, a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a punt returner and multipurpose weapon, is expected to have a bigger role in the offense this season. Ryan Mathews is atop the depth chart entering Training Camp, but he is currently sidelined with an ankle injury although he should return next week.

The rest of the running backs on the roster are unproven, but that's not a concern for head coach Doug Pederson.

"We've got some young talent," Pederson said. "Kenjon Barner is a kid that has shown some good strides this offseason picking up the offense, and you've got Ryan out there. You've got Darren Sproles. And then you've got the young kids: Wendell (Smallwood) we picked up and Byron Marshall and Cedric O'Neal and the rest of the guys that have some talent. I love playing with two tight ends. I like playing with double halfbacks. It's a chance to get all these guys some reps down the stretch now during this tough time."

4. How To Maximize QB Play

Alex Smith was a former No. 1 overall pick in 2005 who struggled early in his career before being shipped to Kansas City. In his three seasons with Pederson as the offensive coordinator, Smith won 30 regular season games, notched three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons, threw the second-fewest interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 1,000 attempts (20) and ranked fourth among all quarterbacks with 1,183 rushing yards. Smith's 20 interceptions from 2013-15 marked the lowest three-season total of his career in years that he played more than 10 games.

What changed?

"Something we did in Kansas City with Alex was surround him with talent and with talented guys, and utilize his strength of his athleticism and his brain," Pederson said. "(He's a) very accurate passer. He doesn't turn the ball over. That became a recipe for success for us in Kansas City."

The question for 2016 is can Pederson work the same magic with another former No. 1 overall pick in Sam Bradford.

5. A Different Approach To Veteran Players

Earlier this offseason, the Eagles gave tight end Brent Celek a new three-year deal. Entering his 10th NFL season, Celek is 31 years old. On Friday, Sproles signed an extension. He's 33, the fourth-oldest player on the team, and is at a position that isn't kind to aging veterans.

New deals for players 30 and older were something rarely seen from the Eagles in the 2000s.

"When you talk about leadership, work ethic, character and then production – he's made the last two Pro Bowls - he exemplifies everything that we want to be," said Roseman of Sproles. "As we look at it, he's so important to this team on and off the field so it was a no-brainer from our perspective."

Roseman added that there is value in having tenured players in the locker room.

"When you look at those guys (Celek and Sproles), we know what they still bring to our football team on and off the field and when you're implementing some young players, it's good to have a nice mix of guys who have done it before and who understand what it was like when teams had success," he said.

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