Cooper catches 2 TDs as Pats-Eagles skirmish

by: Mike Petraglia on Tue, 08/06/2013 - 3:11pm

Bill Belichick watched as his team went through a two-hour practice with the Eagles Tuesday in at the Eagles’ practice facility in South Philadelphia.

What he saw was his team demonstrating the ability to perform with intensity against a different opponent for the first time since losing the AFC championship to the Ravens last January. The two teams will practice and scrimmage again on Wednesday before opening the preseason Friday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

According to all reports on the scene, Riley Cooper returned from a team-imposed exile for counseling after uttering a racial slur that caused a divide in the Eagle locker room. Cooper burned Alfonzo Dennard for a pair of touchdowns in 11-on-11 drills. On the first one, Jason Avant – an African-American – gave Cooper an aerial hip bump in celebration.

Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld caught a 20-yard touchdown on a seam pattern from Tom Brady, significant because the seam route has been a trademark of the Tom Brady-to-Rob Gronkowski connection for the past three seasons.

There was a fight between Patriots rookie receiver Aaron Dobson and Philadelphia corner Cary Williams, with Dobson benched for offensive drills immediately after. Williams appeared to instigate the fight.

Danny Amendola made a nice diving grab of a long Tom Brady pass for a touchdown in 11-on-11 drills. He also dropped a pass on a wide-open pattern to end the day.

Belichick spoke to reporters before practice began.

“Well, I think anytime you go into a new situation, you probably find some things that are a little different than the way you thought they were going to be,” Belichick said. “But, in all honesty, I think we have a real open mind about this. We’re here to get better. We’re here to compete against a good football team and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to be a better football team when we leave here than we are today. So, whatever opportunities those present, we want to take advantage of them. Whichever ones don’t come up, then we’ll have to get those somewhere else, some other time.”

Belichick will be working against Chip Kelly, the first-year Eagles coach who hails from Manchester, New Hampshire.

“Chip’s a New England guy, so we crossed paths from time to time in New England,” Belichick said. “We kept in touch over the past few years, and of course I have a lot of respect for what he’s done with the program out in Oregon. I’ve had several conversations with him since he’s taken over here in Philadelphia – owners meetings, Combine, phone conversations, things like that. I just think he’s a really solid coach and a solid guy. I’ve always had a lot of respect for him and I think he does a great job with his team.

“It’s nice to be here in Philadelphia, it’s really a great opportunity for us to come down here and work with the Eagles,” Belichick said. “I have so much respect for Chip [Kelly] and what he’s done. We’ve been friends for a while and I know he does a great job with this football team and the program that he’s run in Oregon and what he’s doing here. I think it will be a good experience for our team to get to see some different people, different scheme. We’ll see some different match-ups.

“It will be great for us from a coaching standpoint because we’ll certainly have to make some adjustments during practices and as we go. We haven’t done any kind of scouting report or anything like that, so a lot of it will be on the run, which will be good for us too, in terms of matchups and communication and all those things. We’re excited to be here and really looking forward to working with the Eagles. This has been an outstanding organization through the years, and I’m sure that Chip will have them in a very competitive situation next year.”

Here is the remainder of Belichick’s media briefing:

Q: Did you always think he would end up in the NFL?

BB: I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t want to predict where anybody does or doesn’t go. Those hirings aren’t up to me. Those are questions you should ask the owners and general managers that do the hiring.

Q: What is it that Chip Kelly does on offense to make him unique and challenging?

BB: Well, we’re going to find out. Of course, what he did at Oregon, that was one thing. We’ll see how it all plays out here, but he’s a very innovative, creative guy. He’s got a great mind, he’s smart and I think he’ll take advantage of whatever resources he can. We’ll see what that is. I’m sure he’ll give us plenty of trouble.

Q: How much of these kinds of training practices have you done as a coach and what do you feel you get out of it, especially for the younger players?

BB: We’ve done them from time to time. Last year we did it twice with New Orleans and Tampa. This year we’ll do it with Philly and Tampa. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the young guys, it’s good for the new guys, it’s good for the old coaches. It’s good for all of us. As I said, you see something new. We’ve been working against ourselves for quite awhile now, and we sort of start to know each other’s plays, know each other’s call, certainly know the guys we line up against on a regular basis. Now we get a whole new set of faces and looks and things we don’t know; things we have to adjust to and react to, we won’t be able to anticipate as well. That will be good for all of us. I think this is as helpful for the coaching staff as it is for the young players, and I think the veteran players look forward to it as well. Anything to break up the monotony of camp, I think they’re for.

Q: The Eagles are in the process of making the switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4, as you had to do. How difficult and challenging is it to do that?

BB: I don’t know. I think it depends on what you’re doing. I personally never felt like it was that big of a deal. People called us a 3-4 team when I was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and Lawrence [Taylor] rushed 85 percent of the time, so everybody treated us like we were a four-man line, but to the media and the fans it was a 3-4, and vice versa. Guys have to play on the end of the line of scrimmage – whatever you want to call them, linebackers, defensive ends, crash-ins, whatever term they have – guys have to play inside of the outside guy on the line of scrimmage and they’re some version of 5-technique, 4-technique, cutback players, however you want to call it. So, I don’t think the spacing is – it’s important, I’m not saying that, but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. We play an even front, we play on off front. I’m sure Philadelphia will do the same thing, even having not seen them. I’m sure that we’ll see an even front from them before it’s all over. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Q: There was a story in the Wall Street Journal quoting Dean Blandino talking about how the NFL officials are going to dictate the pace this year, not the team or the players. Did you have any trouble last year with that?

