Coach Reid stands firm that he likes the current group of Eagle wideouts. James Thrash will be one starter, while the other position is up for grabs. Thrash really emerged late last season and in the playoffs as Donovan McNabb's go-to guy. He should be even better this season now that he knows the system and has played a year with Donovan. The other starting WR will be either Todd Pinkston or Freddie Mitchell. Pinkston showed flashes of ability last year, but remains too inconsistent. If Todd can continue to develop, he could become an outstanding #2 receiver. More likely, Freddie Mitchell will come out of training camp as the other starter. Mitchell showed a lot in his rookie year. He made tough catches. He went over the middle. He caught a lot of passes that converted third downs to first downs. Most of all, he added some emotion to the offense. Freddie is cocky, flamboyant, and enthusiastic. And the Eagles offense needs a little of each. This is a solid trio of wideouts that could become very good. Only time will tell.
The other WR's who have a shot to contribute are Dameane Douglas, Na Brown, and Gari Scott. Douglas is a terrific special teams player. He will make the team, but how much playing time will he get at receiver? Brown has been a disappointment from day one. He had great hands coming out of college, but has struggled to stay healthy, and when he has played, he has had problems with catching passes. Brown will have to fight to make the roster. Scott has played even less than Brown. Scott has very good size and ability, but he must stay healthy and have a great camp to get to the season.
Rookie WR Freddie Milons could earn the sixth receiver spot, but will have to come up big this summer. Most likely, he will be on the Practice Squad. Sean Scott could also be a player to keep an eye on, but he's still a longshot for the roster.
Andy Reid has not visited with any free agent receivers. He says he is very confident with this group. Unless one of the big three goes down with an injury, I think Reid and the Eagles are smart to stick with what they have.
Everyone seems convinced that signing a big run-stuffing defensive tackle would drastically improve the run defense. I'm not so sure. Corey Simon, Hollis Thomas, and Paul Grasmanis form a very solid trio of DT's. There is some question as to whether Simon was 100 percent last year. There was a freak accident in training camp which involved Corey's neck and potential paralysis. He also battled shoulder injuries and suffered a concussion. Thomas missed the playoff run due to a broken bone in his foot, but had played well up to that point. Grasmanis is a very good backup and spot starter, as he showed during the playoffs in place of Thomas.
The fourth DT is Darwin Walker. He had a big game in the meaningless season finale vs. Tampa Bay. Walker also contributed in the playoffs and should see a lot more playing time this year.
Run stuffing DT Sam Adams is still available as a free agent. Could he help the Eagles? Yes. Stopping the run, however is not that simple. Think about the loss to the Redskins. Washington came out and ran several sweeps early on. These were very effective plays. Adams, or any other DT, would make little or no difference in stopping the sweep. Stopping the run is a joint effort by all three levels of the defense. Free agent signee SS Blaine Bishop will be the biggest addition to the run defense. Outgoing SS Damon Moore struggled against the run. Bishop can play at the LOS, or he can play back. Bishop will make a huge difference in stopping the run this year.
I think the Eagles should consider Sam Adams. Only, and I do mean only, if he comes at the right price. He has indicated that he wants at least a $4 million signing bonus. That is too much for a player with a weight problem who has had only one outstanding season. If he can get that kind of money, that's good for him. He won't get it from Philadelphia.
Can Barry Gardner replace Jeremiah Trotter? This is the biggest question facing the Eagles heading into training camp. Trotter was an outstanding MLB, but not great, and certainly not irreplaceable. Gardner has seen very little time at the Mike position. He was Trotter's backup last year after starting at the WLB position in 2000. He got to play significant minutes in the 2nd half against Oakland and also against Tampa Bay in the season finale. Eagles fans should understand this: Barry Gardner is good enough to start in the NFL. Physically, Barry is not in the same class as Jeremiah. He is smarter and more instinctive. Trotter guessed way too much and then made up for his mistakes with his athletic ability. Gardner will not be as fast or explosive, but will get the job done by doing a better job of diagnosing the play, before and as it happens.
The Eagles had MLB Hardy Nickerson in for a visit after Jacksonville cut him. He is choosing between Philadelphia and Green Bay. The question is whether the Eagles are looking at him as a backup or a starter. I think Philly would like to bring him in as a backup, but also as insurance in case Barry Gardner cannot handle starting. Nickerson is most likely going to sign with Green Bay, where he will be the starter. Philadelphia does not need a starting MLB. They do, however, need a veteran backup. Another player to keep in consideration is Ed McDaniel. He is currently unsigned and could be a quality veteran backup.