10 Biggest Winners and Losers of Philadelphia Eagles OTAs
As the Philadelphia Eagles OTAs have now officially wrapped up, it's time to recap what a positive couple weeks it was for a team poised to compete for a title. Michael Vick has the focus of a future champion, the defensive line has looked spectacular from top to bottom and all the rookies have shown some serious potential.
At this time last year we were talking about getting a collective bargaining agreement. Rookies and veterans alike did not get the benefit of OTAs. Some people believe that OTAs aren't important. That couldn't be farther from the truth. Chemistry is everything in football. It starts with OTAs and builds all summer long. You can't have a great regular season without a great offseason program.
The Eagles are off to a great start this summer. The majority of the stories coming out are incredibly positive. Last year, heading into training camp we were hearing about Brandon Graham being overweight and Jeremy Maclin struggling to fight off a major illness. We also witnessed Mike Patterson's seizure in practice and how all the rookies struggled to adjust in camp.
Those stories and more contributed to a 4-8 start for the Eagles. Eagles fans have to be encouraged by all the positivity coming out of OTAs. The only players who didn't have a good couple weeks were the ones being challenged by others Eagles who had a spectacular start to their summer.
We're still two months away from the first preseason game, but the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a fabulous start to their offseason program with less than a week before the full team minicamp begins on June 12th.
Winner: Michael Vick
Michael Vick has been on a mission early on this summer. He has the focus of a true champion. His coaches are preparing him for the upcoming season by sending blitz after blitz after him in practice, working on getting his turnovers and tipped passes down from last season.
Vick is a dynamic playmaker. Anything can happen on any given play. That's a bad thing. The best quarterbacks have always known when a play isn't there. They dump the ball off to a back or throw the ball away and live for another play.
The biggest key for Vick is to make the big plays when they are there. You can't force plays when they aren't there. He has to learn when to be a playmaker and when to be smart and live for another play. If he can do that, you will see his turnovers go down and his wins go up in 2012.
Loser: Trent Edwards
Trent Edwards was once a successful starting quarterback in the NFL when he was a Buffalo Bill. So far as an Eagle he doesn't even look like an NFL quarterback anymore. He is battling Mike Kafka for the backup spot.
Edwards will probably stay on the roster through training camp and into the first game of the preseason. The Eagles will want to keep four quarterbacks in that first preseason game. That will be his best shot to state his case for the second-string quarterback job. Kafka is entering his third season with the Eagles and he has a real good understanding of the offense.
Edwards doesn't have to be spectacular to earn a backup role, but he does have to show the Eagles coaching staff that he can be a more reliable backup for Michael Vick. Right now he doesn't even look like an NFL quarterback.
Winner: Brent Celek
Brent Celek has two big reasons to feel optimistic coming out of OTAs. He has his health and he doesn't have to be relied on so much in pass protection this season.
Celek had sports hernia surgery and surgery on a torn labrum this offseason. He battled both last season and still managed to put up good numbers and start every single game. He had over 800 receiving yards in 2011 and we should see those numbers increase if he can stay healthy. He wasn't a full participant in OTAs, but he did participate which is a major accomplishment for a player who wasn't supposed to be ready until training camp.
Celek should also see a bump in his numbers because of an improved offensive line. The front five had a new blocking scheme to learn with four players playing a different position in 2011 during a shortened training camp. This season everyone is playing the same position as last season and they have a full offseason to get better under offensive line coach Howard Mudd. Demetress Bell is the only new comer, but he has plenty of experience at left tackle to be able to replace Jason Peters for one season.
Celek is poised for a big season. He is the Eagles No. 1 target in the red zone and over the middle of the field.
Loser: Clay Harbor
The fact that we are hearing about Brett Brackett and Clay Harbor being a position battle to watch throughout the summer is a serious hit for Harbor. He is now in his third season in the league, all with the Eagles, while Brackett hasn't played a down in a regular-season game.
Brackett spent the final two months of the season on the Eagles practice squad. Before that he was cut by two teams in 2011. Before that he was a college wide receiver. I think this is a bigger knock on Harbor that he isn't the clear-cut No. 2 tight end right now.
Harbor hasn't exactly set the world on fire in his first two seasons. He has just 22 catches for 235 yards in 25 career games. The Eagles need more from their No. 2 tight end. They want to see what they can get out of Brackett this season. Harbor's roster spot is far from safe at this point.
Winner: Demetress Bell
Just the fact that we aren't hearing much about competition at left tackle at OTAs makes Demetress Bell a winner thus far. Right now he is the starting left tackle and King Dunlap is the backup. The Eagles are preparing Bell to be the full-time starter.
