Eagles Notebook: Depth at wideout not as shallow as it seems

DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cary Williams warms up during training camp yesterday.
DAVID MAIALETTI / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Cary Williams warms up during training camp yesterday.
Posted: August 06, 2014

FOR A DECENT bit of yesterday's training camp workout, the first-team wide receivers for your Philadelphia Eagles were Brad Smith, Will Murphy and Ifeanyi Momah, with occasional appearances by B.J. Cunningham.

This almost certainly will not be the case when the season starts Sept. 7 against Jacksonville, but depth at wideout is a concern for the DeSean Jackson-less Birds, who start their preseason Friday night at Chicago.

Right now, Riley Cooper, who last week was going to be back practicing any day, according to Chip Kelly, remains in a walking boot, as does Jeff Maehl. Jeremy Maclin left yesterday's workout midway through, after landing awkwardly while making a catch. Maclin conferred with athletic trainers but didn't leave for the locker room. He is returning from having missed last season following ACL surgery. Maclin had missed only five games over four seasons before that.

"I'll be back out tomorrow," he said over his shoulder to trailing reporters as he walked off the field.

Even if he isn't, things might not be as dire as they appeared from yesterday's first-team pass-catching group. Kelly persists in running second-round rookie Jordan Matthews with the second team, though Matthews has been the Eagles' most noticeable receiver ever since the team convened for OTAs in May. Third-round rookie Josh Huff hasn't been as electric as Matthews, but he probably stands a much better chance of taking the field Sept. 7 than Momah, Cunningham or Murphy. Presumably, Kelly needs to see the rookies further their grasp of his offense before they're promoted.

"I think it's a lot of guys people don't really know about, and that's exciting for us," offered Smith, a former Jet and Bill who signed with the Eagles in Week 11 last year, playing in the final six games. "It's going to be hard for teams to match up and know exactly the strengths and weaknesses of guys. A very talented group."

Right now, Smith is penciled in as the starter in the slot, ahead of Matthews, if Cooper and Maclin are healthy and lined up outside.

Smith's hallmark is his versatility, something Kelly treasures. He is the only player in NFL history to score touchdowns by rushing, receiving, passing, on a kickoff return and on a blocked punt.

"I think he likes all his guys to have more depth to their game, instead of doing just one thing really well," Smith said.

Checking the corners

Cary Williams returned to practice yesterday and identified the "soreness" that kept him out Sunday as tendinitis, "a minor situation."

Meanwhile, fellow corner Nolan Carroll did not practice. Carroll has made a lot of plays, as he transitions from an outside role in Miami to a dime role here, but he told reporters recently he didn't think he was having a great camp.

"I'll disagree with him," defensive coordinator Bill Davis said. "I think he's very hard on himself. He's a perfectionist. I love the fact that we have him. He drives himself every day . . . he's in the middle of a learning curve, and he's hard on himself, but I think I'm very pleased."

The Eagles published a depth chart yesterday, in advance of Friday's preseason opener, and Carroll was listed as the No. 1 kickoff returner, with Darren Sproles penciled in for punts.

There were no other surprises. Nate Allen is the starting safety opposite Malcolm Jenkins, though Davis said neither Allen nor Earl Wolff has an edge in that competition.

Camp sights

* Cameron Robertson, 16, of Haddon Heights, N.J., was wearing an Eagles T-shirt with the name and No. 47 of undrafted Eagles rookie tight end Trey Burton, from Florida, yesterday. Robertson said he is a distant relative of Burton who attended Burton's draft party, and was delighted when Burton signed with his favorite team. Robertson, a cancer survivor, was with a group affiliated with the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.

* Jordan Matthews reached back across Malcolm Jenkins and plucked a Matt Barkley pass, so gracefully that Jenkins applauded.

* Ifeanyi Momah failed to separate from Mychal Kendricks on the sideline, but then made a nice grab in traffic across the middle on the next snap.

* Bill Davis said Jenkins' ability to play both safety and nickel corner will help Davis match chess moves with offensive coordinators. "If I have a nickel package [in and] Brandon Boykin is getting run at, I don't want that. [So] I stay in base, but a safety has to be able to cover that third wide receiver now. So if I have a big, physical, hitting safety that can't cover, then I'm limited," Davis said.

* Davis said fifth-round rookie defensive lineman Taylor Hart "is as consistent as the day is long. Every technique you ask him to do, he does it. If you want him to face in the B-gap, it's in the B-gap. If you want him striking, he's striking . . . I can't wait for these preseason games to come, and for us to see all these young guys, and what they're capable of doing with the bright lights on."

On Twitter: @LesBowen

Blog: ph.ly/Eagletarian

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