Some of these lessons were learned from free agency, while others were just sorted out after training camp.
With the NFL season just around the corner, let’s just hope these things lead to a Super Bowl appearance.
Players, coaches and league officials have shown their support and expressed their condolences. The loss of Garrett Reid, Andy Reid’s 29-year-old first-born son, is definitely something that will weigh on the hearts and minds of Eagles fans everywhere.
The Eagles kickoff team managed a long of just 33 yards last season, but Brandon Boykin made us forget all about that with his first touch as a professional.
After taking a kickoff deep in his end zone, Boykin exploded for a 46-yard return against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Thanks to Boykin’s playmaking ability, the Eagles will put up more points in 2012.
Back at Georgia, he had scored touchdowns as a kickoff return man and punt returner. His explosive speed is not only a potential momentum shifter, but will also afford Michael Vick and the offense better starting field position.
For whatever reason, Andy Reid tried to limit then-rookie Alex Henery to the pressures of kicking at the pro level.
Henery converted on 88.9 percent of his kicks and set a new NFL rookie record for field goal accuracy. However, he only had two attempts beyond the 50-yard line.
Expect this to change during his second season, as the Eagles will undoubtedly look for the NCAA’s most accurate place-kicker to shoulder more of the scoring load.
With that said, Henery’s already off to a good start, having made a 51-yarder to seal a 24-23 come-from-behind preseason victory against the Steelers.
Up till now, Michael Vick has made headlines in a variety of ways.
Now, he has the burden of backing up all this talk and meeting the team’s Super Bowl aspirations.
Whether this means sliding more often, cutting down his turnovers or making it through an entire season healthy, Vick remains the key to the Eagles’ success. If he can return to his breathtaking 2010 form, he’ll be in talks for the MVP award. If not, he’ll be the lightning rod of all criticism.
If you stopped keeping count at home: that’s two preseason games played and two preseason injury scares that Michael Vick has endured.
The protection hasn’t been held up their end of the bargain, and Vick has been the victim of too many hits.
When you combine the questionable line play with Vick’s attacking style, I’d say the chances of him making it through an entire set of 16 games are slim to none.
This is extremely unnerving since the timeliness of this looming injury could prove to be catastrophic for the Eagles’ playoff chances.
Mike Kafka had the inside track to the backup quarterback job during spring and summer practices, but has lost it ever since. Along with his poor showing against the Steelers, he suffered a fractured-hand injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the preseason.
This gives Nick Foles and Trent Edwards the upper hand and his extra snaps in practice.
Foles has been impressive in both preseason games and drives balls down the field in a way Kafka simply cannot. Edwards, on the other hand, has more experience than the rest of his competition combined.
Andy Reid still has time to decide on who his backup will be, but the only thing that’s for certain is that it shouldn’t be Kafka.
No one’s going to mistake him for No. 7, but Nick Foles has proven that he can scramble out of the pocket and make throws on the run.
His first preseason touchdown required improvising, as he eluded pressure inside the pocket and made a deep pass downfield. Against New England, Foles displayed great touch on a designed rollout down near the goal line and hit Clay Harbor for six.
Granted that these are only two samples of his mobility, but at least, we know it's there.
After watching Demetress Bell struggle at left tackle in his six snaps of action against the Steelers, Howard Mudd decided to give four-year backup, King Dunlap, a chance.
Dunlap will never blow anyone away with his play and will limit the Eagles in terms of what they can do offensively.
Running back LeSean McCoy will be the one who misses Peters the most, especially on outside run plays and screens. Peters specialized at getting downfield and wiping out opposing defenders.
Watching this play just reminds me of how good the offensive line potentially could’ve been.
In an effort to alleviate some of the pressures off Michael Vick, second-year center Jason Kelce will be making the line calls in 2012.
The two have built a solid foundation of trust after a one-year relationship, which should make it easier for Kelce to point out the things that his quarterback does or does not see.
Howard Mudd has given the former sixth-round pick the liberty to suggest adjustments or audibles based on where he thinks the blitz is coming from. This will undoubtedly help Vick with clock management, pre-snap reads and allow him to react to what the defense is doing.
