10 thoughts on the Eagles
Here are 10 thoughts - one on each positional grouping - as the Eagles inch closer to their Week 1 matchup with the Packers two weeks from Sunday.
10 thoughts on the Eagles
The Eagles' starters will see their most action of the preseason Friday night against the Chiefs.
Here are other dates of note between now and Week 1:
* Rosters have to be cut to 75 players by Tuesday.
* The preseason finale is a week from today against the Jets.
* Rosters have to be trimmed down to 53 by Saturday, Sept. 4.
* Two weeks from today, the NFL regular season opens.
* Two weeks from Sunday, the Eagles host the Packers at the Linc.
Keeping all that in mind, here are 10 thoughts on the Eagles - one for each positional group, plus special teams.
Quarterback - I think Kevin Kolb has performed pretty much how I expected him to perform through the first two preseason games. If you're concerned about red zone performance, it should be based on the Eagles' performance the past few seasons, not on how they've looked in the preseason. The offense they're showing is too vanilla for that to be a fair assessment. As for Michael Vick, it's clear the Eagles are going to mix him in with the first team. How will inserting him into the game affect Kolb's rhythm and performance? That's definitely something to keep an eye on, especially early in the season. If Kolb goes down to injury and Vick has to play, the offense will change dramatically.
Running back - I asked Mike Bell yesterday how frustrating the past few weeks have been for him. He said he's not frustrated, but anxious. Whatever you want to call it, this has been a tough stretch for Bell. He's 27 and looking to get a fresh start on a new team. But he's had no chance to show what he can do, through no fault of his own. If healthy, I think Bell can help the Eagles. If he's injured, depth at RB is a concern.
Wide receiver - I flip-flop on my receiver picks for the roster pretty much every day. I was convinced that the Eagles would keep six, but now I wonder if they keep only five. And I think Hank Baskett makes it. Chad Hall and Kelley Washington both have a shot to be the sixth. But I'm not sure either is going to make the cut.
Tight end - A follower on Twitter named @eaglesdiehard asked if Austin Howard could be the Eagles' blocking tight end. Howard is penciled in as the Eagles' backup left tackle, but he started his college career at Northern Iowa as a tight end. I don't think it's going to happen, but I've heard crazier ideas. Howard looks like he'll be the team's extra lineman in goal-line packages. As for the other tight ends on the Eagles' roster, Ingram's already slim chances of making the cut became slimmer when Andy Reid announced yesterday that he'll have an MRI. Clay Harbor will make the roster, but his role is unclear, and he's still very much a work-in-progress. And, of course, there's Brent Celek, who's on track for a big season, despite a quiet camp and preseason.
Offensive line - The center position remains a mystery with Nick Cole sidelined, Jamaal Jackson progressing and Mike McGlynn getting the first-team snaps. So much could happen here between now and the start of the regular season. It doesn't seem like the Eagles are thrilled with where Stacy Andrews is at this point. The truth is, even though they're banged-up, the Eagles have options. They could rotate Max Jean-Gilles in like they did in the early part of last season. Or if McGlynn/Jackson starts at center, Cole could be an option. I think the Eagles still want Andrews to win the job, but if he's a liability, they'll have to make a move.
Defensive line - I've detailed previously how difficult it is for a rookie to have an instant impact at defensive end, but expectations are high for Brandon Graham. He's progressed quicker than anyone probably imagined. I'm looking forward to seeing how much he plays inside against the Chiefs. That will help determine roles for guys like Juqua Parker, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim and Trevor Laws.
Linebacker - The Eagles played six different linebackers in their playoff loss to the Cowboys last season. When the Birds take the field against the Packers, I don't anticipate more than three LBs to see playing time. Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims and Akeem Jordan in the base. Bradley and Sims in the nickel. That continuity is going to help. I think Omar Gaither will make this team. He's a guy they can trust for depth. That means rookie JaMar Chaney is probably sitting squarely on the bubble.
Cornerback - I have to admit I'm more comfortable with this position than I was a few weeks ago. I still need to see how Ellis Hobbs performs in games though. There wasn't as much competition here as I expected the past few weeks. We should get a look at Macho Harris at CB for the first time in a game on Friday. I'm not sure what his role is, but it seems like Harris has too much value to leave off the roster.
Safety - I wonder what would happen if the Eagles had to make a roster decision between Quintin Demps and Harris. They could keep both, but maybe they decide they don't need to. Demps' ability as a return man has to be factored in. Harris has not been practicing at safety, but that's where he played last season. Expect a bounce-back year from Quintin Mikell. I'm looking forward to seeing how Nate Allen performs when the games start to count. By all accounts, he looks ready.
Special teams - I'm not overly concerned with the kickoff coverage problems in the preseason. Bobby April said yesterday that the only true way to evaluate players on special teams is in game action because it's the only time they go full speed. That makes sense to me. April and the coaches are giving players chances to prove their worth before finalizing the roster. I think special teams will be a strength this season. Now, if the Eagles give up a kickoff return for a TD in Week 1, feel free to copy and paste this paragraph and e-mail it to me.
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