BB: I think that varies from game to game. There is a certain procedure and all, but I think each game and each group is a little different. I think we see that in all sports. You watch a guy go up for layup and four guys hit the floor and there’s no foul. And the next guy kind of goes up in the next game and doesn’t even look like he got touched and they put him on the free throw line. We see that too. I feel like we’re the same team out there, we go out there and we get 12 penalties and the next week we get two. We’ll just have to see how the game’s going to be called. We hear that stuff in the spring and hear it from the officials in the summer and we respect that, but we’ll see how they actually call it. I’m sure it will vary a little bit from game to game. The crews don’t do it all exactly the same, although I know they try to. We’ll just have to get a feel for that and again, I think that’s true in all areas: holding, defensive pass calls, alignment. Sometimes some things are called tighter than others. Regardless of what it is, we just have to play within the framework of the rules, whatever they happen to be. It’s not our job to make them. It’s not our job to judge them. It’s just our job to do business as business is being done.

Q: How instrumental was Chip in helping you implement the up-tempo offense last year?

BB: I think our coaches, Coach [Josh] McDaniels, Coach [Bill ] O’Brien, Coach McDaniels again, we spent a lot of time coaching our players.

Q: How instrumental was Chip in helping you institute your up-tempo offense?

BB: I think our coaches, Coach [Josh] McDaniels, Coach [Bill] O’Brien, Coach McDaniels again. We spent a lot of time coaching our players.

Q: Did you feel the need to say anything to your defensive backs about practicing against Riley Cooper?

BB: No.

Q: What do you think is the greatest challenge that Chip Kelly will face in his first year as an NFL head coach?

BB: I don’t know. I am really just trying to coach my team. I don’t think I have too much comment on what anybody else is doing. I have enough trouble just running the Patriots.

Q: How did you go about setting up format for these few days? Was it a combination of what you like to do and they do?

BB: I mean, it didn’t take long, maybe a 10-minute conversation. We just had to iron out some details. I think when we talked about it, we brought up a couple ideas and they fell into place very quickly. I think we’re going to get what we want. I think they’re going to get what they want. I think it’ll be a good situation for both teams. And if not, then we’ll make some kind of adjustment to it. We’re open minded to that too. If we have to change something, then we’re willing to change it to make it better for them or us. See how the injuries go and what the depth is and how that matches up. Sometimes it isn’t perfect and you need to tailor a drill because one team is a little light at a position competitively. But, we’ll work that out.

Q: What kind of progress have you seen from the rookie wide receivers?

BB: Well, we’ll find out. I don’t know. We’re getting better. They’re working hard; we’re getting better. You know, it will be good to go up against some new people and see how they do. I think it’s a hard working group. They’re smart. They’re out there every day and they’re improving. They have a long way to go, a lot of situations that we’re just starting to get into – red area, third down, two-minute, combination coverages, different blitzes, sight adjust, those kinds of things, as we get further into camp and preseason. Then in the regular season, that’s all going to pile up, so we’ll se how they all handle that.

Q: What kind of advice did Chip Kelly seek from you when coming into the NFL regarding day-to-day operations?

BB: I wouldn’t say so. I mean, we’ve talked about a lot of different things but, look, whatever we talk about is, you know, I’ll keep that private between myself and Chip. I don’t think those are public conversations anyway.

Q: Is it important in these type of setting to have a trusting relationship with the coach you hold joint practices with?

BB: I think it just important that it works out. When I was at Cleveland, we practiced against Dave Wannstedt and the Bears. I didn’t really work with him. We practiced against Dom Capers and Carolina. I don’t think that’s a prerequisite.

Q: Is it a plus?

BB: I don’t think it’s a negative, but I don’t think it’s – I mean, to be honest with you, one of the most important things is just working it into your schedule. We play the Eagles first, so this is a natural fit. It’s not that far, not that much travel. We’re either going to have to go out there and let us try to run Philadelphia plays against ourselves or line up against the Eagles and let them run them. I mean, there’s the scouting report right there, and the same thing for them. I think it’s a more efficient way and it’s a good way for us to get some extra work in, and good, quality work.

Q: In years past, have you noticed that the joint practices will help the rookies more than the veterans?

BB: Again, I think it helps everybody. I don’t see how any player, rookie or veteran, could not benefit from a practice like this. I don’t see how any coach could not benefit from it. I just think it’s a great opportunity for all of us, so hopefully we can take advantage and make the most of it. Certainly in training camp you need a decent amount of time by yourself. I don’t think you can just work against somebody every day and get the team prepared for the season. That’s what preseason games are for. You put a couple practices in here in addition to that, I think it’s just good for all of us and it’s something that we all need. We all need it – head coaches, assistant coaches, coordinators, players, young players, old players – we all need that experience to get ready for the season. That’s what this process is for. We’ll just try to take advantage of it.