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Camp Observations: Flag Day at NovaCare

The most dominant shade on the NovaCare Complex fields Friday, except for green and white, was yellow.

Flags came from everywhere during drills and scrimmages, giving the Eagles a taste of how the passing game will be officiated this year given the NFL’s re-emphasis of the five-yard window for contact between defensive backs and receivers.

Or, as Cary Williams called it, the “overemphasis.”

“The 5-yard rule, that halo that you have to get your press (coverage) in or to get the re-route in, is gonna be at 5. It’s not gonna be 6, 7, how it used to be,” Williams said. “Or you could still ride him a little bit. It’s not gonna be that.

“As long as the quarterback is in the pocket and the ball is in his hands they’re gonna get you for a 5-yard illegal touching the hands or whatever those calls are.”

As they do every season for every team, NFL officials made their rounds at Eagles practice Thursday and Friday. They also met with the team to explain any other rule changes or areas of play that the league is monitoring closely.

“Illegal contact is going to be a point of emphasis this year again and we’re going to enforce the five yards strictly and the contact involved,” official Tony Steratore said in a post practice press conference. “We’re going to tolerate less of it. Anytime you get any type of a shirt pull, regardless of whether there’s material effect or not, and the other perimeters of the foul are met then we’re going to have defensive holding in that instance.”

The abundance of flags at Friday’s practice, which didn’t seem to discriminate any one side of the ball, was somewhat intentional on the players’ part. 

As cornerback Nolan Carroll explained, the Eagles tested the limits of contact in practice to be prepared for the preseason and regular season.

“We know they’re gonna throw flags, so we’re trying see how far we can take it,” he said. “They’re gonna make a conscious effort in the preseason to really throw a lot of flags. Out here, we’re getting feedback from the refs as far as what we’re doing with our hands, what receivers can’t do.

“We know we’re at a disadvantage but we’re trying to push the limit, to see how far we can go so when it comes to the first preseason game we’re going to be used to knowing what we can do and can’t do, because we were out here competing with these guys.”

Other observations from Day 6 of camp:

Rising stock
Good for for inside linebackers Najee Goode and Emmanuel Acho. Both were active, around the ball. Acho broke up a pass and Goode earned some first-team reps for the first time this camp as the coaches continue to scale back on DeMeco Ryans’ workload. 

Falling stock
OK, so it wasn’t exactly the “Butt Fumble,” but Mark Sanchez tripped running back Matthew Tucker after a handoff in a drill where the offense was backed up near its own goal. Both went tumbling the to the ground, completely botching the play.

Captain Obvious of the Day
Head coach Chip Kelly, who when asked why safety Earl Wolff missed parts of practice Thursday responded: “He was a little sore.”

Frustration of the Day
Rookie wideout Jordan Matthews not only had a rough time separating from Malcolm Jenkins in 1-on-1 drills for the second straight day but also got flagged for contact on another matchup against the veteran safety.

Cadence of the Day
Whatever Nick Foles screamed to make Trent Cole jump, it really worked. Cole darn near leapt over the offensive line before Foles took the snap during a drill with the offense backed up near its end zone.

Memorable First of the Day
Carroll, who frequently appears in these notebook accolades, got his first interception of camp. He’s had pass breakups seemingly every day and finally got off the pick schneid when he jumped in front of Jordan Matthews to snare a G.J. Kinne ball.

Ovation of the Day
For some reason, one particular section of fans showered Kelly with applause as he walked off the field after practice and headed inside the complex. They must have really liked the music.

Formation sensations
The Eagles worked out a dime look with Carroll as the extra defensive back, along with Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin as well as safeties Jenkins and Nate Allen. The linebacker is Mychal Kendricks. Carroll said they’ve been working on the package for a few days. The dime is another way the Eagles can defend the passing game while getting Ryans to play a few fewer snaps. Right now, they’re deeper and stronger at corner than inside linebacker.

Injury update
Check John Gonzalez’s story on Riley Cooper and Jeff Maehl each watching practice with a walking boot around their feet. Jeremy Maclin was at practice but left early and got stretched out, leaving Ifeanyi Momah to get a bunch of first-team reps. Inside linebacker Jake Knott watched from the sideline with a hammy. 

Wolff must have still been “sore,” because he continued to miss practice despite being suited up and despite Kelly's saying Wolff would practice. Running back Chris Polk (hamstring) and center Julian Vandervelde (back) continued to miss practice.

Up next
After four straight practices in pads, the Eagles have their second scheduled off day Saturday. On Sunday, they’ll have their second open practice at the Linc, starting at 12:15 p.m.