Once the left-tackle situation is resolved, I believe that the offensive line will be very good. However, if anyone were to get hurt, especially along the interior, the Eagles would be in serious trouble.
Jason Peters’ injury was a wake-up call for a unit that remained fortunately healthy in 2011.
As of right now, Philadelphia’s projected backups figure to be Dallas Reynolds, Dennis Kelly, Julian Vandervelde and the loser of the left-tackle battle. If any of these players are forced into extensive playing time, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling uneasy.
Reliable offensive-line play is the foundation to Philadelphia's offense and is a must-have for them to succeed.
Then again, the New York Giants did just win a Super Bowl.
Even with their unproven backups, the Eagles are so deep at running back that they’ve discussed the possibility of moving Chris Polk to fullback (via Tim McManus of Philadelphia Magazine) as a way to keep him on the roster.
If Polk and Bryce Brown both make the team, they’ll be expected to contribute immediately while carving out a nice niche of their own.
Both offer the Eagles a different dynamic than primary backup Dion Lewis and would present Andy Reid with better goal-line options than the second-year pro.
This bunch of backs just might be the most exciting group that Philly has ever assembled.
Everyone got a glimpse of how dangerous Damaris Johnson can be on his 70-yard touchdown catch from Nick Foles. On that play, the undrafted rookie wideout used excellent route running to draw separation from his defender, and once he caught the ball in the open field, you knew he was gone.
No NFL team wants to see Philadelphia add more speed to their already potent offense, but that’s exactly what Johnson offers.
He has been the unheralded star of training camp and has all but assured himself a roster spot as the primary punt returner.
By the time preseason ends, I bet Johnson becomes a household name.
The Eagles were one of the worst tackling teams last season, and if the preseason is any indication, they will need to improve on that in 2012.
DeMeco Ryans failed to even register a tackle in his debut against the Steelers, but looked more comfortable against the New England Patriots.
His consistency and reliability at the second level will be imperative for the Wide-9 and should set the tone for the defense as a whole.
Some Giants fans would disagree here, but they’d be wrong.
Jim Washburn has played his backups for the majority of the first two preseason games, but there has been no drop-off in the level of play or pressure.
Phillip Hunt, Derek Landri and Brandon Graham have been extremely productive and disruptive as fill-ins, which makes this front four the best group in the NFL.
If we were to play “over or under” on the 50-sack mark the defense set in 2011, I’m going over. Way over.
Since Mike Patterson is way too valuable to merely cut, the Eagles will be forced to keep him on the Physically Unable to Perform list as they trim down their 53-man roster.
The emergence of Derek Landri and development of Fletcher Cox will allow the Birds to ease the defensive tackle back into action. If you recall, Patterson was shut down during the first day of training camp and is still recovering from offseason brain surgery.
Whenever he returns to the team, expect the team to make a very difficult cut.
In an interview with ESPN’s Dan Graziano, DeMeco Ryans gave us some insight on his understanding of the Wide-9.
When you're in the Wide, sometimes you can get an offensive lineman up on you quicker, versus the 3-4 under front we played in Houston, Ryans said. Sometimes the 4-3, with the guys being wide, the tight ends will have free releases up the field. So you have to be cognizant of those guys getting up on you a lot faster than they would if the end was in tight. Once you recognize the formation and see how they're set up, depending on where the end is playing, you have to kind of understand how that tight end is going to release. And with the end being out wide, the tight end definitely can't go wide. He has to come up and inside on you, and most of the time he has free release.
There's no way I could've explained it better. And really, it just goes to show how much smarter and more prepared this linebacking corps will be in the upcoming year.
Mychal Kendricks has really stood out to me during Philadelphia’s two preseason games.
He makes sideline-to-sideline tackles look effortless and just explodes off the edge. The Cal product will definitely be an asset against the run and should be utilized more as a pass-rusher once the season progresses.
Kendricks still needs some work in coverage, but that was his strong suit in college.
It really wouldn’t surprise me if he finished the season with Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
We saw it last season—only it didn’t come with a cool name and yielded mixed results.
