The Eagles’ OTAs are over and the countdown to the start of training camp is on (45 days and counting). During my weekly chats, I’m often asked to give my impressions of the team and of certain players, but it’s difficult to really offer a detailed answer when I’m typing as if the hair on my arms has been set aflame.
So after watching all 17 practices of the spring, here are some post-OTA observations and some predictions for who ends up making the 53-man roster. Sure, it's way too early to project that far ahead, but isn't that what blogs are for? (I’ll have the offense today and the defense on Monday.)
Quarterback: Kevin Kolb had, by most estimates, a successful spring. He did pretty much everything he had to do. He made the delicate transition from backup to starter with his authoritative presence during practice. He made all the throws and all the reads he needed to make. And when he may have had an off day here or there he came back 24 hours later and was sharp.
He even made a slight adjustment. After watching him in the first minicamp and early in rookie camp, I noticed that Kolb could be demonstrative after he made a bad throw. He looked to be pressing a little bit. However, by the end of OTAs, Kolb seemed very much in control of his emotions.
Overall, he took a solid – albeit a very small – first step. Training camp and the preseason are next.
Michael Vick, meanwhile, was a mixed bag. There were times he would amaze with a tightly thrown 50-yard bull's-eye and there were times when he would woefully misfire on a quick, 5-yard out. If Kolb were to ever get hurt, there is no way Vick could run the same offense because he is nowhere near as accurate. I envision an offense similar to the one Donovan McNabb ran in his first two seasons as the Eagles starter.
Mike Kafka, obviously, still has a lot to learn. He’s a quick thinker and is effective with all the short, timing throws. But his arm strength just isn’t there yet. He’ll have a season as the third QB to watch and observe.
Makes the cut (3): Kolb, Vick and Kafka. Cut: None.
Running back: As Andy Reid likes to remind us, spring workouts are pretty much passing camps. So the running backs don’t get much work carrying the ball during 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 drills. With Brian Westbrook gone, LeSean McCoy moves to the forefront. He did a nice job of getting into the gym in the off-season and looks as if he might have cut down on the fast food. A late ankle injury curtailed his repetitions, but there is no threat to his first team standing.
Mike Bell has the second spot pretty much sewn up. The most important thing he needed to do during the spring was show that he could secure the ball when thrown to. He did. Weaver keeps plugging along. Rookie Charles Scott looks nimble enough for 238 pounds. He should be beat out Eldra Buckley for that last spot even though Buckley brings it on special teams. Martell Mallett, the former CFL star, looks destined to the practice squad.
Makes the cut (4): McCoy, Bell, Weaver and Scott. Cut: Buckley, Mallett and Dwayne Wright.
Wide receiver: I can’t say for sure why DeSean Jackson didn’t attend the last week of OTAs, but it seems like a move straight out of the Drew Rosenhaus playbook. Jeremy Maclin had a great camp. He’s a very determined camper. Don’t be surprised if he pulls down more receptions that Jackson this season. Jason Avant is a pro. I have the last two spots going to the big guys – 6-4 Hank Baskett and 6-3 Riley Cooper. “Hands” Baskett will make the gameday roster because of his special teams contributions. Cooper will have to settle for hanging on the sidelines. Dobson Collins, Jordan Norwood and Chad Hall could make an NFL roster elsewhere. They’ll have to settle for the practice squad here unless someone comes calling.
Makes the cut (5): Jackson, Maclin, Avant, Baskett and Riley Cooper. Cut: Collins, Norwood, Hall, Kevin Jurovich and Blue Cooper.
Tight end: Brent Celek has cemented himself as the leader on offense, aside, of course, from Kolb. The quarterback-tight end duo was in sync all spring and had some predicting a 100-reception season for the fourth-year pro. That’ll be difficult with so many receiving options, but Celek is guaranteed at least 75 catches. Cornelius Ingram proved that he could run on his twice ACL-torn knee. Now he has to show he can catch like he used to. He had a case of butterfingers the last couple weeks of practice. Clay Harbor is a worker. He’s got good hands and could take Ingram’s backup spot if he proves to be a better blocker.
Makes the cut (3): Celek, Ingram and Harbor. Cut: Martin Rucker.
Offensive line: I wish I could say I learned a lot about the rookie offensive linemen, but there isn’t much in the way of information during the spring. They run through o-line coach Juan Castillo’s assortment of drills, take in his vociferous instruction and stand idly through much of team drills. The most disconcerting thing to come from this unit was a recurrence of guard Todd Herremans’ left foot woes. With center Jamaal Jackson unlikely to be back by the opener and with Stacy Andrews still one giant, multi-million dollar question mark, Herremans’ injury is a cause for concern.
Max Jean-Gilles filled in for Herremans at left guard, and he looks significantly thinner after his lap band surgery, but he’s still a below average pass blocker. Nick Cole is the stopgap at center, but the Eagles would have really liked to have seen Mike McGlynn claim that spot. I don’t see much to indicate that will be the case. King Dunlap bulked up, but he’s still awkward and makes for a scary proposition as the third tackle. But who else do the Eagles have there? Maybe Fenuki Tupou, but he’s at guard right now. Maybe it’s one of the undrafted rookies, Jerail McCuller or Austin Howard. Who knows at this point?
Makes the cut (9): Jason Peters, Herremans, Jackson, Andrews, Winson Justice, Cole, Tupou, Dunlap, McGlynn. Cut: Jean-Gilles, Dallas Reynolds, A.Q. Shipley, Zipp Duncan, Howard, McCuller and Greg Isdaner.