Training camp at Lehigh University is still a little more than two months away, but for Eagles fans it is never too late to contemplate the position battles that will be had in the hot summer days ahead. To whet your appetite for why not take a look at my predictions for the depth chart when the team makes their finals cuts?
The following depth chart is very unofficial of course and I will provide the defensive side of the ball later in the week. This depth chart will go two deep, providing you my guess for the starter as well as the primary back up. When discussing the offensive side of the ball with the Eagles there is a lot less rotating in and out so more of these predictions will be locks, highlighted in bold.
Donovan McNabb/Kevin Kolb: There is no doubt that McNabb will be the full time starter for the Eagles in 2009. Despite his benching incident and coming up short in the NFC Championship game in Arizona, McNabb had a decent 2008 season. There is no reason McNabb will not be the starter.
As for Kolb, that is a different story. Kolb received some mildly unfair criticism last year in regards to his brief time taking snaps. Thrown in to replace McNabb in a close game in Baltimore the Ravens, who possess some of the best defensive players in the league, Kolb could do little to inspire the offense. Was that his fault? Not totally.
Yes, Kolb needs to be smart with the football. The second year quarterback threw four interceptions and zero touchdowns in his parts of six games. Andy Reid though is a quarterback coach at heart and I believe he will make some significant strides forward to be a formidable backup.
Brian Westbrook/LeSean McCoy: Westbrook may be the bets running back in the history of the Eagles franchise. If he is not the best then he is certainly the most versatile. Westbrook will take hand-offs and catch passes out of the back field all season, as well as line up in a slot receiver's position from time to time. Whenever Westbrook is on the field, good things are about to happen.
Drafted in the second round McCoy, out of Pittsburgh, could wind up seeing some play time with Westbrook. McCoy is similar in size to Westbrook and can make some of the same plays as the eight year veteran.
With some hard work in training camp McCoy should be able to beat out Lorenzo Booker, who failed to live up to some expectations last season.
Leonard Weaver/Kyle Eckel: Having Eckel in the back field helped the Eagles offense in the final stretch of the 2008 season, but having Davis as a starter this year figures to add more to the running game. When Weaver was signed by the Eagles this off-season he was automatically mentioned as the starter at fullback.
While not a threat to score a lot Weaver does bring some blocking abilities that hurt the Eagles with guys like Tony Hunt, who was cut from the team last year. Last year Weaver also averaged 4.3 yards per rush.
Kevin Curtis/Reggie Brown: Wide receiver is a tricky position to call for the Eagles. By most opinions they lack a true number one receiver for McNabb to target. What they do have though is a talented group of receivers that can help them move the ball.
Curtis has been one of the more reliable receivers for McNabb since he was acquired. He is not a deep threat that will cause defensive coordinators to have nightmares, but Curtis can be very effective on the slant.
Brown is entering his fifth season with the Eagles. It would appear that Brown has not lived up to expectations, and may be an Eagle on the watch list when it comes to cutting players. Brown has regressed each of the past couple seasons to the point where he only totaled 252 receiving yards and one touchdown. I am looking for him to make some improvements this training camp.
DeSean Jackson/Jason Avant: Jackson has quickly become the most attractive receiver on the roster. Though small in size, he has proven that he is not one who will be intimidated. Jackson goes over the middle, goes up in the air, and goes down low to catch the football. What he does best is spread the field, providing the Eagles their best down field threat with his speed. He can be a hot shot at times, which anybody who watched the Monday Night game in Dallas can attest to, but he backs it up with his play.
Avant made some strides last season and developed in to a reliable receiver on third down situations. The six foot receiver out of Michigan had a career high in receiving yards and recorded two touchdowns. I predict those numbers will rise in 2009.
Top draft pick Jeremy Maclin may see some time at wide receiver at some point this season, but he has a lot of players to compete with for playing time at the position. In addition to those already mentioned, the Eagles will also try to find some playing time for Hank Baskett, who could challenge Brown for a roster spot.
Brent Celek/Matt Schobel: With the departure of L.J. Smith to Baltimore, the spot is clearly Celek's to lose. Celek put together some nice games last season, giving Eagles fans many reasons to wonder aloud why Smith would be starting in Celek's place. The tight end is entering his third professional season. In 2008, he almost doubled his production from his rookie campaign, with 318 yards in seven games. Now Celek will be a top target in Reid's offense, as McNabb can be helped with a reliable tight end at the position.
Although the Eagles drafted a nice tight end in Cornelius Ingram out of Florida, the back up spot for now still seems to be a lock for Schobel. Schobel's production was almost non-existent last season with two receptions for 10 yards.
Ingram will be given time to refine his skills, and could make the back up spot his next season if all goes well.
Jason Peters/Chris Patrick: There is no question that Peters will be the starter at left tackle, where he will replace long time Eagles Tra Thomas. Peters was signed by the Eagles and it was clear that they were set on replacing Thomas with the best available option. Peters is a Pro Bowl caliber player at a spot with weak depth.
I think Patrick will be in a heated battle with King Dunlap for the back-up spot. I like Patrick's size a little less, but I also like offensive linemen out of Nebraska. For those who enjoy watching offensive line battles, this one will be interesting.
Max Jean-Gilles/Todd Herremans: Not ready to call this one a lock by any stretch of the imagination. This may in fact be the best position battle available for a starting job on the offense. Herremans has more experience at the position, but I think Jean-Gilles is going to have a breakthrough camp, forcing Reid and offensive line coach Juan Castillo to consider the switch.
Jean-Gilles would provide more weight on the line, though he is a couple inches shorter than Herremans.
Jamaal Jackson/Nick Cole: Jackson appears to be a lock for the role of center. The big offensive lineman is signed through 2013 and should be the solid rock in the middle for that time.
Cole is a versatile offensive lineman and can cover the guard, tackle and center positions effectively
Stacy Andrews/Nick Cole: When the Eagles signed Andrews it was announced that he would anchor the right side, and line up next to his brother. Stacy, the elder Andrews brother, will move to the guard position instead of the original idea of having him at tackle. The 6'-7" 342 pound lineman should improve under the guidance of offensive line coach Juan Castillo.
Cole could likely be listed as the first back up at this position but the Eagles may hope for some competition from younger experiments like Mike Gibson and Dallas Reynolds, who is primarily a center.
Shawn Andrews/Winston Justice: The younger Andrews brother should be back to his old self this season, after battling some personal issues a year ago. Andrews will move to the right tackle position, a spot anchored by Jon Runyan for a long time. Andrews will be helped by having his brother by his side, but his 6'4" 335 pound body speaks for itself. Andrews will look to regain his two time Pro Bowl form as he replaces the fan favorite Runyan.
Justice has had some ups and many more downs in his time with the Eagles. This could be his make or break season. Justice is entering his critical fourth season and has received more criticism than positive feed back so far. The former USC offensive lineman should have something to prove this season.
The Eagles offense looks to be improved, despite losing one staple of the offensive line on each side of the quarterback. With mini camps and training camp up ahead there should be some improvement from some of the younger players as well. Next time we'll take a look at the Eagles defense, where there appear to be a lot more position battles to focus on in regards to starting jobs.