Philadelphia Eagles' Training Camp Positional Battles
The Eagles have earned high praise for their off season moves, and many consider them the favorites in the NFC after they loaded up on talent, youth, and depth. They also let a few long time veterans go.
The major shift in personnel created a lot of intrigue at certain positions. Everyone is wondering what the depth chart will look like come September, even though training camp is about two months away.
Here is a glance at some of those positional battles that will occur during training camp:
Probable Starter: Jeremy Maclin
Jason Avant, Jeremy Maclin
The Eagles definitely want to get Jeremy Maclin on the field right away. And considering that Kevin Curtis and Desean Jackson currently hold down the other two receiver spots, Maclin may see a lot of time in the slot, where he often lined up at Missouri.
Jason Avant was the featured slot receiver in 2008, and he played well. He was a great third down option for McNabb, and made quite a few clutch catches in the playoffs. Despite all of that, he figures to lose his job to Maclin.
However, Avant could benefit from the experience he has in Andy Reid's complicated offense. He is heading into his fourth season with the Eagles, and knows the playbook very well. But in terms of talent, he is miles behind Jeremy Maclin, whose 2,833 all-purpose yards were fifth in NCAA history.
The possibility still exists that Maclin may get off to a slow start, as rookie receivers often do. He is coming from a spread offense, and as a result, he will definitely have to improve his route running. However, this may not really be an issue at all, since he impressed the coaches by running quick, precise routes at the post draft mini-camp.
Predicted Outcome: Maclin wins the job as the primary slot receiver, but may eventually play on the outside towards the tail end of the season. The Eagles rotate their receivers so he could earn playing time in both the slot and on the outside. If Maclin ever starts lining up on the outside, Avant would earn some playing time in the slot.
Probable starter: Brent Celek
Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram
Brent Celek showed huge potential last season as a pass-catching tight end. In the playoff loss to Arizona, he recorded 10 catches for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
Celek is heading into his second season, and he currently has the starting spot on lockdown. But Cornelius Ingram will provide competition. Ingram appears fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered a year ago, and he possesses immense talent and potential.
But like Jeremy Maclin, Ingram played in a spread offense in college, which meant he often lined up in the slot instead of in the trenches.
Ingram has to adjust to lining up with his hand on the ground and getting off of the line of scrimmage. He will also have to learn the playbook.
Predicted Outcome: Celek wins the starting job, but Ingram may close in on him next year if he lives up to his potential.
Right Guard and Right Tackle
Probable Starter: To be Determined
Shawn Andrews, Stacey Andrews
Both Shawn and Stacey Andrews will start, the only question is where. They both can play either guard or tackle.
Shawn Andrews played tackle in college, but the Eagles decided to put him at right guard alongside Jon Runyan when they drafted him. Runyan probably isn't going to be brought back(he's still a free agent) because of his injury, which opens the door for Shawn to return to his natural position.
Shawn missed most of last season after hurting his back and battling with clinical depression. He's since recovered, but missing time last season might make the switch to right tackle a bit harder.
His brother Stacey was signed from the Bengals this off season, and he was originally thought to be the right tackle, where he played last season. But he is also capable of playing guard, as he has played left guard for the Bengals in past years.
Stacey tore his ACL late last season, but Reid has confidence that he'll be at training camp.
As of right now, Shawn is the right tackle and Stacey is the right guard, but that could change barring any decision by the coaching staff.
Predicted Outcome: The Eagles lined Shawn up at right tackle at the post draft mini camp, so it appears he will be the right tackle and Stacey will be the right guard.
Probable Starter: Sean Jones
Sean Jones, Quintin Demps
The loss of Brian Dawkins in free agency left an open void at free safety. Quintin Demps, the second year man from Texas El-Paso, will compete for the starting spot with Sean Jones, who was signed to a one-year deal from Cleveland.
Jones, who missed the first four games of last season with a knee injury, will have to first show that he is healthy, and then learn the playbook to earn the starting spot. He compiled gaudy numbers on a bad defense in Cleveland, including a 111 tackle season in 2006. He is also third in the entire NFL over the last three years with 14 interceptions.
Sean Jones played strong safety in Cleveland, so it remains to be seen if he is capable of making an adequate switch to free safety. The Eagles probably won't take Quintin Mikell off of the field, so if Jones wants to start, he will have to compete against Quintin Demps.
Demps is being given the first look at free safety by the Eagles coaches, and he currently sits atop the depth chart. Jones will have to improve his coverage skills and adjust to the Eagles scheme, and if he does that, he should be the starter.
Predicted Outcome: Sean Jones learns the playbook and makes the switch to free safety and makes a big impact on an already strong defense.
Probable starter: Akeem Jordan
Akeem Jordan, Omar Gaither
Akeem Jordan overtook Omar Gaither midway through 2008 and then played well down the stretch and in the playoffs at the weak-side linebacker spot. Jordan is going into his second year after being undrafted, and he has spent the off season getting stronger.
Gaither was benched because he was a bit slow and didn't shed blockers very well. However, he wants to win his starting spot back, and lost 10 pounds so that he could play quicker and faster.
Jordan has the upper hand right now because of his play at the end of last season, but he will have to hold off Omar Gaither.
Predicted Outcome:Akeem Jordan wins the job and continues to improve upon his stellar play. Gaither will still be granted some playing time, as he is versatile enough to play both middle and outside linebacker. But Jordan should win the starting spot.
Left Defensive End
Probable Starter: To be determined
Juqua Parker, Victor Abiamiri
Juqua Parker has started at left defensive end for the past two seasons, but Abiamiri could win the job in training camp. They both split reps with the first string defense at the post draft mini-camp, and that figures to continue through training camp.
Abiamiri definitely has the most potential, considering he was a former second round pick. He is bigger and younger, and the coaching staff expects him to play well. Staying healthy has been an issue with him, though, since he has already racked up several injuries in his short career.
Parker is more of an energy guy who would be better suited to come off of the bench instead of start. He lost steam as the season went on last year, probably from receiving too much playing time.
Predicted Outcome: Whichever of these two start, they will both get plenty of playing time, considering that Jim Johnson likes to rotate his defensive linemen. But if Abiamiri stays healthy and impresses in training camp, then he will be the starter.
Probable starter: To be determined
Quintin Demps, Ellis Hobbs
Demps' 1,314 return yards were second in franchise history. However, he is in danger of losing his job to Ellis Hobbs, whom the Eagles acquired from the Patriots on draft weekend for two fifth round picks. Hobbs had 1,281 return yards, and from a talent perspective, he's neck-and-neck with Demps.
Predicted Outcome:If Demps starts at free safety, then Hobbs will likely return kicks, as kick returners often have a hard time focusing on two positions. If not, then Demps will return.
Probable starter: Jeremy Maclin
Jeremy Maclin, Desean Jackson
Desean Jackson figures to put more focus in playing receiver this year, since he is McNabb's primary target. That would leave the punt return job to Maclin, who eagerly wants to get on the field in any way he can.
Predicted Outcome: Maclin wins the job and provides a spark as a punt returner.
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