Practice Script: The Eagles had two live hitting sessions on Friday. The first was during the Special CAT drill which focused on the offense backed up deep in its own territory. The second live hitting drill was a team "move the ball" period. The Eagles also worked on a team blitz drill and hosted a running back/tight end vs. linebackers (blitz pickup) drill. With injuries, the Eagles did not hold the one-on-one offensive line vs. defensive line drill.
New CB Thomas In A Rush To Action
It was a scene we hadn't seen thus far in training camp. An Eagle sprinting from the locker room onto the practice field in the middle of practice to join his teammates. Of course, Kevin Thomas had a good reason for being late - he had just arrived from Indianapolis.
"It looks real competitive and it's live action out there, guys working on their craft, working on their tackling and getting better in the game of football," said the newest Eagle when asked for his first impressions of life as an Eagle. "Right when we go to meetings, they're going to give me the playbook and I'll meet with coach tonight and we'll go from there."
Thomas, 6-0, 192, has been described by Andy Reid and Howie Roseman as a fit for the Eagles' new bump-and-run style, despite Thomas' experience in the Cover 2 with the Colts.
"It's true," said Thomas. "I've been playing bump and run since I started playing football. Only in Indianapolis is when I started playing Cover 2, but for the most part, I would say my best attribute is probably press coverage.
"I haven't thought too much about (the numbers at cornerback here). I figure my play will just have that fall into place. I'm just going to focus on practice and do what I have to do to make the team."
A third-round pick by the Colts in 2010, Thomas' rookie season was wiped out because of a torn ACL. He rebounded to play nine games in 2011, starting five.
"I'm fully recovered," Thomas said. "I'm strong, I've been working out, working in the weight room, playing the best football that I have in my whole career ... I put that behind me and I'm playing football since then."
Gibson: Always At The Ready
Injuries have altered the defensive line throughout Training Camp, but on Friday they began to take a toll on the offensive line.
Right tackle Todd Herremans missed practice with a shoulder injury. Guard Evan Mathis was sidelined with an illness. During the team drill towards the very end of practice, guard Danny Watkins went to the sideline with an undisclosed injury. Watkins would return, but for a brief few snaps guard Mike Gibson ran with the first-team offense.
Gibson is "new" to the Eagles in 2012, but he's no stranger to the team. A former sixth-round pick of the Eagles in 2008, Gibson spent his rookie season on injured reserve and was cut following the 2009 preseason. He landed in Seattle where he played 20 games and started in eight including both of the Seahawks' postseason contests in 2010.
He rejoined the Eagles this past offseason because of his familiarity with the scheme and with the team. When Gibson was drafted, the Eagles wanted him to bulk up 15-20 pounds to play in Juan Castillo's scheme. Gibson admitted that he felt like a "fish out of water" and thrived playing in Seattle's zone scheme. The chance to play in a similar setup for offensive line guru Howard Mudd was the "icing on the cake."
Gibson relished the chance to play with the first-team offense once again as he's been working mostly with the second-team unit. Gibson learned from his time in Seattle that he must be ready to go in at all times.
"That was my role in the past. It's not necessarily a role that I like, but that's my role and I embrace the role that I have. You always have to be ready," Gibson said.
In fact, Gibson felt at home playing with Vick again. The two worked on the third-team unit in 2009 after Vick signed with the Eagles.
"When Mike came back, that was my second year in the league so I had a chance to play with him," Gibson said. "People ask, 'What are your better memories' and I tell them it's playing with Mike Vick."
It's much different playing in front of Vick than the "immobile" Matt Hasselbeck in Seattle. But as Gibson put it, playing with Vick and the first-team on Friday made it feel like that he's never left.
Harbor Breaks Down X's And O's
Tight end Clay Harbor walked off the field Friday drenched in sweat, carrying a football that he used to play catch with following practice, which has become his normal routine.
Tight ends coach Tom Melvin previously said that the one aspect of Harbor's game that the team wanted him to improve was his hands. They wanted Harbor to focus on looking the ball in, just get back to basics.
After an up-and-down spring, one in which Harbor had some struggles, the third-year tight end appears to have put them in the rear-view mirror making solid catch after catch in traffic here at Training Camp.
Harbor said that he struggled with an injury during the spring camps and that diverted some of his attention away from catching the football.
"I was having trouble running and cutting, so I was concentrating on that instead of catching the football. I'm healed up now and I'm playing with confidence," Harbor said. "(The questions) don't bother me. I know I can catch and I just have to go out there and show it in practice.
