When it was done and the rookies dragged their weary bodies to their dorm rooms for a much-needed afternoon off of the practice field, Eagles head coach Andy Reid admitted that what he saw in the first five practices -- the ones with selected veterans and rookies -- was the "best rookie mini-camp that we've had" in 12 training camps as the boss.
Why? Certainly, when you have 12 draft picks present, rather than a handful of non-drafted players, the talent level increases. Reid acknowledged that he was impressed with the talent on the field -- 34 players practiced for the three days -- and he went a step beyond and said the amount of mental retention the players showed made for a highly-productive three days of work.
Of course, the real football begins on Saturday when the pads go on and Reid calls for full-contact periods of practice. Perspectives change and depth charts are adjusted. Based on what went down from Tuesday-Thursday, the Eagles are going to have a lot of competition when the 53-man roster is decided. Here is what I saw from the first phase of this training camp, with so much more to go ...
**KEVIN KOLB, QB
It was impossible not to be impressed. Kolb is so fluid when he drops back and delivers the football. He stands tall, and he is accurate as can be. Now, he hasn't done it in the cold of a December game at New York. He hasn't yet led a two-minute drive with the game on the line. All of those things are yet to come. But so far, Kolb has been tremendous.
There is absolutely a dfferent demeanor with Kolb running practice. There is no chatter. There is defintely a higher level of intensity. Maybe it a mirage, but it just seems that practice runs with a different tempo and a higher level of efficiency.
Kolb is the big story so far, and he will continue to be the big story. He is playing outstanding football. More to come, for sure, but so far, so very good.
**KEENAN CLAYTON, LB
All three of the linebackers -- Clayton, Jamar Chaney and Simoni Lawrence -- buzzed around the football and showed that they could run very well and cover in space. Clayton and Chaney were particularly impressive, so it will be very interesting to see how the linebacker position shakes out. Lawrence got beat a couple of times, but he is also a very physical guy who bounces people around.
I wonder what the plan is for Clayton. Is he big enough to play the SAM and cover linebackers? I think he is going to get a long look there. Clayton is really, really active and fast and he has picked up the defense fast.
There is some competition at linebacker. Ernie Sims, Akeem Jordan and Omar Gaither have one-year contracts, so if you are thinking long-term at this position, you have to believe that the Eagles want some of these young linebackers to blossom and make the team.
**RILEY COOPER, WR
As he did in the post-draft camps, Cooper caught virtually every pass and proved to be a tough cover. He's a tall, strong receiver and he seems to have deceptive speed. I liked the routes he ran. Cooper was the most productive receiver in the camp, with Jordan Norwood and Chad Hall right there. It was a good group, and obviously with the veterans on the way it will become a great group for the rest of camp.
If I were to make a depth chart, it would look like this: DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin starting, Jason Avant as the third receiver, Hank Baskett fourth and Cooper fifth. I don't know if the Eagles can afford to keep six receivers. Norwood and Hall are candidates for those positions, along with Dobson Collins. Blue Cooper played well here, but he is not yet in the class of the others.
**TREVARD LINDLEY, CB
Lindley started to come on in the spring and he continued his momentum in this camp. Lindley stuck to the receivers very well and recovered when he needed to and closed nicely. Now comes the fun part: Lining up against a superb group of receivers and covering them. One thing is for sure, though: Lindley has improved a lot since the start of the post-draft camp. If he continues to make strides, he will be a factor in the secondary this year.
NATE ALLEN, S
In the course of his three practices, Allen showed why the Eagles are so high on him: He runs well, he has good size and he has a nose for the football. But he made plenty of mistakes and had some slips and starts here and there and he will smooth those out in time.
These next few days are going to represent a gigantic jump for Allen. All of a sudden the pads are on, the action is live and Jackson is streaking down the field on a "go" route. We will see very quickly how close Allen is to truly making the jump to starting free safety for this defense.
**DANIEL TE-O'NESHEIM, DE
The Eagles used him at defensive end -- both sides -- and at defensive tackle in the one-on-one drills against the offensive line and Te-o'Nesheim showed incredible tenacity, excellent hand placement and usage and a lot of speed. He didn't win every battle -- keep an eye on rookie left tackle Austin Howard, who looked good working against Te-o'Nesheim -- but the rookie worked so, so hard. He is a tremendous battler and he is going to go after it 100 miles per hour in training camp.
Is size an issue here? We'll see. Te-o'Nesheim isn't the biggest end out there, but he sure has a lot of heart. If you were to pick a player who would be involved in the most training camp scraps, it would be him.
*RICKY SAPP, DE *
Sapp lined up at end and showed that he had some speed off the edge. He needs a lot of work on his technique and he can't allow offensive tackles to get their hands on him, because he is just not big enough to win that battle. Sapp has a lot of ground to cover to make this team if he is here as a defensive end. The Eagles have a bunch of ends in place. How does Sapp stand out?