Chris Steuber: I think the main reason why the Eagles have handled this situation the way they have is because of the quirky behavior Shawn Andrews has demonstrated over the last couple of seasons. The Eagles have every right to fine a player for not showing up to camp, especially if that player hasn't been forthright about the reason for his absence. There have been multiple cases of players who suffer from mental illness, but in those instances the behavior wasn't as erratic as Andrews'. Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if Andrews didn't play this season, and if he doesn't, the Eagles have to be concerned about his future in the NFL.
Q: Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson was excited about the potential of his young linebacking corps since the end of last year, and Omar Gaither, Stewart Bradley, and Chris Gocong have been impressive so far in training camp. What are your expectations for this group during the regular season? Do you think any of them could earn a trip to the Pro Bowl this year?
Steuber: The wide receiver and linebacker position have been a major crutch for Eagles fans over the years. But this year is a little different at the linebacker position, because with Gaither, Bradley and Gocong, the Eagles finally have a young nucleus that the fans can get excited about. They're young, fast, strong and instinctive. They all have unique qualities and offer different elements to the game, and with that, they will have a successful season. I won't rule out the possibility of one of them earning a trip to Hawaii, but I think it's crucial for the three of them to grow together and become an imposing group.
Q: Lito Sheppard and Brian Westbrook are both looking for new contracts, and both have voiced their frustrations to the public on more than one occasion. Neither player has reached the point of holding out, but the Eagles have very little room under the cap to compensate them and it is hard to see how either situation will play out. Do you think either player will get the kind of money he wants from the Eagles? Do you think Westbrook and Sheppard's requests are justified? Is there still a possibility that the team will look to trade Sheppard?
Steuber: I don't see Lito Sheppard getting any more money from the Eagles this season. The Eagles want Sheppard to play this year, and if he plays a full season, they will reward him with money. But I could also see the Eagles trading Sheppard before the season begins, if they receive an offer they can't refuse. Brian Westbrook is a different story. I think the Eagles know that without Westbrook they're just ordinary on offense. But ordinary is one thing and ridiculous is another, and what Westbrook wants is ridiculous. Westbrook is one of the top playmakers in the NFL and is probably the closest thing to LaDainian Tomlinson in the NFC, but Westbrook is rumored to be asking for upwards of $25 million in an extension of his contract. The Eagles will never go for that, and under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, they can't go that high for Westbrook. The only way this potential holdout situation will be resolved is if Westbrook lowers his demands and meets the Eagles halfway.
Q: One Eagle who has really opened some eyes in training camp so far is Lorenzo Booker. Do you think Booker will be a good fit in the Eagles' offense? What kind of impact do you expect him to have in the regular season?
Steuber: I don't know if Lorenzo Booker has opened the eyes of the Eagles coaching staff, but to Eagles fans and local media I'm sure he has. A lot of people forget that in 2002 Booker was the top high school recruit in the country. Even though he didn't have the collegiate career many expected, and a lot of that had to do with the system Florida State ran, Booker is still a very talented player and will be a better pro player than college player.
Booker fits perfectly in the Eagles offense. He does a lot of the same things that Westbrook does: he jets through the line with only a crease available, he has outstanding hands and field vision and is a playmaker in the open field. The Eagles start Westbrook and he will get a majority of the carries, but Booker will be in the game at the same time as Westbrook in certain situations, and when that happens, defenses won't know what to do.
Q: With the Washington Redskins trading for Jason Taylor and Jeremy Shockey's departure from the New York Giants, the NFC East has been shaken up a bit in recent weeks. How do you think these moves will play out for each team? Where would you rank the Eagles in their division?
Steuber: The Redskins addition of Jason Taylor should scare the teams in the NFC East. Taylor may be 34 years old, but he's still one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. The Redskins severely lacked and were in desperate need of a dominant pass rusher over the last few seasons, and with Taylor's presence on the defensive line, that will only make Andre Carter more difficult to keep in check.
I don't think the Giants will miss Jeremy Shockey too much. I think he was more of a distraction than a benefit on the field. The rationale for the trade was that the Giants won the Super Bowl despite Shockey not being in the lineup due to injury. The Giants feel that last year's fifth round pick Kevin Boss filled in nicely and is about to emerge as a quality tight end.
The one team the Eagles have to be worried about is the Dallas Cowboys. The moves that the Cowboys made this offseason – in free agency and in the draft – have Dallas projected to be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl. With that said, I too believe that the Cowboys are the top team in the NFC East, followed by the Giants, Eagles and Redskins.
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Andrew Pluta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org