IT MAY ONLY be the preseason, but the Eagles' defensive backs knew they had a tough task when New England quarterback Tom Brady came to town.
In the second combined practice with the Patriots at the NovaCare Complex yesterday, the Eagles got another opportunity to go head-to-head with New England on both sides of the ball. One of the league's elite quarterbacks for the past decade, Brady often showed the hosts why the secondary needs additional work on the field and in the film room.
"He's obviously one of the great quarterbacks to ever play this game, not just in the league right now, but when you go in the history of the game, he's right there," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "You'd better be where you're supposed to be, when you're supposed to be there, or he's going to get you."
On multiple occasions, Brady did just that. The 14-year veteran was sharp in many different situations and completed multiple passes to his young receivers even when they seemed to be covered by two or three defenders.
One of the many sideline observers was former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil. Vermeil, who also held combined practices with teams during his training camps, believes the Eagles will benefit from the workouts. Vermeil said he never saw a Brady ball touch the ground, pointing out that Brady exposes weaknesses in every defense he faces.
"He gets the ball out quick and you have to be ready on the snap," cornerback Bradley Fletcher said. "He makes great decisions with the ball and he knows how to make plays when he needs to. We have got to be on top of our game so we can make plays."
Kelly emphasized that he was rotating players on and off the field to allow them to gain experience and was not trying to set up a secondary that would stop Brady.
"You just know you've got to continue to work and continue to get better," defensive back Curtis Marsh said. "It's a constant fight to get better every day and it doesn't matter how good you get, you can always get better. When you get benchmarks like that where everything is not in sync, you watch the film, work on your technique, and the next day you are better for it.
"[Facing Brady] was a great test for us. He is one of the best to ever play the game and their team is one of the best organizations in the league so it is great to practice against them and it is good, quality work for us, probably the best work we can get."
As one of Brady's young targets looking to fill in for injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, rookie Zach Sudfeld caught a few touchdown passes from Brady.
"I was just trying to work hard, but they seemed aggressive," Sudfeld said of the Eagles' secondary. "At this point, you are just trying to compete against the guys out there and obviously at this level these guys are the best, and so you really just try to improve your own game and compete."
As a teammate who has faced the defensive backs in camp, Eagles wide receiver Ifeanyi Momah echoed Sudfeld, stating that the group is aggressive and willing to improve.
"I think our defensive backs are aggressive and that's a good thing," Momah said. "They definitely like to hit and you can tell that right off the bat. Those guys are continuously working on getting better and you can see that here against the Patriots, who have a good offense. You can tell as the days go on, the unit is only getting better and better at trying to stop that passing game. They still have a lot of work to do, but they are doing fine."