On Tuesday, the NovaCare Complex was host to a joint practice for the first time as the Eagles welcomed the New England Patriots. Here's a recap of the action ...
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn tore the ACL in his left knee during a special teams drill. It's a tough break for the fourth-year receiver who had the size and skill set to potentially flourish in head coach Chip Kelly's offense.
Six players did not take part in Tuesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots: wide receiver Dave Ball (quad/hand), linebacker Connor Barwin (illness), defensive tackle Antonio Dixon (hamstring), tackle Dennis Kelly (back), tackle Jason Peters (hamstring) and tackle Ed Wang (knee). Ball was released Tuesday evening.
With the injuries to the offensive line, the first-team unit looked like this on Tuesday: left tackle Allen Barbre, guard Evan Mathis, center Jason Kelce, guard Todd Herremans and right tackle Lane Johnson.
Running back Felix Jones and wide receiver Damaris Johnson each incurred a hamstring injury. Running back LeSean McCoy (knee) is day-to-day after taking part in the individual drills, but he was unavailable for the team portion of practice.
A Look At Cooper's Return To The Field
Wide receiver Riley Cooper jogged out onto the practice field at 12:19 PM for the start of an impressive return to action.
In an 11-on-11 drill, Cooper lined up as the Z-receiver and quarterback Michael Vick targeted him with a jump ball in the back of the end zone. Cooper leapt up against cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and came down with the ball as the referee signaled touchdown.
Working with quarterback Nick Foles, Cooper ran a post-corner against Dennard in another 11-on-11 session. Foles placed the ball beautifully, anticipating the route, over the shoulder for the touchdown.
Vick also completed a 40-yard bomb to Cooper, who made the over-the-shoulder catch and tapped both feet inbounds right at the sideline.
Cooper's third touchdown of the day came as he streaked down the sideline against cornerback Logan Ryan.
Chip Kelly's Message Is Clear: No Extra-Curricular Activity
After the first snap for the Eagles' first-team defense, cornerback Cary Williams got into a shoving match with Patriots receiver Aaron Dobson. Williams was benched for the remainder of practice and replaced by Brandon Hughes.
Head coach Chip Kelly and Patriots head coach Bill Belichick set ground rules before Tuesday's joint practice that anyone who engaged in a scrum would be ejected.
"(If) someone got in extracurriculars they were going to be done for the day," Kelly said. "It was one way we made sure that didn't continue. So I don't know exactly name-wise who it was for them, but he sat and our guys sat. That was one thing we agreed upon. We didn't want this to turn into a wrestling match. Both of our squads knew before it happened. If you're going to get in a skirmish, you're going to sit."
On Sunday, Kelly expressed his displeasure regarding flare-ups at camp because in a real game situation the penalty and/or ejection could cost the team.
What You Missed On The Field
The joint practice between the Eagles and the Patriots was missing something that was quite evident early on. It was the music. Head coach Chip Kelly wanted to eliminate the distraction since there were a lot of things being communicated on the field between the two teams. Plus, the Eagles are used to it, but New England is not. During the team stretch early on in practice, defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga could be heard yelling to turn the music on.
It should come as no surprise that Kelly was more vocal out on the practice field considering the lack of music.
From a logistics standpoint, this is how the Eagles and the Patriots conducted the practice on Tuesday. The two teams worked out on separate fields at the beginning as the Eagles did individual position group work while the Patriots did group install. The two teams worked against one another in 1-on-1, 7-on-7, 11-on-11 and special teams drills.
During the 1-on-1 WR/DB drill early in practice, wide receiver Greg Salas made a beautiful one-handed catch in stride at the goal line and wide receiver Russell Shepard had a sticky hands grab where he reached up and away from his body to snag the pass.
Running back Chris Polk put on a show again at practice. He showcased the ability to make himself "skinny" to fit through holes at the line of scrimmage and great burst to explode to the second level. Polk caught a deep pass in the right corner of the end zone for a touchdown during 1-on-1's against the Patriots and lined up as a slot receiver during 7-on-7's and 11-on-11's. During the 11-on-11 drill, Polk showed tremendous quickness as he took the first handoff when the second-team unit hit the field, darted around the left tackle and cut to the hole.
