Here are three thoughts on the Eagles:
REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR VICK
It comes as no surprise that Michael Vick has been in the headlines - both locally and nationally - this week, with full-team OTAs under way at the Novacare Complex. Since he became the starting quarterback during the 2010 season, one question has been asked repeatedly with Vick: Can he stay healthy?
But from where I sit, perhaps the more important question is: How can you win with Vick?
The point is this: If in Week 2, the Eagles are down by a touchdown in the third quarter, and Vick is faced with deciding between getting around Ray Lewis or sliding, what do you think he's going to do? Anybody who's watched him over the years knows the answer. He's going to try to make a play.
It's part of why he's so well-liked by teammates and so respected by peers. Vick believes he can escape any sack and turn any play into a 20-yard gain. Sometimes, he's right. And other times, he's wrong. But I don't think that part of Vick's game is going to change at this point in his career.
Since becoming the Eagles' starter, Vick has missed six of 31 starts (or about 19.4 percent) because of injuries. Over the course of a 16-game season, that's about 3.1 games.
What do those numbers mean for 2012? It seems likely that Mike Kafka or Trent Edwards will be asked to make a few starts. One guy has attempted 16 career passes. The other failed to land one of the nearly 100 quarterback jobs available in the league last year. Maybe Kafka or Edwards will surprise. But as far as I can tell, backup quarterback is the biggest question mark on this team right now.
Getting back to Vick for a second, it's important to be realistic and focus on what actually might change in 2012. Will he run less? I doubt it. In 2011, Vick escaped a league-high 17 sacks, according to Football Outsiders. When he crossed the line of scrimmage on improvised runs (plays that originally called for a pass), he averaged 10.2 yards per carry.
Instead of worrying about Vick running less, perhaps he should focus on protecting the ball when he runs. Vick fumbled 10 times in 2011, and it wasn't a new problem. He fumbled 11 times in 2010 (although he only lost three). Take a look at Aaron Rodgers' numbers. He had just 16 fewer rushing attempts than Vick, but only fumbled four times. The 20-yard runs when the cornerbacks have their backs to the line of scrimmage can demoralize a defense. But the fumbles that end long drives and eliminate scoring chances can demoralize an offense.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT GRAHAM
We forget now, but Brandon Graham was not a bust in his rookie season. He had 13 QB hurries (second-most on the team to only Trent Cole) to go along with three sacks and two forced fumbles. In training camp that year, Graham was one of the team's most impressive players, but he had some issues against the run once the games started and was used more as a rotational player, after beginning the season as a starter.
Before then, as a senior at Michigan, he had 9.5 sacks and led the nation with 25 tackles for loss.
Yesterday, the Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari caught up with Graham, who is well aware of the "bust" label he currently carries with some. But to be fair, he's not there yet.
The Rams selected defensive end Chris Long with the second pick in the 2008 draft. He had four sacks as a rookie. In the last two seasons, he's totaled 21.5.
Even the player Graham is most often linked to, Jason Pierre-Paul, had just 4.5 sacks in his rookie season before exploding for 16.5 last season.
Graham has the entire offseason to work with one of the best defensive line coaches in the league in Jim Washburn. If he's healthy, it's reasonable to expect him to be a good part of this defensive line rotation in 2012. If that doesn't happen, we can revisit the bust label after the season.
THE VETERAN/ROOKIE RELATIONSHIP
Back when the Eagles selected LeSean McCoy in the 2009 draft, there was no doubt the franchise had pegged him to eventually take Brian Westbrook's job.
Which is why I was so surprised that summer to see how much Westbrook helped and guided McCoy at training camp. When he signed a new contract last week, McCoy talked about how important his relationship with Westbrook still is today. Even yesterday, he talked about how Westbrook told him to always watch film and figure out how he can improve, even if he had an outstanding game.
But not all veteran/rookie relationships are like Westbrook and McCoy's. It's one of the most interesting aspects of the offseason practices, actually. As part of a team, players want to help one another. But veterans also want to keep their jobs. Paul Domowitch of the Daily News caught up with nickel corner Joselio Hanson yesterday, and Hanson seems to have no interest in teaching rookie Brandon Boykin the finer points of playing the slot.
In many ways, Hanson's stance is completely understandable. He was undrafted out of Texas Tech, and just last year, the Eagles cut him after adding Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
In a perfect world, Hanson would help Boykin out and let the chips fall where they may. But things don't always work out that way.
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