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Eagle Eye - Cliggett's take on training camp

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Cliggett's take on training camp
Waking up Sunday, my usual off season routine of heading to Eagles training camp had a brand new face. My first thought was not, “What the hell time is it? How did I get here?”, nor did I have the vision of Dunkin Donuts coffee dancing in my head. My eyes were not sunken and red, wearing the price tag of a rough Saturday night, they were blazing green. It would be the day I could see first-hand what I have waited so patiently for. It was a new beginning, the future was now.

I arrived at the Linc to a rare but pleasant surprise of free parking. Training camps usually are but wasn’t sure with the change of venue. The Eagles did a good job setting this up. It was fan friendly and the atmosphere was solid. They had a lot of alumni there which brought the nostalgic aspect out and it wouldn’t be complete without Donovan McNabb acting like a fool and covering up his face with a towel when announced (receiving more cheers than jeers mind you). I even had a William Thomas sighting. Willy T still looks like he could play a little.

Enough about that though. What was different about today? How did things look compared to my last trip to Bethlehem? The answer was plenty. The music, although not appreciated by some, gave the practice a pulse. Last year guys lazily shuffled from one period to the next going through Big Reds motions. Stomachs stuffed with bear claws and tacos. This crew bounced from one end of the field to the other. Guys were working and getting reps. Reps make you better, and starting a new system, that is what you need.

The quarterback competition that everyone is talking about was what I expected. Nick Foles and Mike Vick split time with Matt Barkley getting his share. From my point of view, the edge went to Vick. Neither of them looked very sharp but from the plays ran it seemed to me like he would better suit this offense. Watching Foles try and run the ball made me cringe but play calls were very vanilla.

When the Eagles drafted Barkley, I had to do some self reflection. Upon taking a deep look inside myself I realized that it wasn’t Matt I disliked: It was my overwhelming hatred of Lane Kiffin that soured me to his game. For a young kid, the kid impressed me Sunday. He takes control out there. He also makes up his mind very quickly. Vick still held on to the ball and Matt gets it out of his hand. I realize he is a rookie, and he looked like one a few times, but it was nice to see him take command.

There was also a certain running back ripping off a few sweet runs whose name is not McCoy. Down in weight from last year, Chris Polk was the guy busting loose in the secondary. Another guy making a few slick grabs was rookie Russell Shepard. The rook made an acrobatic catch in one on one’s. Down the sideline overtop of Phillips who had perfect coverage. The good Lord owes us a diamond in the rough after Maclin’s freak accident.

That is a beautiful segue to what really needs to step up this fall: the defense. The one thing noticeable Sunday was that pre-snap, you didn’t see people looking at each other like they were tripping on mescaline. Players were getting into position and had a different swagger about them. Numbers that I noticed specifically were 21 and 22 in terms of the secondary. If Kenny Phillips stays healthy we have a steal. Brandon Boykin needs to lock into his potential to man the slot. He looked like he was flying around down there. As for the outside corners, Cary Williams sat out of practice so we couldn’t get a look at him. Brandon Fletcher’s only notice came in one on one’s when Jackson went deep on the fly and a perfectly thrown ball from Vick went for 6.  Of course, all this goes for naught if we do not get a pass rush and they are forced to sit in coverage until opposing quarterbacks go through their progressions six times over. That we won’t know until down the road.

Overall it was a good start. The energy was there that seemed to be lacking in past years. Then again competition fuels this type of attitude. With many questions still surrounding this squad the Eagles will yet again be under the microscope. A microscope that will surely be national, but Sunday, looking through the optical these football scientists were home grown.

Who knows how this scheme will translate to the NFL. I find it hard to believe that we could have another Steve Spurrier on our hands. I don’t think “the ole ball coach” is as bright or innovative as Chip Kelly. At this point we just need to stay healthy.

That said, the excitement is back in Philly for the time being.  The crowd showed their appreciation with an ovation as the team met at midfield after concluding practice. I showed my appreciation by writing this blog. Hopefully, my eyes stay this same green. Or else it’ll be Monday and not Sunday I am waking up feeling the pain. 


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