Can you feel it? Yes, football is near!
Well, the Philadelphia Eagles' 2012 version of training camp, that is.
And with that comes the excitement of the beginning of the new football season!
Since most of Philadelphia's starters are returning or are already set on paper—the only exceptions being strong-side linebacker and maybe strong safety—most of the position battles will be focused on the backup jobs.
Since those are still my most intriguing position battles to watch for (though my opinion has changed on a few), I thought I'd now highlight some various things I'll be looking for during camp.
The position battles are the big stories, but I like looking for smaller details that may give you insight into particular players.
For example, when I went to training camp back in 2007, I happened to focus on new rookie linebacker Stewart Bradley. He wasn't slated to be a starter, but being that the Eagles have long been linebacker-deficient, I was anxious to get a look at the new guy who was being moved from a college SAM 'backer to be the man in the middle with the Eagles.
Bradley was impressive in training camp as a rookie. It didn't take him long to get acclimated to manning the middle. By the half-way point in camp, he was correcting his teammates' positioning and getting them lined up properly during scrimmages.
He was very vocal on the field because he already knew what he was doing. He was big and athletic and seemed to know where he was supposed to be on any given play.
He seemed as if he just "got it" immediately. I remember thinking to myself that maybe we finally had found our guy to be the much-needed leader of the defense.
Unfortunately, he had to sit behind Omar Gaither for most of his rookie year before earning his first extended playing time, in Week 15. He then had an impressive game against the New Orleans Saints, in which he recorded six tackles, one sack and one INT.
It was then that I thought that what I had noticed about him in training camp was coming to fruition on the field. I was excited by the notion that we finally had a good middle linebacker again.
He followed that up with a good sophomore season and was viewed as a future star.
However, in August of 2009, his career changed course due to a major knee injury on what I now call "Fright Night," instead of "Flight Night."
He hasn't been the same since.
But anyway, sorry for going on a little tangent there. My point is, I like to look for new guys or questionable guys and see if they seem to get it or if they're struggling too much.
I like to take notice of the little things such as: Is he in position? Is he hesitant? How much attention are the coaches giving him? Does he seem to understand what he's supposed to do? Is he confident? Is he vocal? Is he athletic? What is his general demeanor?
These things can give you an idea as to what kind of impact we may expect from particular players.
I'll be visiting camp on July 30th as a member of the media this year (and potentially other days, as well), so I'll have an even closer view of the players and will get a better sense of things. (If you want me to focus on any certain player, hit me up on Twitter, and I'll check them out for you!)
One of the players I'll be especially interested in is DeMeco Ryans. He's not a rookie, but I really want to see how he does on the field.
Will he be vocal? Will he try to establish himself as a leader? How is he interacting with his teammates? Is he showing any ill effects from his 2010 Achilles injury?
Ryans is being counted on basically to "take over" the defense and be the leader of the unit. I'll be extremely curious to see if he appears ready to do just that.
Other players I'll be focusing on for the same things are Brandon Boykin, Mike Kafka, Nate Allen and Demetress Bell. These guys are still relatively unknown and will be counted on to play pivotal roles this year.
Other players I'll be interested to watch are:
Does he stand a real chance to crack the starting lineup? Does he seem to get it? Will he live up to his reputation of being physical?
He'll be involved in one of my aforementioned big-story position battles, but I definitely want an up-close and personal look at him to see if he seems ready to handle the high expectations.
After a down year, does he really look like the dominant cornerback we all thought he was?
The major question with this guy is if his head is in the game. His peculiar college career means he will certainly have to prove himself, in more ways than one.
Will he be serious about being an NFL running back? Will he live up to the hype from minicamp?
There will be other interesting players to watch, and there will surely be players who stand out. I enjoy watching practices to see and hear what they do and how they communicate on the field.
One thing to remember, though, is that some players are stars in camp practices but turn into duds on the field.
Na Brown, anyone?
So, it's buyer beware on any hype surrounding any particular player.
However, hopefully by paying attention to the smaller details we'll be able to separate the camp champs from the real champs.
About what or whom are you most curious to find out for this training camp?
Contact me on Twitter if you have anyone or anything in particular you want me to watch while at training camp. As stated earlier, I'll be there on July 30th as a member of the media, but I plan on going as much as possible.