Red Zone: 3 Things We Learned in July
With the Eagles set for an off-day Tuesday, training camp will enter the dog days of August on Wednesday. And even though the team has experienced just three days of live hitting, and the coaches are hewing to the "It's still early" line - which it is (not for the Phillies, but I digress) - here are still a few things we've learned about the Eagles so far.
Starting battles are few, on-field fights could be many
For a team that slogged its way to an 8-8 record last year, there are surprisingly few open competitions for starting jobs in the base offensive and defensive sets. There are none on offense, unless you count the fullback position, which even the Eagles aren't too concerned about, as Les Bowen writes.
On defense, weakside linebacker could be the only spot possibly up for grabs, but Brian Rolle is penciled in and he's looked quick and comfortable. With DeMeco Ryans at middle linebacker and rookie Mychal Kendricks on the strong side, the coaches could possibly tinker with the backup rotation, but the starters for now seem secure.
However, once again a fight broke out Monday when wide receiver DeSean Jackson and cornerback Brandon Hughes came out swinging. This follows on the heels of fights Saturday that included Derek Landri and Demetress Bell and another with Danny Watkins and Ryan Rau. Three fights in three days of hitting; should be a wild August.
The rookies show promise
The Eagles top three draft picks could all see meaningful playing time come the start of the season. Kendricks is in as starter now, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and defensive end Vinny Curry will be part of a deep and talented defensive line rotation.
With the injuries to Riley Cooper and today to Ron Johnson, sixth-round pick Marvin McNutt's chances continue to rise. The 6-foot-3 receiver is the tallest of the corps with Cooper sidelined.
Fourth-rounder Brandon Boykin could get the nod as primary kickoff returner, while undrafted free agent Damaris Johnson got the first reps in practice today as the punt returner. The coaches also like the play of seventh-rounder Bryce Brown, but don't expect to see him pushing aside LeSean McCoy or Dion Lewis for playing time.
Michael Vick must stay healthy
We already knew this before camp - heck, even the President knew it when he told Vick's teammate Nnamdi Asomugha to tell Vick to slide.
But the difference in arm strength and accuracy is, well, disarming when Vick steps aside and current No. 2 man Mike Kafka gets his reps. Sure, Kafka knows the system and he could possibly manage a game in Vick's absence.
But if Kafka is needed to replace an injured Vick, the field will become much shorter and DeSean Jackson's chances to be a deep threat will decrease.