Three Eagles questions

Eagles middle linebacker Stewart Bradley has been cleared to practice again. (Clem Murray / Staff Photographer)

The Eagles begin a mandatory weekend minicamp on Friday morning.

And so begins the process of answering the questions this team faces as it prepares for its first season of the post-Donovan McNabb era.

If you're wondering about the rest of the offseason schedule, the Birds have OTAs with rookies and selected vets on May 19-20 and then again on May 24-27.

Two more OTA periods for all players on June 1-4 and then again on June 7-10. And no word yet on the start of training camp.

As we wait, predict and project, here are three questions that we will begin to get answers to on Friday:

Who is healthy?

Ok, that's a general one, but let's get more specific. In my estimation there are two players whose health will go a long way in determining just how concerning this team's holes are.

The first and most obvious is Stewart Bradley. The Eagles' middle linebacker told the team's Web site yesterday that he's been cleared to practice and is "coming along great." The defense has a lot riding on Bradley's knee. Following the departure of Brian Dawkins last offseason, Bradley seemed like an obvious choice to lead the defense, but that ended when his season ended during training camp.

We've written at length about the revolving door at middle linebacker last season. If Bradley is healthy and playing at a high level, it should go a long way in filling in the gaps of this defense.

The other guy to keep an eye on is Stacy Andrews. It's unclear whether Andrews' disastrous first season in Philadelphia was due to his recovery from a knee injury, or if he had problems with the Eagles' scheme and technique. Maybe it was a combination of both. Now is his time to start proving the Birds can rely on him at right guard.

Sidenote: It was May 1, 2009 when the Eagles revealed that Shawn Andrews would get a shot at right tackle.

Where will everyone play?

The Eagles have quite a few players whose exact position is unknown. In the secondary, there's Macho Harris, Marlin Jackson, and Nate Allen. Safeties or corners? My guess, based on the players and Andy Reid's comments over the last week, would be that they'd like Allen to solidify the safety position. But we'll have to see which direction they decide to go.

Keep an eye on what roles the team envisions for guys like first-round pick Brandon Graham and fifth-rounder Ricky Sapp as well.

There will be a lot of competition, starting Friday and going all the way through the end of August when the team trims down its roster.

What impact will the new coaches have?

This one's easy to overlook, but the Eagles made some pretty significant changes to the coaching staff this offseason. Start on special teams where Bobby April takes over for Ted Daisher. April arrives with a stellar reputation, and it should be interesting to see his unusual teaching techniques, like using brooms to simulate players during drills.

The other change is with the secondary, where former head coach Dick Jauron takes over a unit that suffered from communication problems last season and underperformed. Jauron has his work cut out for him. Asante Samuel has the one corner position locked down, and you can pencil Quintin Mikell in at one of the safety positions, but beyond that, may the best men win. Don't expect the Eagles to rely less on the blitz just because they added some pass rushers in the offseason. Sean McDermott will still be sending extra guys often. They need to do a better job of getting to the quarterback when they blitz, and the secondary needs to do a better job in coverage.

Sidenote: Yesterday I did a draft wrapup video. Be sure to stand at least three feet away from your monitor, though. I'm up close and personal here.

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