Eagles

How Eagles rookie WR DeAndre Thompkins learned he had blazing speed

How Eagles rookie WR DeAndre Thompkins learned he had blazing speed

DeAndre Thompkins didn’t know he was fast. 

He was wrong. 

Because as the rookie put on his NFL uniform for the first time Friday afternoon, a day after he signed with the Eagles as an undrafted free agent, the one attribute Thompkins has undeniably is blazing-fast speed. So much so that when he ran an official 4.33 in the 40-yard dash at the Penn State pro day, Thompkins was actually disappointed. Leading up to the pro day, he claims he had been clocked in the 4.2s. 

So has he always been fast? 

“Supposedly,” he said. 

Supposedly?

My mother and father told me I was always fast. I always thought I was slow. I was always the smallest kid on the field. I was always playing with bigger guys, so I always thought I wasn’t fast. I was just too small for them to see me.

Thompkins, 23, said he didn’t learn about his speed until he went to a football camp at the University of North Carolina when he was 16 or 17. It was at that camp, where he competed against top competition, that he realized he was not just holding his own, but beating them. 

Before then, Thompkins would run past people, but he just assumed he happened to be faster than the guy covering him. No big deal. It took that trip to put it in perspective. 

“Maybe I might be fast,” Thompkins said, recalling his epiphany. 

This time, he was right. 

But at Penn State, Thompkins didn’t have staggering production. After redshirting in 2014, he caught 83 career passes for 1,245 yards, an average of 15.0 yards per catch. Though he did excel as a punt returner. He fielded 66 punts for 675 yards (10.2) and two touchdowns. If he has any chance of making the Eagles’ roster as an undrafted free agent, his ability as a punt returner will likely be why. The Eagles don’t have their return jobs solidified this spring. 

As a receiver, Thompkins wants to prove he has more than just straight-line speed. He called himself a “route technician” who has the technique to go along with the speed. 

But he knows his strength. 

“At any moment, I could just run past anybody,” he said. “To always have that in your back pocket, not necessarily something to always lean on, because everybody is fast in the league, but just to have that in your back pocket when everything goes wrong, you just run fast.” 

Even though he was disappointed by his 40 time at the PSU pro day, a 4.33 would have tied for third at the combine among receivers and tied for fifth among all players. He said not getting invited to the combine and not getting drafted will provide plenty of motivation for as long as his football career lasts. 

When football does eventually end for Thompkins, he’ll probably be OK. According to his Penn State bio, he graduated in 2017 with a degree in psychology and is working toward a degree in criminology. He wants to pursue a career in neuropsychology. 

With his speed, there’s no doubt he could get to his next career in a hurry. But as he spends this offseason with the Eagles, this is one time he wouldn’t mind taking things slow.

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Eagles sign linebacker Chris Worley to fill out roster

Eagles sign linebacker Chris Worley to fill out roster

The Eagles on Monday morning signed former Ohio State linebacker Chris Worley. 

With the move, the Eagles' roster is full again at 90 after they released veteran linebacker Paul Worrilow on Sunday afternoon. Worrilow was coming back from an ACL injury and was struggling to stay healthy. 

Worley, 23, won’t have much time to impress the coaching staff in Philly, but he’ll at least have a shot. 

After going undrafted in 2018, Worley spent his rookie season with the Bengals and played in two games. But Cincinnati released him late last month. From there, Worley signed with the Seahawks on Aug. 6, but lasted just four days before Seattle waived him. 

Coming to Philly, Worley joins a linebacker group that includes Nigel Bradham, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Nathan Gerry, Zach Brown, L.J. Fort, Alex Singleton, T.J. Edwards and Asantay Brown. The top two are injured right now, so the Eagles needed a linebacker to take practice reps and to play in the final two preseason games. 

There is potentially a roster spot up for grabs too. Worley is coming in late, but with a strong couple weeks, he could get in the mix, although he might be fighting for some extra tape and maybe a practice squad spot. 

