Camp Observations: No hesitation, limitations for Maclin


Camp Observations: No hesitation, limitations for Maclin

He hasn’t missed a rep, hasn’t needed a day off, hasn’t worried that three straight practices in pads would be detrimental to his reconstructed knee.

Each day at Eagles camp, Jeremy Maclin has jogged onto the NovaCare Complex field and practiced as if he didn’t miss the entire 2014 with the second torn knee ligament he’s suffered in his life.

“I didn’t come in here thinking I have any limitations or anything like that,” Maclin said after practice. “The knee has felt fine. It’s held up. I feel great. I’m out here getting better each and every day. That’s all I can ask for.”

More than a year has passed since Maclin ripped his knee up on the practice field, ensuring he would undergo surgery and miss out on Chip Kelly’s promising first year as head coach.

But watching him on the field since the team started practicing Saturday, he’s showing no signs of hesitation or loss of explosion. In one drill Thursday, Maclin faked safety Chris Maragos out of his jock for an easy catch. In another, Maclin made a touch catch over the middle despite tight coverage from safety Malcolm Jenkins.

On another catch, Maclin fought off so much contact from Bradley Fletcher that the referee quickly tossed out the yellow flag.

He’s worked in the slot. He’s worked on the outside. He’s done everything the coaches have asked. He’s also fulfilling his offseason pledge to replace the leadership lost when the team cut Jason Avant. Maclin has stayed on the field after practice to get some extra receptions from the JUGS machine, along with rookies Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff.

Not that this comes as a surprise to him.

“I don't think I necessarily needed confirmation (that I’m 100 percent recovered),” he said. “Maybe you guys do. Like I said, I’ve been feeling fine. I’ve been out here since April 21, continuing to get strong, continuing to get better, just working on my craft.”

Other observations from the fifth day of training camp:

Rising stock
Nolan Carroll, an early camp star, has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. He broke up two more passes, including a sprawling deflection of a Nick Foles pass to Maclin in the end zone. By unofficial tally, Carroll leads the defensive backs in breakups as he continues to push Fletcher for the left cornerback job.

Falling stock
Rough day for Nick Foles and G.J. Kinne. Kinne threw his first pick of camp and Foles was picked off for the second time in as many days, when his underthrown pass over the middle landed in the hands of DeMeco Ryans. Foles also had one of his passes batted down by one of the human flyswatters, which is believed to be the first time he’s ever done that since the obstruction devices first appeared last year.

Mismatch of the day
Tight end Brent Celek lost outside linebacker Brandon Graham in the end zone and reeled in a nice touchdown pass from Foles in red-zone drills.

Trampling of the day
Cary Williams, perhaps eager to back up his comments that he’s as good as any corner in the league (see story), took his wrath out on receiver Jeff Maehl. At the end of a play, Maehl had trouble getting back to his feet -- because Williams was still on top of him and in no hurry to get up.

Catch of the day I
Tiny wideout Damaris Johnson made a diving catch in the back corner of the end zone on a well-placed Matt Barkley toss. Very good effort for the little guy who, up until Wednesday, hadn’t been very impressive.

Catch of the day II
Towering wideout Ifeanyi Momah twisted in midair to reel in a Barkley pass along the left sideline with cornerback Brandon Boykin doing his best to compensate for the nine-inch differential.

Special guest of the day
Former Cowboys wide receiver and Eagles nemesis Michael Irvin, a Hall of Famer, attended camp Thursday on behalf of his current employer, the NFL Network.

Henery vs. Murderleg
Still no clear leader in this kicking competition. In the early afternoon duel, Alex Henery and Carey Spear each went 5 for 5 on attempts of (unofficially) 36, 39, 47, 50 and 52 yards. Later, Henery nailed a 50-yarder, then missed from 33, then hit from 40. Spear dropped in one from 41 yards out but had his 46-yard attempt minutes later rejected by the left goalpost.

Believe the hype?
Matthews, who’s caught everything at camp, ran with the first team early as the Eagles continued to practice without Riley Cooper (foot). Matthews dropped the first two passes thrown to him by Foles and later struggled to get separation against safety Jenkins. Be careful about sky-high expectations for the rookie wideout.

