NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Camp Report: Day 5

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
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PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp.

Safety Keelan Johnson, who was arrested in Arizona just before the start of training camp, practiced for the first time Thursday. Head coach Chip Kelly had excused Johnson from the opening days of camp so he could tend to his legal situation, which includes charges he shoved a policeman outside a bar in Tempe, Ariz. “I was a little nervous,” Johnson said. “Once you face something like that, this is game where they can get rid of you and find somebody else at your position. I spoke with Chip, and that gave me a little bit of insight. I got support from the guys. They support me 100 percent of the way.”

Hall of Famer Michael Irvin attended practice Thursday. Irvin, who is now an analyst for the NFL Network, was talking to wide receiver Riley Cooper after practice. Running back LeSean McCoy walked over to meet Irvin. Before he did, McCoy looked back at a group of Eagles fans and told them, “I own Dallas.” The fans liked that one.

Cornerback Cary Williams had an interesting practice. While covering a kickoff, Williams was able to catch returner Darren Sproles and shove him out of bounds. It was hard not to remember the Eagles’ playoff loss to New Orleans, when Sproles broke through the coverage team and Williams, in a desperation move, made a horse-collar tackle to stop the shifty running back. Later, in a passing drill, Williams dropped wide receiver Jeff Maehl to the ground as Maehl tried to break press coverage.

The defense had the upper hand early in the red zone drill near the end of practice. Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez led drives that fizzled out and ended with field goal attempts. Alex Henery missed wide right on one of the kicks. Matt Barkley got the offense going, finding Damaris Johnson in the end zone behind linebacker Casey Matthews. On his final possession, Foles threw a 10-yard touchdown to tight end Brent Celek, who got behind linebacker Brandon Graham in the end zone.

The Eagles will practice at 11:35 a.m. Fridayat the NovaCare Complex. Invited guests only are allowed to attend. NFL officials will work the practice, as they did Thursday. After a day off Saturday, the Eagles will have their second open practice at Lincoln Financial Field Sunday at 12:15 p.m.

Eagles Camp Report, Day 4

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
9:00
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PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:
  • The interception drought finally ended early in the fourth training camp practice. Safety Malcolm Jenkins jumped a route and picked off a Mark Sanchez pass. A few plays later, cornerback Cary Williams soared through the air and intercepted Matt Barkley. Over the first three days, four Eagles quarterbacks did not throw a single interception. "I know y'all were talking about it, 'three days without interceptions,'" Williams said. "We relayed the message, and we got to it today. When the ball's in the air, I've got to go out there and compete for the ball."
  • Another point of emphasis seemed to be back-shoulder throws. The Eagles quarterbacks tried to throw the ball behind receivers, giving them a chance to break back and beat the defender to the ball. There was mixed success. "There is timing, there is an area you want it on the field," quarterback Nick Foles said. "But there's also a feel with the receiver." When done well, those passes are difficult for defenders to get to. "It's tough," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "It's the opposite of what you're taught. Normally, if you're in position as a DB, the back shoulder is open."
  • Right tackle Lane Johnson is working with the second team because of the suspension that will sideline him for the first four games of the season. Coach Chip Kelly found a silver lining in that cloud. "One of the by-products is that he's not with [right guard] Todd [Herremans] all the time," Kelly said. "Todd, being the older guy, a lot of time makes all the calls on the right side. Lane is forced to be a little bit more vocal. He's working extremely hard."
  • The Eagles have sustained only relatively minor injuries through four days of training camp practices. Wide receiver Riley Cooper has a foot injury. He could be back on the field Thursday or Friday. Running Chris Polk (hamstring) should also be back in action "shortly," Kelly said. Backup center Julian Vandervelde has a back injury that is not related to the one that troubled Vandervelde last season, Kelly said. Rookie wide receiver Josh Huff left Wednesday's practice with an unannounced injury.
  • There's no doubt which wide receiver has caught Mark Sanchez's eye. Sanchez seems to throw almost every pass to rookie Jordan Matthews. It doesn't hurt that Matthews catches everything Sanchez throws his way. Near the end of Wednesday's session, during a red zone drill, the 6-foot-3 receiver caught a perfectly thrown fade pass for a touchdown. On the next play, Sanchez came back to Matthews over the middle for another score.
PHILADELPHIA – Safety Earl Wolff either did or did not take a step forward in his competition with Nate Allen for a starting job. It’s hard to tell with the Eagles.

