The Eagles wrapped up their two-week run of Organized Team Activities on Thursday, and the biggest news to come out of the eight-practice stint was probably rookie Nate Allen emerging as the likely starting free safety following the season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon suffered by Marlin Jackson. Elsewhere, Kevin Kolb continued to cement his role as leader of the offense with an impressive couple weeks.
The star of the show on the final day of practice was wide receiver Chad Hall, the Air Force graduate who stands all of 5-8. Hall got the offensive sidelines erupting with joy and trash talk - especially wide receivers coach David Culley - during seven-on-seven red zone drills when he scored three consecutive touchdowns in the back corner of the end zone. First, he beat Dimitri Patterson and Geoffrey Pope on consecutive plays in the right corner of the end zone. Then, cutting across the field, Hall hauled in a Mike Kafka pass over Joselio Hanson and managed to get both feet in bounds of the back left corner of the end zone. The final touchdown is what elicited the most reaction.
"Chill out Chad! Stop it," yelled Culley. "You already got three different guys already."
Culley then told right cornerback Macho Harris that he would have to take Hall out so as not to embarrass a fourth cornerback.
After practice, Hall said it was all about opportunity.
"I just got a lot of balls thrown to me and you have to make plays," he said. "When the ball's up there, you have to come down with it and I went up there today and made some plays so it was fun. It was a good day today."
Hall is among a very deep group of wide receivers that includes three stalwarts in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant, along with veteran jack-of-all-trades Hank Baskett and fifth-round draft pick Riley Cooper. So Hall, along with Jordan Norwood, Dobson Collins, Kevin Jurovich and Blue Cooper, will have to distinguish himself on the field at training camp if he wants to snag a coveted roster spot.
Working to Hall's advantage is versatility as the former college running back has been moved all around the formation during the off-season workouts and can be used as a return man as well. The biggest question facing Hall is whether or not he can continue to make a mark on the field when the pads go on and the defenders start looking to squash the jittery waterbug. But that's something Hall's prepared for, even though it's been about two years since he played in a live football game.
"I'm going to stay low so they're not going to be hitting me up top," Hall said. "I'll just use my quickness. That's the best part about my game is to slip off people and make sure they don't hit me straight on. It's going to be fun. Of course people will underestimate me at first, everyone has, but they'll start to respect me after they see what I can do."
Some more notes from Thursday's practice ...
- Bobby April's enthusiasm coaching special teams is really something special to watch. The team closed out the practice by working on recovering onside kicks, but when David Akers knocked one deep that went over the head of return man Ellis Hobbs, the ball stopped on the three-yard line. Because no one went to recover the ball, April ran down the field yelling "Get the ball! Get the ball!" to the "scout kicking team." Brandon Graham ending up hustling down the field, scooping the ball up and running into the end zone for a would-be touchdown.
- In case you were wondering, the first-team hands team was: Ellis Hobbs, Quintin Demps, Leonard Weaver, Hank Baskett, Ernie Sims, Brent Celek, Eldra Buckley, Dimitri Patterson, Jason Avant, Akeem Jordan and Moise Fokou. April had them working on both "non-desperation" situations for the kicking team - i.e. down four points with four minutes to play - and "desperation" attempts, like down four points with only 30 seconds remaining.
- Brent Celek had a productive practice, hauling in several passes over the middle, most of them from Kevin Kolb.
- Hank Baskett busted the coverage during seven-on-sevens with a sweet double move. He ran about 13 yards down the field and stopped, Kevin Kolb pump-faked, and then Baskett turned and ran down the sidelines where he caught the Kolb pass perfectly in stride.
- On the injury front, running back LeSean McCoy returned to practice from his tweaked ankle, though he was not a full participant. Head coach Andy Reid said after practice that it was important for McCoy to come back and get the extra reps since he is entering his first year as the presumptive starter. Quintin Mikell, who left practice yesterday with what turned out to be an MCL sprain, did not practice. Also absent for injury reasons were Riley Cooper (hamstring spasm), Todd Herremans (sore foot), Stewart Bradley (calf) and Fenuki Tupou (chest). Herremans and Cooper could be seen running with strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin on the side during practice.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:58 p.m., June 10