Personnel shuffles
Rookie seventh-rounder Beau Allen, who teammates have raved about since the spring camps, ran at nose tackle frequently on the first-team base defense. The Eagles have worked Bennie Logan and Damion Square mostly on the first team before giving Allen some reps there. Also, Maragos took his turn running alongside Jenkins at safety on the first defense.

Injury update
Cooper (foot), running back Chris Polk (hamstring) and center Julian Vandervelde (back) each missed practice for the second straight day. Safety Earl Wolff, who ran with the first defense Wednesday, was in his pads and helmet but didn’t get many snaps on any team. No word on if he suffered an injury.

Up next
The Eagles practice at 11:45 a.m. Friday at the NovaCare Complex, their last practice before an off day Saturday.

How are the Eagles going to stop Ezekiel Elliott?

How are the Eagles going to stop Ezekiel Elliott?

They couldn’t stop Matt Jones. How are they going to stop Ezekiel Elliott?

The Eagles, who allowed the lightly regarded Redskins running back to ramble for a career-high 135 rushing yards on just 16 carries two weeks ago, now have to contend with the NFL rushing leader.

Elliott, the fourth pick out of Ohio State in this year’s draft, has 708 rushing yards, second only to Eric Dickerson (787 in 1983) by an NFL player in his first six games.

Elliott’s been over 130 rushing yards in his last four games, which makes him one of only 11 players in NFL history with four straight 130-yard rushing games. He's also the first in six years with 150 yards from scrimmage in four straight games.


Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins watched Elliott’s entire college career, since both are Ohio State graduates, and he lavished some pretty heavy praise on the 21-year-old running back.

“I don’t know what you can name that he doesn’t do well,” Jenkins said.

“He’s a back that has great vision (and) patience, he has the speed to be a home-run hitter, he’s got the physicality to run through arm tackles and finish runs. There’s not much he can’t do.”

Elliott already has 17 runs of 10 yards or more, including seven of at least 20 yards. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

The Cowboys, 5-1 with a five-game winning streak, are third in the NFL in rushing offense. The Eagles (4-2) rank 24th in the league in rushing defense, allowing a beefy 4.5 yards per carry.

After allowing 230 yards to Jones and the Redskins, the Eagles limited the Vikings to 93 rushing yards, although that was actually 23 yards over Minnesota's average.

The Eagles and Cowboys meet for the NFC East lead at 8:30 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“First things first is stopping the run, like every week, but the task is heavy this week because they’re playing so well,” Eagles middle linebacker Jordan Hicks said.

“(They have) one of the best offensive lines in the National Football League and the leading rusher in the National Football League and their offense runs through that run game, so it’s going to be on us to get downhill.

“It’s going to be huge for our gap integrity this week that we stay solid and we stay sound in our gaps and play physical. They like to push, they like to grab a hold of you and just move you and bleed you for five or 10 yards, so it’s going to be on us to stay stout at the point of attack.”

It’s tough to get a sense of where the Eagles are as a rush defense. The only teams they held significantly under their season average were the Bears and Steelers, both before the bye. 

The Redskins average 94 rushing yards against the rest of the league but gained 230 against the Eagles. The Vikings averaged 71 against the rest of the league but gained 93 on Sunday.

“We getting better, we getting better,” Fletcher Cox said. “We knew last week we had to step up because of the previous two weeks that teams were really able to run the ball at will on us, so we knew we had to go into that game trying to make them one-dimensional.

“It’s not about the other team, it’s about us. As long as we focus on what we have to do and everybody hones in and plays together, it’s really not about them, it’s about us and how we accept the challenge and how we approach things.”

The Cowboys have that huge offensive line stocked with first-round picks and a record-setting running back.

And their running attack is similar to Washington’s, which is a little scary.

“It’ll be pretty much the same running attack,” Jenkins said. “That’s probably the No. 1 key coming into this game. Being in the right place on every play and then when you are in the right place, get the ball carrier down, and everybody’s got to be running to the ball. Those are things we didn’t do well [against Washington].”

Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has been brilliant, but to a great extent he’s a product of the Dallas running attack. The Cowboys want to run the ball first to set up the pass and keep defenses guessing.

