Voluntary OTA’s ended this past Thursday. Mandatory minicamp begins next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This will be the Eagles’ last on-field action before training camp opens at Lehigh University on July 22 with the arrival of rookies, quarterbacks, injured players and other selected veterans.
Clay Harbor gave a nice interview to Nick Fierro of the Allentown Morning Call this week. The subject was team speed…and the challenge to harness it.
Tight end Clay Harbor, now in his 4th year out of Missouri State, 6-3, 252…Harbor still runs a 4.65 ’40, pretty speedy for a man his size.
The Eagles deliberately draft and trade for speed. They had probably the best overall team speed in the league last season. But indecision and hesitation on many plays took the advantage of speed away from them.
Harbor says this year will be different.
“You can see it on our defense this season. I see it all around me in practice every day…”
Whether it’s outside cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha cutting him off, or slot corners Joselio Hanson or Brandon Boykin or rookie linebacker Mychal Kendricks matching him stride-for-stride on a fly pattern, Harbor gets a sense on almost every play of what will be in store for Eagles’ opponents this season.
“They have a lot of smart guys too,” Harbor added. “You have Nnamdi out there, he’s probably one of the smartest players I’ve played against. The way his mind works is really incredible. He goes through in his mind all the possible routes [before the snap], and 90 percent of the time he’s right. He’ll talk to you after practice if you guess wrong, and he’ll tell you what he was thinking on that route. His thought process is great.”
Harbor says the Birds defense will not be slowed down this season by last-minute installs of a new system with unfamiliar alignments and techniques.
“It takes a while to get used to a system,” Harbor said, “and to try to do that within a training camp and a few preseason games is tough to do. You know [this year] we’ve implemented so many more things, you can see the different disguises [the defense] is putting in, the different types of blitzes.
“Instead of having to be basic because [Castillo] didn’t really have time to put it all in, it’s really working well for him now.”
Of course, the offense is built for speed, too, but CB Joselio Hanson says it’s the fastest offensive group he’s seen in Philly in his 7 years here.
“The most speed I’ve seen? I’d have to say this is definitely the fastest team I’ve been on. We brought in some fast rookies and we already have DeSean and Maclin. Jason Avant is looking fast out there, too. We’re looking pretty fast and explosive.”
As with the defense and to a lesser extent, special teams, all that remains for the offense is to execute with proper pre-snap and post-snap decisions. “We all love the blocking schemes [installed on the fly by then-new offensive line coach Howard Mudd],” Harbor said, “and we’re just starting to learn how to really perfect those. On top of that, center Jason Kelce, who almost always pulls one way or another to leverage effective blocks on every snap, has been given more responsibilities with the line calls…”
“As you can see,” Harbor said, “the receivers and Michael are really jelling. The last two seven-on-sevens, we didn’t even have a ball hit the ground. You can really see us making strides there. And the offensive linemen often fulfill requirements of blocking well past the line of scrimmage.”
A nice positive take from Clay Harbor who’s a smart guy…and thanks to Nick Fierro and Joselio Hanson, too, for access to the interview quotes.