Philadelphia Eagles: 10 Players Who Are off to a Great Start at Training Camp
Training camp at Lehigh University is now in full gear for the Philadelphia Eagles. The pads have come on, and we are starting to see some of the players separating themselves from the rest of the pack. Once we finally got to some live hitting, we started to see the best out of these players.
This is a really talented roster on a team with some mighty aspirations. A good camp can go a long way for a player trying to get more playing time in 2012 or just trying to make the roster altogether. A bad camp can go a long way as well. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon is having a rough start to camp, but we are still a long way from writing him off at this point.
Training camp is about consistency. One great day of camp is one thing, but doing it consistently over the next few weeks will determine who makes the roster, who doesn't and who earns bigger roles in 2012.
Here are 10 Eagles who are off to an exceptional start this summer.
1. Mike Kafka, QB
However, Kafka's role isn't set in stone just yet. He still has to perform well in camp.
Kafka is off to a great start in camp. He isn't really wowing anybody at this point, but he really doesn't need to. This is his third year in this offense; he knows the offense and what it takes to be successful in it. For someone like Edwards or a free agent be signed and overtake him, Kafka would have to have pretty bad camp.
Kafka's arm strength is never going to be great, but that isn't his game. He is an accurate passer with good mobility, and he has a really good feel for the blitz with a quick release. He has to be properly managed when he is running the show.
So far in camp, Kafka has been throwing the deeper passes much better than he has the last two seasons, and that is a great sign. He has to be able to at least keep defenses honest when he is in the game; if not, defenses will be able to load the box, and take away the running game and the short passing game.
2. Dion Lewis, RB
Dion Lewis has been one of the offensive stars of training camp at this point. He is running the ball extremely well and is making veteran defenders look just plain silly in the open field.
Lewis also has really improved in pass protection, something that Andy Reid really expects from all his running backs.
Lewis had just 99 total yards last season, as he struggled to get touches behind LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown.
This season, the backup running back role is wide open. There is no veteran behind McCoy anymore, and only Lewis and two rookies will be battling for more playing time.
Lewis has a great opportunity to become a much bigger part of this offense, and he hasn't disappointed. It's still early, but he has a leg up on the rest of the competition.
3. Bryce Brown, RB
Along with Dion Lewis, Bryce Brown is really giving the Eagles coaching staff something to think about at running back.
Under head coach Andy Reid, this has rarely been an offense that runs the ball consistently with two backs. With McCoy, Lewis and Brown projected to make the roster, the running game will look a lot different this season.
Brown is a big back with a lot of speed. It is yet to be seen if he will be better-used as a short-yardage back or a change-of-pace back coming off the bench. We need to see what he can do in an actual game once we get to preseason. That is when we will get a better feel for what kind of a back Brown can be in his rookie season.
4. Marvin McNutt, WR
Marvin McNutt was starting to look like a wasted sixth-round pick before the pads went on. He was being jammed at the line with relative ease during OTAs and the early portion of training camp before the veterans arrived.
Since the pads have come on, McNutt has become a completely different player. He is physical, he is quick and he is making catches over defenders.
The thing about McNutt that has been really impressive, though, is his ability to come back to the football.
McNutt is now looking more likely to make the roster, but he still has a long way to go. The Eagles are pretty set with their top four wide receivers (Jackson, Maclin, Avant and Cooper), and they will keep at least one more wide receiver on their 53-man roster. McNutt is battling for a roster spot with Damaris Johnson, Chad Hall and Mardy Gilyard.
5. Demetress Bell, LT
It's important for left tackle Demetress Bell to get off to a good start for his new team. He is learning a completely new blocking scheme from what he is used to, so injuries or poor play in practice would really put him in jeopardy of losing his spot to King Dunlap.
Bell has looked solid in training camp so far. He is already getting most of the reps with the first team and is more than holding his own.
Preseason will be huge for Bell. The buzz coming out of training camp regarding Casey Matthews as the team's starting middle linebacker was nothing but positive last season, but once we saw him in the preseason, we knew he wasn't ready to be the starting MIKE linebacker.
Let's hope Bell can avoid that fate. As for now, he looks like a solid starting left tackle at the very least.
