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July 30 Practice Report: Pick City

Posted Jul 30, 2014

It was a barren first three days of practice for the Eagles' secondary. Through over six combined hours of practice, the defense as a whole had not yet notched an interception against an Eagles offense that, to be fair, was known for its lack of turnovers in 2013.

Wednesday, however, was an entirely different story as the Eagles' defense made – cue the LeBron footage – not one, not two, not three, but four interceptions of the Eagles' offense. Cornerback Cary Williams broke the seal with a diving interception during seven-on-seven drills, and he would later be joined in pick city by Brandon Boykin and, twice, by Malcolm Jenkins.

“Oh man, it was good,” Boykin said after practice. “We had a lot today ... I think that’s what makes it fun. When you come out here and you work on your technique and you see the difference right away. So we have to just build on it every day.

“Nick is, you know, the safest quarterback in the league. He’s not going to throw you a pick, so you can’t expect it from him. We knew they would start taking chances as ... camp goes on, so we knew we would get some sooner or later.”

Foles detailed one of the interceptions and praised Jenkins' aggressiveness on the play.

"They went Cover 0. It was third-and-2 in the situation. I was trying to throw an out route and it's very tough in those situations. He did a great job of in-and-outting the route and cutting the route," Foles said. "I love to see that aggressiveness. That's why we practice. I'm glad that wasn't a game. It's also great for me because if you're going to make a mistake, make it out here where you can learn from it. I know what to do next time."

Linebacker DeMeco Ryans called Jenkins the missing piece on defense.

"He's added that true leadership to our backend that we needed," Ryans said. "He's a guy who has stepped in and been vocal, a guy who has stepped in and made plays for us. He's not afraid to make the calls. He steps in. He's done a great job fitting right in with our defense. He's the piece we've been missing. He's really added a lot of experience to our defense, a lot of smarts. We really need him."

Last season already served as a big step forward for the Eagles' defense in terms of turnovers. In 2012, the Eagles tied for last in the league with only 13 turnovers and made only a meager eight interceptions. Last year, under Bill Davis' guidance, the Eagles notched 19 interceptions and 31 total takeaways, tied for third in the NFL.

“We had a good day today,” said safety Nate Allen. “Guys were flying around, getting their hands on balls. We have to capitalize whenever we get any hand on it, one hand, two fingers, we have to capitalize.”

The Wolff Of Broad Street

A Training Camp position battle is no fun unless all parties involved get a chance to show their stuff. So it was on Wednesday that second-year safety Earl Wolff took his turn alongside Malcolm Jenkins with the first-team defense.

“I’m not going to look at it as, ‘I’m running with the 1s,’” Wolff said after the training session. “I’m looking at it as I’m going to take advantage of every opportunity I get to run with the 1s, and I feel like I did a pretty good job today.”

Wolff did make a few notable plays on the day, though he was beating himself up after a dropped interception of Nick Foles, on which Wolff flashed in front of the tight end over the middle. Still, the former North Carolina State captain feels entirely more advanced as a player than he was as a rookie.

“I feel like I’m out here making calls, running around, flying around,” said Wolff, who started six games as a rookie. “Last year around this time, I was still trying to figure out what my coverages were. ... I was still kind of second-guessing myself. Now, I’m real comfortable. Now that I know it like the back of my hand, I can go out and call it and get ready to play.”

For his part, Nate Allen knows that this game of musical safeties is par for the course. He is, after all, no stranger to competition.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we talk about it every year. (Competition) is part of it. I’m going to keep playing, be Nate, let everything play out and just make each other better. We’re all going to make each other better,” Allen said. “Everybody’s just working with everybody. We’re building that chemistry as a unit, as an entire unit, we’re going to play ball wherever we are, take it for whatever it is and make each other better.”

As Allen also knows, the likelihood of the team going through the entire rigorous season with the same pair of starters as safety is small. At some point, everyone will have their opportunity.

“Everybody’s always one play away from starting and everybody has to work with everybody and we all have to get a feel for each other,” Allen said. “This is the time to do it.”

Lane’s Silver Lining

Lane Johnson was certainly not expecting to be running with the second-team offense as he entered his second season after starting all 16 games as a rookie. But with a looming four-game suspension and Allen Barbre practicing as the starting right tackle, Johnson has been plying his trade alongside right guard Dennis Kelly.

Head coach Chip Kelly explained Wednesday why, while the team would obviously prefer Johnson to be available Week 1, there is a developmental benefit to Johnson’s current status.

“He's doing a really good job,” the head coach said. “I think one of the byproducts is it's probably beneficial he's not with Todd (Herremans) all the time, because Todd, being the older guy, a lot of times makes all the calls on the right side. Lane's forced to kind of be a little bit more vocal. So there is a development going on there, and he's working extremely hard for the time we have him. We get him from now until the end of camp right when we break for the first game. He'll be gone for that time and he won't be allowed to be in the facility.”

Johnson agreed that his sense of the offense is improving as a result of having to make more calls himself.

“That’s exactly right,” he said, told of Kelly’s comments. “Last year, I relied on Todd a lot for most of the calls, so now I’m communicating with Dennis, because he’s used to playing tackle and now he’s playing guard, so we have to get on the same page. No more relying on Todd anymore, so I’m going to have be more vocal.

“I think it’s going to help me play quicker, get to the line faster and just know what I’m doing, recognizing defenses and just make the whole process quicker.”

Johnson added that while he’s not facing the first-team defense every day, he still gets to battle the likes of Connor Barwin and Trent Cole in one-on-one drills. And, he said, the second-team defense features plenty of impressive pass rushers in their own right.

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