Yes, Wolff was running alongside Malcolm Jenkins on the first team Wednesday. But, as Jenkins pointed out, he himself saw some second-team snaps this week. The highly touted promotion of first-round pick Marcus Smith from third-team to second-team left outside linebacker might have been something else altogether.

Wolff
Ponder
Allen
“I don’t think he got moved up to the second team,” linebacker Connor Barwin said. “I think everybody is rotating with every group. I don’t think there is any second or third team yet. They’re going to see (linebacker Bryan) Braman and Marcus against better competition throughout camp.”

The competition between Allen and Wolff figures to last through the preseason. A slight change in the number of first-team reps is all too easy to overreact to.

Allen wasn’t overreacting. The players definitely understand that this is just how coach Chip Kelly does things, mixing and matching players in order to get a good look at everyone. So Allen took his apparent demotion in stride.

“That’s how it’s been,” Allen said. “I’m not worrying about where I am. We’re all going to work together and make each better. We’ve all got to be able to work together and get a feel for each other. I think it’s good. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m just going to work hard.”

From watching them play last season, Allen seems better suited to play deep and offer support in pass coverage. Wolff seems a bit better suited to playing in the box and playing the run. But it’s also true that Wolff was a rookie last season and is more likely to take a large step forward than the veteran Allen.

“He’s a young player with a lot of talent,” Jenkins said of Wolff. “Just off-the-wall talent. He has athleticism. He just has to learn the game. He has to be decisive with his calls, knowing what offenses are giving. That just comes with experience. You’ve got two different dynamics, but they’re both great players. Whoever ends up on that other side is going to be capable of getting the job done.”

For his part, Allen has been a victim of all the change on the coaching staff since he was drafted. This is the first year Allen will have the same coordinator for two full seasons in a row. So while he has more experience than Wolff, he also had to learn a new system from scratch last season.

“I’m looking forward to seeing both of them cut it loose, take more chances and see where their range is,” Jenkins said. “That’s the only you learn as a safety. You have to push yourself, take chances and see where your range is.”
PHILADELPHIA – Jeff Lurie recently celebrated his 20th anniversary as an NFL owner. Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles from Norman Braman way back in 1994.

After Wednesday’s practice at the NovaCare Complex, Lurie was asked if he expected to win a Super Bowl by now.

“I don’t know,” Lurie said, “but I’m obsessed with it. If you love the sport as much as I do, and you love this team and this city as much as I do, that’s the ultimate goal. Until that happens, it’s a hunger. And even if it does happen, it will be a hunger because you don’t want to just be satisfied to have it happen once. It’s my obsession, trying hard to make it happen.”

The Eagles came close, reaching the Super Bowl a decade ago, after the 2004 season. They also lost four NFC championship games during coach Andy Reid’s tenure. But things turned sour after the last of those in 2008. Lurie finally changed coaches in January 2013, completing a makeover of the entire Eagles hierarchy.

“I feel really good,” Lurie said. “I feel very lucky to have a coach and a coaching staff that is really dynamic, a young general manager (Howie Roseman) I think is really outstanding and a young president (Don Smolenski) who is terrific and brings everybody together. It’s lucky for me as an owner. I feel like we have an excellent young team, and we just need to get better. It’s not that complicated.”

It was hard for Lurie to move on from Reid, but he has found a new face for his franchise in former Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

“I just think we got a good coach and a really good coaching staff,” Lurie said. “They just want to get better. They don’t know how to classify themselves or how to compete with last year. It’s just about getting better. Be quiet about it, work at it and get better. The fact that everyone is used to a lot of the schemes on our part, I think, allows for better execution. I’m excited to see how we are (this season).”

Lurie said he expects expectations to be higher this season after the Eagles went 10-6 and won the NFC East title in Kelly's first season.