It is a shame that Johnson ended practice on the sideline because he was the star of practice early on, dazzling with his hands and feet. First he jumped over cornerback Kyle Arrington - who didn't bite on the stutter-step fake and had tight coverage on the post-corner route - to make an excellent catch. Then he displayed tremendous body control along the left sideline by stopping, turning his torso 180 degrees, and reaching out to snatch the ball all in one motion, with toe-tap included, before falling out of bounds. To cap things off, and all this happened within a 10-minute span, Johnson made an awesome juke while running back a kick from deep in the end zone. He started to go right, but then stopped on a dime at the 15-yard line and changed direction after he saw the Patriots who were covering the kick on the other side start to drift and overpursue. All three players were caught flat-footed and couldn't recover as Johnson exploded left to open space to pick up extra yards. In addition to Johnson, who was listed as the primary kickoff returner, Jones, cornerback Brandon Boykin and Shepard were in at kick returner.
Wide receiver Jason Avant makes tough catches look easy every practice. His combination of deft body control and strong hands is marvelous and should not be taken for granted.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson streaked down the right sideline and hauled in a ball from quarterback Nick Foles for a touchdown in the 1-on-1 WR/DB drill. The two also connected for a touchdown during the 7-on-7 drill down the seam in which Foles had to double clutch because of the flyswatters in front of him.
During a 7-on-7 red zone drill, the Eagles lined up with a bunch formation in the slot to the left. Two of the players - wide receiver Riley Cooper and tight end Clay Harbor - blocked to spring open tight end James Casey for the touchdown throw from Vick.
The first player to field a punt in the second special teams session which focused on punt returns was cornerback Jordan Poyer. The move made sense because of Poyer's background as a baseball player. Kelly explained that the most important factor in punt returns is fielding the ball, anything after that is a plus. In addition to Poyer, Johnson, Jackson and Nick Miller got reps.
In the first 11-on-11 session, Foles got the first rep with the first-team offense. Foles and Jackson connected, again, as the receiver streaked down the right sideline past cornerback Logan Ryan.
Running back Bryce Brown took the first-team reps with McCoy sidelined. During the second series of reps, Brown showcased the trademark speed to the outside which made him so dangerous last season with a rush to the right edge beating the defense.
Cornerback Curtis Marsh was the only defender on the outside as running back Brandon Bolden got to the edge. Marsh squared up Bolden, lowered his shoulder and made a strong, physical play stop the back in his tracks and ride him out of bounds. You could hear the "pop" of pads smashing together.
When the first-team defense took to the field, Patrick Chung and Kenny Phillips were the safeties. Chung would creep up to the line to play in the box when needed and Phillips remained deep as the cover safety.
With Barwin out of practice, Brandon Graham was the first-team left outside linebacker opposite of Trent Cole.
Vick took the reps with the first-team unit during the second go-around and completed a nice pass down the seam to tight end Zach Ertz off a play-action fake. Ertz made another nice catch off of a Vick throw later in the drill coming down with the ball in traffic between two defenders.
Brandon Boykin worked as the top slot corner.
Linebacker Mychal Kendricks continued his impressive camp with a rush up the A-gap in a red zone drill which forced quarterback Tom Brady to throw an incompletion. In the next red zone drill, Kendricks diagnosed a run play immediately and plugged the gap to "stop" running back Shane Vereen. He also showed his range by sprinting from the middle of the field over to the sidelines to push running back Vereen, who had just caught a swing pass, out of bounds at the 5-yard line on third-and-goal to save a sure touchdown.
Though there was no hitting, certain members of the Eagles defense embraced and were eager to initiate contact against the Patriots, and a bunch made plays on the ball.
Chip Kelly flashed a little special teams magic as holder Donnie Jones took a snap during a field goal drill and ran down the right sideline for a big gain.
Linebacker DeMeco Ryans got his hand in front of Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld - who had an exceptional practice and looks like he'll be a weapon for quarterback Tom Brady - to bat down a pass over the middle.
