The Eagles held their eighth practice of training camp on Tuesday. Here are some highlights and observations:
1. We had a Marcus Smith sighting. The Eagles' 2014 top pick delivered the pass-rush move of training camp, and I'll get to that in a moment, but Smith was also very active later during team drills. I don't want to overstate one practice, but the second-year outside linebacker showed some signs of life. Let's see if he can translate that to game action once the preseason starts on Sunday. As for the pass-rush move, it came during one-on-ones and against OL Dennis Kelly. "I did kind of a stutter-step to get him off his feet and then I bull-rushed him," Smith said. And, boy, did he get Kelly off his feet. Smith drove the 6-foot-8, 321-pound Kelly back as if he were on skates and, finally, onto his rear end. Smith then did a dance as his defensive teammates jumped around him (and over the fallen Kelly). "I don't know what that really was," Smith said. "I was just happy that I finally conquered the move that I really wanted to do. Now I can bring other moves." Kelly said that he lost his balance, but that Smith, who added 15 pounds, was stronger in this camp than a year ago. "That's not going to look good on film for me," Kelly said. "But it was a good move."
2. The Eagles worked on the run game a fair amount. It's difficult to simulate game conditions with no tackling, but RB DeMarco Murray took a number of carries with the first team. Murray was a full participant on Sunday, after missing various days and drills, but was back with the training staff at the beginning of practice. I'm not sure if there's something ailing him, or if the Eagles are trying to hold him back, or if Murray has been told to go at his own pace. A Cowboys beat reporter told me that Murray practiced almost all of last year, even after he broke his hand late last season. But Murray did take part in all of the team drills. He even gave a defender a little extra on a run up the middle and dove for a short pass from QB Sam Bradford. LB Kiko Alonso (concussion) didn't practice again. CB Jerome Couplin (appendectomy) will return Monday.
3. There was a flip side to the run drills, and a few linebackers stood out on defense. Rookie Jordan Hicks had a couple of "stops" that stood out. He shuffled to the sideline and caught RB Raheem Mostert before he turned upfield, and Hicks got to him again up the middle a play later. The Eagles drafted Hicks in the third round, which virtually assures him a spot on the roster, but he looks like he belongs so far. DeMeco Ryans' recovery appears to be going swimmingly. He made one of those slashing run stops into the backfield, on a Darren Sproles carry, that have become customary over his career.
4. Nelson Agholor took all of the first-team repetitions at Josh Huff's usual outside wide-receiver spot. The rookie had gotten first-team looks before, but not this many. Huff was at practice, but didn't seem to participate in 7-on-7 or team drills. So he must have been dealing with something. I didn't get a chance to ask him after practice. The right guard rotation stopped at John Moffitt on Tuesday. Matt Tobin, Andrew Gardner, Julian Vandervelde and Moffitt have each had two practices with the first team so far.
5. Bradford took most of the first-team snaps again. During one of Bradford's early throws, TE Zach Ertz collided with LB Mychal Kendricks and didn't get up initially. Ertz eventually walked off the field and returned. Bradford had a number of sharp passes. He hit TE Brent Celek in the back of the end zone, connected with WR Riley Cooper over the middle and hooked up with Ertz on a pop pass when the Eagles practiced "backed up" situations. Bradford went to WR Jordan Matthews on a back-shoulder fade in the end zone, but the toss was off. He likes to throw the back shoulder, a near indefensible pass if thrown accurately. Bradford's best pass came late when he hurled a strike to Matthews on a corner for a touchdown. CB Jaylen Watkins was in coverage and argued that he stepped out of bounds as Matthews and Agholor celebrated. "But it was a phenomenal throw," Watkins said. CB Byron Maxwell was close by. "Oh, that was a touchdown," he said.
7. QB Mark Sanchez and WR Miles Austin formed quite a combo. They must have hooked up for at least five completions, mostly on crossing routes. Austin may not have the speed to get separation downfield as he once did, but he's still crafty enough underneath. During his one series with the first team, Sanchez and the offense had trouble moving. Sanchez rolled to his right on a bootleg, but DE Fletcher Cox rushed past Celek on the edge and Sanchez had to scoot out of bounds. His best toss was a "touchdown" heave to WR Seyi Ajirotutu.
8. Tim Tebow took more reps than Matt Barkley, both with the second- and the third-team offenses. There didn't seem any reason for the disparity other than the way reps were distributed. Tebow connected with TE Eric Tomlinson in the end zone with a bullet. Later, Tebow and his offense couldn't finish in the red zone, and he had to throw two straight passes out of bounds. The highlight of Barkley's day, when there weren't many pass opportunities, came when he connected with TE Justin Tukes for a big gainer.
9. The Eagles slot cornerback situation got more interesting, so to speak, after the Eagles announced on Monday that rookie JaCorey Shepherd had suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Chip Kelly said he was adding rookie Eric Rowe into the mix along with Jaylen Watkins and E.J. Biggers. The Eagles had been working Rowe exclusively outside, and he said that he had never played the slot CB position before. There are other options, too: cornerbacks Byron Maxwell or Nolan Carroll or safeties Malcolm Jenkins or Walter Thurmond could move inside in the nickel, but the Eagles would probably prefer to have someone exclusively work there.
10. As for the Brandon Boykin trade, Kelly said he didn't regret it in light of Shepherd's injury. He said he pulled the trigger before camp – typically, an unusual time for a trade – because the Steelers had increased their offer. Asked if he could have gotten the same offer if he'd waited two weeks, Kelly said he had "no idea." Watkins worked with the first team at slot on Tuesday.