With the start of training camp just days away it's time to empty the notebook. I wrote some 2,000 words on ten pieces so I'm breaking the notes into two entries -- one today and another tomorrow.
1. When the Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans one of my first questions to Andy Reid was whether the ex-Houston linebacker would play all three downs. Reid, put on the spot, answered as you would expect him to: He said Ryans was a three-down linebacker. In a sit-down with the Eagles coach last month, I asked him the same question. “Do I think he’s a three-down linebacker? Yes,” Reid said. “Do I think other guys can come in? I think one of Casey [Matthews’] strengths is his pass game and how he handles that. You can take each guy and individually pick them out.” In a perfect world you would prefer that your middle linebacker -- your field general – played all three downs. In recent seasons, the Eagles seemed to force Stewart Bradley and Jamar Chaney into playing all three downs and both struggled in pass protection. Just because the Eagles made a significant investment in salary and in giving up a fourth round pick to get Ryans, and just because he has been labeled a savior of sorts, I’m not sure if Reid – based on the above comment – feels obligated to play the former Pro Bowl linebacker for all three downs. Matthews did look solid in pass protection late last season. Right now he is Ryans’ backup. The Eagles throwing him out there with Mychal Kendricks on passing downs does seem plausible. But it would drastically cut into Ryans’ playing time and dilute the importance of bringing the 28-year old in. I imagine the Eagles will open the season by playing Ryans on all three downs, but don’t be surprised to see some shuffling at a position that has increasingly become devalued in the NFL.
2. The Eagles aren’t sure yet if Mike Patterson will be ready for the start of training camp. Veterans have to report by Wednesday. Patterson, who had brain surgery in January to correct an anteriovenous malformation, will undergo a physical that day – as all players do – and then a decision will be made about his return. There doesn’t seem to be any major cause for concern, although Reid went from saying in May that Patterson would be ready by camp to modifying in June that he may not be. Patterson’s agent, J.R. Rickert, told me on Monday that all signs pointed to his client still being ready by the season opener. Still, we’re talking about brain surgery here. The Eagles will likely proceed with caution. Patterson, who is entering his eighth season in the NFL, can afford to miss a few weeks of camp. The Eagles are also fairly stocked at defensive tackle with veterans Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Antonio Dixon and newbies like Fletcher Cox and Cedric Thornton. Patterson is still listed as a starter and still slated to play most run downs. He showed last season that he could function as a credible pass rusher in Jim Washburn’s system. But his forte is clogging lanes even if they’re a little wider than usual.
3. As far as summer indiscretions go, Dion Lewis’ arrest for pulling a hotel fire alarm failed to really register. From what I’ve been told, the Eagles aren't going to make a huge deal out of it. Reid will likely chastise the second-year running back, but Lewis should remain No. 2 on the depth chart when full squad practices start Thursday. What other choice do the Eagles have? Rookies Bryce Brown and Chris Polk are interesting prospects, but to expect either to push Lewis before the season is probably asking too much. Brown has never been asked to block, a must-have skill-set in Reid’s offense. Polk did block in college, but he didn’t look to have the burst Brown did during spring practices. Lewis has a year under his belt and was actually not bad at picking up the blitz the few times last season that he was asked to do so.