Eagles Tackle at Training Camp for First Time in 4 Years

Beau Allen was on a mission.

Just after practice was over, the 330-pound veteran defensive lineman stopped to answer a few reporters’ questions, sign autographs and take some photos for fans.

But all he really wanted to do was to plop his sweaty body into an ice bath. “I can’t wait,” he said.

Wednesday was a tough day at the office.

For the first time in four years, the Eagles played tackle football during training camp, getting back to the days when Andy Reid was in charge at Lehigh. The venue and head coach were different on Wednesday, but thanks to Doug Pederson, the Eagles were back to hitting.

“It was a lot of fun today,” said center Jason Kelce, who played his first two seasons under Reid. “I think that was one of the most fun periods we’ve had in a long time. Whenever you get to tackle, it adds a level of intensity you usually don’t get. And it’s always fun going up against the guys on the team.”

Most of the hitting in training camp is “thud,” where players hit but don’t tackle to the ground. On Wednesday, the Eagles had a couple “live” periods – full tackle.

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Pederson, who was a part of Reid’s first training camp in 1999, definitely saw the energy level raise with his players on Wednesday.

"Totally, and that's what you love to see, that's the competition, that's what makes you better,” Pederson said. “This is the time of year you really get to see who's gonna be with you and who you can take to the regular season, and we had some good performances out there."

For players like Kelce, Fletcher Cox, Vinny Curry and Brent Celek, Wednesday’s practice was familiar. They went through them before Chip Kelly came in and emphasized speed over hitting in 2013. 

Cox and Curry had just one training camp with Reid, in 2012. Both seemed happy to get a chance to hit Wednesday.

“When coach says live,” Cox said, “you bring your A-game or you get ran over.”

While hitting in camp was familiar to those who played under Reid, for many others on the roster, all they’ve ever known in the NFL is Chip. For many of them, Wednesday was the first day going live in practice since college.  

Marcus Smith is one of those players. Smith said he thinks the best defenses are the ones that practice hitting.

“I was just talking to Brian Dawkins yesterday, and one of the things he was saying was you have to hit in camp,” Smith said. “And you have to practice hitting. If you don’t practice hitting, a lot of times you see more missed tackles in the game. When we practice it, it’s good.”

By far the most exciting part of Wednesday’s practice was the 11-on-11 goal line drill. The first-team offense went against the second-team defense to start. Then, the second-team offense took on the first-team defense. Then the third teams finished it.

The first-team O got into the end zone on three of four plays. The second-team O got in on one of three plays and the third team offense got in on one of three plays.

The goal line drill was the most fun part of the day, according to several players.

“Yeah, goal line for sure,” Cox said. “Because as a defense, we don’t want nobody to cross that line. If they get that close, we want to hold them to three points.”
Aside from the physicality on the field, the trash talking ramps up with the competition too. There was plenty of that going on Wednesday.

“Yeah, that’s intense,” Allen said. “We were all kind of talking s---. That’s fun. I think that kind of brings a squad together in camp. You really get to know each other that way.”

And it’s really just beginning. The next several days in training camp will likely be among the toughest. Including Wednesday, the Eagles were expected to have three-hour practices in pads for five of the six days before the next day off on Tuesday.

Things are ramping up as the pads start popping.  

“We got an awakening around here,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “Everybody wants to win. We’re tired of losing and things are going to change this year for the better.”

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