OTA Observations: Eagles kick into higher gear

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OTA Observations: Eagles kick into higher gear

Offensively, the Eagles were the NFL’s fastest team to snap the ball last year in Chip Kelly’s first season as head coach.

It appears that Kelly has a new race car to unveil for Year 2.

To the naked eye, Monday’s OTA seemed to run at its fastest pace of all the open practices, especially in 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. From the first string down to the reserves, the Eagles moved at a pace well ahead of last year’s spring camps.

Kelly has said his offense could go faster this year. Nick Foles agreed.

“We always want to go faster,” he said. “We always want to be more efficient and and get plays going. Sometimes, situationally in a game you don’t want to do that. Sometimes there’s a different blitz look or thing we have to recognize … I think the big thing is not necessarily the speed, but we want to be efficient. The speed is part of it, but let’s be under control.”

Last year, Kelly had to tone down the pace of his practices when he realized that his roster, going through his system for the first year, needed some catch-up time. Rookies and veterans were in the same boat, learning a new playbook in the fly.

With so many starters returning from last year’s 10-win NFC East championship team, including the entire offensive line, the offense is much more familiar with Kelly’s system and more able to run the offense without interruption.

“I know we’re going fast right now because there was a lot more learning going on on the field (last year), whereas our offense right now we were able to carry on from last season,” Foles said. “We definitely installed a lot of new stuff, so there’s definitely a learning curve and we do have younger guys, but I feel like guys understood how we need to practice and just the culture change. The young guys are doing a really good job following the guys that are here, and the guys that were here last year are doing a really good job stepping it up.”

Other observations:

• Kelly is really making his rookies climb the ladder, as opposed to last year, when first-round pick Lane Johnson was promoted to first-team right tackle early in OTAs and when fifth-round safety Earl Wolff logged some first-defense reps in place of Nate Allen.

First-round outside linebacker Marcus Smith is still running with the third team, as is third-round wideout Josh Huff. Free-agent outside linebacker Bryan Braman is still running with the second team with Brandon Graham and veterans Brad Smith and Arrelious Benn are still higher on the totem pole right now than Huff.

• In the same vein, Kelly did a lot more personnel mix-ups last season as he opened competition at every spot. It wasn’t uncommon to see the first-team front seven come out with the third-team secondary. He’s still subbing here and there but there haven’t been any odd personnel packages or crazy tinkerings that really stand out when the teams come onto the field.

• The defensive line looks different depending on the playcall and package. Joe Kruger, a 2012 seventh-round pick who spent his first season on IR, is logging snaps all over the place, including some first-team reps at defensive end. Rookie fifth-round pick Taylor Hart and last year’s practice squadder, Brandon Bair, are also swapping in and out on the second team.

• Wide receiver Jeff Maehl practiced for the first time after missing the other open sessions with an undisclosed injury. He ran mainly on the second string. Dennis Kelly, who missed an OTA last week, also practiced.

• Mark Sanchez, who continues to be the second string quarterback, threw a bad pick in 11-on-11s. Nolan Carroll came up with the interception. ... The practice’s best pass came from fourth-string quarterback G.J. Kinne, who tossed a touchdown bomb to James Casey down the left sideline past linebacker Jake Knott. The pass hit Casey in stride to his outside shoulder. … Foles looked extremely sharp, although one of his red-zone passes was intercepted by DeMeco Ryans at the goal line. But Foles also threw red-zone TDs to Brent Celek and Damaris Johnson.

NFL Notes: Darrelle Revis court date next week after assault charges

NFL Notes: Darrelle Revis court date next week after assault charges

PITTSBURGH -- New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis has a court date next week on criminal charges stemming from a fight after he turned himself in to police and was later released on a non-monetary bond.

Revis faces aggravated assault and other charges alleging he was in a fight with two men last weekend in Pittsburgh. He answered no questions from the media as he turned himself in Friday. He later made an initial court appearance, and his next court date was scheduled for Thursday.

Revis' attorney has said Revis was physically assaulted by a group of at least five people. He said Revis "feared for his safety" and sought medical attention, but he didn't offer details about the severity of Revis' injuries (see story).

Dolphins sign Cameron Wake to 2-year contract extension
DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins have signed defensive end Cameron Wake to a two-year contract extension.

The 35-year-old Wake is coming off a Pro Bowl season, one year removed from an Achilles injury. He had 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and one interception this past season, helping the Dolphins reach the playoffs.

The Dolphins were 9-2 after Wake was added to the starting lineup, and he became just the third player to register 10 or more sacks at the age of 34 or older.

Wake has 81.5 sacks in eight seasons, the second most in Dolphins history behind Hall of Famer Jason Taylor's 131.

Under the extension announced Saturday, Wake is now under contract through the 2018 season.

Uncertain future for Vikings stadium after suite dustup
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- An uncertain future awaits the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium after a dustup over the oversight authority's use of luxury suites culminated in the exit of two top officials.

