The Eagles will be pretty busy this weekend, watching young players in their mini-camp setting. Besides the new guys, there are a lot of familiar faces in camp, each in different scenarios and needing to do different things with this weekend of opportunity.
Perhaps the biggest surprise name on the mini-camp roster is that of J.R. Reed
. Reed, who missed all of last season after suffering severe damage to the peroneal nerve above his knee in a freak accident 14 months ago, will take part in this weekend's mini-camp. As recently as four months ago, it seemed doubtful Reed would ever be able to play football again. But the nerve has begun to heal and Reed's ability to lift his foot has improved greatly over the past couple of months. Reed excelled as a kick returner and special teams demon as a rookie in 2004. It remains uncertain whether he'll be able to play this season.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Bloom, who looks to take over as the Eagles' kick returner is getting a lot of attention that he's not always comfortable with. "It's just important for me to come here and earn the respect of my teammates and coaching staff," said Bloom in talking about the attention that he's gotten since the draft. "I'm used to the attention because of the Olympics, but I'm focusing on football right now."
First round pick Brodrick Bunkley says he's ready to go for mini-camp. "I'm ready to get to the season. I'm ready to do everything to train and get to the season," said Bunkley who admits to being a little nervous. "This is the first step and it's time to compete with the big fellas. It's a good nervous, I'm not scared to be out here, it's just a different situation."
Here are a few things to watch for at mini-camp:
Who lines up where? This will be especially important on the receiving corps. There is no clear cut number one and no clear cut number two. Todd Pinkston appears to be healthy, but that doesn't mean that he'll be the number one receiver. Reggie Brown could be there or Andy Reid could even put Jabar Gaffney in that spot. Plus, there are young receivers like Jason Avant to fit into the mix.
What's up with the backfield? Is Correll Buckhalter going to be healthy enough to fill the need for a big back. Of course, Bruce Perry could have something to say about the situation as well. The fact that the Eagles didn't get a big back in either free agency or the draft is perhaps one of the more interesting story lines, especially for a team that insists they'll run more in 2006.
What's up at center? Does veteran Hank Fraley instantly take back his job or does he have to wrestle it away from Jamaal Jackson? Fraley, who has been the team's starter for the last five years until he went down with a torn rotator cuff in the middle of last season, faces an uphill battle to hold on to his starting job. Jackson, who replaced him after he got hurt last season and played pretty well, will likely go into training camp as the favorite to win the job, especially since Fraley still isn't 100 percent.
How will Trent Cole and Jerome McDougle fit in? Both have something to prove and their jobs got tougher with the arrival of Darren Howard. Having Howard play at defensive tackle is also an option if Cole and/or McDougle push him out of their spot. McDougle by the way, appears to be completely recovered from the gunshot wound that cost him the 2005 season.
Who's healthy? With all of the injuries from last season, it's going to be interesting to see who's still hobbled and who is ready to go. Those are things that you can only really tell once the real camp opens at Lehigh University in July, but look for indications of who gets held out this weekend and who gets pushed into action.