In the Cowboys’ only loss — on opening day to the Giants — they threw 15 more times than they ran.

It’s the only time this year that’s happened.

During Dallas’s five-game winning streak, they’ve run 35 times more than they’ve thrown.

“It starts with the run and they’re running the ball better than anybody in the league right now, and everything else is built off of that,” Jenkins said.

“If you can’t stop the run, then they’re in 3rd-and-shorts all day and they’re converting — they’re in the top-5 in third down I believe — and then they keep running it, and so then eventually that turns into one of those games where the defense is on the field for a long time, you get tired and eventually those holes get bigger and bigger."

At this point last year, the Eagles were allowing 94 rushing yards per game. Now they're allowing 103. 

At this point last year, they were allowing 3.5 yards per carry and now they're allowing 4.5 — their highest through six games since 2011. 

In all, the Cowboys have a whopping 967 rushing yards, or 161 per game. If they rush for 180 on Sunday night, they'll become the first NFL team since the 1986 Falcons with 180 rushing yards in five straight games.

"If they’re able to run the ball on us, it’s going to be a long game," Cox said. "We’ve got to go in and stop the run, create negative-yardage plays — that’s what this defense is about — and make them throw the ball.

"And that gives us a chance to do what we love and that’s get after that rookie quarterback.”

Carson Wentz on recent struggles: 'I need to be better'

Carson Wentz on recent struggles: 'I need to be better'

Through the first six games of his NFL career, Carson Wentz has had some magical outings. 

Sunday wasn’t one of them.

While the Eagles won the game and Wentz was able to do enough when it counted, the Vikings' game was the worst of his young career. He completed just 57 percent of his passes for 138 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. 

The 52.4 passer rating was the lowest he’s had in any game this season — over 20 points lower than his 77.7 against Washington. For the second straight week, he had the worst game of his NFL career. 

So how would Wentz assess his play? 

“I need to be better,” the rookie said. “I think most importantly, I need to play better, I need to be smarter, I need to protect the football. I had three turnovers. Any time you have that many turnovers, as an offense we had four balls on the ground, those things we need to just clean up. 

“I think that, kind of like Doug (Pederson) said, goes back to the fundamentals as well. Things we just have to get in order. But, yeah, I have to play better.“

Wentz's 52.4 passer rating Sunday was just the 15th time ever an Eagles rookie has had a passer rating below 55 (with 20 passing attempts) and the first since Matt Barkley in 2013. Donovan McNabb had three such games during his rookie season in 1999. 

For as magical as Wentz has looked at times this season, he had a bad day Sunday and the Eagles still squeezed out a win. Now, it’s about getting him back to form. 

“I think it’s just going back to refining my footwork primarily is the biggest thing,” Wentz said. “Just being in rhythm and the reads and everything. I don’t think it’s anything that we need to overanalyze or freak out about, but it’s something that you can just kind of focus in on each week.” 

Pederson on Wednesday said this week was about refocusing on fundamentals and mechanics. Pederson specifically pointed to Wentz’s missing a couple throws to his left, where Pederson said Wentz needs to adjust his target line. 

Wentz’s reasoning for those missed throws was much simpler. 

“It’s really nothing you need to fix,” Wentz said. “You just have to make the throw.” 

Aside from the mechanics of throwing left, Pederson also said the team is working with Wentz this week on situational football: knowing down and distance, what defenses are trying to do, personnel. 

Specifically, Pederson said it’s important for Wentz to know which running back is in the backfield because angles change depending on who is back there. 

“Those are all things now that we're trying to bring into his game, and he understands that,” Pederson said. “Now it’s just sort of [that] we have to magnify it just a little bit.”

There’s probably no need to panic. Wentz wasn’t going to have magical games every time he stepped on the field as a rookie. And even in his worst game, there were moments where he showed glimpses of the guy he’s expected to be. 

Despite his ambition, there’s a learning curve for all rookies. And especially for one that has played just six NFL games.  

Even if he doesn’t want to hear it. 

“At this point, I don’t really get caught up in that,” Wentz said. “I’m too busy getting ready for the next week’s opponent. I don’t believe in the rookie excuse or anything like that. I’m all about just winning ballgames and winning them now.”