Bird Droppings: Controversies and Non-Controversies at Eagles Training Camp

Bird Droppings: Controversies and Non-Controversies at Eagles Training Camp

Perhaps the most overblown story of the offseason so far is about the NFL’s V.P. of officiating coming down on up-tempo offenses like what the Eagles plan to run under Chip Kelly this season. Let’s hear what he has to say:

“We have to make sure teams understand that they don't control the tempo, our officials do,” said NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino. “We're going through our normal ball mechanics; we aren't going to rush [unless] it's in the two minute drill.”

Okay, so number one, this statement doesn’t appear to be directed strictly at the Eagles even though Kevin Clark makes it about the Eagles for the Wall Street Journal. What people should realize is Chip did not invent the up-tempo offense. In fact, this has already been a source of tension between the league and New England Patriots and Peyton Manning in years past, as both have been running no-huddle or up-tempo offenses for years. Why would anybody, including Chip Kelly, expect the rules to be any different for the Eagles?

The whole angle is a reach in my opinion. Kelly told reporters at practice on Wednesday that he is aware of the rules and his team will play as fast as they allow – just like the Patriots, Manning, and everyone else in the NFL. The fact that the officials chose this offseason for a refresher on the rules was probably a coincidence. Regardless, I don’t expect it to make much of a difference, as both of these other examples have proven they are able to own tempo and use that to their advantage against opponents every week.

Tackling, or lack thereof

What isn’t a manufactured controversy at Eagles training camp on the other hand is the conspicuous absence of tackling. Kelly admitted there would be no tackling to the ground during the team’s 11-on-11 drills, and they are saving that for the preseason.

In certain other camps this might not be as big a story, but the Eagles have been a bad tackling team for years. It’s fair to question how they intend to improve in that aspect of the game if it’s not practiced during live periods. Chip offered his take on Monday.

“We have four preseason games for that. They're hitting pretty good when they get an opportunity. The big thing with tackling, you want to be on your feet anyway. We don't want people diving. We want a good form tackle so they get an opportunity. In the first team period we do every day, we're going to be doing that.”

...

“When you get guys on the ground, it is not really the two guys that get tackled, it's what's chasing it. We're trying to keep everybody in every situation up. If I'm blocking my guy and I'm trying to finish to the whistle, two guys in front of me fell, that's where the biggest thing occurs. It's the pileups. Most of the time it's not the tackle or the tackler, it's the rest of the guys coming through.”

So it’s one part avoiding injury, one part teaching better form, which is interesting. He probably has a point about players lunging at the ball carrier, which often results in missed or broken tackles, and we’ve seen can also end in injuries to the defender’s head and neck area.

Not everybody on the outside is going to buy that, which is understandable. As Chip mentioned though, the Eagles are working on tackling in a separate drill for a few minutes each day, so it’s not as if there is none at all. This decision is going to attract a fair amount of skepticism until they show signs of improvement in some game situations.

Forgiven, not forgotten

Just to follow up on the Riley Cooper scandal, not all of his teammates will simply go back to normal after video of the wide receiver using a racial slur came to light. As you can imagine, it was still the hot topic at camp on Thursday, less than 24 hours removed from the 25-year-old’s apology.

For now it seems like this is going to be a bigger issue with how teammates and fans in Philadelphia view Cooper more than anything related to X’s and O’s. The league apparently is not going to punish him, nor does the organization seem to have any plans to release him. And while the Eagles’ locker room isn’t simply going to forget, so far they all say they are trying to move on.

There is some concern this situation could create some division in the locker room, which is not something Chip Kelly needed in his first season as head coach, or what anybody anywhere needed for that matter. I’m not sure we’ll know one way or the other until somebody speaks out publicly against Cooper. That’s not happening so far, but he’s not exactly getting rave reviews, either.

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

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AP Images

Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy dies at 48

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy has died in Orlando.

Police say the 48-year-old former Seattle Seahawks star was found dead on Tuesday morning.

Orlando Police Department public information officer Wanda Miglio said the circumstances surrounding his death are still unknown, but that there is nothing suspicious about his death. An investigation is being conducted.