The Eagles are back at practice this afternoon as they host their first of two joint sessions with the Baltimore Ravens. They will play the Ravens on Thursday night at the Linc. 

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John Harbaugh's memories of Doug Pederson, 20 years later

John Harbaugh's memories of Doug Pederson, 20 years later

In the summer of 1999, Doug Pederson was the Eagles’ opening day quarterback and John Harbaugh was the Eagles’ unknown special teams coach, just two years removed from coaching special teams and defensive backs at the University of Indiana.

Twenty years later, they’re both Super Bowl champion head coaches, and today and Tuesday their teams will practice against each other at the NovaCare Complex.

Harbaugh, who spent 10 years with the Eagles before joining the Ravens after the 2007 season, loves telling the story of the 1999 opener, which was not only the first regular-season game Harbaugh and Pederson were together but also Andy Reid’s first game as an NFL head coach.

It was Cards-Eagles at the Vet, Sept. 12, 1999. (Also known as the Brian Finneran drop game ... but that's a different story.)

Harbaugh picks up the story as he told it to writers covering the Ravens Saturday at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Doug was the holder and Norm Johnson was the kicker and we worked on Bonzai field goal so many times in terms of running everybody out there when the clock’s running and kicking the field goal,” Harbaugh said. “And right before half it came up, and we’re screaming, ‘Bonzai, Bonzai,’ and I’m looking at the line and I see Doug and he’s back there and the line’s set up perfectly, and I’m like, ‘Yes, we got it, there’s plenty of time left.’ And then I noticed out of my left eye … there’s no kicker. And here comes Norm running off the bench putting his helmet on and he’s running out, and the ball was snapped, because Doug’s smart, and he kicked it right on the run.

And? 

Harbaugh pauses for effect …

“Wide left,” Harbaugh said sadly, and everybody laughed.

I ran to the locker room,” Harbaugh said. “Andy ran behind me. I out-ran him but he caught me in the locker room and asked what happened. That’s quite a memory. You never forget those things.

Harbaugh and Pederson were together only that one year, but Pederson made a lasting impact on Harbaugh, especially in how he mentored rookie Donovan McNabb.

Andy brought him in for a reason, and the reason was he’s sharp and he was a leader and he knew how Andy wanted to do things because he’d been in Green Bay with [Andy and] Mike Holmgren, knew the philosophy, and he was big that way,” he said. “He was really good for Donovan, he was a great mentor for Donovan and taught him a lot of football, I’m sure Donovan would say that.

After joint practices, the Eagles and Ravens then meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Linc in a game that will likely be much less competitive than the two-hour full-pad mid-afternoon sessions today and Tuesday.

The reason so many NFL coaches value joint practices more than preseason games is because they can control the situation.

You could play a preseason game and not get a single red-zone play. But in a joint practice, you can run as many red-zone snaps as you want in a very competitive atmosphere.

Sometimes you don't get all the situations in a game that you'd like to see your players in," Pederson said. "I can set practices up that way. I can set them up hard. I can set them up where we're in pads or going live, whatever it might be [so] we can really get a true evaluation of a player. The only real change from a game to a practice is in a game you don't get to do it over. At least in a practice setting, if we make a mistake, we can line up and do it again, and so we can correct that mistake right away. In preseason games we can't do that. We get a little bit better evaluation in practice in that case.

These things can always get chippy, but both coaches have spoken to their teams about avoiding fights the next couple days and focusing on getting work done. 

Yeah, you want to be physical,” Pederson said. “Obviously, you want to protect yourself, but at the same time we're here to get work in. That was my message to the team [Sunday] when they come in here: It's not about who's the bully. It's about getting work in, and getting quality work in. This is a good football team coming in here. This is the No. 1 ranked NFL defense a year ago. Offense is explosive and they have a great, elusive quarterback. This will be a good test for both sides of the ball for us and so we're excited about that. If you're worried about getting in a fight, then you're in the wrong business. We're here to get better and that's my message to the team.

Oh, one footnote about Harbaugh’s Bonzai field goal story.

Johnson actually made the kick.

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