One particular field goal make by kicker Alex Henery wasn't impressive because of the distance. It was noteworthy because he perfectly hit the Dallas Cowboys star on a picture on the brick wall at the NovaCare Complex. Why the heck is there a Dallas Cowboys star on the NovaCare Complex? The star is there because it's a picture of Eagles defenders gang-tackling a Cowboys player with only the helmet showing.
Cornerback Trevard Lindley got a good jump a curl route and reached over Patriots wide receiver Kamar Aiken to knock the ball away.
Inside linebacker Casey Matthews shot the gap and stopped the running back a few yards deep in the backfield.
Defensive end Clifton Geathers is unmistakable on the field simply due to his sheer size, but he's standing out for making plays, too. The Patriots offensive line couldn't move him off the line, and he penetrated into the backfield and met the running back in the hole with a "pop" to stop a play for negative yards.
Defending a wide receiver with an entire field open against Tom Brady simply isn't fair. That's the hard lesson the Eagles defensive backs learned on Tuesday as Brady found a way to complete nearly every single pass regardless of how tight the coverage was during the one-on-one drills. Marsh and Boykin each had flawless downfield coverage, only for Brady to find his receiver on a back-shoulder throw.
During the one-on-one drills between the Eagles offensive line and Patriots defensive line, first-round pick Lane Johnson continued what has been a very strong camp thus far, stoning blockers left and right.
The surprise player of the drill was probably center Matt Tennant, who was a brick wall against his former team. Tennant is competing at both center and guard as he fights for a roster spot.
DeSean Jackson Getting Comfortable
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is having one of the best Training Camps of his five-year career. He is catching almost everything that is thrown his way, and has also been working hard on improving his punt return skills. Jackson told reporters after Tuesday's practice that he and the rest of his teammates are feeling comfortable in Chip Kelly's system.
"It's great so far," Jackson said of this year's camp. "We have some great guys going out and putting in the effort to buy into the system that Chip Kelly is bringing in. I think everybody is on pace to get better and learn a new system. A lot of guys were comfortable with Coach (Andy) Reid and his system, so you just have to take it back to stage one to just get into everything that you need to learn, as far as what (Kelly) expects and what he's asking of you. ... I've been doing some great work and things like that. I think everybody's just excited."
The Eagles have been mixing in a lot of option routes for the wide receivers, giving them the ability to determine which route would be the most effective against the given defense. Jackson says he enjoys the extra freedom and that it will be a great benefit to all of the Eagles pass catchers.
"To have option routes as a wide receiver. ... I definitely think it's a huge addition to have depending on the defense or the cornerback or whoever's guarding you," Jackson said. "Anytime you have the option to switch a route up, or have the option to stop or go, with the capabilities of the wide receivers that we have on this team, I think that will be a definite plus for us."
DeMeco Ryans: Joint Practice Worked
With the Eagles' first presason game quickly approaching, the team got their first taste of opposing NFL competition during Tuesday's joint practice with the New England Patriots. It was an early challenge for both sides of the ball, but linebacker DeMeco Ryans said that it was an especially great test for the defense.
"I think we benefited from just being able to see different looks," Ryans said. "For our offense to be able to see a different defense and things that they do, and for us, it was good for us to go against one of the top quarterbacks in this league if not the best quarterback in this league (in Tom Brady). To be able to practice against him and to be able to get some good quality reps against a great quarterback, I think it benefited us a lot."
Ryans also admitted that the team was playing with some extra energy compared to their normal practices, and that having a good team like the Patriots come into the NovaCare Complex gave the Eagles even more motivation.
"The tempo definitely picks up anytime that you have another team coming in," Ryans said. "You want to compete more and you want to be able to get your hands on a ball or make the play in the backfield. You want to stand out when another team comes, especially when they're coming into our house. We want to make sure we do what we have to to compete and make the right plays and play smart but also show that we can hang with them."
-- Dan Klausner, Chris McPherson, Alex Smith and Bo Wulf contributed to this report.