–Sheppard Not Saying Much – With the biggest question going into mini-camp being “How will Lito Sheppard react in mini-camp?” Sheppard disregarded all of the trade talk, the cameras, and several media outlets covering him by just concentrating on doing his job. He did not sulk and was a blanket in coverage. Plus he was seen stretching and conversing with all the defensive backs including Asante Samuel.
Sheppard had some nice plays in the afternoon session battling receivers like Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett on long passes. When Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson was asked about whether having Brown, Sheppard, and Samuel together at once, he chuckled then said “It’s like having two Big Browns (eventual winner) in the Kentucky Derby”.
I don’t know if Sheppard or his mates especially the usually talkative Sheldon Brown got a directive to keep a lid on it. But this unit looked cohesive and let their play do all of their talking. The Eagles mixed and matched the three top flight corners in a variety of coverages, so you could never tell who was getting more reps – was this designed. We will have to see where the battle in training camp leads this group and if all three will be in uniform at Lehigh.
–Jackson Looks Good So Far – With all eyes waiting to see what kind of playmaker DeSean Jackson (#10) would be in mini-camp, he didn’t disappoint. Jackson, who clearly has a swagger about him, catch all passes thrown his way with his hands. The rookie seems to have an affinity for screens and after getting his hands on the ball, he quickly moved up field especially in traffic.
Sunday also marked a better day for the Jackson catching punts than on Saturday. However the second round pick from Cal did have some trouble catching punts in the windy afternoon session – main returners were Jackson and fellow rookie Quintin Demps (#33).
I also observed that Jackson needs to move more swiftly after plays are completed and maybe he needs to read the “rookie rule” memo on leaving his helmet on during practice. Overall, Jackson is an exciting player that will go inside for catches and he clearly was the best punt returner in the group.
Training camp will be a challenge for Jackson as he tries to rip off his “redshirt” while trying to impress the coaches in reps versus veterans like Asante Samuel. BTW: For everyone worried about his size (5’9, 169), Jackson’s frame and legs are much sturdier looking up close than former Eagles skinny receiver Todd Pinkston.
–Booker Looks Strong – Running back Lorenzo Booker (#25) showed why he was a leading recruit in his prep days as he displayed excellent hands, a darting cutting running style, and got to top speed quickly. The player acquired on draft day from Miami received a lot reps in a crowded halfback group and impressed everyone by sprinting to the endzone on all of his catches. In the afternoon press conference Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praised Booker and TE Kris Wilson for learning their playbooks quickly.
Look for versatile offensive sets in training camp where Booker or Brian Westbrook is the single back with the other lining up in a four receiver set. Booker also got some work in as a kickoff return man along with Bam Childress, JR Reed, DeSean Jackson, and Correll Buckhalter.
Quick Hitters from Mini-Camp
- Donovan McNabb was very sharp looking every bit recovered from his 2007 early season struggles. He didn’t wear a knee brace and was very accurate. His best pass was a long bomb that Kevin Curtis ran down.
- With Jon Runyan excused Winston Justice stepped into the starting lineup. In talking to Justice, you could sense he understands he needs to be ready.
- Competition at the center position??? Most of the snaps after starter Jamal Jackson went to Pitt rookie Mike McGlynn ( #68 ) and not Nick Cole.
- The running back position after Brian Westbrook and Lorenzo Booker is very crowded. Back for another season are Correll Buckhalter (looked good as his legs looked rejuvenated), Ryan Moats (Ran hard, but needs to work on his hands – Couple of drops), and Tony Hunt (Talked to him and he seems more comfortable in Birds system).
- Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson is looking for depth at defensive tackle with candidates Trevor Laws, Montae Reagor, Lajuan Ramsey, and DE Darren Howard in the mix.
- Rookie Offensive Tackle King Dunlap (7th Rd Pick from Auburn) is the tallest football player that I have seen. Listed at 6’9, he even towered over Tra Thomas. Maybe if he can’t cut it as a grid iron player, the Sixers could sign him as a power forward.
The best part of mini-camp for me was watching and listening to the banter between the DB’s and WR’s in the afternoon session. The two biggest talkers were veterans Greg Lewis and Brian Dawkins, who each kept score of which unit got the best of the other in passing drills.