Eagles guard Mathis headed to Pro Bowl

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Eagles guard Mathis headed to Pro Bowl

Another offensive player for the Eagles is Pro Bowl bound.

Left guard Evan Mathis is headed to the all-star game after initially being named a second alternate. Mathis, who also made Associated Press first-team All Pro and made the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-NFL team, earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Mathis joins running back LeSean McCoy, left tackle Jason Peters, who has since dropped out, and quarterback Nick Foles as Eagles named to the play in the Jan. 22 game at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The Eagles were shut out of the game last year and haven’t had four Pro Bowl players since 2010 (Peters, Mike Vick, DeSean Jackson and David Akers.)

McCoy and Peters were both named to the Pro Bowl from the start. Mathis and Foles were alternates.

Mathis, a journeyman lineman for most of his career until signing with the Eagles before the 2011 season, has been one the game’s best interior offensive lineman for the past three seasons. He has started 47 of the 47 games he’s played since joining the team and winning the left guard spot in training camp.

He was recently named the league’s top run-blocking offensive lineman and top offensive guard, according to Pro Football Focus.

Mathis was a third-round pick of the Panthers in 2005 and also played for the Dolphins and Bengals before signing with the Eagles. He started just 22 of 58 games before he signed with the Eagles as a street free agent.

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Eagles training camp Day 2: 10 observations

Still not a ton of exciting stuff going on at training camp yet. 

With just 38 players on the field again Tuesday — the rest of the team reports Wednesday and practices Thursday — a bunch of mostly rookies practiced in shorts again. Really, not many of these players have a shot to make the roster. 

It’s still football, though, and we love football. 

So here are 10 observations from today’s practice: 

• A ton of drops today during the 7-on-7 portion of practice. They came from a few different players — Hunter Sharp, Byron Marshall, Xavier Rush, to name a few. It wasn’t pretty, but remember this: Most of these players aren’t going to make the final 53-man roster.

• One receiver who had a pretty good day was Paul Turner out of Louisiana Tech. The 5-foot-10, 193-pound rookie isn’t too physically imposing but showed off some impressive hands and worked in the slot for a while. 

• Turner was on the receiving end of the best play of the day. Sam Bradford hit him on a 25-yard pass down the right sideline, hitting him in stride over his shoulder. JaCorey Shepherd had tight coverage, but the throw was better. (More on Shepherd here.)

Bradford had a very good day. 

• Another tough day for quarterback-turned-tight end McLeod Bethel-Thompson. (Bethel-Thompson is a camp arm, but thanks to a lack of numbers right now, has been playing tight end.) Bradford tried to hit him with a pass in 11-on-11s, but overthrew him. Bethel-Thompson got a hand on the ball, but just tipped it to former CFL cornerback Aaron Grymes, who picked it off and went the other way. Quarterback-on-quarterback crime. 

• Not long after that play, Bethel-Thompson settled into a route and was wide open. Carson Wentz fired a ball to him, but linebacker Travis Long made an impressive diving pass breakup. 

A note about Long: It’s hard to believe, but this is Long’s fourth straight training camp with the Eagles. In 2013, he ended up on the practice squad. He tore his left ACL during training camp in 2014. He tore his left ACL again during the preseason finale last year. Now, he’s back again, although he probably isn’t a fit for Jim Schwartz’s defense. 

• Here’s a Wentz note because we know you care: He might not be the sharpest quarterback on the roster just yet, but he’s clearly the most athletic. On one play during 11-on-11, the pocket collapsed and Wentz didn’t hesitate to take off downfield. He did it again during goal-line work. That’s one aspect of his game that Bradford clearly doesn’t have. 

Aside from that, saw some inaccuracy from Wentz today. That’s probably the area of his game that needs the most work. 

• An up-and-down day for Marshall, the undrafted running back out of Oregon. During 7-on-7s, he had a ball from Wentz tipped away by corner C.J. Smith, then on the next play, dropped a ball on an out pattern. Later in the morning, he did redeem himself by catching a ball in traffic during 11-on-11s. Marshall’s hands are what make him stand out. He caught 97 passes for 1,293 yards and eight touchdowns in 46 games at Oregon. 

Marshall played running back and receiver for the Ducks, but said the Eagles haven’t asked him to play wideout in Philly. They want him to strictly focus on being a running back. 