“It will rise every year, because you just want to get better and better,” Lurie said. “Getting better every day is my expectation.”

Lurie also expects quarterback Nick Foles to take a step forward in his first full season as the starter.

“It’s hard not to be impressed with him from Day 1 in terms of off-the-field [things],” Lurie said. “Just incredibly hard worker, great work ethic, very humble, so respected by everybody around him. I remember talking to Michael Vick about him last year and a little bit the year before. Mike was saying, `Sheesh, this guy is such a superb team player.’ He was only 24 years old at that point and just incredibly respected in the locker room and talented and young and just wants to get better.”

Eagles Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
9:00
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PHILADELPHIA – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:

  • The Eagles drew just under 15,000 fans for the first of three open training camp practices this summer. It was the first chance for fans to see the changes to Lincoln Financial Field. It was also Military Appreciation Day, and dozens of active service people were in attendance. “It’s awesome, man,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “You’ve got some people who can’t afford to come to a regular game. This is their opportunity to sit in these green seats and enjoy what we put out every day.”
  • The Eagles wore full pads for the first time, but there wasn’t significantly more hitting than there was in the first two days. Coach Chip Kelly has made it clear he sees practices as teaching and training opportunities and really puts a lot of weight on preseason games for evaluating player performance.
  • Several players did stand out. None of the four quarterbacks has thrown a single interception during the first three days of practice. LeSean McCoy looked impressive running the ball as well as catching it. He made it very tough on linebackers, especially Mychal Kendricks, who were called upon to cover him. Rookie wide receiver Jordan Matthews got open in the middle of the field for two consecutive catches from backup quarterback Mark Sanchez.
  • The 6-foot-3, 212-pound Matthews plays primarily in the slot. Kelly likes the kind of matchup issues that can create. “Obviously, a lot of the corners who play slot corner in this league are a little smaller,” Kelly said. “You can create some mismatches from that standpoint. If you’re going to leave a linebacker in the game, obviously there’s some athletic mismatches we can exploit there. Also, in the run game, our slot receivers have to block. That’s one thing Jason Avant was outstanding at last year.”
  • Unlike his predecessor, Andy Reid, who opened every news conference with a list of injured players, Kelly seldom brings up injuries. He isn’t especially forthcoming when asked, either. His approach is basically that he’s coaching the players who are healthy and the trainers are working with those who aren’t. Four Eagles were limited or out of Monday’s practice: nose tackle Bennie Logan (hamstring), wide receiver Riley Cooper, running back Chris Polk and center Julian Vandervelde. None of the injuries appeared serious. The Eagles are off on Wednesday.
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly expanded a bit on comments he made to Sports Illustrated's Peter King over the weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles' coach raised some eyebrows by saying the "hype" surrounding the NFL draft "is insane. Totally insane."

Jones
Kelly
"(King) just asked me if there was one thing about the NFL that surprised me," Kelly said Monday, "and I just told him the hype, in general, with the draft. I think the draft is integral, obviously, in terms of putting together your team. But literally from the day the Super Bowl ends until the draft ... that's all everybody talks about.

"I felt the same way in college. You devote everything to the signing day. Well, how many guys from the signing day are actually going to contribute? You may have one or two rookies who have an impact on your team. The rest of them, it's just having them develop. The fact that people would watch the combine -- there's times at the combine where I fall asleep. They're running 40-yard dashes."

Kelly is more concerned with how all of this affects the players coming into the league.

"You guys are in the newspaper business," Kelly said. "If someone is a rookie coming into the newspaper thing, I don't think you're all applauding and saying, 'Oh, my God, the savior is here! Our paper is saved because we just signed a kid out of Northwestern that has really good prose.' In football, it seems to be the biggest thing in the world. And if a guy isn't an all-pro in his first year, but he was drafted in the first five picks, then he's a bust. And I don't think that's the case."

That perspective is interesting when you watch how Kelly approaches his rookies. Last year, first-round pick Lane Johnson was a starter from the very beginning. But defensive tackle Bennie Logan was eased into the starting lineup, eventually replacing veteran Isaac Sopoaga. Tight end Zach Ertz and safety Earl Wolff were brought along slowly.

