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.

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Gunn's bullet points: Logan's injury, battle in the trenches and more

Derrick Gunn give his take on a few keys to the Eagles-Vikings game on Sunday.

• Losing Bennie Logan (groin injury) for this game is huge. He doesn't get a lot of notoriety for the dirty work he does in the trenches, but he helps Fletcher Cox get that push up the middle.

• Keep a close eye on the matchup between Jason Kelce and Vikings DT Linval Joseph. Kelce has been overmatched by bigger, athletic guys and Joseph at 6-4, 330 pounds is one of the best in the business.

• In his first three years as an Eagle, Connor Barwin had 26½ sacks as an outside linebacker, including a career-best 14½ in 2014. Through five games this season, Barwin, now a defensive end, has just one. Fatigue might be a factor. He has played more snaps than any other Eagles defensive lineman (79 percent). Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz says reducing Barwin's playing time might keep him fresher and stronger in fourth quarters.

• WR Dorial Green-Beckham was on the field for 81 percent of the Eagles' plays vs. Washington last week. Offensive coordinator Frank Reich feels DGB is ready for an expanded role.

• Darren Sproles usually wins matchups against LBs, but that might not be the case against the Vikings. Mychal Kendricks' younger brother, Eric, has been a solid, playmaking LB for Minnesota and he has the speed to keep up with Sproles.

• I've said it once and I'll say it again: Get Kenjon Barner more touches in the run game. Barner has the fewest carries among the Eagles' four running backs but the best yards-per-carry average at 5.8.

Eagles' defense knows it must quickly correct tackling issues

Eagles' defense knows it must quickly correct tackling issues

As Washington running back Matt Jones made a quick cut to head upfield for a 57-yard gain late in the fourth quarter on Sunday, linebacker Jordan Hicks, after he over-pursued and couldn’t make a diving play to recover, ended up face down, grasping for where Jones used to be.

That play on third down wrapped up the win for Washington.

A fitting end for an Eagles defense that had trouble tackling throughout the long afternoon at FedEx Field.

“When you shoot your gun, you've got to hit,” Hicks said on Thursday. “You can't miss.”

The Eagles missed plenty during their 27-20 loss to Washington. Missed tackles, seemingly out of nowhere, became a huge issue last week.

In all, according to ProFootballFocus, the Eagles missed 10 tackles on Sunday. And Washington picked up 156 yards after contact.

Coming into the week, the Eagles had missed just eight tackles and had given up just 149 yards after contact all year.

“We're at this point in the season where you're going up against these guys and your body might feel a certain way or whatever, but there are no excuses at this point,” Hicks said. “We understand that. We've worked a lot on tackling. We have really this whole time. So it's obviously a point of emphasis from the past two games. It's definitely something we have to correct.”

So the simple question is this: How do you fix missed tackles?

The answer isn’t so simple. Safety Malcolm Jenkins explained that once teams get into their seasons, they really don’t practice tackling anymore, especially with defensive backs. They’re more concerned with installing that week’s game plan and learning coverages.

Jenkins said linebackers practice tackling during the week some, but if defensive backs want to practice tackling, they have to do it on their own after the team practice is over.

While the tackling itself was bad on Sunday, there was a problem that led to the problem: bad angles.

Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said his players took too many bad angles to the ball, which makes it much more difficult to tackle. Hicks agreed, saying the effort was there, but the bad angles made things tough.

Perhaps the effort went a little too far.

“I think the other part of it in this [last] game, and again, one of our failures in this [last] game, is we let one play affect the next,” Schwartz said. “I think in the first three games, even parts of the Detroit game, we didn't let a bad play affect our next play. I referenced one of the toss sweeps, we were short on the block and then on the next play, we came up and everybody overran it and the ball cut all the way back on us.

“In other words, we over-corrected and guys were trying — rather than just doing their job, the old adage in the NFL is, ‘Do your job,’ and we got guilty of trying to cover up and do a little too much. They need to just concentrate on theirs and [make] good tackles.”

When asked on Thursday, Schwartz was critical of his defense and himself (see story). The Eagles gave up 230 yards on the ground and 493 yards total — by far their highest totals of the season.

And a lot of it was just not getting Washington players down when they had the chance.

“I think that needs to be fixed and we will fix it,” Fletcher Cox said. “We've just got to calm down and just play ball. You've got guys coming full speed at a ball carrier and of course sometimes they're going to whiff, but the second guy has to be there to get the guy on the ground.”

The good news for the Eagles is that the Vikings have been the worst rushing offense in the NFL through their first five games, averaging 2.5 yards per attempt. But Schwartz joked that after watching the Eagles’ film against Washington, the Vikings will try to run 65 times on Sunday.

They likely won't do that, but Minnesota will probably be happy to test the Eagles’ run defense on Sunday.

If the Eagles want to win, they’ll have to cut down on those pesky missed tackles.

“You just get back to work, man,” WILL linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “I just think it was one of those games where he was just slipping off. We have some of the best tacklers on this team and we were missing tackles. It's as simple as that. I think we just get back to work, get back to the fundamentals and basics and handle our business.”