Once again, Juan Castillo plans on using Nnamdi Asomugha as the nickel corner (Tim McManus of Philadelphia Magazine) and move someone else to the outside in the “Nickel Nnamdi” package.
This should help the defense against pass-catching tight ends like Jimmy Graham, Jason Witten and Fred Davis, but will leave them more vulnerable on the outside.
Charles Woodson thrived in this “roamer” role in 2010, but you saw the negative effects it had on the Green Bay Packers defense last season. Philadelphia should be weary of the same.
At the start of training camp, I wrote about how the former second-round pick would be on the roster bubble and received some vitriol from the Eagles community.
Two preseason games later, this belief is looking more like a reality.
Jaiquawn Jarrett got the start against Pittsburgh and looked just as bad as he did in his rookie season. His performance led to an immediate demotion and a benching against New England.
Tom Nelson is now running with the backups and didn’t stand out because of poor play—this in itself is an improvement.
For those who still think Jarrett will make the roster, let alone contribute, I’d love to hear your argument.
Clay Harbor will be the undisputed beneficiary of Philadelphia’s promise to incorporate more two-tight end sets into their offense.
However, many Brent Celek fantasy owners are not going to be happy about that.
It appears that Harbor has already developed a nice rapport with Nick Foles, who in the event of a Michael Vick injury would take over as signal-caller. Foles targeted Harbor six times against the Patriots and converted on all of his passes for 30 yards and two scores.
This kind of production could conceivably make Harbor more valuable than his tight-end counterpart.
In a somewhat shocking, but believable, interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters, former All-Pro DeSean Jackson admitted that his contract situation affected his level of effort in 2011.
In regards to contractual dispute, the man who calls himself “Jaccpot” claimed, "I let it get to me, even though I tried not to let it. I was trying to protect myself from getting hurt -- now I'm just giving it all."
Anyone who followed this conflict could tell Jackson’s mind was on his money and didn’t want to risk injury. He would routinely shy away from contact and was hesitant when going across the middle.
Yet, he still finished the season just 39 yards shy of the 1,000-yard plateau and remains as one of the league’s premier deep threats. Now that he’s gotten paid, I expect a bounce-back season.
Juqua Parker’s offside penalty to effectively end the contest against the Buffalo Bills still haunts me to this very day.
That was an incident where a mistake literally cost the Eagles a chance at winning.
This preseason has offered no indication that this problem is behind them.
Nnamdi Asomugha got caught holding on a play that netted a sack. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie launched himself at Byron Leftwich, and it cost him $21,000 (Simon Samano of USA Today). Fletcher Cox got caught roughing the passer when the defense was ready to take a seat.
Although these are all preseason miscues that have no impact on the team’s final standing, it appears that the Eagles are still finding ways to hurt themselves.
Say what you want about Andy Reid, but there’s only one other coach who can keep one eye on the present and the other on the future like he does.
In a trade that sent Greg Lloyd and Moise Fokou to the Indianapolis Colts for Kevin Thomas and a conditional seventh-round selection in the 2013 NFL draft, Reid knew the two players he traded away had no chance of making the final 53-man roster.
Although Thomas isn’t going to stick with the Eagles, the packaged seventh-round pick he came along with has the potential to become something much more valuable.
When the Eagles traded Kevin Kolb away to the Arizona Cardinals, he had the promise of becoming a franchise quarterback.
Fast forward to now and he’s in a heated quarterback battle with John Skelton—a free fall of epic proportions.
Not only did Andy Reid get Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, a former Pro Bowler in return, but also turned the second-round selection into Vinny Curry and Brandon Boykin.
These three players all project to be mainstays while Kolb is fighting for his pride.
After dealing with DeSean Jackson’s contract dispute that cost him 11 days of training camp and carried over into the season, the Eagles learned a lesson and decided to pay their own players.
Along with Jackson, Todd Herremans, Trent Cole, LeSean McCoy and Evan Mathis received contract extensions from the team.
By keeping the core of their talented young players together, Philadelphia is ensuring them of a well-balanced roster for years to come.
This type of continuity is something that was lost in their disappointing 8-8 campaign and just might prove to be invaluable in 2012.