Yesterday was an interesting practice for the Birds, as reports came out that a few players got into it with rookie left tackle, Andre Dillard. A chippy practice ensued because Dillard has been going hard every day in practice, even when the pads aren’t on. There are both positives and negatives to these scuffles.
Who was involved in the chippy practice other than Dillard
Two players reportedly took issue with Dillard in yesterday’s practice. The first was safety Jonathan Cyprien, who the Eagles signed last week. Dillard finished blocking his man and continued following the play, blocking Cyprien from behind which knocked him to the ground. Cyprien reportedly jumped up angrily and was restrained by teammates from going after Dillard.
The second player was defensive end, Derek Barnett. Barnett was just recently cleared to return back to full practice after having shoulder surgery early last season. After taking a few shots from Dillard, Barnett was fed up and went after the rookie. Since it was during team drills, there were plenty of players around to separate the two.
Positive takeaways from the scuffle
There is one glaring positive: Dillard is taking his first training camp lightly. Regardless of what level of pads are being worn, Dillard gives 110% on every snap. That’s exactly what we want to see out of the future successor to Jason Peters. He’s not a bubble guy for this year’s roster, he’s going to make the team. And let’s face it, with JP most likely missing some time in some games, Dillard might get a shot to play some important snaps this season. He doesn’t take plays off and he works hard every day. I like that and I know coaches like that too.
Additionally, working that hard will make guys around him better. It will inspire competition with the defense so they work harder and get better too. Even though things got physical between Dillard and Barnett, going up against each other will help Barnett improve as well. And remember, the Eagles are putting a lot of stock in Barnett improving and being a big-time guy on coming off the edge this season.
Unfortunately, there are negatives to these altercations as well
A chippy practice is not always a bad thing here and there. However, there are always negatives to every situation. The first negative point is the possibility of injury. After the scuffle, Barnett went hard at Dillard, pushing him into Carson Wentz almost knocking him down. With the emphasis this preseason/training camp on keeping Wentz healthy for the season, that is exactly what can’t happen.
Additionally, another small issue occurred today, also in the direction of Dillard. This time, fellow rookie Shareef Miller was involved, throwing a punch in Dillard’s direction. Peters stood up for his rookie offensive lineman, reminding Miller, “come on. We’re playing football, man”.
What does this chippy practice mean for the Birds going forward?
Hopefully, after these last few days, Howie Roseman and Doug Pederson won’t have to play mediator anymore. They facilitated a makeup between Dillard and Barnett yesterday that ended in a handshake and hug, but who knows what will come of today. Pederson has done a phenomenal job of creating an impeccable culture in the Eagles locker room, and it would be a shame for that to weaken. The team camaraderie got them through the last two seasons when things may have seemed bleak.
Let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend for the rest of camp/preseason. A chippy practice sparking a little competition and fire is good. It will help the team improve every day. However, if it’s at the risk of health to players and the culture of the team, it needs to be shut down. To this point it seems as if it will inspire competition, making guys want to get better. But we’ll see.