Here are some notes and exclusive photos from Tuesday morning's practice.
Fans who came out to see if Donovan McNabb is healthy and ready to lead the team were disappointed when they arrived at Lehigh. In fact, many familiar faces were missing from the morning practice today because they are members of Andy Reid's "30-plus Club". The club was designed to give some of the more veteran players on the team a break during the Eagles' intense training camp by giving them the morning session off after two straight days of practice.
Many younger players got extra reps at practice as veterans had the morning off.
Wide Receivers Battling
Even without the starting quarterback delivering the passes, some of the Eagles' wide receivers made some plays during the day that got them noticed.
Third year man Jason Avant stood out the most during the day, making one tough catch after another and showing some of the qualities that influenced the team to select him in the fourth-round of the 2006 draft. At 6-foot, 212-pounds, Avant has a size advantage on many defensive backs in the league, and he showed a knack for grabbing the ball at its highest point during some 7-on-7 drills. He even showed his versatility by serving as the holder on field goal kicks later in the day.
WR Hank Baskett
Hank Baskett will also challenge Brown for more playing time. He is a prototypical red zone target at 6-foot-4, 220-pounds, and his athleticism and leaping ability make him even more of a threat. After a productive rookie year where he had 22 catches, averaged 21.1 yards per reception, and started five games, Baskett had a quiet 2007 and managed only 142 yards on 16 receptions. If he can get more involved in the offense, he could be the playmaker McNabb is looking for in the receiving corps.
Linebackers Looking Good
One group that was all present at practice was the Eagles starting linebackers. Stewart Bradley, Omar Gaither, and Chris Gocong are all still a long way from Reid's "30-plus" club, and and they offered fans a glimpse of what the middle of the Eagles defense will look like for years. Bradley looks like he will be a good fit at middle linebacker for the Eagles because of his imposing size, and Gaither could have a breakout season as he moves back to his natural position on the weakside, where he can take full advantage of more playmaking opportunities.
Even though he lost his starting job to Quintin Mikell last season, Sean Considine was on the field with the first team defense in practice, taking Dawkins' spot at free safety. This move is something the Eagles might consider for the near future because Dawkins is in the last year of his latest contract extension and might not be with the team next season.
Plays of the Day
Lorenzo Booker had a quiet day until near the end of practice, when he showed another reason for fans to get excited about his presence in the offense. Kevin Kolb threw a beautiful deep ball to Booker in a 7-on-7 that floated over the defender and landed in the running backs outstretched hands as he broke free up the middle of the field.
Greg Lewis also showed why the team has kept him around as the fifth receiver for so many years. In the same drill, Lewis made a spectacular leaping grab in double coverage that went for over 40-yards.
Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews could report to practice in the near future after revealing that he is dealing with depression and is seeking treatment. He has not attended training camp yet this year and the cause of his absence was unknown until recently... Lito Sheppard and Asante Samuel were on the sidelines together for most of practice and did not participate...Kolb looked impressive running with the first team, showing good velocity on his throws and being decisive...The Eagles will kick off their preseason schedule this Friday at 7:30 pm in Pittsburgh.
Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org