This year? Same thing. First-round pick Marcus Smith opened camp as the third-team left outside linebacker. Smith runs with the second team at times, but there is clearly no pressure from Kelly's staff on the rookie. Second-round pick Jordan Matthews, who made two flashy catches Monday, is still behind veteran slot receiver Brad Smith on the depth chart.

It doesn't matter to Kelly what the expectations from the outside are. And once players are here, they are judged on merit, not on where they were drafted.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles' defense is a little ahead of coordinator Bill Davis' schedule.

"The personality of this group will show itself when we play games in the preseason and as we play games on Sunday," Davis said the other day.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
Matt Rourke/AP PhotoReceiver Jeremy Maclin (pictured) and teammate Bradley Fletcher got into an on-field scuffle during Monday's training camp practice.
During the Eagles' next two practices, fights broke out. On Sunday, it was linebacker Trent Cole and running back LeSean McCoy. On Monday afternoon, during an open practice at Lincoln Financial Field, the combatants were wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

"I'm glad, to be honest with you," cornerback Cary Williams said. "When you come out here to camp, there's no friends. You try to look out for your brother. You're fighting for jobs, you're fighting for opportunities. When those situations arise, especially defenders, we're going to let them know we're not having that. We're going to be the most physical defense we possibly can."

Last summer, Williams got into a scuffle with one of the New England Patriots during a joint practice. Both players were held out for the rest of the practice, as per an agreement between Chip Kelly and Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Kelly hasn't been that strict when it's a bout between two of his own players.

"Those things happen," Kelly said. "Their emotions got the better part of them. It's no different than little kids sometimes don't get along and throw Tonka trucks at each other."

While the coach understands the dynamic and tolerates the occasional melee, Williams is downright in favor of it.

"If it was up to me," Williams said, "I think that's normal. I don't think you're supposed to go through camp with no fights, in my opinion. Those are supposed to happen. Guys get frustrated. You're out here these long hours, guys get frustrated. You're fighting to survive another down. Sometimes guys get the best of you and you may be frustrated. That's a part of camp, man."

Aside from the scuffle with the Patriots, Williams got into a camp fight last summer with wide receiver Riley Cooper. That one drew even more attention because it occurred a couple weeks after the appearance of an Internet video of Cooper using a racial slur during a concert.

So it was somewhat surprising that two fights have broken out and Williams was not involved.

"Mine is coming," he said. "It's all in good fun. You're going to have those things. It's practice. Maclin wasn't going to back down, either. What's done out here stays out here. We're family, at the end of the day. You're not swinging to hurt the guy. They've got on helmets. It's more of a faking situation. If you break your hand in a fight, you're a complete idiot."
PHILADELPHIA -- LeSean McCoy is the NFL’s defending rushing champion, so he takes it more than a little personally when people say running backs aren’t as important as they used to be.

“When people say the position is decreasing, or that people don’t value us as much, I don’t believe that,” McCoy said Sunday. “The top guys, who make good money and are productive, aren’t just running backs. They’re play makers. Compare the top guys to any other players, and they hold their own.”

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsLeSean McCoy thinks running backs are still as important as ever to NFL teams.
McCoy said he has kept an eye on the other backs making news around the league. He texted congratulations to Kansas City’s Jamaal Charles when he signed his new contract. And he said he hopes Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch gets a big deal to improve the market for other running backs.

As for himself, McCoy’s 2012 contract runs through the 2017 season. He will make $7.65 million this season and $9.75 million in 2015.

“I’m here,” McCoy said. “I’m under contract. I’m friends with those [other backs].”

McCoy has gotten into a public give-and-take with Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson over which is the better back. When he clinched the rushing title during the season-ending game in Dallas last year, McCoy displayed a championship belt. Clearly, he takes pride in being at the top of his profession, but also in his profession itself.

“Jamaal Charles led his team in receiving yards,” McCoy said. “I led the league in yards from scrimmage. Adrian Peterson had tons of big plays. You look at any big wide receiver and you could put us right there with them. We’ll make big plays.”

