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On Doug Pederson's debut, missing starters and unicorns

PHILADELPHIA -- With so much focus on Sam Bradford and Carson Wentz Tuesday, it was easy to overlook the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles. But there were some things worth noting about the first open full-team practice of the Doug Pederson era.

Remember who wasn’t there.

Whenever you noticed something surprising, you almost instantaneously realized that it was explained by the absence of another player.

Taylor Hart was playing first-team defensive tackle? That’s because Fletcher Cox is skipping offseason workouts.

Najee Goode was the starting middle linebacker? That’s because Jordan Hicks was sitting out because of “tightness” in his legs, according to Pederson.

Leodis McKelvin and Ron Brooks are the starting cornerbacks? That may have had something to do with their familiarity with Jim Schwartz’s defense from their time in Buffalo. But it also had something to do with Nolan Carroll’s absence. Carroll went inside to work on his still-rehabbing lower leg injury.

Allen Barbre is still starting at left guard? Well, yes, Pederson said that was the case. But third-round pick Isaac Seumalo was not allowed to attend because Oregon State is still holding classes.

Wendell Smallwood had a really good first day, but the absence of Darren Sproles meant more reps for the fifth-round pick. Smallwood certainly took advantage of his opportunity, but the fact is, the Eagles are fairly light at the running back position.

No matter who was on the field, the defense played with some personality.

Schwartz’s group was aggressive, disruptive and looking to take the ball away. That kind of mentality can be contagious and the idea clearly was to create that personality right from the start.

Safety Rodney McLeod and cornerback Denzel Rice intercepted passes and then sprinted toward the opposing end zone as teammates cheered them on.

Whenever a ball hit the ground, even when it was a dropped pass, the nearest defender reacted as if it was a fumble. Players rushed to the ball, scooped it up and sprinted downfield with it.

There was some contact. No real hitting. No one was wearing pads. But every now and then, players would collide during a play. And somehow, it seemed as if the offensive player went down every single time.

The Chip Kelly way is no more.

There was something to be said for Kelly’s frenetic, up-tempo practices. The Eagles were able to squeeze more reps into the same period of time, and that certainly gave backups more work than the traditional NFL approach.

Pederson is copying from Andy Reid’s operating manual and there is no one more “traditional NFL” than the former Eagles coach. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

While practice seemed to move really slowly after three years of watching Kelly, it also seemed to include a lot more football than a typical Kelly session. Maybe quarterbacks really gained something from repeatedly throwing tennis balls into a net, but it may be more valuable to have them actually run football plays.

There were times Kelly would have the first-team offense rush out onto the field, line up, run a play, and then sprint to the sideline. The second-team offense would rush out, line up, run a play, and then sprint off.

It seemed like a lot of wasted motion compared to the traditional practice of having each unit take the field and run a series of plays together.

That’s how Tuesday’s practice unfolded. Bradford and the first team ran a series of plays and moved the ball downfield against the first-team defense. Then Chase Daniel and the second-team offense took its turn, followed by Wentz and the third-team unit.

Pederson and his staff also took time to correct mistakes and give tips during each period. Kelly was big on running everything at top speed and then doing corrections in the film room later.

Who is the first-team unicorn?

You half expected to see one of the mythical horned creatures at practice. After all, there was a fullback, another creature not seen at the NovaCare Complex since 2012.

Chris Pantale, a tight end who was on the practice squad last season, took some reps in the backfield. The Eagles lined up in an I-formation at times, with the quarterback, Pantale and the running back in a straight line. The QB was generally under center, another rarity during the Kelly area.

Many observers, including this one, expected Trey Burton to get a look at fullback. And maybe he will, at some point. But Burton was still at tight end and made a couple of really good plays, catching the ball downfield.