Eagles Camp, Day 2: New additions could have big impact

After the initial rush from Day 1 and excitement that is the start of training camp, Day 2 is the chance to start taking a closer look at things. Defense was a headline, as defensive coordinator Billy Davis spoke for the first time since camp opened.

However, it was also a chance to get a look at new faces on both sides of the ball. It seemed noticeable that new faces were going to play a big part in continuing the team’s success.

The rookies at wide receiver were headliners on camp’s first day, but a veteran newcomer to the Eagles is running back Darren Sproles. Sproles already showed flashes of his speed, notable acceleration, during kick return drills.

Sproles is one of the few new faces on offense that was signed as a free agent rather than being part of the draft class. For a bulk of the Eagles free agent work from this offseason, look to the defense.

Davis spoke about the transition of the Eagles defense from last season to now. There is a lot of improvement that needs to be made on a team that was at the bottom of many defensive categories. Davis ensures that the offseason has allowed for changes to the system that make it more complex.

"Last year, you saw the base foundation of the defense," Davis said. "We’ve kept our foundation, but we’ve added some bridge-concept coverages and added some run calls.

"The guys understand what we did. We just saw some holes where maybe there were some gameplan tools we didn’t have. We added them in the offseason and worked on them and will continue to work on them. So we’ve grown the package without changing it. We’ve just given ourselves more tools."

The Eagles draft was defense heavy, as five of the seven picks were defensive players. Two with high prospects are first-round pick Marcus Smith and fourth-round pick Jaylen Watkins.

Davis said that Smith will get plenty of reps, as many if not more than the rest of the reserves. He said that the Eagles second and third teams get worked twice as hard as other teams he’s been a part of, so Smith will get plenty of chances to evolve his game, which Davis said was the most important thing for him.

As for Watkins, the defensive back, Davis said he’s strictly working at cornerback and in nickel formations to start. His versatility is what attracted the Eagles to him, and he will make the transition to safety once he’s become comfortable with the formations as a cornerback.

Throughout, Davis stressed versatility and members of his defense did the same. For returning players, the versatility will show up in the playbook, where the Eagles have put in work to covering all bases in their defensive package.

"It’s another year in of understanding each other a lot better and understanding what Billy is trying to do defensively," DeMeco Ryans said. "I think the relationship has grown a lot. I kind of know what he’s thinking and what he’s going to call in certain situations, and I think overall the whole defense has grown because we’re more comfortable with what we’re doing." 

Two new members of the defense via free agency are Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll. Both bring versatility to Davis’ defense and provide the Eagles with those tools that were missing a year ago.

"I’m not your typical safety," Jenkins said. "I’m kind of that hybrid that the league is moving to now with the bigger tight ends, the faster tight ends. You need guys that can be versatile, go down in the slot, so you’re not worried about them."

"[Carroll is] a very well‑rounded talent," Davis said. "He's got size, he's got length, he's got speed. He's a real tenacious competitor. I love his attitude out there the way he presses and competes and puts his hands on the people, and he's got a good knack for the ball."

On just the second day of camp, Davis wouldn’t go into details about who we could expect to see in the starting group come Week 1. There are many position battles on defense, from rookies to free agents to longtime veterans. The most noticeable is a safety battle.

Jenkins looks to be a definite starter on the team. But what about on the other side of the field? Will it be Earl Wolff or Nate Allen?

"I don't see it as just those two going at each other. I see the safety positions are up for grabs," Davis said. "I think everybody has a legitimate chance at the starting jobs. That's one thing about the off‑season and training camp that we pride ourselves on. It's open competition at all spots."

In injury news, Bennie Logan sat out practice with a hamstring injury, but otherwise the entire team remained healthy following the second day of drills.

The highlight of the afternoon came from LeSean McCoy and Trent Cole. The two mixed it up on the field following a series of plays. Both players dismissed the incident as anything serious following practice.

Monday marks the first practice with pads. It will take place at Lincoln Financial Field and is open to the general public on a first-come, first-serve basis. Admission is free. The practice begins at 12:15 p.m. Chip Kelly will address the media prior to practice.

Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.

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