The theme of the day for the Eagles was versatility. With a week of practice in the rearview mirror and some of the pecking order on the depth chart issues established (not to mention the continuing list of injuries), the team was able to begin cross-training several players at irregular positions on Thursday.
As the last few days have shown, injuries of all severity can occur at any point throughout the NFL season. With that in mind, the Eagles are preparing many of their backups for roles they may be thrown into come the fall.
We'll start with Dennis Kelly, the fifth-round pick out of Purdue, who has worked exclusively as the second-team right tackle. With Todd Herremans sidelined with a shoulder injury, Kelly worked as the right tackle with the first team on Thursday.
"It was a fun experience. It was something I always grew up wishing for," Kelly said. "I just tried to make sure there was no drop off ... It shows that they have some faith in me and I want to prove them right."
Kelly has undergone a learning experience taking on quick defensive ends, who line up in the nine-technique, wider than most typical ends.
"With their technique and speed, it's going to make me a better player," Kelly said.
And during one-on-ones, Kelly, for the first time in Training Camp thus far, took some reps at guard.
"It's a different approach. I'm trying to get used to that. It's a lot closer and a lot quicker," Kelly said. "If I can get my hands up quickly, I have a good chance of winning."
As a big man, the 6-8 Kelly has a model in the 6-9 King Dunlap, who also took reps at guard Thursday.
"We're going to take King Dunlap and he'll play both guards and both tackles. And we'll take Dennis Kelly and play him at both guards and both tackles," offensive line coach Howard Mudd said last week. "When we lose a player, we don't want to miss a beat. I feel good about that."
Also along the offensive line, Dallas Reynolds filled in for Evan Mathis (illness) as the first-team left guard. With Reynolds on the first team for the day, the dominos fell placing Julian Vandervelde as the second-team center, a position he hasn't played until this year, and Steve Vallos as the second-team right guard.
On the other side of the ball, for the first time this Training Camp, linebacker Casey Matthews got some reps with the first team, both in the base defense and in nickel. A year ago, Matthews had already been penciled in as the starting MIKE linebacker as a rookie.
"I still don't know how I made it through my rookie season," said Matthews, who emerged as a solid sub-package linebacker by the end of the season.
In the final game of the 2011 season, Jamar Chaney was injured and Matthews had to finish up as the middle linebacker.
"You have to keep your mindset ready. If something happens, you always have to be ready," Matthews said. "You don't know what's going to happen."
Matthews bulked up to 250 in the offseason, but is playing around 245 pounds. While Matthews' stint with the first team Thursday may have been brief, but that doesn't mean he won't be prepared if called upon.
"That's what everybody plays for, to be a starter," Matthews said. "You definitely want to seize the opportunity with reps like today."
Sticking at linebacker, 2010 fourth-round pick Keenan Clayton worked with the first-team defense at times as the lone dime linebacker on Thursday.
"It's a big deal for me to take advantage of these reps," Clayton said. "I feel like that might be a spot where I can make a difference in this defense, so it's up to me to get everything down to a T right now."
The calling cards for Clayton, a former safety who measured as one of the fastest linebackers in his draft class, are speed and coverage, making him a natural fit for the dime.
"I've been told I can run," Clayton said. "It's like having another (defensive back) on the field with a little bit more weight."
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