Philadelphia Eagles Training Camp: 3 Lingering Questions
As the Philadelphia Eagles get set to wrap up training camp in Bethlehem, there are still quite a few questions surrounding the team. Fortunately, they have three more preseason games in order to solve some of the roster's greatest mysteries.
Philly still has a whole week to prepare for a 10-day stretch that will contain three preseason games. During that time, it'll continue to search for answers to lingering questions.
Here are the three questions of greatest importance.
Who's the Starting Left Tackle?
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The Eagles are saying it's a switch that was planned well in advance and has nothing to do with how Demetress Bell performed in his first preseason game, but it sure seems convenient that King Dunlap is being given a shot to start at left tackle after Bell struggled against the Steelers.
"There's great competition there," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said Monday, according to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News. "I've got great confidence in several men there that will do the job. This is one of the things that training camp is for; if someone has earned an opportunity, then we certainly ... try to give them an opportunity."
He only took 80 snaps at tackle last season, but Dunlap graded out 32nd among 148 tackles in terms of pass-blocking efficiency by Pro Football Focus. Bell ranked 28th, but with a 400-snap sample size. Dunlap gave up zero sacks, while Bell surrendered only one.
Dunlap might be more reliable from a durability standpoint, and he also knows Howard Mudd's system better. That could be a key.
"Anytime you're in a new system, there's quite a lot of learning to do," said Mornhinweg of Bell. "He's right in the middle of that process."
Who'll Be the Backup Quarterback?
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Rookie third-round pick Nick Foles outperformed every quarterback on the roster Thursday night, and now, presumed backup Mike Kafka has a broken hand. With veteran Trent Edwards working with the fourth team and considered a long shot to make the team, there's now a realistic possibility that the Eagles enter the season with a rookie backup quarterback.
Thursday, Foles was 6-of-10 for 144 yards and two touchdowns, while Kafka had a terrible interception and failed to make any impact plays. Edwards was good when he played late.
According to Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg indicated Monday that he "wouldn't be comfortable starting the season with the rookie as Michael Vick's primary backup," but that that could change.
I've said on several occasions that I think Edwards needs a chance, too. If the Eagles don't get more from Kafka going forward (he's expected to miss two or three weeks), and if Foles keeps shining, then Philadelphia should consider ending the Kafka era and using Edwards with Foles to back up Vick in 2012.
First, though, we'll need to see those guys work with and against first- and second-teamers.
Will the Defense Avoid the Mistakes That Cost Them Dearly in 2011?
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The performance the Eagles' first-team defense delivered Thursday was eerily similar to what we saw from that unit last September. It was a short performance, so I don't want to draw any sweeping conclusions, but it was one that was highlighted by poor tackling, poor execution, poor coverage and an inability to get off the field on third- and fourth-down. And again, they struggled against the run.
Sure, the defensive line was still quite effective despite being down three of the four regular starters, but new arrival DeMeco Ryans was a ghost, and Jaiquawn Jarrett embarrassed himself. Nnamdi Asomugha was beat for a first down. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie had another missed tackle.
I'm not panicking yet, but I am concerned. Yet for what it's worth, defensive coordinator Juan Castillo isn't worried.
"The thing is that (the players) haven't played since (2011)," Castillo said Sunday."It is the beginning and the key here is that by the first game of the season those things are not happening. That's why we are working every day. You saw that we came out and had a pretty hard practice Saturday and we started tackling. Football is a muscle memory game. You do it over and over again and then you get it."
OK, well, how come the Eagles seem to requite more repetitions to master the muscle memory?