It was a whirlwind, five practices crammed into three days and surrounded by meetings, private time with the playbook and football, football, football. Nothing but football, Eagles style. The post-draft mini-camp allowed the coaching staff and the scouts to eyeball the roster and begin the long grind that is assessing and evaluating and determining the best 53 players who will make this 2010 roster.
So what stood out? Plenty, actually. That there were no injuries was a huge, huge plus. The Eagles have lost key players for the season during these non-contact drills, so to emerge unscathed is a positive, indeed. The sensation of seeing so many new faces was really striking. The tempo and the energy at practice were impressive, as was the crispness of the action.
Drilling it down to the individual players, there is only so much to take from practices where there are no pads. But, hey, I know what you are looking for, and that is to have some idea of what the players are doing, how they look on the field and how they may factor into the team's plans this season. So let's begin the exercise ...
**STEWART BRADLEY, linebacker
That Bradley was able to take part -- full participation, by the way -- in each of the five practices was flat-out great news. There apparently was no swelling in his knee and he didn't wear a brace or look tentative in any way. Bradley appeared to move fluidly. He had a terrific pass breakup in the end zone against tight end Brent Celek in a red-zone drill on Sunday, showing a good backpedal, a nice burst and excellent instincts.
Bradley now has a few months to continue to work on his game and his knee before training camp begins. It won't be easy in camp to take part in the two-a-day practices, but the fact that Bradley made it through the first weekend of camp was a huge plus for the Eagles. He looked great running the defense. It was good to have No. 55 back on the field running the defense.
**RILEY COOPER, wide receiver
He is a big body who isn't the most fluid receiver in the group, but Cooper sure made his presence felt. He seemed to increase his comfort level very noticeably from Friday until Sunday. Cooper caught a pretty fade pass from quarterback Michael Vick in the left corner of the end zone and he got his hands on some tough passes and made excellent catches. Cooper was sure handed, ran good routes and was everything the Eagles expected him to be.
Cooper has a long way to go to master this offense, no question about it. He is in the infant stages of learning the scheme. But he is off to a good start. Cooper made excellent strides in his bid to find a place on this roster. The wide receiver group as a whole was excellent -- Hank Baskett was terrific, in particular -- and players like Jordan Norwood and Dobson Collins and some of the younger players are going to make this a competitive position to watch in training camp.
**ERNIE SIMS, linebacker
Fast, fast, fast. If Sean McDermott can find a way to use Sims in space and allow him to run to the football, Sims is going to make a lot of plays. He isn't a very big linebacker, but Sims is super-aggressive and has a good awareness in coverage. Sims also can be a real weapon in the blitz game.
Don't be surprised if the Eagles spot Sims during the season and use Akeem Jordan and even Omar Gaither -- when his Lisfranc injury comes around. The worry with Sims is that he will wear down. The Eagles need to keep him fresh and keep him fast.
**TREVARD LINDLEY, cornerback
In Sunday's red-zone drills, Lindley did an excellent job sticking Basket on a couple of post-corner routes and he seemed to have a natural ease of movement in coverage. We haven't seen Lindley hit and we haven't seen him in press coverage, but there is no question that he has innate cover skills.
Lindley lined up with the second team at the right cornerback position, behind Joselio Hanson (Ellis Hobbs did not take part in seven-on-seven drills or in the 11-on-11 portion of practice). Dimitri Patterson played behind Asante Samuel (who was brilliant throughout camp) on the left side. The cornerbacks battled a really outstanding group of receivers and they hung in there. Dick Jauron really worked with the cornerbacks and stressed the little things and the attention to detail.
**WINSTON JUSTICE, offensive tackle
Again, very difficult to tell much about the line of scrimmage, but Justice seems like a completely different player than he was a year ago. He is stronger, clearly so, and he is confident and his technique appears so much more consistent. You hope that Justice takes another necessary step after securing the right tackle job last year and this season becomes a dominating player.
The entire line seemed pretty well equipped for the defense's blitzes and the pass rush. Nick Cole appears ticketed the starting job at center, and Stacy Andrews is the guy at right guard. Juan Castillo has a lot of work to do between now as September 12 as he works his players for consistency and some depth.
**KEVIN KOLB and the QBs
Fantastic job by Kolb and Michael Vick and rookie Mike Kafka. Kolb was accurate -- it was extremely noticeable on his deep throws and in the red zone -- and the players responded to his tempo and his urgency in practice. It was an outstanding first weekend as the starting quarterback.
Vick is so, so much better at quarterback than he was last season. He is also slimmer and much faster. It will sure be interesting to see how he factors into the offense on a week-to-week basis in 2010. Defenses have to account for Vick in certain packages and the Eagles would be wise to integrate Vick into the scheme.
Kafka looked really comfortable and he made some excellent throws into tight windows. He was not overwhelmed by the moment. He was not blown away by the scheme. He seemed to make good decisions and he delivered a nice ball.
**BRANDON GRAHAM, defensive end
Graham missed Saturday's practices but came back for Sunday morning. He did enough to impress. He is a submarine off the line of scrimmage and he plays low and really gets off the line quickly. The Eagles are so excited to see him in pads, along with the rest of a very fast and very physical group at defensive end.
It is unfair and not accurate to judge the defense, particularly the defensive line, in these camps. The defense can't hit and there are no pads, so you really watch for athletic ability, instincts and where a player lines up in the scheme.
*CHAD HALL, wide receiver *
It is going to be difficult for Hall to make this roster, but he is going to give it everything he has. Hall is very, very quick off the line of scrimmage. He catches the ball naturally. He gets in and out of his routes fast, and because he is such a small target you could envision the Eagles using him in space and driving defenses crazy.
But can he hold up? He is so teeny-tiny by NFL standards. Hall is going to have to come with the same energy at every practice in training camp, and he is going to have to show he can make plays on special teams. Hall will be a fan favorite. He is a fine, fine football player and he is so much fun to watch. He goes out and he makes plays, no matter how small he is.
**MARLIN JACKSON, defensive back
Jackson did not take part in any team drills, but he looked fluid in the warm-up and install phase of practice. It is remarkable that he is so far along after having surgery on his ACL so late in 2009. There seems little doubt that Jackson will be ready to go in training camp. How well he plays remains to be seen. But the knee has made a lot of improvement and Jackson is going to make a run for some playing time later in the summer.
The question, in addition to his health, is where Jackson fits into the defense. Is he playing safety or cornerback? Or a little bit of both? Stay tuned for Jackson at Lehigh University.
**BOBBY APRIL, special teams coordinator
His energy and his attitude are worth mentioning along with the innovative approach April brings to practice. He wants to see as many players take as many reps as possible, so April orders things like two field-goal teams on the field at the same time. It's cool to watch special teams. The goal is to be the very best in the league and to win some games by winning the battle on special teams.
Sav Rocca kicked the ball well in his work, David Akers looked great again and you know the return teams are well manned. How April parcels through the roster cuts to determine who he works with this year remains to be seen.
**MIKE BELL, running back
Again, judging a running back in this camp is unfair because the pads aren't on, but Bell looks the part. He picked up the offense well and should work very well with a slimmed-down LeSean McCoy in the backfield this season. Bell had a couple of false starts when he went in motion, so he needs to get the cadence of the offense down, but that comes in time.
Charles Scott, by the way, is huge, moves well and caught the ball well in the practices.