• Jalen Mills, of green hair fame, made another big play today. This time he broke up a deep pass down the sideline from Chase Daniel. Mills can definitely play in shorts. Now, I want to see him do the same when the pads come out on Saturday. 

• It’s fun getting to watch offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland coach up close. It's just be the beginning of training camp, but he’s in midseason form. Today, he got on rookie OG Darrell Greene a little bit. 

• I watched rookie long snapper John DePalma snap the ball into an orange-padded goal post for about five minutes. Training camp must be lonely for a long-snapper with no one to snap the ball to. 

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

Healed from torn ACL, CB JaCorey Shepherd eager to show how time off helped

The hardest days were game days. Sunday afternoons. When his teammates were playing football and JaCorey Shepherd was stuck on the sidelines watching.

“It was tough, man,” Shepherd said Monday. “I never had to miss a season. I never had to really miss a game. Missed two games in college but other than that, I never missed anything.

“Game days were the toughest. Sitting on the sideline and I couldn’t do anything. Practice was tough, but I got used to it. But games? That was the hardest.”

Shepherd, then a rookie sixth-round cornerback out of Kansas, was having a very good preseason last year when he tore his right ACL during practice in early August in a sideline collision with running back Darren Sproles.

Season over.

“Second half of the season it started to get easier because the season was starting to wind down,” Shepherd said. “I’m in the moment, but I was also looking forward to moving forward.”

There are two ways to go when you’re hurt. You can feel sorry for yourself, tune out and wait to get better. Or you can make use of every single moment available to you during your rehab.

Shepherd, always a workaholic, always a film hound, always the hardest worker on the roster in college, didn’t hesitate to make the right choice.

As disappointed as he was, he made sure his 2015 rookie year didn’t go to waste.

“JaCorey, you could tell it was really hard for him to not play,” said veteran corner Nolan Carroll, whose 2015 season was also cut short. “But he made the best use of his time last year.

“Chip (Kelly) let the injured guys stand on the sidelines for games and even brought them to road games, and when me and Walter (Thurmond) and Malcolm (Jenkins) would come off the field, he was always right there listening when we went over what just happened with (defensive backs coach Cory Undlin).

“You could see that he wanted to make the best of his situation and learn as much as possible, even though he couldn’t play. That’s not always easy for a young guy to do, but JaCorey, you could tell he just wanted to learn as much as possible.”

You have to give some credit to Undlin — Kelly’s defensive backs coach last year and still here this year under Doug Pederson — for taking the time to coach up a rookie sixth-round pick who was on injured reserve.

“Coach Cory, he always made the time for me,” Shepherd said. “The defense would come off the field and he would be like, ‘Watch this on this side,’ ‘Watch this route concept,’ just making sure I’m staying in tune.

“They kept me occupied and busy and preparing like I was still playing. ... The older guys would always question me to make sure I was on my P’s and Q’s so that way when I got back, I had the mental part down and it was really just a matter of getting my feet down under me and I’d be ready to go.”

Now that training camp is here, Shepherd is fully healed, 100 percent healthy and certainly not lacking in confidence.

His practice Monday on the opening day of training camp for rookies, quarterbacks and players who finished last year on injured reserve was his first real workout in a year.

“Two years I haven’t played in a game, man,” he said. “So it feels real good just to be out here. This has been a big test for me, but I think it’ll pay off. I learned some patience. That’s one thing I’ve always needed to work on, my patience, and being a smarter player.

“I feel like I’m a lot smarter than last year after sitting on the sideline for a year having to pay attention and learn. I feel like I’m a better player this year than last year even though I didn’t play a snap.”

Along with guys like Jalen Mills, Randall Evans, Jaylen Walker, Eric Rowe and Denzel Rice, Shepherd is one of a number of promising young corners on the Eagles’ roster.

Shepherd loves the competition. He embraces it.

“All of us love to compete,” he said. “That makes it fun. It’s not like, ‘Oh man, it’s a job.’ It’s fun because we’re all out there competing against one another and having fun together.

“We know we’re fighting for spots, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun and just competing? You don’t want to be thinking about that. Especially around this time. You really can’t afford to because why are you worried about something you can’t control?”

How can Shepherd separate himself from all the other young corners?

