Birds appear to be more grounded

Posted: August 03, 2007

Crunch Time is a compilation of hits and a few misses from Eagles training camp:

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The perception among those watching is that the Eagles are running the ball more than usual in the early days of camp.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The perception among those watching is that the Eagles are running the ball more than usual in the early days of camp.

In fact, the debate along the sideline among sweat-drenched reporters begging for a Lehigh breeze yesterday was over whether the Birds were running it more to help the offense establish the run or to help the defense gain confidence in stopping it. (The defense certainly seems to have had the upper hand so far, regardless of whether it's first-team offense against second-team defense, or what.)

But the people we depend on to flesh out these theories - key coaches and players - were just about as unhelpful as the weather.

"I don't think this is any different than any camp we've had," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said between sessions. "It's the same emphasis on the run and the pass . . . We want to stop the run, no question about it, we want to run the football, but that's just part of the whole plan."

Running back Brian Westbrook has been at the bottom of many piles these first few days, but he didn't seem to find anything out of the ordinary about that.

"I don't sense more emphasis on the run at all," Westbrook said. "I think we've been doing it 50-50 most of the time during these first practices. Marty [Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator] emphasizes the run a lot in meetings, but as far as the play-calls have been going, it's about 50-50."

Of course, 50-50 is much more commitment to the run than the Eagles under Andy Reid have ever shown during a season.

* Jerome McDougle was eventually credited with a "sack" as he ran alongside Kevin Kolb (you can't really hit the quarterback), but the play should have been blown dead earlier, according to Jeremiah Trotter. "Ref, you must have asthma; you slow on that whistle," Trotter opined.

* Donovan McNabb drew spirited applause when he took off to his left after being unable to locate a receiver. It's good that McNabb feels confident enough in his braced right knee to do that, but he certainly wasn't rolling in top gear.

* Thomas Tapeh had a strong morning session that included a nice catch on a swing pass as he spun out of a Joselio Hanson tackle to pick up extra yards.

* There was a fearsome collision between rookie running back Tony Hunt and rookie safety Chris Smith on an inside run. Smith filled the hole nicely and Hunt lowered his shoulder.

* The first fight of camp - in hockey it would have been classified as more of a scrum, really - came when Max Jean-Gilles felt Trent Cole cheap-shotted him. Mostly they wrestled.

* During a 7-on-7 period, McNabb threw a long strike down the left sideline to Hank Baskett, who caught it over Dustin Fox. Fox later broke up a McNabb-to-Baskett bomb in the end zone.

The time's yours

Today's morning session starts at 8:15. The afternoon workout kicks off at 2:45. Defensive backs and running backs are scheduled for the autograph tent.

Today's morning session starts at 8:15. The afternoon workout kicks off at 2:45. Defensive backs and running backs are scheduled for the autograph tent.

Quote of note

"Ask Joe." - Brian Westbrook, when asked on the status of the repayment of the extra money the Eagles paid him last year. Team president Joe Banner has declined comment, but team sources say the repayment is "an open issue." The team said last winter it overpaid Westbrook by $3 million, but Westbrook's agent, Fletcher Smith, said that after taxes, the overage actually was less than $2 million, which Westbrook had invested, complicating the task of returning it. *

"Ask Joe." - Brian Westbrook, when asked on the status of the repayment of the extra money the Eagles paid him last year. Team president Joe Banner has declined comment, but team sources say the repayment is "an open issue." The team said last winter it overpaid Westbrook by $3 million, but Westbrook's agent, Fletcher Smith, said that after taxes, the overage actually was less than $2 million, which Westbrook had invested, complicating the task of returning it. *

- Les Bowen

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