10 Philadelphia Eagles Impressing in Training Camp
For those players who can get past the blistering heat and two-a-day practices, the chance at a roster spot looms large.
While some have faltered, there are a group of 10 who have taken advantage of the summer practice session and are giving fans a reason to cheer.
It might not be very difficult to hit receivers going up against single coverage without the pressures of a pass rush, but Michael Vick has been giving fans reasons to cheer. Aside from his promise to President Obama to slide more, Vick has looked better than ever in his first training camp as Philadelphia’s starting quarterback.
He can still throw the deep ball, and his scrambling ability remains obvious, but Vick has spent this offseason talking with Howard Mudd learning more about protection schemes and pre-snap adjustments.
If last year was any indication as to how crucial his health is, it might be ironic to hear that the plays Vick promises not to make, just might just be what saves the season.
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After the Eagles brought in two talented rookie running backs to follow Dion Lewis’ arrest, I thought the second-year pro was on his way out. However, Lewis has proved me wrong and has solidified his hold on the No. 2 spot during these practice sessions.
For those who question his size and strength, Lewis weighs in at a sturdy 195 pounds and has ripped off a couple long runs, while breaking a few tackles along the way.
He still has a long way to go in his development, but as of right now, it’s been reported that he’s miles ahead of his younger competition when it comes to running, receiving and catching the football.
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Marvin McNutt has really made the most of his opportunities ever since Riley Cooper went down with a fractured collarbone that will probably force him to miss the remainder of the offseason.
The rookie receiver was pretty much nonexistent during the first four days of camp, but has really excelled in contact drills. McNutt has been getting the majority of his reps as the “X” position in Philadelphia’ offense, which means he’ll be lining up on the line of scrimmage.
The 6’3” wideout should present matchup nightmares for opposing teams down in the red zone and will continue to benefit from all the extra practice he’s been getting during the offseason.
He brings a different dimension of physicality to the Eagles’ receiving corps and it’s something that has stood out to Michael Vick.
On a team with two dynamic playmakers at wideout, Jason Avant reminds us of why he is our most reliable third-down target.
Forget the fact that No. 81 catches everything that touches his hands, but the fact that he’s the best route runner the Eagles have is often overlooked. Even in one-on-one drills against Nnamdi Asomugha, one of the NFL’s best man corners, Avant is able to draw separation and make him look silly.
Aside from his solid play, the “old man” of the wide receiver group seems to have taken more of a leadership role during this offseason, and has even been caught coaching the special teams unit.
Defensive linemen have been dropping like flies up at Lehigh University. Already, last year’s starting defensive line of Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Mike Patterson and Jason Babin have fallen victim to the injury bug.
This has given former first-round pick Brandon Graham a chance to shine. And shine, he has.
Graham is coming back from an ACL tear, but has noted, “I've got a lot of confidence now because I know what to expect.”
This confidence has carried over onto the field, and is evident in the way he’s been dominating 11-on-11s and one-on-one drills against offensive linemen. If Graham continues to develop like this in his second year under Jim Washburn’s tutelage, there should be no debate as to which NFL team has the best defensive line.
Derek Landri was one of Philadelphia’s most productive defensive linemen in 2011, yet didn’t receive a long-term deal during the offseason. This made him “mad as hell” as he returned to Eagles training camp, and he has continued to play with a chip on his shoulder.
Landri was the first defensive lineman to fill in for an injured first-teamer when Mike Patterson was shut down, so he’s been getting a lot of work. So much work in fact, that he’ been getting under the skin of Jason Kelce and Demetress Bell.
If he continues to agitate opposing offensive linemen, it’s definitely a good thing.
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When the Eagles drafted Mychal Kendricks in the second round, he was immediately pegged to become the starting strong-side linebacker.
This move comes just one year after the failed Casey Matthews experiment. However, there are reasons for optimism. Kendricks is blessed with superior speed, and unlike Matthews, has the benefit of an entire offseason to learn the defense.
The Eagles have been taking it slow with the former Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year by merely introducing him to their coverage concepts. If you followed Kendricks out of Cal, you’ll know that he was highly touted for his ability to stick with receivers and tight ends.
If he can master the basics of this defense, it’ll just be a matter of time that you see him being integrated as a pass-rusher—which he apparently has little trouble doing.
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If I had to pick one undrafted rookie free agent who might earn himself a roster spot, it would be Cliff Harris. With the NFL becoming more and more pass-oriented, it would be extremely difficult to cut a playmaking cornerback that could help in the return game.
Harris was a star during his time at Oregon and comes with big-game experience and first-round talent. The sad truth is that it weren’t for his off-field troubles; he probably wouldn’t be apart of the Eagles organization.
So far, he’s made the most of his time at Lehigh and has really let his athleticism shine. Jimmy Kempski of Blogging the bEast has noted that Harris might’ve helped himself the most after the first three days of camp.
Fourth-round pick Brandon Boykin has impressed in drills, but the Eagles aren’t ready to hand him the starting nickel corner job just yet. He remains in a heated camp battle with Joselio Hanson, but does have the athletic prowess to win over the coaching staff before Week 1.
Boykin’s aggressive hard-hitting style of play is exactly what the defense needs to be successful in their new secondary scheme. He’s already proved that he can separate a receiver from the ball, and that he’ll factor into the Eagles’ return game this year as well.
DeSean Jackson has returned fewer punts in four straight years, which means if Boykin can be solid in preseason, he will remain atop the depth chart.
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The Eagles were so willing to part with Asante Samuel because they believed they had a suitable replacement in Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
So far, DRC has made management look incredibly smart by using training camp as his own personal highlight reel.
We all know the ex-Cardinal possesses supernatural athletic ability, but it’s really a different story to see him line up across from DeSean Jackson and stick to his hip as they race down the sideline at full speed.
As of right now, Juan Castillo is using him exclusively at his natural outside cornerback position. Hopefully, this continues well into the season and translates into a bounce-back year for the former Pro Bowler.