After all, he’s not one of Pederson’s guys, he’s not one of Jim Schwartz’s guys. He’s a Chip Kelly draft pick, so he may have to do a little bit more than others just to open some eyes.

“All I can do is continue to do what I do and control what I can control,” he said. “You know? That’s the way the game is. There’s always going to be competition. Frankly, I love competition, so that doesn’t bother me at all. I’ve never been worried about competition, and I’m not going to start now. Just going to do what I do.

“If there’s not a job here, there’s a job somewhere else. All I can control is give it my all on every play.”

Shepherd said Monday’s initial practice was a big step for him, and another comes Saturday, the first practice of the summer in pads.

But the big one, the date circled on his calendar, will be Aug. 18, the preseason opener and Shepherd’s first game since Kansas-Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Nov. 29, 2014.

“Everybody wants to know what JaCorey is all about,” he said with a laugh. “Keep watching. I’m planning on showing them.”

Eagles rookie Isaac Seumalo passes 1st test in return to practice

Eagles rookie Isaac Seumalo passes 1st test in return to practice

As far as tests go, Monday was a pretty good one.
 
While the Eagles’ kicked off training camp in 90-degree weather, all the early-morning thunderstorm did was raise the humidity level to the point where it felt like the team was practicing in thick, hot gelatin.
 
So, yeah, pretty good test. And Isaac Seumalo passed with flying colors.
 
“He’s sharp,” head coach Doug Pederson said about the third-round offensive lineman. “He picked up where he left off back in rookie camp.”
 
That was the rookie camp way back on May 13-15. It was the last time Seumalo practiced with the team thanks to the arcane NCAA/NFL rule that trapped him at Oregon State, one of the schools that operates on a quarters system.  
 
So while the rest of his teammates and fellow rookies went through OTAs and minicamp, Seumalo was thousands of miles away, just trying to keep up.
 
“It sucked,” Seumalo said, just off the field Monday, after his first practice in over two months.
 
“I wanted to be here and practicing. I just tried to work out and get in shape, gain weight, get healthy, do as much as I could to come back ready to go.”
 
While stuck at Oregon State, Seumalo worked with a strength coach to put on some muscle and studied his Eagles playbook as much as he could.
 
The rookie also had lengthy Skype sessions with offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland. According to Seumalo, he Skyped with Stoutland for a half-hour to an hour, four or five times per week. The two would go over the playbook install for that day and whatever tweaks were incorporated.
 
No, not live reps, but still pretty valuable 1-on-1 teaching time from position coach.
 
In addition to his sessions with Stoutland, Seumalo also kept in touch with fellow rookie offensive lineman Halapoulivaati Vaitai and his former college teammate, guard/center Josh Andrews, whom Seumalo calls “Juice.”  
 
On Monday, thanks to a lack of numbers (there are just 38 players in camp until the rest of the veterans report on Wednesday), Seumalo played all three positions on the offensive line: guard, center and even tackle for a few snaps to give Malcolm Bunche a breather.
 
But Seumalo’s certainly more comfortable at guard and center, and he said Monday the Eagles want him to work on playing left guard.
 
It’s not too hard to figure out why. While Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, Brandon Brooks and Lane Johnson all seemingly have their jobs completely clinched, incumbent left guard starter Allen Barbre is still working with the first-team after a disappointing 2015. While Pederson was quick to name Barbre the starter this spring, it seems like Seumalo will have a chance to at least compete for the job, along with veteran Stefen Wisniewski.
 
“Last time I checked, in the NFL, the five best play,” Seumalo said. “If I’m one of those, it’s me. If not, I’m going to bust my butt to help this team in any way I can.”
 
It’ll certainly be somewhat of an uphill battle for Seumalo as he returns from his long stay away from the team. Pederson admitted as much Monday morning.
 
“But he’s such a hard worker,” the head coach quickly said. “He’s smart. The time spent with Coach Stoutland in the offseason, he proved himself today coming back. It’s almost like he’s gone through a whole offseason of the information. I don’t have any issues with Isaac.”
 
Through some heavy breathing, Seuamol admitted the first day back at practice was a little rough on him, saying it doesn’t matter how good of shape anyone is in: the first day back is always tough.
 
The heat made it even tougher. How did he get through it?
 
“Just like everybody else, man,” Seumalo said. “One day at a time.”
 
It was a tough test, but he passed it. Many more to come.