Last week marked the first time that the Philadelphia Eagles practiced as a
team since the playoffs in late January.
Here's a look at some quick impressions from what we saw from both sides of the ball.
OFFENSIVE LINE DEPTH VERY APPARENT: Much like last season,
Philadelphia had pretty solid depth along their offensive line. Even with
projected starters (LG) Todd Herremans and Stacy Andrews and key backup G Max Jean-Gilles out of this minicamp due to the rehab from their various surgeries,
there's still a lot of depth to be found.
Returning to full-time practice was OT King Dunlap, who looks to be competing for the backup left tackle job. Dunlap had a strong training camp last year before suffering a season-ending injury late last August. Starting RG Shawn Andrews was moved to RT and that move looks to have a good chance of being permanent going forward. Second-year Gs Mike McGlynn and Mike Gibson will compete for backup jobs. Fourth-year OL Winston Justice looks to compete for the backup RT job. The versatile Nick Cole ran with the starters at RG. Once Stacy Andrews proves that he's ready to go, Cole might be given a chance to win the starting center job in training camp. 2009 draft selections Paul Fanaika and Fenuki Tupou will be given a chance to win jobs in training camp, but both would seem to be long shots at this point. And lastly, Chris Patrick, who was signed off their practice squad late last season, can play right tackle or either of the guard spots.
Just by watching practice and looking at their roster, Philadelphia has at least eight offensive linemen who are capable of playing guard.
WESTBROOK BACK TO NORMAL?: While it may not mean much to some, it might be very significant that starting RB Brian Westbrook was moving around well during the three-day camp. One of the noticeable things that the talented back accomplished was to show that he could go at full speed--albeit for a short time. Westbrook was also walking without the noticeable limp from last season. You could hardly go through the locker room last season and not see Westbrook moving around slowly. Westbrook, who had off-season knee surgery to remove a calcium deposit from his knee, looked smooth in the limited practice time he saw in this camp. The very fact that he was out there was a good sign that he could be back to relative normalcy.
MACLIN TAKING IT ALL IN: When watching first-round pick Jeremy Maclin
move around, he appears to be what many thought. He has really good speed and
looks smooth running routes, but perhaps too smooth. Maclin looked to be going
half speed during some routes during Friday and Saturday's practices. In fact,
during Saturday's early practice, Maclin was just a hair late on a crossing
route which caused the ball to go incomplete. Maclin had to do the play over a
few more times and the passes thrown by starting QB Donovan McNabb were right on
the mark. Because Maclin didn't play in a West Coast offense in college, he's
not a precise route runner just yet. He needs to get used to the speed of the
game and he'll get more exposure to that in a rookie camp in two weeks. But you
can see why he was a first-round pick based on a few selected plays. He has
terrific run-after-the-catch burst and is almost impossible to catch if he gets
a step on a defender. He also has soft hands. He just needs to speed up his game
just a bit--typical of most rookie receivers who come out of spread offenses.
INGRAM LOOKS THE PART: When the Eagles selected Cornelius Ingram in the fifth round of this year's draft, it was expected that the athletic tight end would probably be a year away from competing for serious playing time considering he didn't play last season at the University of Florida due to an ACL injury. However, Ingram performed well during this year's NFL combine and moved well during last week's minicamp workouts. He certainly didn't looked limited at all by the injury and Ingram has more speed than projected starting TE Brent Celek. Look for the two to see more time on the field together during training camp. Ingram figures to be flexed out as the Minnesota Vikings use athletic TE Visanthe Shiancoe. Celek looks to carry over his fine play during the playoffs (19 receptions, 151 yards, three TDs). But for both players to become big factors, they must prove they can block.
WEAVER COULD HAVE A BIG ROLE: Just by looking at the personnel out on the field, it remains clear that this team lacks a true short-yardage back. New starting FB Leonard Weaver has moves well for a player of his size and during former NFL RB Shaun Alexander's final two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Weaver took some short-yardage carries away from him. Also keep in mind that Weaver has relatively good hands for a fullback and he had a career-high 39 receptions in 2007, so he could have a bigger role than first expected.
VERSATILITY AND DEPTH ON DEFENSIVE LINE: Just as we saw last season,
the defensive line has a lot of moving parts. DEs Darren Howard and Victor Abiamiri will also see time at DT. The coaches are expecting big things from
Abiamri, who will compete against incumbent starter Juqua Parker for the LDE
job. Dan Klecko, who played FB last season, has been moved to DT. Philadelphia
carried six defensive ends on their roster last season and it appears they will
do so once again in 2009. It will be interesting to see if 2008 third-round pick
Bryan Smith gets a chance to play--he was inactive all 16 regular season games
and through the playoffs. The team drafted him in part because of Howard's shaky
status coming out of the 2007 season. However, Howard shocked the NFL world and
posted a team-high 10 sacks in a reserve role.
SAFETY PICTURE CLEARER: When the team signed free agent S Sean Jones to a one-year, $2 million deal earlier this year, it was assumed he would get a chance to win a starting job. However, Jones backed up starting SS Quintin Mikell during this minicamp and second-year S Quintin Demps lined up with the first-team defense at FS. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson seemed to make it clear that what we saw during this camp would hold true going forward.
WILL CORNERBACK DEPTH FORCE A MOVE?: Some eyes were raised when the team acquired veteran CB Ellis Hobbs on draft weekend. Considering the first three jobs on the depth chart were taken, it seemed surprising that Philadelphia would make such a move. But it should be noted they were looking to bring in another top cornerback for depth at some point. Scout.com first reported the team had interest in bringing free agent CB Jabari Greer for a free agent visit before he signed with the New Orleans Saints.
Should first-year CB Jack Ikeguonu and rookie CB Macho Harris prove they're worth roster spots coming out of training camp, Philadelphia will probably have to move one of their veteran cornerbacks. Starter Sheldon Brown has already made it clear that he's displeased with his contract. However, even if Philadelphia wanted to deal Brown, there's not likely to be a big market for a 30-year old defensive back.