Eagles Training Camp Notebook: Sunday August 7th Morning Session by Matt Lombardo

 
Though he didn’t catch this pass, not many balls that have come in the direction of veteran receiver Jason Avant at Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp have hit the ground.   Taking It to the House’s Matt Lomabardo filed this report from Sunday’s Practice
 
By all accounts Saturday morning’s practice was one of the most intense, crisp and fast paced practices the team has had since moving its training camp to Lehigh from West Chester University in 1996. Almost expectedly, Sunday’s lacked some of that fervor and sharpness. The combination of slight nagging injuries and the soggy practice field left behind from a good hard rain the night before, certainly contributed to the slight letdown from the prior day.
 
Notable players out of action on Sunday morning were Nnamdi Asomugha, Trent Cole, Jeremy Maclin and of course DeSean Jackson who’s arrival is expected Monday. Asomugha battled through ankle issues the last couple days and one can only assume the Eagles are being as ginger as they can with their prized off-season addition on a day where field conditions were less than adequate.
 
Meanwhile Cole was spotted lifting weights and pounding the exercise bike in the Field House reportedly sitting out the morning session with a sore elbow. Maclin made a brief appearance in street clothes, but doesn’t look anywhere near ready to even contribute in practice as he continues to undergo tests for a lingering illness.
 
As for the players that suited up, it was a day that was fairly evenly split between the offense and defense in terms of which unit got one over the other. In the absence of Jackson and Maclin, Jason Avant and Riley Cooper have gotten extended reps with the first team and have made the most of their opportunity.
 
Avant catching everything..again:  Last season Jason Avant went nearly an entire camp without a drop. On Sunday Avant caught nearly everything thrown his way, including a beautiful diving grab in the end zone on a pass down the field from Vick. Avant got extensive work against Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie and by all accounts the pair split, with each winning two of the four battles against one another.
 
Cooper showing flashes: Like Avant, Cooper who was a camp star in 2010, and continues to impress this season. The second year wideout out of Florida had several catches. Among  them, a 17 yard grab in the middle of the field with Rodgers-Chromartie draped all over him, showing the field awareness to come back to the ball and fight off one of the premier corners in the league to haul in the pass.
 
Offensive Line battles developing: Going into camp the thought was that Jamaal Jackson would seize the center position and return to dominance. That hasn’t been the case, and quite a battle has developed between Jackson and rookie Jason Kelce. Kelce took several reps with the first team, and offensive line coach Howard Mudd spoke glowingly of him throughout. After practice, Kelce drew comparisons to Indianapolis center Jeff Saturday from several coaches. Stay tuned as this is a legitimate competition at center. Meanwhile at right tackle Ryan Harris took all of the snaps with the first team for the second day in a row, and appears to have the inside track at the job protecting Michael Vick’s blind side.
 
Samuel steals the show: Not that Samuel needs to earn his job, but he sure was playing like that was the case on Sunday. The All-Pro corner was flying to the ball, particularly in skeletons and seven on sevens where he feasted on second year quarterback Mike Kafka. Samuel read several of Kafka’s passes, jumped routes and hauled in three interceptions. Asomugha’s early bumps and bruises show how tenuous life in the NFL can be, illustrating how valuable Samuel remains in this secondary.
 
Did you see that?!
 
Castillo in headsets: It’s hard to miss defensive coordinator Juan Castillo’s passion, energy and the excitement that he brings to the defense. The one question has been whether or not the first year coordinator and former offensive line coach can make the adjustment to calling a game on Sunday. Well, on Sunday morning Reid had him in headsets simulating game conditions. Guess practice is for the coaches as much as it is the players.
 
Jason Babin red with rage: There has been a palpable rise in energy and emotion to this defense then was the case in previous camps. Babin showed that on Sunday. Late in the practice as the team was going through red zone drills, Babin blew off the line and nailed quarterback Michael Vick for the sack, driving him to the ground and eliciting plenty of reactions from both the offense and defense. No fights ensued, but it’s safe to assume that Babin forgot that in practice the red jersey means stop.
 
Game Balls
 
LeSean McCoy: LeSean McCoy continues to astound. On Sunday McCoy ran hard and with authority both in 9 on 7s and the full team live period. McCoy made several hard cuts and found a second gear once he got through the first wave of defenders on many occasions. Then in the team period he took several screen passes up field eluding defenders en route to at least two touchdowns.
 
Jason Avant: Avant’s diving reception for a Vick touchdown in the end zone was the play of the day that was worthy of Sports Center Top Ten treatment had it been in the game. Moreover though, the receiver caught everything thrown his way. Avant, Cooper and all of the receivers in camp deserve accolades for their performance during Maclin and Jackson’s absences since they’re taking many more reps than they would under normal circumstances.
 
Needs Work:
 
Vince Young: Nobody’s expecting Young to reinvent the wheel as Vick’s backup. However, practices like Sunday may be an indication why no team showed interest in Young as a starter. His unorthodox sidearm delivery aside, Young didn’t look comfortable in the pocket on Sunday. On several occasions Young seemed reluctant to even throw the ball, which led to sacks. Fans accustomed to Donovan McNabb’s passes at the feet of his receivers during his Eagles career, could be in for a case of dejavu if Young ever sees the field.
 
LeSean McCoy the blocker: A couple of times on Sunday McCoy was used to chip Jason babin.
 
Not one of Andy Reid’s brighter moments.
12 days into camp, the Eagles had the look of a team that is ready to hit someone other than themselves.
 
 They’ll have that chance on Thursday night in the first pre-season game against the Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field.
 
 
 
Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL
 
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