Before we get into the Hall of Fame Induction festivities this weekend, I thought I’d highlight one Eagles training camp drill you rarely hear about.
It is the pass protection drill for running backs and tight ends. How often during the season do many of us take the pass protection and blitz pickups for granted? I know I do at times, because without an all-22 view on my TV screen I am not seeing all the blocks being made. I am left to assume that effective pass pro blocking is happening, and it only seems to get noticed by the TV production director when it breaks down.
Actually I really dig pass protection blocking. It’s the main reason my avatar both here and on Facebook is still Vonta Leach. He’s retired now, but I thought he was the most tenacious and reliable pass pro blocker I have ever seen for a running back or fullback. He had a knack for it.
So I pulled out this one observation by Fran Duffy of an obscure pass protection drill from Thursday’s practice, which I can almost guarantee was not covered by any other press or visual media reporter out there:
“After the install period, 1-on-1 drills began. Ben and I decided to stay put and watch the running backs and tight ends battle with linebackers and safeties in pass protection work. This is the first time this summer the team has run this drill, and we were looking forward to seeing who would come out on top. A couple of players stood out to me in particular. Second-year tight end Billy Brown, a converted college wide receiver, was really strong in this drill. Brown stoned safety Stephen Roberts on his first rep, pushed Tre Sullivan to the ground on his second, and then beat linebacker Joe Walker on his third snap.
“For a guy who has made athletic grabs time and time again all summer long (he caught a touchdown during the live session down on the goal line later), Billy Brown can help himself by proving that he has developed as a blocker. It should be noted as well that I thought Brown stood out in 1-on-1 special teams work in the latter stages of practice. Outside of that, I thought running back Wendell Smallwood competed well in this drill, and while rookie Dallas Goedert did get beat once or twice, there were a couple of reps where he really flashed, particularly his last snap against Malcolm Jenkins.
“During that drill, Jenkins won reps using several savvy pass rush moves, including a “long arm” and a “spin” move. Jenkins continues to be a coach and a tutor on the field for his younger teammates, giving rookie Jeremy Reaves tips and instruction on the sidelines. Reaves was able to immediately use some of those techniques, beating Goedert on the exact move Jenkins taught him just minutes before. As the players transitioned to a team period, you can see the veterans constantly talking and working on techniques with each other. Jenkins continued chatting with Rodney McLeod about pass rush moves from the previous period, while Jalen Mills and Nelson Agholor demonstrated different releases and jams along with Sidney Jones on the far sideline.”
I guess the point for me is nothing is being taken for granted regarding pass protection by the Eagles. I should start paying more attention to it, too.
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And now the FUN part! This is an amazing weekend as Brian Dawkins goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday night in Canton, Ohio. Eagles Nation descends upon the Rust Belt section of the USA to celebrate one of the franchise’s most beloved players. There are going to be thousands of fans on hand wearing their Midnight Green Eagles gear – the Green Legion fan travel company has nearly 1,000 fans signed up to attend – and they are also going to feel it when Dawkins addresses the live crowd and the television audience with his usual gusto and emotion and honesty. Having Dawkins go in represents justice for a Hall of Fame that hasn’t been very kind to NFL safeties, so to recognize how Dawkins helped change the game and redefine the position means so much in so many ways.
I’m going to really savor this weekend, not just for Dawk but for all the veterans going into the Hall, particularly those who have waited many decades to get in, like Jerry Kramer. There are going to be some sweet highlights, speeches and interviews all day Saturday. It’s good to celebrate with these guys, kinda soak it all in with the added bonus remembrance of Dawkins’ 2000-2005 best years with the Eagles. Man, that was an exciting period of Eagles football.
I also savor the realization that we don’t know for sure who or when the next Eagle will be to make it to the HOF? Your speculation on this thought is a welcome diversion for me this weekend. Maybe it will be someone from the distant past who gets in on the Veteran committee vote? I wouldn’t mind seeing Pete Retzlaff’s name on one of those final ballots.
There’s also a very meaningful human triumph to be celebrated this weekend. Paul Domowitch wrote a masterful piece this week about Brian Dawkins’ battle with depression and how his wife, Connie, helped save his life. It happened early in his career, too. It is one of the best Dawkins features you will read this week because it highlights the struggles that even the most popular of players can deal with as well as the need for a strong support system.
And then, after the HOF stuff all day on Saturday, guess what Sunday is? It’s the first of two public practices at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s Military Appreciation Night presented by Dietz & Watson. If you have a ticket for the event, here is all the information you need.
Have fun, I’ll be checking back with you in the Comments section all weekend to get your Hall of fame thoughts.