Someone told McCoy that former teammate Michael Vick, now with the Jets, said he wouldn’t race Chris Johnson but he would be happy to come back and race McCoy.

“That’s just Mike,” McCoy said. “If you ask him who’s the best back, he’ll tell you me.”
With training camp now under way, here's a look at how the Eagles' final 53-man roster could pan out:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

A year ago, Foles competed for the starting job with Michael Vick. Now the competition is between Sanchez and Barkley for the No. 2 spot. Put your money on Sanchez. The Eagles wouldn’t have signed him to be the third quarterback.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

It won’t be surprising if the Eagles go with only three backs here, as Chip Kelly has been talking Sproles up as a running back since signing him. But if Sproles slides around the field as Kelly finds interesting matchups for him as a receiver, the Eagles may need depth behind McCoy. Rookie Henry Josey belongs in the picture, too.

WIDE RECEIVERS (5)

This is a confusing position because of all the offseason churn. DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant are gone. Cooper is more established. Maclin is returning from injury. Matthews could develop into the best of the bunch. Ifeanyi Momah and Jeff Maehl are in the mix, too.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Ertz should continue his ascent to the No. 1 slot here, but Celek’s completeness as a blocker and receiver make him tough to write off. It wouldn’t be shocking if somebody (Emil Igwenagu?) persuaded Kelly to move on from Casey, who probably wonders why he signed in Philadelphia last year.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

Lane Johnson will be on the Eagles' roster this year, just not for the first four weeks due to his PED suspension. Pencil in Andrew Gardner, a free agent formerly with the Texans, instead. Gardner opened camp as the second-team left tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

This is actually a tough group to project. Kruger spent his rookie year on IR, so he’s kind of a wild card. The coaches seemed high on Hart, who played for Kelly and line coach Jerry Azzinaro at Oregon. Allen is a draft pick. All three could make the team, but then, so could Damion Square.

LINEBACKERS (8)

The big issue here is how long it takes first-round pick Smith to progress to a point where he could start ahead of Cole. It might take the whole season. And then there is the idea of giving Ryans some downtime, which could get Goode on the field quite a bit. Phillips and Braman are mostly special-teams guys.

SAFETIES (6)

That seems like a lot of safeties, but Maragos was signed for special teams, and the coaches like Reynolds enough to carry the fifth-round pick as he develops. Johnson could be the odd man out.

CORNERBACKS (5)

In Year 2 of a total redo at this position, the Eagles will let merit sort things out with this group. Williams and Fletcher were adequate last year but now have Carroll pushing them both. Boykin established himself as a solid nickel corner. The coaches are high on Watkins, a rookie from Florida. Roc Carmichael could force his way onto the roster, as well.

SPECIALISTS (3)

These three mainstays all figure to be back. Henery is working on kickoffs, which would help the coverage unit immensely. Jones had a solid season punting the ball, and Dorenbos remains automatic at long-snapping.