Michele Kelm-Helgen and Ted Mondale resigned from the Minnesota Sports Facilitates Authority on Thursday, months after the use of suites was first revealed in November. The resignations leave the stadium leaderless while the state gears up to host the 2018 Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Minnesota are still pushing to drastically reshape the authority, giving themselves power to appoint many members.

A recent report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor shows nearly half the guests inside the two authority suites were friends or family of commissioners. That prompted complaints that public officials were abusing their positions for personal gain.

 

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

2017 NFL mock draft roundup: Corner, receiver popular picks

The 2017 NFL draft is in the Eagles' backyard.

They'll be picking in the middle of the first round (thanks, again, Sammy Sleeves) at either No. 14 or 15. The team's most pressing needs are weapons for young quarterback Carson Wentz and help in a weak secondary that lacks depth.

With a whole bunch of early mock drafts in the books, we take a look at what the pundits are saying about what the Eagles might do come late April.

Mel Kiper, ESPN - Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
We start with the original draft guru in Kiper. He tabs Williams, a prototypical outside receiver with strong hands and tremendous ball skills. Williams finished his redshirt junior year with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns. He capped off his impressive college career with an eight-catch, 94-yard performance in a National Championship win over Alabama.

Kiper's take: "Wide receiver has been a position of frustration for the Eagles, and it's imperative they add at least one more reliable pass-catcher next year, or they risk slowing the development of Carson Wentz. This is a spot where the Eagles could be considering another position (tackle comes to mind), but the value isn't there in some cases, and with Williams it definitely is. He's a great, big target for Wentz to work with."

Analysis: I'm sure no Eagles fans will argue this pick. In Kiper's mock, Williams is the first receiver off the board at No. 15. Williams isn't the most explosive receiver, but he consistently makes contested catches and wins with his size and strength. Between the two, I prefer Western Michigan's Corey Davis (Kiper has him going to Tampa Bay at No. 19), but an upgrade at the receiver position is definitely a positive.

Todd McShay, ESPN - Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Tabor has all the swagger and ball skills you look for in a corner. He does take chances. He's not quite an Asante Samuel-type risk taker, but he will occasionally take the cheese and get beat deep. He finished his career at Florida with nine interceptions.

McShay's take: "Tabor needs to cut down on the number of big plays he allows, but he has some of the best ball skills among cornerbacks in this draft class, with nine interceptions and 28 pass breakups in his past three seasons. He shows natural anticipation, if not the most consistent technique. Wide receivers Corey Davis or Mike Williams could also be in play if they slip this far."

Analysis: There's a lot to like with Tabor and he does seem like a great fit for Jim Schwartz and the style of player he likes. With that said, if the Eagles go corner, they should take Washington's Sidney Jones. Jones is the most consistent corner in this draft and would be a piece that helps the Eagles solidify their secondary.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com - Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Speaking of Jones, Jeremiah agrees with me and has the Eagles taking the wiry corner in the first round. Jones flashed his ball skills a little bit at Washington, but for the most part wasn't targeted. He shut down the left side of the field a la Richard Sherman.

Jeremiah's take: "The Eagles are desperate for cornerback help; Jones is very polished and consistent on tape."

Analysis: Jeremiah is spot on with his analysis. I saw the same thing when I watched Jones. He's fluid in his movements and has the best technique of any corner this draft.

Josh Norris - Rotoworld.com - Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Cook is the most complete running back in this draft. He ran for 1,765 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2016. He also caught 33 passes for 488 yards. He's not just a bell cow back. Cook is a big play threat, averaging 6.5 yards a carry and accounting for 48 total touchdowns in his college career. 

Norris' take: "I love Dalvin Cook’s game. The Eagles' offense can shift with any “type” of running back. They showed that in 2016. Cook is a big play threat who also wins after contact."

Analysis: Cook could be an extremely special player at the next level. If you're going strictly by the "best player available" strategy, Cook makes sense. He does also fit a need at running back. Cook's off-the-field incidents and injury history (two shoulder surgeries while at FSU) scare me a little bit. Again, Cook likely makes the Eagles better, but he's not the safest bet for a team that has recently swung and missed often in the first round.

Walter Cherepinsky, WalterFootball.com - Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Last but not least, Davis is the most polished route runner in this draft. He's maybe the most polished route runner in any draft ever. He broke all sorts of records, finishing his collegiate career with 331 catches, 5,278 yards and 52 touchdowns. 

Cherepinsky's take: "As you can see in the scouting report, the Corey Davis comparison is Demaryius Thomas, except he has better hands. Philadelphia fans will be happy about that after watching Nelson Agholor and the other wideouts drop countless passes over the past couple of years."

Analysis: Davis was my draft crush for most of the college football season. He's the total package. The comparison to Thomas is pretty fair. Thomas may be a little better down the field, but Davis is the more consistent player. If the Eagles give Wentz Davis, that could go a long way for his development.