Taking It to the House’s Matt Lombardo was on the scene again at Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp and filed this report on the Birds
The NFL lockout may have created some uncertainty as to whether or when the NFL would return, but given the truncated free agency signing period that began this week, it created quite a stir at Lehigh University. Just 14 hours after the Eagles shocked the football world by signing Nnamdi Asomugh after all indications were he was Jet or Cowboy bound. The practice fields were abuzz when Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie took the practice field in midnight green for the first time. Fans cheered as Vince Young strolled the sidelines and watched alongside Jason Babin while observed his old pal Jim Washburn bark signals to the defensive line.
Given that this practice was the last morning session before the pads go on for the first time Sunday, little was learned in terms of talent evaluation but that doesn’t mean that it was an uneventful day in the warmth of the Lehigh Valley. The DeSean Jackson watch stretched into its third day as the electrifying receiver continues to hold out in search of a new deal. Also absent from practice were first round pick Danny Watkins and Asomugh who had yet to arrive from Oakland. Meanwhile Babin and Young were in street clothes since the new Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that free agent signees cannot practice until August 4th when the Union’s expected to recertify.
The storylines are bound to continue to develop as this young camp progresses. As for the action on the field Saturday there certainly were some eye catching moments.
Juan Castillo has moxy: Many question the hire of Andy Reid’s long time offensive line coach as defensive coordinator replacing outgoing Sean McDermott. But on Saturday, Castillo showed flashes of why he deserves the job. There was a tangible intensity to the individual workouts and a faster pace than was the case under McDermott. After several key plays during seven on seven drills and one on one passing drills, Castillo sprinted to his defensive back after making a big play and got in his face, high fiving and congratulating him on a job well done. One such play was made by Rodgers-Chromartie along the sidelines when he dove to break up a pass against Sinorice Moss which sent the crowd and Castillo into a frenzy. Rightful questions still remain about Castillo’s ability to call a game on the fly in the pressure cooker situation of a Philadelphia Sunday, but in terms of motiviating and getting the most out of his players, Castillo seems to be passing the test.
Matthews in the middle: Not lost on the minds of fans and observers of the Eagles during this free agency spending spree is the lack of a move at the linebacker position. During most of the reps with the first team it was fourth round pick out of Oregon Casey Matthews anchoring the MIKE linebacker position. Matthews has the size at 6-2 232 pounds, he has the intensity but as a rookie does he have the ability to call the signals? That remains to be seen. Jamar Chaney, who turned heads across the league with his stellar play down the stretch last season took reps on the strong side.
Vick’s arm strength impresses but shows rust: Look, very few of the players you see on the practice field in the early stages of this camp are in football shape. The fact is these guys have been away from the game for nearly 150 days. However, Michael Vick looked strong as ever but struggled with timing with his wideouts on several plays. That consistency will come as camp goes along.
Trevard Lindley the Ball Hawk: Lindley flew to the ball today. The second year quarterback out of Kentucky broke up several passes and was as physical as someone can be wearing a helmet and gym shorts. With the bounty of talent at the corner position, his role is likely to be very limited on this team but he impressed this morning.
LeSean McCoy is ready: During the off-season the Eagles franchise running back made headlines by getting into Twitter wars with division rivals, controversies involving appearances at bars and legitimate questions were asked about where his mind was at during the work stoppage. On the third day of practice, he began to put those questions to bed. His cuts were sharp, he showed good burst through the line and seemed to be running with a purpose.
Henry’s got a boot: Rookie punter Chas Henry rounded out practice during the special teams portion and showed why he was one of the most accomplished college punters in recent memory. Henry launched punts of 75 yards, 60 yards, 65 yards..But also flubbed some 35, 42 and 30 yard duds. Offensive lineman yelled “Way to go Sav!” after one such flub.
Trevard Lindley: I have to give the kid credit for playing as hard as he did today. He was physical in coverage against receivers, flew to the ball and was involved in several plays. Who knows where he stands with the Eagles at this point, but he put some great footage on the ‘ole coaches tape today.
Mike Kafka: I’m really not sure what to make of this kid. Seems like he doesn’t have a great sense for the game and you can notice drastic drop off in arm strength even from camp body Jerrod Johnson to Kafka. His reps will be limited, I’m sure, once Young is allowed to practice.
Jorrick Colvin fielding punts: Colvin had a couple of nasty drops in the special teams drills. One such drop along the near sidelines on a corner kick prompted Noel Devine to yell ‘I hope you’re watching that one coach!’ and an offensive lineman to taunt ‘may not be two 38’s for long’ (both Devine and Colvin wear 38 in practice). Turns out the lineman was right as hours later Devine was released.
The Fans at Lehigh: The Eagles broke camp attendance records in 2004, drawing over 20,000 fans and typically draw tens of thousands of fans each day. Yet Saturday was almost sedate, especially for the day after the team makes some of the biggest splashes in the league on Friday. And to the fan who nicknamed me “Rico Suave” and was persistent in using the nickname whenever I walked by, may I suggest some glasses or contacts?