KennyPhillipsfalling down

Kenny Phillips is “Falling Down” at safety competition for Eagles…

I hate to write articles where you have to tell a sad story.

Thankfully there is great joy in the Spiffo household tonight… Our long-time correspondent from Florida has witnessed the successful birth of a baby boy! This is terrific news, made great even moreso by the fact that it was a difficult labor for Mrs. Spiffo, who by all accounts is doing fine tonight along with Baby Boy.

But for Kenny Phillips, the news was not so bright today.

Phillips missed practice yet again on Wednesday with a quad injury, which flared up during Tuesday's practice. DC Bill Davis said that Phillips did some work on Tuesday before going into the locker room once his quad started to bother him.

It's unclear if Phillips will play on Saturday in Jacksonville, but things certainly don't look promising—something that doesn't seem to be overly concerning to Davis.

"Nobody wants to get out on the field more than Kenny," said Davis. "Anybody that goes through the injury process, that doesn't get into the games or practices- it does make it harder to evaluate when you get less looks at the guy. But Kenny has got a lot of film on him and a lot of tape, so we'll have a good feel for him."

The Eagles knew the risk they were taking when they signed Phillips, who missed nine games last season with the Giants. His history of injuries is a big reason why his contract included zero guaranteed money. When healthy, however, Phillips could arguably be the best safety on the roster.

The safety position is very much up in the air right now for the Eagles, with Nate Allen, Patrick Chung, Earl Wolff, Kurt Coleman, Colt Anderson and Phillips all battling for a starting spot. Despite his experience in the league, the reality is that the longer Phillips is out, the further behind he falls in that competition.

"Everybody is in the competition right now," Davis said. "As we go forward with these preseason games, as they play out and get out on the field, everyone has got a fair shot."

…A shot that seems to be slipping away from Phillips the longer he remains on the sideline, according to many observers including Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com.

Other Injury Notes: Todd Herremans (left knee inflammation), Curtis Marsh (broken hand) and Dennis Kelly (back surgery) all missed practice on Wednesday.

As for the other big question mark: Could former defensive ends Brandon Graham and Trent Cole adapt to life as 3-4 outside linebackers?

Billy Davis said he likes what he has seen from the pair of converted defensive ends.

"They are doing a nice job," Davis said prior to Wednesday's practice. "We try to put them in as many drops and arrows as we can. They're working hard at it, they're looking good. More comfortable moving backwards."

Being able to back pedal and drop into coverage was the biggest concern for both Cole and Graham, who did very little of it last season.

"In minicamp, I was beating myself up," Graham said on adjusting to dropping back. "Now I'm in training camp and I keep getting better each day. Being able to trust that I'm in the right area. Second guessing myself, thats where I go wrong. As long as I stay confident and know exactly where I need to be, I'll be ok."

Davis knew that getting both Graham and Cole comfortable in their new roles would be key to the success of the switch. The transition for Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans— whose roles stayed close to the same— was much simpler then it was for Graham and Cole, who required a full off-season of training to get ready.

"The biggest thing that has to change when you take an outside lineman, how comfortable does he feel going backwards?," Davis said. "And we had the whole off‑season, and we majored in that. We kept them going backwards, and they're getting the feel of the little nuances of how to play the 'I'm dropping, no, I'm rushing' game with quarterbacks, and it's really coming along well."

Well, I guess I don't expect Bill Davis to say it's not working, and everything sucks— but that quote does sound not only positive but genuine.

For Cole, the key was to take a step back and realize his strengths and weaknesses.

"You gotta know who you are as an athlete and what you can do," Cole said. "How fast you are. How fast can you get to a receiver, how fast can you get into that zone. It's all timing. I've seen slow guys always be there on time. They might be slow, but they will be there on time."

Through two preseason games, Graham and Cole have dropped back into coverage a combined 16 times. Whether it be through good luck or good coverage, they have only been targeted one time in the two games, allowing a 15-yard reception vs. the New England Patriots.

"In the nine-years I've been here I've been dropping into coverage," Cole said. "Now I'm doing it a lot more and being asked to cover receivers down the field."

For Graham, the transition was more of a mental one than a physical challenge.

"Knowing where the drops are on certain plays," Graham said about what is the biggest adjustment. "Whether I should drop more inside or drop more outside. It was different. Knowing where to be was something that was a struggle for me. It's coming along now from watching Trent (Cole) get it, and Connor (Barwin) who already kind of knew where to be. That was the hardest thing."

There are some positives of the new system, however.

"Blitzing from different areas is a strong thing for me," Graham said. "It's fun."

Thanks to Eliot Shorr-Parks for the quotes from the players. Follow Eliot Shorr-Parks on Twitter at @EliotShorrParks

 

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.

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