Eagles Camp Report: Day 2

July, 27, 2014
Jul 27
9:00
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PHILADELPHIA -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Philadelphia Eagles training camp:
  • It isn't always easy to make sense of a fast-paced Chip Kelly practice in real time. But there were some interesting things going on Sunday afternoon. Matt Barkley, who is supposed to be competing with Mark Sanchez for the No. 2 quarterback job, may actually be competing with G.J. Kinne for the No. 3 slot. Kinne, who has been throwing the ball well, was third throughout most of Sunday's session. Last year, Kinne was cut during training camp but he finished the season on the Eagles' practice squad. Barkley has an advantage as a fourth-round pick from last year, but Kelly always says there is open competition for every job.
  • Kelly's practices are broken up by intermittent teaching periods. On Sunday, those mostly turned into water breaks. Weather forecasts had called for a cooler day with rain throughout the morning and afternoon. But it was sunny and reached 90 degrees, with high humidity. The players didn't have pads on, but they were feeling the heat.
  • The best evidence of the heat was the first scuffle of camp. Linebacker Trent Cole took a little shot at running back LeSean McCoy, knocking McCoy down. McCoy, who felt the defense has been a bit liberal in the amount of contact dished out, came back at Cole. The two wrestled before teammates got involved and separated them. Cole and McCoy were joking about the whole thing by the end of practice.
  • Kelly confirmed Saturday that the Eagles will not tackle to the ground during practice sessions. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said that's typical, "because of the way you expose too many people to injury on a daily basis." But it is Davis' job to teach sound tackling technique despite those limitations. "A lot of that is body placement," Davis said. "If you can continually work on putting your head in front of the ball carrier, as opposed to behind -- I think one of the biggest problems we had last year when I broke down the tackling issues was our head placement was always behind the ball carrier, leaving all arm tackles." Davis said the Eagles improved their technique during the season "and we have to build on where we left off at the end of the season."
  • First-round pick Marcus Smith continues to run with the third team at left outside linebacker -- the Jack linebacker position -- behind Connor Barwin and Bryan Braman. "They come at their own pace," Davis said. "We give them every opportunity to teach and grow them. … Marcus is a very hard worker and a very intelligent guy and very athletic. So you have a bunch of characteristics you look for in all Eagles players. He cares a lot about the game. One of the biggest things that attracted us to him was that Louisville and (coach) Charlie Strong's defense is a lot like ours, and the way they used him is a lot the way we use our Jack position."
PHILADELPHIA -- If Allen Barbre is catching an opportunity because of Lane Johnson's suspension, that’s probably fitting.
Barbre lined up with the first team at right tackle as the Philadelphia Eagles opened training camp Saturday. The 30-year-old will get every chance to start in Johnson’s spot during the first quarter of the season.

Two years ago, while he was with the Seattle Seahawks, Barbre received the same letter from the league office that Johnson got in May. He had violated the NFL policy on performance-enhancing drugs and would be suspended for four games. The Seahawks, Barbre’s third NFL team, simply released him. He was out of football for the 2012 season.

“I felt like I could still play football,” Barbre said. “It was just getting the opportunity.”

And that is just a bit harder with a PED suspension on your permanent record.

“I had a workout here [with the Eagles],” Barbre said. “That’s the only workout I had after I was released. It just looks bad."

The Eagles did sign Barbre in January of 2013, shortly before hiring Chip Kelly as their new head coach. Kelly viewed Barbre as just another of the players he inherited.

“We’ve seen Allen every day here,” Kelly said. “We feel like he’s a talented football player. He was really going to be pushing, even if Lane wasn’t out, all those other guys for playing time. When he’s had the opportunity to perform, he’s done a great job. He did a great job in the offseason program.”

One of the possibilities for Kelly would be moving right guard Todd Herremans to tackle, where he has played in the past. But Kelly’s comment suggests that Herremans might have been in danger of losing his guard spot to Barbre before Johnson was suspended. So it makes sense that Kelly would just plug Barbre into Johnson’s spot.

It will still be up to Barbre to hang on to the job. But he is clearly, in Kelly’s view, one of the five or six best offensive linemen on the roster.

“I just want to come out here and do well,” Barbre said. “That’s my plan, just to come out and work hard every day.”

The Eagles signed Barbre to a three-year contract extension early in June. By then, they knew Johnson would be out for four games. But the contract talks predated all that. Barbre had established himself as the primary backup at four of the five offensive line spots.

“For them to show confidence in me to sign me, that shows that they trust me,” Barbre said. “Whether I’m a backup or I’m a starter, I want my team to trust me.”

He said he is most comfortable on the left side, where he played in relief of Jason Peters last season. But he will have the advantage of focusing on the right tackle spot from the very start of training camp.
“I think there’d be something wrong with you if you didn’t want to start,” Barbre said. “That seems like it’s the only option.”
PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Foles, the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback, couldn't get to sleep Thursday night.

Foles
"I'm so excited," Foles said. "I couldn't wait to get up this morning and get everything going. You reminisce on everything last year and the offseason. It's actually here. I know all of us are giddy and seeing each other in the locker room, we're all ready to go."

