NFL Training Camp Tour: Cox on Eagles’ shift to old-school camp: ‘I love the whole hitting part’

AAAA Fletcher Cox

Fletcher Cox sits down with Bruce Murray and Ross Tucker

Chip Kelly and practices that placed more emphasis on quick movement than hard hitting are gone.

Under new coach Doug Pederson, the Philadelphia Eagles take much more of an old-school approach. Or at least as old-school as NFL rules that put limits on contact will permit.

Which style do the players prefer? Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, for one, is thrilled with bodies colliding more frequently than they did in the three previous training camps under Kelly.

“I love it, I love it,” Cox told Bruce Murray and Ross Tucker at Eagles camp Friday. “I love the whole hitting part in practice. I mean, it’s football, we’re going to get hit. And I think it just gives a chance for everybody to go out and be physical and get used to hitting without being in that first preseason game where you’re going in and it’s the first time really live-tackling somebody.”

That isn’t all that Cox loves about the coaching change. He’s also thrilled that new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has taken him out of the two-gapping he did with previous DC Bill Davis and into simply having to tear through the B gap. That’s a much more comfortable for Cox, and should allow him to thrive even more than he did in establishing himself as one of the NFL’s best players at his position.

“Man, it’s awesome, I’ll tell you,” Cox said. “Just going back to what I did in college and my first year here, it’s really awesome for them to bring that back. It’s a lot of guys here that have played that type of defense — me, Bennie (Logan), Vinny (Curry), Brandon Graham, and we know what he feels like.”


NFL Training Camp Tour: Pederson gives positive health updates on Eagles’ Matthews brothers

AAA Doug Pederson

Doug Pederson sits down with Bruce Murray and Ross Tucker

On the same day one Matthews brother on the Philadelphia Eagles, running back Ryan, returned to practice after sitting out with an ankle injury, the other, wide receiver Jordan, took a blow to his left knee.

It was a scary injury, but the prognosis looks good.

“Jordan’s actually going to be OK,” coach Doug Pederson told Bruce Murray and Ross Tucker Friday¬†at Eagles training camp in Philadelphia. “He’s been evaluated by our doctors and right now, everything’s fine. It’s going to be sore for a couple of days.”

Pederson liked what he saw in practice from Ryan, who had been held out of drills since the start of camp.

“Getting Ryan out there on that ankle running around, first time in pads for him, I thought he moved around well,” the coach said. “We threw him out there in a blitz situation, a couple of carries there, and just seeing him back out on the football field, seeing him with his teammates again in pads for the first time, was great for him and good for us. And we’ll just monitor him as well, give him more reps each and every day.”

NFL Training Camp Tour: Niners’ Smith: ‘I’m not going to place blame, I didn’t play my best’ last year

AAAA Torrey Smith

Torrey Smith sits down with Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison

Torrey Smith won’t make any excuses, although he has a pretty good one for his disappointing 2015 season with the San Francisco 49ers.

It’s hard to catch passes when: 1. the quarterback position is in a state of flux and: 2. you aren’t getting many passes thrown your way.

Those were the conditions that contributed to Smith making only 33 receptions. The total put him second on a team — behind the 69 of now former 49er Anquan Boldin — that didn’t have another receiver or tight end with more than 30 catches.

“It was definitely difficult,” Smith told Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison at the 49ers’ training camp in Santa Clara, Calif. “A lot of things led to my performance last year, starting with myself. I’m not going to place blame. I didn’t play my best and, obviously, I didn’t get the ball too much, either. I’m just excited about having a fresh start and those guys having a fresh start as well.

“So for me, right now, my focus obviously is it’s going to be a while before they name a starting quarterback, and the reps are even(ly) shifted. So I just want to make sure I’m dependable, make sure I’m where they expect me to be, because at the end of the day, my job doesn’t change because at the end of the day, my job doesn’t change regardless of who’s throwing the ball. When they throw the ball, it’s my job to go get it.”

NFL Training Camp Tour: Niners’ Gabbert: ‘Regardless of who the quarterback is, the QBs should stick together’

AAAA Blaine Gabbert

Blaine Gabbert sits down with Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison

The competition has been friendly. Fierce, but friendly.

Blaine Gabbert believes it has to stay that way between himself and Colin Kaepernick as they battle to see who becomes the San Francisco 49ers’ starting quarterback.

“It’s got to continue,” Gabbert told Alex Marvez and Kirk Morrison at the 49ers’ training camp in Santa Clara, Calif.. “Regardless of who the quarterback is, the quarterbacks should stick together. It’s the toughest position on the football field and you need that group to bounce ideas off of.

“And just the way this league is, all quarterbacks got to be ready to play. Week in and week out, things can change, people get hurt. You’ve just got to have a tight-knit group in there.”

Gabbert is looking to build upon what he did last season, when he took over as the Niners’ starter for the final eight games of the season and threw for 2,013 yards and 10 touchdowns, with seven interceptions. It marked a strong rebound from his days with the Jacksonville Jaguars, who made him the 10th overall pick in 2011.

“There were a lot of downs in Jacksonville, but I never lost faith,” Gabbert said. “I knew I can play. I’ve always known I can play. I just needed another opportunity, so I wanted to go out there last year and just have fun, provide a little spark to this team, give the offense some juice and show those guys that we can win football games.”

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