Camp Observations: No hesitation, limitations for Maclin

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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.

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

Eagles repeating pattern of digging first-quarter hole in defeats

It’s a pattern that keeps repeating itself. And it’s not a winning pattern.

Week after week, the Eagles are digging themselves a first-quarter hole. And week after week, they’re too far behind to catch up.

They trailed the Lions 14-0 in the first quarter. They trailed the Redskins 14-0 a minute into the second quarter. They fell behind the Cowboys 10-3 early in the second. The Giants jumped up on them 14-0 just six minutes in. And on Sunday, the Bengals led 10-0 before the first quarter was over.

If football games began at the start of the second quarter? This would be a different season. The Eagles would be 7-4-1.

The Eagles has actually outscored their opponents in the second, third and fourth quarters.

But the first quarter has been fatal.

The Eagles have been outscored by 32 points in the first quarter – 65 to 33. That’s their fourth-worst first-quarter scoring margin in the last 25 years, behind only three other nightmarish seasons – 1998 (minus-52), 2005 (minus-51) and 2012 (minus-75).

It’s also fourth-worst of any NFL team this year, ahead of only the Jets (minus-36), Broncos (minus-37) and Dolphins (minus-56).

Some teams – like the Broncos and Dolphins – have enough firepower to fight from behind.

The Eagles don’t.

They’re 4-0 when leading after the first quarter, 1-1 when tied after the first quarter and 0-6 when trailing after the first quarter.

At 0-6, they share the second-worst record in the NFL when trailing after 15 minutes with the Jaguars and 49ers. The Browns are 0-8 when trailing after the first quarter.

Last time the Eagles didn’t win a game all year when trailing after the first quarter was 1998. Before that 1977.

“It’s tough, especially in this league, to dig yourself a hole,” Carson Wentz said. “Whether the defense is struggling or the offense giving them points with turnovers and different things, it’s been a variation of a lot of those things. 

“It’s tough to dig yourself a hole against anybody, especially against good teams. So we’ve got to avoid that and we’ve got to come out swinging a little better early in games.”

The last time the Eagles won after trailing following the first quarter was the Dallas game last year, when they trailed 7-0 and won 33-27 in overtime.

What does it say about a team when it’s allowed twice as many points as it’s scored in the first quarter?

It sure seems like the Eagles several times this year simply haven’t been ready to play.

“The start to games, it's a mindset,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “It's truly a mindset. It's one of those things where as a team you want to come out and you want to kind of make the first punch, so to speak, or swing first. 

“We did it against Green Bay. We went down and scored, we matched touchdown for touchdown there. And we've done it throughout the course of the season. We've got to be a little more consistent offensively, too. That can also help. And then defensively it's just a matter of working to get off the field.

“It kind of sets the tone for the rest of the game if you can do that early in a football game.”

The Eagles have scored just three first-quarter touchdowns all year (only the Broncos have fewer) and haven’t scored more than seven points in any of their 12 first quarters.

They’ve allowed nine first-quarter touchdowns, and only one team has allowed more – the Dolphins with 10.

Wentz has completed 67 percent of his first-quarter passes but with just one TD pass and four interceptions.

Incredibly, the Eagles have only five plays all year of more than 20 yards in the first quarter – just one in the last four games. Only the Saints, Jaguars and Broncos have fewer.

Why are the Eagles so bad early in games?

“There is no other answer than to execute one play at a time,” offensive coordinator Frank Reich said. “There's no magic formula. I think we've had good energy at practice. I like the way we practice. I feel like we are putting together good plans.

“We're showing flashes of being a good football team. We need to be more consistent. We need to make more big plays. It's hard to sustain 14-play drives. We've missed a few plays here and there. We just all – coaches, players together – need to make it work one play at a time.”

The only teams to outscore the Eagles in the second half are the Cowboys (13-10), Seahawks (10-8) and Packers (13-3).

When a team has outscored its opponents by 61 points in the second, third and fourth quarters combined and it’s 5-7, the focus has to be on the first quarter.

That means preparation. That means being mentally and physically ready. 

“Yeah, I do look at all of that, and that's part of my job is the (pregame) schedule and all,” Pederson said. “But these guys are in a great frame of mind on game day. They're loose; they're energetic; they're ready to go. They're focused. 

“You see it in pregame. It's been unfortunate, but it's something we've got to focus in on a little bit more … and try to strike first.”

The Eagles will try to end their three-game losing streak at 1 p.m. Sunday when they face the Redskins at the Linc.

The Redskins, 6-5-1 but with a two-game losing streak, beat the Eagles 27-20 in Landover, Md., in October.

“I think it just comes down to being focus and locking in,” Wentz said. “You’ve seen us. There’ve been games where we’ve come out and we’re rolling right away.

"We just have to find a way to maintain that and be consistent with that. The goal is to come out swinging right away.”

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Eagles Injury Update: Jordan Matthews back at practice again

Jordan Matthews, the Eagles' best receiver, was back at practice again on Thursday. 

Matthews was a full participant on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday, which is a very good sign for the Eagles. Last week, he returned on Thursday, but then had to sit out Friday and missed Sunday's game. 

It was the first game Matthews had ever missed in his career. Even with the missed game, Matthews still leads the Eagles in receptions (57), receiving yards (686) and receiving touchdowns (3). 

Fellow receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (abdomen) was on the practice field early but left as the Eagles began to stretch. He did not practice for the second straight day. 

Without Green-Beckham and with Matthews hobbled, the Eagles are light at receiver, with just Nelson Agholor, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. Head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles want to keep Turner involved in the game plan even with the return of Matthews. 

Ryan Mathews (knee) was on the practice field again on Thursday, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) is still out. It looks like Vaitai will miss his third straight game this weekend.