A year ago, Foles was the underdog in a training camp competition with Michael Vick for the starting quarterback job. This time around, Foles is the unquestioned No. 1 quarterback as training camp opens.

"I feel really good," Foles said. "I felt great last year. But it's another year under my belt in the NFL. Obviously, a lot of things happened last year that we were able to grow on and expand on as a team. It's definitely a huge difference from last year until now."

Last summer, Vick outperformed Foles in practices and preseason games to win the job. This year, instead of trying to compete, Foles can simply focus on things he wants to improve in his own game.

"Getting any rep is huge," Foles said. "If you get the majority of the reps, it helps a lot because you're going to go against the defense and you can rep with your guys. I think the biggest thing, it's the same coaching staff as last year. So we're able to grow as an offensive unit. We're not learning new stuff, we're able to compound on what we already learned.

"When I play, I want to better. I don't want to be the same, I want to keep progressing. When I went to college, I didn't think about what I did in high school. When I had a good year in college, I didn't think about that. I just kept going. It's the same in the NFL."

Last year, all five offensive linemen started all 16 regular-season games as well as the playoff game against New Orleans. Already, the Eagles know they will be without suspended right tackle Lane Johnson for the first four games of the season.

Foles benefited from that continuity last year. He said he has confidence that Allen Barbre, the likely replacement for Johnson, will maintain order on that side.

"Allen's awesome," Foles said. "He's a tremendous player. He works hard every day. He's almost like a caveman out there. Big, strong, physical guy. He's very smart. Great teammate. Our line as a whole, if you talk to any of them, you see what kind of people they are. On the field, they all give it all they have. No matter who steps up, I feel comfortable in there."
PHILADELPHIA -- Guard Evan Mathis was one of 89 Philadelphia Eagles to report Friday to the NovaCare Complex. That's considered newsworthy, because the 32-year-old guard was considered a candidate for holding out.

Mathis
"It was easy to sit there and think about it a month ago," Mathis said Friday. "But when it was getting down closer to the wire, it's not something I could see myself doing, really. For multiple reasons."

Mathis has three seasons remaining on his contract. His salary cap hit for 2014 is $6.15 million. In the final year of the deal, Mathis' cap hit is $7 million.
Mathis went to the Pro Bowl after the 2013 season. He was among New England's Logan Mankins ($10.5 million cap number) New Orleans' Jahri Evans ($11 million) and Ben Grubbs ($9.1 million), and Baltimore's Marshal Yanda ($8.45 million).
So Mathis could make a good argument that he is underpaid.

"I'm not here to make that argument right now," Mathis said.

He will attempt to make it on the field, as well as in conversations between his agent and the Eagles' front office. But Mathis decided not to seize whatever leverage he could by holding out. His position would have been even stronger because of the four-game suspension of right tackle Lane Johnson. The Eagles really wouldn't benefit from having 40 percent of their offensive line missing.

"That's not the course of action I took," Mathis said. "I'm not trying to strong-arm the team. I'm not trying to put them in a bad situation to get what I want. I'm trying to do the right thing. I'm not really worried about it. Hopefully, it works out. If not, I'm still going to be the same football player."

Mathis said he finally decided a holdout would hurt his teammates too much.

"I wasn't scared of the fines," Mathis said. "But what I'd be doing to my teammates and coaches, that's the ultimate reason. I would feel wrong putting my team in that kind of situation."
PHILADELPHIA -- Lane Johnson saw the signs, posted all around the NovaCare Complex. They remind players to check with the Philadelphia Eagles' training staff before taking any prescriptions medications.

That medication prescribed by your hometown family physician might be on the NFL's list of banned substances. The doctor wouldn't know, but the Eagles' trainers would.

[+] EnlargeLane Johnson
AP PhotoOffensive tackle Lane Johnson will miss the first four weeks of the Philadelphia Eagles' 2014 season.
"I wasn't here," Johnson said. "That's not an excuse. Usually, if you take any supplementary thing, you're supposed to talk to the head trainer. It was my mistake and I'm paying the price for it."