A wide receiver since fourth grade, Harbor set school records for receiving at I-AA Missouri State where he converted from wideout to tight end. At 6-3, 252 pounds, Harbor offers a nice target for the quarterback, but he also adds something else - blocking ability. Harbor understands that with a quality pass catcher in Brent Celek ahead of him on the depth chart he needs to bring something else to the table. And he takes pride in that.
"You want to get (Celek) out on routes, great hands, great routes," Harbor said. "You've got to be able to block. ... You've got to have a guy who is stout enough to pick up blitzes. I'm feeling more comfortable with the scheme. Now that that aspect is cleared up, it's just second nature."
One play that highlighted his increased confidence and comfort came during the Special CAT drill. Harbor said he ran a "Y-deep cross, back smooth" and he recognized the defense was in a Cover-2 zone. He knew he could get open and expect the ball high and tight towards the sideline. He also had to anticipate that he would get hit immediately.
Harbor hauled in the pass and was taken down by safety Wade Bonner and linebacker Monte Simmons, but not until the tight end got the first down. Outstanding read. Outstanding catch. The extra work off the field is paying dividends for Harbor.
Thornton: The Ironman
It's a case of déjà vu for defensive tackle Cedric Thornton.
Injuries to the defensive line last year at Training Camp forced the then-rookie free agent to receive significant reps that he might not have received otherwise.
On Friday, injuries to the defensive line allowed Thornton to play primarily with the second-team defense, but also see some snaps with the first-team unit.
"We're short on numbers, but you have to keep pushing," said Thornton, who was reminded by defensive line coach Jim Washburn during Friday's practice of last year's ironman endurance sessions. "I'm fighting for a spot on the team. I have to keep pushing every day."
In fact, Thornton will force himself to stand up on the sideline even if he's tired to keep persevering.
It appeared as if the Eagles pulled a coup when the 6-4, 309-pound Thornton signed as an undrafted player out of Southern Arkansas. A former All-America, Thornton appeared to be a perfect fit for Washburn's upfield, attacking style of play. Thornton briefly made the 53-man roster out of Training Camp, but was on the practice squad for the first 13 games of the season. Thornton was promoted to the active roster at the end of the year, but didn't play in a game.
The Eagles moved up in the first round of this year's NFL Draft to select another defensive tackle in Fletcher Cox. Thornton took the roster move in stride.
"It didn't break my morale," Thornton said. "I knew I had to step up my game a little bit more."
Thornton has played well in camp. He has forced a number of pressures and made plays in the backfield. He said he focused on the details this offseason - getting off the ball quickly, staying low and shooting his hands.
"I just want to be a playmaker. Last year, I was kind of blindfolded in that I didn't know the plays," Thornton said. "I just want to be the playmaker I can be so I can be a provider for my family. That's what I want to do, be a playmaker this year."
RB Polk Creating His "Highlight Tape"
"Whether I get one carry in practice or 20 carries, I'm still going to act like it's my last play and just do the best I can," rookie running back Chris Polk said.
He has received limited opportunities to show off his ability as he has been primarily splitting reps with fellow rookie Bryce Brown with the third-team offense, but Polk feels like he's coming along.
"It's definitely starting to get easier, but you've got to stay on top of your game and keep studying and studying," Polk said. "When you think that you know enough, you're dead wrong because there's always something you can go over and cover and there are always areas of improvement. So I'm just trying to be a student of the game and be an overall better football player."
Polk has looked very impressive over the past few days, and he has looked good as both a runner and a pass blocker, something that is often talked about as being necessary for a running back in Andy Reid's offense.
On Friday, with the offense snapping the ball backed up at their own goal line, the play was a run to Polk. He was able to break through a hole in the defense, got through a couple of tackle attempts by Jaiquawn Jarrett and Curtis Marsh and take off. Fifty yards later, the offense had plenty of room to work with.
On Thursday, Polk lined up against linebacker Monte Simmons in a one-on-one pass blocking drill. The ball was snapped, Simmons rushed in, but Polk was able to keep him away from the coach, filling in for a quarterback.
They went again. This time, Polk not only kept Simmons away, he pancaked him, leaving Simmons lying on the ground face-up.
They went again. Simmons bull-rushed Polk. This time, it was Polk who ended up on his back, flattened by the second year linebacker.
Polk called the series a "stalemate."
His first "welcome to the big leagues" moment came last week when they were in shells after getting hit by defensive end Phillip Hunt.
"He reassured me that whenever you're taking it easy somebody else is trying to put you on their highlight tape," Polk said.
If he keeps improving and playing how he's shown he can, Polk will be putting defenders on his own highlight tape.
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