Eagles' Bradley Fletcher looking forward to contact

New Eagles corner Bradley Fletcher can't wait for the hitting to begin in July so he can press-cover.
New Eagles corner Bradley Fletcher can't wait for the hitting to begin in July so he can press-cover. (   ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff)
Posted: June 05, 2013

Bradley Fletcher has been a starting cornerback throughout the Eagles' offseason workouts, but he is still waiting to show coaches what he does best. In July, Fletcher can start playing physical press coverage, which is his forte.

"We can't press right now, but in training camp we'll be able to do that," Fletcher said. "I'm looking forward to getting up there on the line of scrimmage."

Fletcher has one more week when he cannot press. The Eagles close their offseason workouts with a mandatory three-day minicamp that begins Tuesday. The team will then have roughly six weeks off before training camp begins. The Eagles have not yet announced training camp dates, but it is expected to begin in late July.

This week's camp is rife with story lines. Offensive tackle Jason Peters, who missed the last two weeks of organized team activities, is required to attend this camp. Cornerback Cary Williams, a former Baltimore Raven who missed significant time this offseason for personal matters, will also need to be with the team.

On Monday, the Eagles said that Williams would not attend Wednesday's event at the White House honoring the Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Center Jason Kelce, who is returning from knee surgery, will take on a greater workload this week. If safety Kenny Phillips continues to miss time because of his knee, concern about his health will be heightened.

This will be the final time before training camp the Eagles will be without second-round tight end Zach Ertz and seventh-round cornerback Jordan Poyer, two rookies not permitted to practice because of their colleges' academic calendars. And it will be another chance to evaluate Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Matt Barkley in the quarterback competition.

But the main difference between this week's camp and training camp is the rule on contact and pads, which has been the big asterisk in any evaluation. This affects Fletcher, a 6-foot, 200-pound, 26-year-old whom the Eagles signed to a two-year, $5.25 million contract on the first day of free agency.

"Since we can't go out there and press or can't touch the receivers, we can work on our off coverage and just get better at it," Fletcher said. "And then when we can get up there and press - and I know a lot of our corners like to press - then we can work on playing off. And so then we'll have the option of pressing or playing off when it comes to game time."

Fletcher came to Philadelphia after four uneven seasons with the St. Louis Rams. A 2009 third-round pick, Fletcher started 26 of 43 games played and totaled 169 tackles and five interceptions. He sustained knee injuries in 2009 and 2011 that cut short his seasons. He also struggled with penalties. He did not become a regular starter after the Rams fired Steve Spagnuolo and hired Jeff Fisher.

"Things were a little up and down," Fletcher said. "I was able to make plays when I was on the field. I had some injuries, but I was always able to come back and play strong."

The Eagles still targeted Fletcher, who made his first visit of free agency to Philadelphia and wanted to stay. He has the frame that fits Chip Kelly's prototype for a defensive back - tall with long arms. Only six cornerbacks at the 2009 scouting combine had longer arms than Fletcher's.

Fletcher received less money than Williams, who has more experience and a superior NFL resumé. The newcomers are expected to start together for the Eagles. Williams has been with the second team because of his offseason absences. Fletcher has been a mainstay atop the depth chart.

"I plan on being on the field," Fletcher said when asked if he signed with the Eagles expecting to start.

Fletcher said his time with the Rams in different systems has improved his "football IQ," because the coverage schemes under Fisher and Spagnuolo differed from what he did during his college career at Iowa. He has played man and zone in the NFL and said he liked the Eagles' defense because they implemented a variety of coverages.

"In training camp, when the pads come on," Fletcher said, "we can get up there and have some fun on the line of scrimmage."


Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.

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