BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Sometimes when you hear that two players are competing for a starting job, the competition isn't all that intense or real.
Center Jamaal Jackson, for example, had the upperhand on Hank Fraley three years ago from the start of training camp and that never changed through the entire preseason.
That's not the case at several different positions in this Eagles camp.
With the season-ending injury to middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, the door has been opened for either Joe Mays or Omar Gaither to become the new starter at that position with the distinct possibility that Mays plays in the base defense and Gaither takes the field in passing situations.
"Right now we're just (middle linebacker) by committee," defensive coordinatar Sean McDermott said. "The job is open for both of them or anybody else that wants to show us that they can play."
Both Mays and Gaither have had impressive days since Bradley's injury Sunday night and it was interesting to note that Gaither ran with the first-team nickel defense and Mays with the second-team nickel during this morning's practice, which focused on the offense being backed up near its own end zone as well as the two-minute drill.
Mays' most impressive plays this morning came when he twice tackled LeSean McCoy to the ground by closing fast after the rookie running back caught short passes from Donovan McNabb. McCoy was stopped for a two-yard gain on the first play and no gain on the next one.
Gaither, meanwhile, blanketed wide receiver Reggie Brown, forcing a Kevin Kolb incompletion with the first-team defense matched against the second-team offense.
The other interesting competition is at safety. Even though Quintin Demps has lined up at free safety with the first-team defense and free-agent addition Sean Jones is running with the second-team defense at strong safety, it's clear that Jones wants to push Demps for a starting job. The sixth-year veteran broke up a McNabb pass intended for Kevin Curtis during the two-minute offense segment of practice, then two plays later intercepted a high-velocity McNabb pass in the end zone that brushed off the shoulder pads of Jason Avant.
"The competition is on and those players know it and that's what we want," McDermott said. "We want competition and we have great competition at that safety spot and Sean is right in the mix of it. You saw him make some plays (today) and over the years he has made plays."
DEFENSIVE PLAY OF THE DAY
Second-year cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu picked off a McNabb pass and returned it for a touchdown this morning.
Perhaps even more entertaining were the comments from his teammates afterward because Ikegwuonu showed little emotion after his pick six.
"Show me some high step or something," teammate Quintin Mikell said.
"There's no flash to him," Gaither said. "It's not his fault. He's from Wisconsin."
OFFENSIVE PLAY OF THE DAY
Undrafted rookie Brandon Robinson scored the only two offensive touchdowns of the live period on consecutive plays with the third-team offense. Both throws came from quarterback A.J. Feeley during the two-minute drill.
On the first score, Robinson, who played at Boston College, caught the ball at the 6-yard line and ran through two tackles before diving into the end zone.
On the following play, Robinson reached far to his right to make a nice catch in the right corner of the end zone.
Both offensive tackle Shawn and guard Stacy Andrews did not practice this morning. Shawn remains sidelined by a back injury. No immediate reason was given for Stacy's absence.
Offensive tackle Jason Peters (quad), defensive end Victor Abiamiri (pectoral muscle), defensive tackle Trevor Laws (hamstring), tight end Matt Schobel (calf) and running back Brian Westbrook (ankle) spent practice rehabilitating injuries with the training staff. Tight end Cornelius Ingram returned after sitting out with a swollen knee Wednesday.