Training camp is officially underway!
The Philadelphia Eagles began reporting to Lehigh University on Tuesday, as rookies and selected veterans convened for the first time. The remainder of the squad arrives Friday, with the first full-team practice set for Saturday morning at 8:15.
As camp begins, Eagles fans are ready to officially welcome a new starting quarterback in Kevin Kolb, new coaches in Dick Jauron and Bobby April, and, of course, new additions like safety Nate Allen and running back Mike Bell.
And with those welcomes, of course, come the questions: Can Kolb perform under pressure? Will Allen be the next Brian Dawkins? Where will Macho Harris play?
We'll have those answers soon enough. But along with these questions (and likely more to come, much like last year's "who plays MIKE?" conundrum popped up when Stewart Bradley tore his ACL), there are few more bizarre worries.
The Eagles signed all but two of their draft picks prior to camp, with second-rounder Nate Allen coming to terms at about two a.m. Wednesday morning and only missing one day.
That leaves their top choice, DE Brandon Graham, as the lone unsigned selection…and all indications are that the Birds and the No. 13 overall pick aren’t close to agreeing.
Andy Reid told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted Graham in camp, but that there was “nothing going on there” in terms of contract progress.
That’s bad enough in itself, even though Jeremy Maclin put the Birds in a similar situation last summer.
However, unlike Maclin, who had a spot locked down, Graham is competing with incumbent Juqua Parker, fellow draft picks Daniel Te’o-Nesheim and Ricky Sapp, off-season acquisition Darryl Tapp, and rookie free agent Eric Moncur for time on the end.
Te’o-Nesheim in particular is a guy that Reid said looked great on Day 1, and the longer Graham is absent, the harder it could be for him to beat out a player like DTN with similar attributes.
As of right now, the answer is yes and maybe.
In a vacuum, it’s a yes so far thanks to the release of Alex Hall, the lone actual player acquired in the deal.
Hall was originally slated ostensibly to take the departed Chris Gocong’s place and compete with Moise Fokou for the SAM job.
That didn’t pan out, as Hall was hastily moved to defensive end and added to an already-stacked race, —which is pretty much code for “we don’t know what to do with you”—before finally getting the axe this morning to make room for Nate Allen.
So basically, they traded Gocong and Brown for the No. 105 pick (Trevard Lindley) and another draft choice.
Therein, however, is the wildcard: that choice, No. 137 overall, was shipped to Denver in the three-way deal that brought back Ernie Sims, so we end up with Sims and Lindley for Brown and Gocong.
You can’t expect a lot out of Lindley right away…so outside of the vacuum, the answer to that lies in the performances of Sims and Ellis Hobbs, and possibly Moise Fokou as well.
If Sims takes over and provides steady play at the WILL spot, or if Hobbs fluidly replaces Brown opposite Asante Samuel, then it’s a push bordering on insignificant improvement.
If both scenarios shake down, it’s a win, and if Fokou actually develops into a solid linebacker, it’s a home run.
Pretty much everyone assumed that the center job would be a competition between super-sub Nick Cole and offseason signee AQ Shipley.
Until Wednesday that is, when Andy Reid threw in some doubt by saying that Jamaal Jackson and his surgically-repaired ACL are “ahead of schedule.”
Great, except for one problem: no one was exactly sure what the schedule was.
Some speculated mid-season at best as Jackson’s return date, some said not at all, and most fell somewhere in between.
So if he’s ahead of schedule…uh, what does that mean?
Does it mean he’s rehabbing like a fiend and could be ready in Week 3 or 4? Does it mean he might show up in late-November? Does it mean he’s now able to put on socks?
You never know with Andy Reid.
And the sad part is that this actually does throw in a wrinkle; if Jackson could be back by midseason, and thus could start the season on the PUP list, could they live without AQ Shipley?
Nick Cole could be an adequate fill-in, and if the staff is comfortable with Mike McGlynn in a pinch, Shipley might be ship-out material.
Then again, what happens if Shipley dominates? Will Jackson suffer the same fate as the man he replaced, Hank Fraley? And how will Todd Herremans’ sore foot and Stacy Andrews’ consistent inconsistency factor in?
Stay tuned for all this and more on “As the Offensive Line Turns.”
If you ask me, I have two answers: Yes, and Oh God yes.
And that's not because I hate Vick; I don't, past criminal actions notwithstanding. But the fact remains that the City of Philadelphia (and the league in general) may have already turned on him, and it's his own fault.
Forget the fact that Vick wants to be a starter; who doesn't, right? And forget that in a "normal" world, a guy like Vick, who is merely 30 and holds a 38-28-1 record as a starter in the National Football League, would be the heir apparent at best and the other end of a very quick hook for Kevin Kolb (he of the 1-1 record as a starter) at worst.
No, you could have learned all you needed to know just from the drama surrounding Vick on Day One of training camp.
My colleague Bradley Chandler went into detail in his latest article, but here's the gist in three big bullets:
-Vick came out to the field alone (to a chorus of boos no less), while Kolb and Mike Kafka came out together in a very cordial manner.
-Kolb's media blitz included the requisite questions about taking over for Donovan McNabb (you know, actual football stuff), while Vick's focused mainly on his birthday party and Quanis Phillips.
-Kolb looked poised and accurate (like he'd been preparing for this day in advance) while Vick was inaccurate, sloppy, and visibly rattled.
The last bullet may be more a product of training camp having just started, but it's clear that all the negativity is already in Vick's head, and it won't be going away anytime soon.
Come midseason, we could be faced with a scenario where the team is doing well and Vick is unhappy in a lesser role, or one where Kolb is struggling badly and the brass has to make a difficult decision.
Either way, Mike Vick's immediate future in Philly is going to be a turbulent one, and that's never good news.
Beyond injuries, last year's biggest surprise may have been carrying seven receivers.
It was expected that five of the Jackson/Curtis/Avant/Baskett/Brown/Maclin group would make the team, but a great preseason combined with the surprise play of Brandon Gibson led to all seven breaking camp on the active roster.
Sure, Curtis missed most of the year, Baskett was released in Week 2 and Gibson was traded to St. Louis, but the fact that Andy kept them all (and only two tight ends, one of which was signed off the street) showed that he was going more on talent than positional boundaries.
This year may be more of the same, only with six receivers making the team.
Maclin, Jackson, and Avant will be there, and Baskett seems to have the inside track on the fourth slot. But rangy rookie Riley Cooper is impressing, and with speedsters Dobson Collins and Jordan Norwood high on Reid's list, not to mention the Chad Hall experiment, the brass might be forced to keep six instead of five.
That would likely squeeze out either fourth-round pick Clay Harbor or anyone competing for the third running back job; ideally it would be the latter, as Harbor's ability to be a hybrid H-back/tight end/fullback would allow Leonard Weaver to be more of a runner.
But again, you never know with Andy.