Preseason Q&A with's Adam Caplan

Senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan of talks to Warnest about the Eagles preseason and gives some predictions for the 2008 season. Is Reggie Brown ready to step up in a big way this year? What will happen with Lito Sheppard? Answers and more inside.

Q: Since 2005, Donovan McNabb has missed a total of 15 games due to various injuries, and there was some talk during the off-season of his time in Philadelphia nearing an end. Now he is dealing with shoulder tendonitis, and the team has not even started training camp yet. Do you think he still has what it takes to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL? Does the Eagles' offense really need a "number one" receiver for McNabb to be successful?

Caplan: There was never any consideration to McNabb's time nearing an end this season as far as with the person who makes the personnel decisions--Andy Reid.

Some inside the front office may want second-year QB Kevin Kolb to be the starter but that won't happen this season unless McNabb gets hurt.

McNabb, despite the injuries, has done fairly well the past three seasons. But I think the practice time he's missed during OTAs and in games has caught up with him a bit. The less you practice the less sharp you tend to be.

As far as having a No. 1 receiver, Reid believes if the players execute the play like its drawn up, it will work. It's up to the players to do their job.

But lets get serious here, why did they go after Randy Moss? He would have been an Eagle if Moss was looking for more money than the Patriots were offering. He just didn't want to leave New England because he thinks he can win his first ring with them.

I do think Kevin Curtis will be fine as their top receiver. The tight end has been the missing piece for their passing game.

Q: Reggie Brown enters his fourth year in the league in 2008, and although he has shown flashes of big play ability, he has yet to take the next step to becoming a go-to-guy. Do you think he still has potential for a break out season, or are people setting their expectations of him a little too high? In what areas do you think he needs to improve to take his game to new heights?>

Caplan: I don't think he's a receiver that will catch more than 50 passes or so because Reid doesn't want one receiver dominating the football--he wants the spread around. But Brown has shown he's good at running after the catch. He had concentration problems last season and consistency is an issue. A team source told us Brown is having a really good off-season and feels he'll bounce back in a major way this season--time will tell.

Q: Former 2006 second-round draft-pick Winston Justice saw some reps at guard during the team's recent mini-camp, and after his abysmal performance against the Giants last season where he let up six sacks at left tackle, the move inside might become more permanent in the future. Do you think Justice would be better suited as a guard on the offensive line?

Caplan: It's my understanding the reason why he was at guard was because starting RG Shawn Andrews and backup G Scott Young were not at their final minicamp.

I'm told they will move Justice to RT this season since he struggled at LT last year.

Q: Another issue for the Eagles' offensive line is the age of their starting tackles, William Thomas and Jon Runyan. Since both are entering the final years of their contracts, the team needs to think about the future and the possibility of either (or both) of them not returning. Do you think the team will try to replace Thomas and Runyan by moving players like Shawn Andrews or Todd Herremans to the tackle spots? Do you see rookies like Mike McGlynn and Mike Gibson being a big part of the team's offensive line in the near future?

Caplan: Andrews, I'm told, will likely move to LT if Thomas isn't re-signed next year. Max Jean-Gilles would probably then take over for Andrews at RG in that scenario next season.

As for RT, they could move Herremans and Justice over there. McGlynn played both guard spots and center in college so he's capable of playing either guard spot if needed. Gibson seems like more of a practice squad candidate this season unless Young doesn't make the team.

Q: What is your take on the Lito Sheppard situation? The two-time Pro Bowler did not show up for the team's voluntary mini-camp, but he has not threatened to hold out during training camp and actually practiced with the team for their first organized meetings. Do you think he will be in an Eagles uniform at the start of the season? Do you think three starting-caliber corners will be able to coexist if he does stay in town?

Caplan: Barring something unforeseen, Sheppard will be on the roster this season. His presence makes their secondary and defense much better.

Sheppard will put up with being underpaid (in his eyes) for one more season. I would be shocked if the Eagles didn't move him prior to the 2009 draft. But as I pointed out during the NFL owners meetings, and probably the first to do so, Sheppard wants his contract ripped up despite having four years left.

Q: The Eagles got solid value in their 2008 draft, selecting players like DeSean Jackson and Trevor Laws in the second round, after both were ranked as high as late first round picks. Which rookie from this year's draft class do you think will have to biggest impact this season? Is there a player from the Eagles 2007 draft class that you anticipate having a big season?

Caplan: Jackson probably has the best chance to make an impact of all the rookies in the return game. As you know, the return game was atrocious for the team last season and they had to get an upgrade in that area. Jackson will be used as a change of pace receiver but don't look for him to be on the field a lot. He needs to refine some parts of his game.

Laws has a decent chance to win the No. 3 tackle job which means he could see 20-30 snaps/game. He's a high energy player that fits the mold of a Jim Johnson player--small but fast.

Caplan thinks linebacker Stewart Bradley could be an impact player for Philadelphia this season.
Photo Credit: AP/George Widman

Laws didn't have a first-round grade from any teams that I know of (Jackson did have a first-round grade from the Eagles from what I understand) but he's a player who could start down the line.

The one rookie form 2007 who should have the biggest impact is Stewart Bradley, who is slated to start at MLB.

Bradley is big, physical, and smart and he runs well for a player of his size. Some within the front office believe he'll be a future pro bowler.

Q: Which preseason position battle in Philadelphia intrigues you the most and who do you think will come out on top?

Caplan: There aren't actually many battles that will be going on as most starting jobs are set.

I'm very interested to see how they rotate the top-three cornerbacks and how they work the defensive end and tackle rotations.

I'm also interested to see how they use the backs because of the strong depth they have at the position.

To read more of Caplan's NFL insight, click HERE

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