The first of three mandatory Eagles minicamps started Tuesday under steamy conditions at the NovaCare Complex. Just two more camp practice days left -- Wednesday and Thursday -- before the players flee for the final time before training camp. Here are 10 observations from Tuesday's practice:
1. In the aftermath of LeSean McCoy's once again saying DeSean Jackson’s release sent a message to the clubhouse, it’s notable that the Eagles had everyone in camp for the voluntary OTAs and again Tuesday for the start of this final camp.
“We had a 100 percent attendance for everything, including minicamps,” Kelly said.
Asked about its significance, he added, “We got a bunch of guys that love playing football.”
2. Kelly spoke highly of outside linebacker Travis Long, who spent all last year on the practice squad after signing on in the middle of training camp as a rookie free agent. Long was coming off an injury at the end of his senior year at Washington State. He’s one of the guys I wrote about at the end of last season whom other teammates were optimistic about, and apparently he’s catching the staff’s attention this spring. He worked mostly at third-team Predator, where Trent Cole starts, but also took some second-team reps at the “Jack,” where Connor Barwin plays. He hadn’t taken many second-team reps in the OTAs. The Eagles have depth at outside linebacker, with two first-round picks (Brandon Graham and Marcus Smith) also as backups, so Long has no easy path to a roster spot.
3. Nick Foles made a few nice throws on the run, moving to his right side. It’s one of the strengths he’s shown in his first two years, but it’s become more recognizable now that he’s getting all the first-team reps. On one pass in team drills he moved to his right, kept his eyes downfield and found Jeremy Maclin sitting in a zone about 15 yards downfield for a connection.
4. Speaking of Maclin, we won’t really know if he’s back to 100 percent until the pads come out, but he’s done everything and isn’t missing reps or taking breaks. He looks sharp coming out of his breaks, comfortable with his routes. Foles said his “gut feeling” is that Maclin will be better this year than he was before getting hurt last year.
5. Nolan Carroll has stood out as much as someone can really make an impression in spring camps. He shows up in the 7-on-7s and full-team scrimmages. On Tuesday, he picked off a pass and had some breakups. He offers what Kelly is looking for at cornerback -- size, strength and physical play. If the Eagles intend to scale down DeMeco Ryans’ snaps by playing more dime, Carroll can make an impact on the defense. He’s a guy to watch at closely training camp.
6. Alex Henery and Carey Spear each had their moments. Henery made all of his kicks from around 50 yards, although one was helped by a favorable bounce off the crossbar. Murderleg hooked one wide left but made his next two. On kickoffs, Spear’s were consistently out of the end zone. Henery’s were consistently a few yards deep in the end zone.
7. G.J. Kinne continued to look for opportunities to drive the ball downfield in the team drills. He didn’t connect on a bomb Tuesday like he did last week to James Casey, but of all the backups he seems most willing to let the ball go and stretch the field. Maybe it’s because he has the least to lose, but he certainly plays with confidence and has a good grasp of the offense.
8. Rookie safety Ed Reynolds, a fifth-round pick from Stanford who couldn’t attend the OTAs, did everything in practice and worked on the third team. Interestingly, Kelly said Reynolds stayed in the playbook while at Stanford by having weekly Skype sessions with defensive backs coach John Lovett and special teams coordinator Dave Fipp.
9. Mammoth second-year right guard Mike Bamiro spent most of the OTAs working on the second team, which I wrote about recently. Don’t get too excited. On Tuesday, third-year lineman Dennis Kelly anchored second-team right guard while newcomer Andrew Gardner manned right tackle. Bamiro ran with the third string. I thought Dennis Kelly’s days at guard were over. Guess not.
10. Last year, veterans on the defensive line were high on rookie free agent Damion Square, who made the team and quickly carved his niche in the rotation as the backup nose. This year, guys are similarly optimistic about seventh-round pick Beau Allen. Several D-linemen have mentioned Allen as someone who looks impressive.