6. Brandon Graham, DE
DE Brandon Graham has been a man on a mission ever since the Eagles started practicing together again during OTAs.
Graham has been labeled a bust after only two years in the league. He suffered an ACL tear very late in his first season and clearly wasn't fully recovered during his second season. His third season in the league will make him or break him, and he is playing like it.
Graham has taken over Jason Babin's left end spot with the first-team defense, and there hasn't been any drop-off at camp because of it. He is consistently getting to the quarterback and disrupting the pass.
Before Graham went down with the ACL tear, he was really starting to play like an early first-round draft pick. Now a full season removed from the surgery, he appears on his way to becoming an even better version of the player the Eagles traded up for in the 2010 NFL Draft.
7. Derek Landri, DT
Anytime a starter goes down either by injury or suspension, it creates an opportunity for the player (or players) behind him.
In Derek Landri's case, he is more than taking advantage of it while Mike Patterson is still recovering from offseason brain surgery.
Landri is the ultimate blue-collar player. He continues to work hard and give maximum effort no matter what his situation may be. Last season he was outstanding all throughout camp and the preseason, but was cut anyway. He was brought back only after Antonio Dixon was lost for the season.
Now, one year later, Dixon is behind Landri on the depth chart, as he is lining up next to Jenkins with the first team. Landri appears to running away with the nose tackle spot while Patterson is out and maybe even when he comes back.
Landri has been quick off the ball and powerful at the point of attack. He is incredibly disruptive despite not being 330 pounds or a freakish athletic athlete. He just gets into opposing backfields regardless of who is put in front of him.
8. Brandon Boykin, CB
Brandon Boykin was highly touted as a slot corner coming out of Georgia, and he hasn't disappointed since offseason workouts got underway. Boykin just continues to look better and better.
You need your nickel back to be an excellent press man cornerback. It is far too difficult to play zone coverage over the middle of the field. Quarterbacks are too adept at picking apart zone coverages over the middle of the field.
Boykin is outstanding at what he does. He is usually the smallest player on the field (5'9", 180 pounds), but he always seems to be able to jam inside receivers right at the line of scrimmage. Boykin also is incredibly quick and has great ball skills. He is a terrific athlete.
So far in camp, Boykin has been one of the best cover corners on the team. He should fit right in with the other press corners on the defense.
9. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been an absolute star of training camp up to this point. If the ball is anywhere in his vicinity, he is picking it off. He is pressing corners at the line of scrimmage with relative ease, and he has shown that closing speed we hear so much about.
Rodgers-Cromartie has the skill set to be an elite corner in this league, he just has to be in the right defense. He wasn't last season, as the Eagles played primarily zone coverage to benefit Asante Samuel.
Rodgers-Cromartie is a long, physical and fast press corner. The Eagles are expected to utilize that skill set in their press man coverage this season.
His closing speed is what makes Rodgers-Cromartie such a special type of corner, and he has really demonstrated this at camp. Just when you think your receiver has gained separation, Rodgers-Cromartie uses his elite speed to close in on the receiver and make a play on the ball. That is what he did for the Arizona Cardinals, and that is what he has been doing to at camp thus far.
This is a really good sign for the second-best cornerback on the team.
10. Jaiquawn Jarrett, S
Jaiquawn Jarrett is another player who has barely gotten started in his NFL career, but is already getting the bust label. He was drafted in the second round of last year's draft to be the starting strong safety after Quintin Mikell signed with the St. Louis Rams.
Jarrett really struggled last year during a lockout-shortened offseason. He was awful in coverage and struggled in the open field. He needed a strong showing in training camp just to earn back the respect of his coaches and fans alike.
Jarrett is off to a good start at camp. He isn't shutting people down in the one-one-one passing drills, but during the live hitting sessions, he has really turned some heads. He jarred the ball loose on one really vicious hit on LeSean McCoy and hasn't stopped knocking people on their backs since.
Jarrett wasn't drafted to be a coverage ace, although that area does need improving. He was drafted because he was one of the best tacklers and one of the most physical safeties coming out of the draft.
Seeing him play this physically in camp is a great sign. He may not be Mikell just yet, but Jarrett is already showing a lot of progress over last season's failures.