One of the best defensive lineman of his generation, Kennedy was a star in his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Seahawks. He became the second Seattle player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. He was an unmovable wall as a dominant defensive tackle, and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field never interested in finding himself in the spotlight.

Kennedy was an eight-time Pro Bowler and won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992.

"Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy," Broncos' general manager John Elway tweeted Tuesday. Elway was chased around by Kennedy twice a year for much of the 1990s as competitors in the AFC West. "A great personality, a great player and I enjoyed competing against him."

Even though he last played for the Seahawks in 2000, he remained a significant part of the organization. He was a mainstay around the team during training camp and would occasionally roll through the locker room during the regular season grabbing a few minutes with anyone -- players, coaches, media -- up for a chat.

"My heart hurts," current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. "We lost a truly great player but even better person."

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

10 observations from Day 1 of Eagles' OTAs

There was finally some football in South Philly on Tuesday as the Eagles kicked off the first round of their OTAs. 

Aside from a few notable absences -- Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, Donnie Jones -- the Eagles had just about everyone on the field (see story)

Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice: 

1. Here's how the first-team offense looked: 
QB: Carson Wentz
RB: LeGarrette Blount
TE: Zach Ertz
OL (left to right): Lane Johnson, Isaac Seumalo, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks, Halapoulivaati Vaitai
WR: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Jordan Matthews

2. Here's how the first-team defense looked: 
LDE: Brandon Graham
LDT: Destiny Vaeao
RDT: Tim Jernigan
RDE: Vinny Curry
LBs: Jordan Hicks, Nigel Bradham, Mychal Kendricks
S: Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod
CB: Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson. 

Note: In the nickel package, rookie third-rounder Rasul Douglas came on the field as an outside cornerback and Mills slid into the slot. 

3. Early in the practice, in an offense-only drill, the Eagles were trying to audible into a new play, but there was some confusion with Blount, who didn't seem to know the play. Blount is still obviously learning the playbook, but it shows the respect they have for him that he was working with the ones already. 

4. The play the Eagles wanted to get into during that drill was a good one. Wentz rolled out to his right and found Jeffery streaking across the field. The two seem to be getting on just fine. 

Although later in 11-on-11s, Wentz tossed up an ill-advised pass deep to Jeffery in tight coverage and the ball was picked by McLeod. Jeffery will win a lot of battles, but that one was too much. 

5. Linebacker Joe Walker and cornerback Ron Brooks were on the field on Tuesday but didn't participate in team drills. Walker (ACL) and Brooks (quad tendon) are both recovering from significant injuries. 

6. The Eagles lined up a few times with Darren Sproles and Donnel Pumphrey on the field together. Those few times, Sproles was in the backfield and Pumphrey lined up in the slot. It's early, but we might get to see some creativity from Doug Pederson with these two this year. 

7. Dillon Gordon, whom the Eagles signed as an undrafted rookie last year, did something interesting on Tuesday. The offensive tackle, who played tight end in college, took a few reps at tight end in limited offensive drills. That's intriguing because if he could play the role of an extra tackle during the season, he'd have something Matt Tobin doesn't: the ability to actually become a receiver, not just an eligible one. 

8. Robinson, who is getting run at corner with the first team, won a jump ball with Dorial Green-Beckham on a deep ball. It was an impressive play by Robinson, but DGB mistimed his jump. 

The best defensive play of the day came from Najee Goode in 7-on-7s. The veteran backup linebacker and special teamer dropped back and dove backward to break up a pass off the hand of Nick Foles. 

9. Obviously, there's no hitting yet, but Derek Barnett had a good first day going against the vets. Sure, Lane Johnson completely shut him down on one play, but Barnett showed off a variety of moves. 

10. The Eagles' two rookie receivers worked with the third team on Tuesday, while DGB and Nelson Agholor worked with the twos. Shelton Gibson showed off his quickness and Mack Hollins' size and speed combo wasn't any less impressive. Also, Hollins wasn't wearing gloves, but it didn't seem to affect his ability to catch. 

Stupid observation of the day: Thanks to his afro and thick beard, Seumalo kind of looks like a lion with a mane.