Johnson would not disclose the substance that earned him a four-week suspension at the beginning of the season.

"It sucks," Johnson said. "The toughest part about it is I won't be around here to battle. I was expecting to come out here and get a good start, Week 1. That's something I can't do now. It's all my fault. I have nobody to blame but myself. It's all on me."

Johnson, the Eagles' first-round draft pick last year, started all of last season at right tackle. He said he was using the prescription medication in April. He received a letter from the NFL notifying him of the suspension early in May. He immediately informed general manager Howie Roseman so the Eagles could plan for his four-game absence.

"The biggest part is I let the team down," Johnson said. "I let the fans down. That's the toughest part."

Johnson reported for training camp Friday along with his teammates. He is able to practice throughout camp and participate in all four preseason games. However, he also knows coach Chip Kelly has to prepare someone else to start the season at right tackle. That's likely to be Allen Barbre, whom the Eagles signed to a contract extension in early June -- after they knew about Johnson's pending suspension.

Johnson said he wasn't sure how Kelly would handle his workload during camp.

"I'll know more tomorrow when we start," Johnson said. "I'm not quite sure how it's going to go. I'm sure the guys will fill my shoes really well."

Meanwhile, Johnson will have four weeks in September that he will have to use to prepare for his return in Week 5.

"That's the thing I'm going to figure out closer to Week 1, someplace I can go to try and keep in football shape, maybe do some one-on-ones with somebody," Johnson said. "That's going to be the toughest part, not being around here playing. It's hard to come and play in a game when you're not able to practice."

Johnson said he knows people will speculate about what he did and how it might have helped him add weight and strength during the offseason. He said there's nothing he can do about it.

"That's the rule," Johnson said. "I got what I deserved. Players have done this before, they've been in my shoes. As a professional, you're supposed to be aware of what you put in your body and take precautions. It's something I didn't do and now I'm paying the price."
PHILADELPHIA -- Chip Kelly might have earned a laurel, winning the NFC East title in his rookie season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. That doesn't mean Kelly will be resting on it.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles and Chip Kelly
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesChip Kelly's first NFL season took off with Nick Foles under center, but nevertheless the Eagles head coach is seeking ways to improve.
"We can impove," Kelly said. "We were 10-7. We were just OK."

Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles started off the 2013 season 1-4. They went through turmoil as the quarterback situation sorted itself out. Once Nick Foles was established as the starter, though, the Eagles went 7-1 in the second half. Their seventh loss was in the playoff game against New Orleans.

That's a pretty good first season for a head coach, but Kelly wasn't grading himself on a curve.

"I was 10-7, too," Kelly said. "I wasn't 12-6, or 12-4. I don't have a better record than the team, so we're all kind of judged on the same thing, but I think everybody can work on their individual aspect and how they contribute to the success or failure of what we're doing."

That seems to be the theme as the Eagles open camp this weekend. Players report Friday to the NovaCare Complex. The first practice is Saturday. The feeling you got from talking with coaches and players throughout June was that last season ended in disappointment, so it was disappointing.

"I think if you're content with 10 wins and winning the division, you're probably shortchanging yourself and the team," Kelly said. "We did that. What's the next step? How can we improve upon that? We're trying to get a bunch of guys that are never complacent in terms of, 'All right, we've arrived.' We haven't arrived. We're looking to work and strive to get better and better and better. That's part of the deal, so I think that's the thing we're always trying to emphasize with these guys."

The message seems to have gotten through. During minicamps, defensive players talked about being last in the NFL in passing yards allowed, not about how they held opponents to 22 or fewer points nine times in their last 10 regular-season games. Quarterback Nick Foles talked all spring about forgetting his breakout 2013 performance and focusing instead on the little things he must do to improve.

"How do you get to that next level?" Kelly said. "Some guys are content -- you've got to make sure that they're not content -- being where they are. Just like some guys' goal's just to play in the NFL. All right, you're playing. Now what? That's a legitimate question. 'My goal is just to be a starter in the NFL.' So you're starting. Now what? I think that's the one thing you're always trying to strive -- you look at it as an individual, how do you continue to improve?"

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