Eagles Notebook: Eagle's defensive backs 'pick' up pace

LeSean McCoy graces cover of SI's Fantasy Football Preview.
LeSean McCoy graces cover of SI's Fantasy Football Preview.
Posted: August 01, 2014

THE EAGLES did a lot of work yesterday on those back-shoulder throws that have become so prevalent in the NFL, as a way to get the ball to rangy receivers who can box out like basketball forwards.

Nick Foles seemed to have a very nice touch in that work - Foles said afterward he'd looked at how Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady do it. "I think that's just something that's a great addition to the offense," he said. "We've always gone over top . . . it's something we're working on."

But the defensive backs hung in and battled, eventually breaking their training camp interception slump with their first four picks.

"That was great to see," middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "It was great to see people picking up the tempo, picking up the energy, on the defensive side of the ball. We made some big plays."

"We feel like we've been close the last couple of days. Today, it came together," said Malcolm Jenkins, who picked off both Mark Sanchez and Foles, the latter by jumping an out route.

"Y'all was talking about us [Monday] - three days without an interception, stuff like that. We relayed the message," said corner Cary Williams.

But Williams acknowledged having the quarterbacks throw behind him was no fun.

"I'll tell you what, it's one of the hardest throws you can defend, as a corner" said Williams, who leaped high to bring down a Matt Barkley jump ball. "Back-shoulders are just so difficult because those guys can see the ball . . . you get a good quarterback that can throw it at your back, some things you can't do anything about.

"That's what they're coached to do, throw it at the back of our head . . . [the receivers] are stopping. They know where they're going. We don't know where they're going, and they can see the ball, as well. It's a part of the game. You just try to be as competitive as possible at the point of attack."

Jenkins said: "It's tough, because it's the opposite of what you're taught, basically. If you're in good position as a DB, normally, the back shoulder's open. That means you're in phase with the receiver; they throw it back and away from you, it's a tough play. It's really all about the finish, being able to kind of get your hips around and disrupt the receiver so that he's not making an uncontested catch. It's hard for them, too - they've got to get their body around, still track the ball. But if the quarterback throws it right, it's really hard to defend. And once you do start defending it, they'll just throw it over the top . . . Today, we got a lot of 'em."

Camp sights

* Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he sees steady improvement from first-round rookie linebacker Marcus Smith.

* Earl Wolff got some first-team safety looks, but the coaches have been moving players around early in camp, Wolff and Nate Allen are expected to battle throughout the preseason.

* Running back LeSean McCoy is on the cover of Sports Illutrated's Fantasy Football Preview issue. When he meets with reporters today we can ask if he feels jinxed.

* Wish I'd been counting how many times Mark Sanchez connected with Jordan Matthews yesterday. He rarely throws to anyone else, among the second-team WRs. But it's hard to blame him. One time yesterday, corner Nolan Carroll jumped a short route and seemed set for a pick-six. Somehow, Matthews ended up with the ball. Might have just been that Carroll whiffed, but Matthews always seems to prevail.

* In a punt drill where a defender has to impede a gunner, veteran Brad Smith threw rookie Ed Reynolds around like a rag doll, several times in a row. As they moved to another drill, Smith seemed to be showing Reynolds where to place his hands.

* Ifeanyi Momah seems to have made a lot of progress in route running over the past year.

* Kelly updated injuries: center Julian Vandervelde (back), running back Chris Polk (hamstring), and wire receiver Riley Cooper (foot) all should return to practice in the next few days, Kelly said.

* Kelly said the Eagles didn't make a decision not to draft an inside linebacker this year, "it was just what's there in the draft."

"We do like our [LB] depth," Kelly said. "But some of it is unproven. That is the one big question. Besides Mychal [Kendricks] and DeMeco [Ryans], Najee's [Goode] the only one with some quality snaps there. So really, trying to find out who that fourth linebacker is is what this whole camp process is about."

(Somewhere, Casey Matthews, with 48 career games as an Eagle, is reading the preceding paragraph and going, "Hmmm . . . ")

* In discussing QB Mark Sanchez, Kelly said: "Every day here, there is an energy you can feed off of from him."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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