Sunday, August 21, 2011

UPDATED: Eagles Sunday practice

Casey Matthews’ phone rang the day after the Eagles’ preseason loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was his father.
What advice did Clay Matthews, the first-round draft pick who played in 278 NFL games spanning 19 seasons, offer the rookie starting middle linebacker?
“Nothing at all,” Casey Matthews said Sunday. “I mean he just said you looked more comfortable later on. So I guess it was pretty noticeable.”
Matthews and the rest of the linebacker corps had a rough couple of series. But they calmed down and began to get used to their new technique for fighting off blocks as the first half wore on.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, who said Matthews is “going to get better,” and linebackers coach Mike Caldwell told Matthews to keep playing the way he did after his first two series. Bear in mind, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger played only two series’.
“Really the first couple of series it’s just everything went fast,” Matthews said. “You’re worried about getting lined up and getting other people lined up. Once you get past that, once you calm down and let it come to you it makes it a lot easier.”
Castillo gently praised the progress of Matthews, who is getting off blocks with his hands rather than conventionally with a shoulder. Castillo doesn’t want to hear that the Eagles didn’t address the linebacker position in the offseason because the team drafted Matthews in the fourth round, and in the previous two drafts selected starters Jamar Chaney and Moise Fokou.
While Castillo said “It takes time to develop kids,” he also made it clear doing so wouldn’t take the entire year in this the all-in season.
“The linebackers will be ready to win the Super Bowl,” Castillo said. “Remember, it takes 16 weeks and then really whoever is playing their best during the playoffs.”
By then Castillo is hopeful Matthews and the Eagles’ linebackers are proficient at fighting off blocks with the new technique.
“If you look around the league they usually teach you to take on blocks with shoulders but here we’re trying to do it just using face and hands,” Matthews said. “It’s new to everyone here. We’re trying to get it down. It’s a work in progress.
“Taking on a big lineman with your face and hands doesn’t as give you as much power but if you strike him quick enough it will stun him. Then you just get off him and make sure he doesn’t grab him. If you use your shoulder he’ll just grab you.”
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Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg confirmed Sunday that rookie sixth-round pick Jason Kelce would get the first-team snaps at center rather than veteran Jamaal Jackson.
Offensive line coach Howard Mudd cannot wait any longer to see if Kelce is the one to build the unit around.
Mornhinweg said the Eagles have thought about starting rookies Kelce and right guard Danny Watkins next to each other. For now it’s not an issue.
“No decision has been made,” Mornhinweg said of the starting center job. “There is great competition there. Kelce has earned the opportunity to do this for a period of time and then we'll make decisions as we go.”


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