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Teaching Is Fundamental, And Vital, For Kids

At the snap of the ball, running back LeSean McCoy came off the line of scrimmage out of the slot on the left side of the offensive formation. He went down the field seven or eight yards, then came back to the ball and then turned inside and looked for the football. The pass delivered, McCoy made the catch and to the untrained eye, McCoy did everything right.

But to the trained eye, McCoy did so much that wasn't right. Maybe he didn't take the proper depth on his route. Maybe he didn't burst out of his route the way the coaches demand. Maybe he didn't get up the field as he should.

"Fast, fast," said head coach Andy Reid. "Everything in this offense is fast."

So they ran the play again, and McCoy did it to the coaches' satisfaction, and when the team ran 7 on 7 drills later in the practice on the first day of this Camp for selected veterans and rookies at the NovaCare Complex, McCoy ran the exact same play and elicited hoots and hollers from the players watching as he ran the route even better and made the play.

Repetition. Perfection stressed. Those are some of the themes of this camp, which includes about three dozen players who have the same goal: Get the schemes down pat in preparation for training camp. Work on technique. Understand the tempo of practice and of the way things are run around here.

"They're used to having things run perfectly here. That's the standard," said running back Kyle Eckel, one of five backs in the camp. "I didn't have a chance to have this opportunity last year. I joined the team midway through the season and kind of learned as the season went along. This is great. I'll take the reps any time. It's good to get the work in."

At least Eckel knows what it is like to play in the league. He knows what it is like to survive, to do as many things as possible to secure a job, and a paycheck. McCoy is fresh meat in the NFL. He was a superstar in high school, a hot shot in college.

In the NFL, he is just another rookie trying to figure out where he is supposed to be on every play.

"It's good to get out here and learn, and to get that one-on-one coaching, we need that," said McCoy. "It is all exact. Every day you learn something new, a lot of things, actually. They give us a lot of information, so to go through what we see in the classroom and then to come out here and run through the plays, it is very beneficial.

"I know I'm not there yet. I kind of know the speed of things. I know the coaches a little bit better. I think I'm picking things up in this offense, but I'm not afraid to ask questions and to be corrected. I have had my mess-ups, my mistakes. I'm human. I think I'm learning better than the average rookie. Coming from the offense we ran at Pittsburgh, I'm familiar with the concepts. It's just worded different, that's all. It's going to take some time and I'm going to put in that time."

They all will. The Eagles run the gamut in practice -- technique work during their warm-up period, some individual sessions during their position-by-position practice, some "install," where they work on the plays and the adjustments -- from the defensive side of the ball -- to what they were taught earlier in the day in the classroom and then they do some 7 on 7 work, devote some time to special teams and then have lunch and meet after that. The offensive line stays with Juan Castillo and details his technique demands, and the defensive line does the same with Rory Segrest.

There were at least three dozen members of the media present for the first day of the camp -- including camera men, reporters, etc. -- and it was a beautiful, perfect day at the NovaCare Complex. The Eagles have a month of practices in line before they break until training camp begins in late July at Lehigh University. Between now and then, the rookies and the new Eagles and those handful of veterans like Eckel and Bryan Smith and Tank Daniels who are grateful for the practice repetitions figure to become a whole lot better with all the work ahead.

"This is just the start of a day-by-day process," said top draft pick Jeremy Maclin, who looked fine as a receiver and as a punt return man. "I'm better than I was in the post-draft camp. I know more. I know more of the way things are run around here. I'm getting it down. It's a lot to learn. You have to be exact in everything you do and the speed of the game is different. Every time I step on the field, I feel like I'm getting better and better."

Maclin is going to be pushed, and McCoy is going to be pushed, and so is tight end Cornelius Ingram. The Eagles hope all three draft picks can help from the start of the season, and at the same time the coaches understand that the players are in the infant stages of learning the X's and O's. This camp is a primer for Lehigh.

"The coaches are here to make us better players," said McCoy. "I know that the receiving game is going to be a big part of my role here. That's one of the ways they use the backs in this offense. You have to know everything about the offense. You move around a lot in the formations. It's very strict, and that's how it should be. I'm a new guy trying to learn everything. It's going to happen. I'm taking my time and I'm being patient."

That all sounds fine in May, but August will be here quickly. The coaches are moving faster and faster. There is not much time to let up and let it all sink in. A player's first NFL season is often a blur, so this time now, when coaches can pull a kid aside and correct a mistake, is invaluable in the big picture.

"Working with Coach Tom (Melvin, tight ends coach), man, everything has to be perfect and I feel like I am so much better of a player now than I was in that first (post-draft) camp," said Ingram. "I feel like I'm getting it down, one day at a time."

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