Lined up over a cone and a Gatorade bottle, quarterback Mike Kafka dropped back, set his feet and launched a deep pass to a running Chad Hall. The rookies, two of eight Eagles still out under the sun after practice ended Wednesday, did it again and again, and added some short swing passes as well.
For at least the second straight day, Kafka and Hall, a wide receiver out of Air Force, stayed after practice to work on passing and receiving amid summerlike heat.
As Kafka tries to grab the Eagles' third-string quarterback job, his work ethic and focus on the finer points of NFL passing have impressed starter Kevin Kolb.
"The thing that I love is his attention to detail. As a great quarterback, you have to have that. And he's hard on himself. He's self-motivated," Kolb said. "When he gets asked a question, he doesn't have an excuse. He says, 'I missed it. It's my fault,' and you can see the next time he doesn't miss it. A lot of guys aren't like that."
Kafka, a fourth-round draft pick out of Northwestern in April, would sit behind Kolb and Michael Vick on the depth chart, so it's unlikely he'll see playing time in 2010. But if he can make a successful transition to the NFL, he could become a valuable reserve, especially if the Eagles split with Vick when his contract expires next year.
Kafka has much to do before he gets there, though. He is still honing basics such as receiving snaps from under center and taking five- and seven-step drops after playing primarily in the shotgun in Northwestern's spread offense in college.
"What he's doing right now is trying to get better every day. It's as simple as that: Get better every day," said offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. "If he can get better every day, he's got a chance to make this team and then help the team."
Mornhinweg said Kafka has been impressive so far in camp, but when asked about his chances of emerging as a backup, Mornhinweg said the rookie has a shot, "but he's got to prove it and earn it."
Kafka, who went to high school in Chicago and college just outside the city, and said he is rooting for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, came to the Eagles after throwing for 3,430 yards in his senior year. In an Outback Bowl loss to Auburn, he threw four touchdowns and ran for one but added five interceptions.
"He's got good size [6-foot-3, 225 pounds], he's real athletic, sure throws the ball well," Mornhinweg said. "I think he's got some natural instincts, some gut instincts, and he's real sharp."
Draft analysts praised Kafka's accuracy, especially on short passes, but questioned his ability to throw deep.
Kafka has often thrown short check-down passes in drills. He has been sharp on intermediate routes, but receivers have had to wait under some long throws.
Kolb, who also came out of a spread offense at Houston, said Kafka can focus more downfield once the rookie masters fundamentals such as footwork.
Kafka's effort on such details was evident in an interview. He talked not just about taking snaps and dropping back but added the importance of properly enunciating play calls in the huddle.
Northwestern's offense, he said, relied on precision throws, much like the Eagles' scheme.
"That's what it's about: get completions, move the chains, and then make big plays," Kafka said.
While he works toward that, Kafka seems to have internalized Mornhinweg's emphasis on improvement.
"Right now I'm just focused on every day just getting better on one thing," Kafka said. On Wednesday, he concentrated on getting the right depth on his seven-step drops. "If I take that approach every day, step-by-step, I'll make an improvement."
The Eagles added Daniel Jeremiah to their college scouting staff. The former scout for the Browns and Ravens recently wrote the blog "Move the Sticks."