What do you think of their new quarterback, Kevin Kolb?
I'm very impressed with him, though I don't like the way he ended the preseason (11-of-25 for 103 yards and one interception at Kansas City). I think overall he's on the right path. I'm more concerned with their offensive line. They've got two changes. They've got a new right guard, with Nick Cole, who's really been a backup. At center, it's not really a change, but Jamaal Jackson is back. He hasn't played really since last year, when he tore his ACL in late December. It's remarkable that he's back. We'll see how he does. This is a tough time to do this because when you go up against a 3-4 defense, it's real tough when your starting center is coming back from an ACL injury and maybe not in synch with the quarterback as far as all the line calls against the blitzing.
It seems to me that the Eagles have a big advantage with their returners on special teams.
Their returns should be very good with Ellis Hobbs on kickoffs and DeSean Jackson on punts. Hobbs is coming back from surgery in December to fix a herniated disc in his neck but he feels good. He had one touchdown on kickoff returns each in 2006, 2007 and 2008. They cut kickoff returner Quintin Demps, surprisingly, after he averaged 26.0 yards per kickoff return in the preseason and 25.2 yards in 2008, so we'll have to see if they have anyone else they'd take a look at on kickoffs. Right now, it's going to be Hobbs or possibly Jorrick Colvin, who they got in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals last week. I think their returns are going to be good. Their coverage was not great in the preseason, with opponents averaging 30.9 yards per kickoff return, which was a disappointment to them.
The Packers have issues in the secondary. Can you talk about the Eagles' receivers beyond DeSean Jackson?
Jeremy Maclin's on the other side of Jackson, so they're really solid there. He caught 56 passes last year as a rookie. Jason Avant is one of the best third wide receivers in the NFL. He had 41 receptions last season and caught an impressive 68.3 percent of the passes thrown his way. They've got Hank Baskett and Riley Cooper rounding out the four/five roles. Cooper had a great training camp as a fifth-round pick. They're not going to use a lot of four-wide receiver sets. It'll be mostly three wides. Their base set is a two-receiver set. They've got a new running back with LeSean McCoy, with Brian Westbrook released earlier this year. Mike Bell's going to be his backup in their two-back set. Leonard Weaver is a very athletic fullback and will definitely be in the mix.
Graham, there was some thought that some 3-4 teams would like him. When you look at Graham, his Senior Bowl was unbelievable, his Combine workout was good, his OTAs were good, training camp very good, preseason very good. They think he's special. They think he'll be their starting left end and he'll play inside in nickel. They think he's ready. What they're going to have, which they didn't have last year, is a really strong four-man rotation. Trent Cole leads the way with 12.5 sacks last year and 42 over his last four years. I think the issue right now is at linebacker. They got Stewart Bradley back, their outstanding middle linebacker, but the strong side position has really been a revolving door. Right now, it's Akeem Jordan, but that might not be set for the entire season. At weakside linebacker, they got Ernie Sims from Detroit. This guy's been a little bit undisciplined in the past but he's very athletic and is more physical than you think. The secondary, I think they're improved. You mentioned Allen at safety. Getting Ellis Hobbs healthy at right cornerback is very important. He had a great preseason.
It seems like they're rebuilding on the fly after getting rid of longtime stalwarts Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook.
They made this decision a long time ago when they drafted Kolb with their first pick in the '07 draft. Two weeks after they traded McNabb, they signed Kolb to a one-year extension, which was a smart move. McCoy's a back that they like and he'll be in a two-man rotation. Westbrook at 31 is at the end of his career and is a third-down back.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.