If Bell didn't look like a capable starting left tackle in Howard Mudd's blocking scheme we would be hearing more about Dunlap pushing him for a starting job or maybe even Todd Herremans moving to the left tackle spot.
Bell is a good fit in Mudd's scheme and he has plenty of starting experience. He has 30 career starts in four seasons at left tackle in Buffalo. This won't be like inserting a rookie as a starter right away. Bell just needs to adjust properly to a new blocking scheme and to stay healthy. His athleticism should make him a very good starter on the Eagles offensive line.
Loser: Dennis Kelly
Dennis Kelly is a project at left tackle. We knew that coming in when the Eagles took him in the fifth round. Right now it appears like he may be a bigger project than some had thought.
He is a little stiff for a left tackle. His technique needs a lot of work. The Eagles have good depth at tackle already with King Dunlap as the backup left tackle and D.J. Jones backing up Todd Herremans at the right tackle spot. Herremans is also very capable of moving to right tackle if needed.
The Eagles don't need Kelly. He earns a roster spot if he shows the potential of a future starter. Nothing will be guaranteed to him. The fact that the Eagles just spent a fifth-round pick on him is what's saving him. He has to show the coaches something in training camp. The important thing to consider is the Eagles have 60 or 65 players worthy of an NFL roster.
Winner: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite might be the biggest winner in the Eagles OTAs right now. The reports (via Philly.com) coming out of OTAs are very promising. He looks like a Pro Bowl corner again. He is sticking with both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin all over the field on one-on-one drills.
The Eagles trading Asante Samuel for a seventh-round draft pick made sense because of Rodgers-Cromartie. He isn't a slot corner. He is a press corner on the outside who has that recovery speed that no other corner possesses.
It's scary to think about how good both Nnamdi Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromarite can be in a press coverage together. Both players can jam receivers right at the line and both can stick with just about any receiver down the field. That allows the Eagles to give safety help against the more dangerous tight ends while also sending more blitzes at the same time.
The elite secondary we were supposed to see in Philly last season is starting to form this season. Rodgers-Cromartie is the key and he is off to a fantastic start.
Loser: Jaiquawn Jarrett
Jaiquawn Jarrett got a free pass last season. He was a backup safety behind the likes of Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman last season, but he didn't have much time to adjust to both the defense and the speed of the game. This season he has no excuses.
Right now Jarrett is the No. 2 strong safety behind Kurt Coleman. There are speed concerns that are keeping him very much behind Coleman on the depth chart. We won't know how real those concerns are until we see him in game situations during the preseason.
Coleman and free safety Nate Allen have built a nice chemistry at safety. That is a huge factor for any secondary. Having two safeties who are always on the same page is better than having two great athletes who aren't on the same page. They can space the field better and control both the middle of the field and prevent the deep ball.
I don't expect Jarrett to really challenge for a starting spot until next season. I thought he had a real chance to beat out Coleman this year, but we just haven't seen anything that would back that up so far. The longer Kurt Coleman remains the starting safety next to Nate Allen, the more this second-round pick from the 2011 draft looks like a bust.
Winner: Brandon Boykin and Joselio Hanson
After the Eagles selected Brandon Boykin in the fourth round of last April's draft the expectations were that he would win the slot corner spot and Joselio Hanson would be cut. Part of that may not be true. Boykin will win the nickelback spot, but I don't know if Hanson gets the boot automatically.
The NFL is a pass-happy league. Four wide receiver sets are being utilized more and more. Having two really good slot corners isn't a bad thing. If you can send out two stud outside corners like Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromarite and line up two solid inside corners like Boykin and Hanson you can really contain the best passing attacks in the game consistently.
Last year the Eagles kept six cornerbacks on their roster. Hanson is making a strong case for the Eagles to keep two slot corners. Both Hanson and Boykin look like they belong on the field in passing downs.
Loser: Brandon Hughes and Curtis Marsh
Curtis Marsh and Brandon Hughes are the only corners on the Eagles roster who aren't getting positive reviews from the OTAs. Marsh is supposed to be the eventual replacement for Nnamdi Asomugha in a couple seasons while Hughes was a key reserve corner from last season.
Both these players have to keep getting better and show the coaches they can step in at outside corner when injury strikes this season and down the road as future starters. Asomugha is going to be the Eagles starting cornerback for at least the next two or three seasons. If Marsh and/or Hughes struggle, the Eagles can draft a player early in the draft next April.
Both players could serve as key reserve corners this season. One of these players could also fall short of making the roster this September. They need to have a very good training camp to maintain the confidence of the coaching staff. There is always a good corner or two who is a part of final roster cuts that could replace either Hughes or Marsh as a reliable reserve corner.