Earlier today, Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh announced that his team will be joining the Philadelphia Eagles for joint practices prior to their preseason match-up on August 22nd. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is clearly a fan of working with opposing team’s during the preseason, as he has done so now in all three years that he’s been at the helm in Philadelphia. In 2013 and 2014, Kelly had the Eagles practice with the New England Patriots and his friend, head coach Bill Belichick.
But this year, the Eagles do not play the Patriots during the preseason and actually play them on week 13 of the regular season so a joint practice between the two wouldn’t work. Yet these couple of practices between the Eagles and Baltimore should help Philadelphia, especially on defense, in a big way. Literally a big way, because the Ravens have some impressive size at wide receiver and tight end following the 2015 NFL Draft.
In this year’s draft, the Ravens focused on surrounding quarterback Joe Flacco with a ton of weapons because they lost wide receivers Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones in free agency. But they didn’t just get him small, speedy receivers, they focused on getting bigger…much bigger. They drafted two wide receivers and two tight ends, the smallest of the four being Breshad Perriman, who came in at 6-2, 212 pounds at the combine.
The other wide receiver Baltimore drafted was Darren Waller, who has freakish size at 6-6, 238 pounds. Then at tight end, the Ravens selected the consensus #1 player at the position in the draft, Maxx Williams, who is 6-4, 249 pounds. To cap it all off, they went ahead and also added tight end Nick Boyle, who was one of my personal favorite prospects in the draft, and he checked in at the combine at 6-4, 268 pounds. That’s a whole lot of size on one team’s offense and that only adds to the weapons they already had for Flacco.
All of those rookies join veterans like wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., Marlon Brown and tight end Dennis Pitta to form a group that should put the new-look Eagles’ secondary to the ultimate test. It’s clear that Kelly has focused on improving the team’s secondary this offseason in both free agency and the draft, adding players such as Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Biggers, Eric Rowe, JaCorey Shepherd and Randall Evans.
The focus with most of the Eagles’ additions this offseason, especially on defense, have been about size and athleticism. By setting up these joint practices against the Ravens, Kelly realizes that he’ll be able to really get an idea of which of these young players are ready to deal with the size and athleticism that they’ll see week in and week out in the NFL.
Although it’s quite a while away, it’ll be interesting to see where the Eagles’ rookie defensive backs will be lining up, especially during these joint practices. If they line-up Rowe, Shepherd or Randall at safety, they’ll be able to match-up against Baltimore’s talented tight ends like Pitta, Williams and Boyle during drills and 11-on-11’s. No matter where they line-up and what position they play, the Ravens’ group of pass catchers will present a tough challenge for the entire Eagles’ defense.
Although this was likely agreed to prior to the 2015 NFL Draft, the players that each team has drafted will only get better because of these joint practices. Both the Eagles and Ravens will benefit from these reps against each-other and hopefully become better teams because of it as well.
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