Sunday, December 28, 2014

Three things to watch at training camp

The Eagles QB of the future?

Three things to watch at training camp

Is Nick Foles the Eagles´ QB of the future? (Alex Brandon/AP)
Is Nick Foles the Eagles' QB of the future? (Alex Brandon/AP)

The Eagles QB of the future? 

Coach Andy Reid has drafted six quarterbacks during the course of his 14 NFL drafts and half of them have become NFL starters, namely Donovan McNabb, Kevin Kolb, and A.J. Feeley. 

Two more looking for their first start will be standing together in the backfield this training camp, learning from Michael Vick. Mike Kafka, a 2010 fourth-round pick, and rookie Nick Foles, a 6-foot-6, 243-pound rookie taken in 2012's third round. (2004 sixth-round pick Andy Hall also never started a game.) 

The early days of training camp will be the best chance for Foles to distinguish himself. 

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Who is the best Eagles' sleeper--fifth round or lower or a free agent signee--since 1980? 
Brent Celek (5th round 2007)
 
  12 (2.0%)
Trent Cole (5th round, 2005)
 
  185 (31.1%)
Seth Joyner (8th round, 1986)
 
  176 (29.6%)
Clyde Simmons (9th round, 1986)
 
  146 (24.5%)
Andre Waters (UFA, 1984)
 
  76 (12.8%)
Total votes = 595

A three-year starter, Foles finished as Arizona's all-time leading passer in yards (10,011), touchdowns (67), attempts (1,369) and completions (933) and set single-season records with 28 touchdowns and 4,334 yards in his senior year. 

During previous OTAs, the coaches worked on improving Foles' footwork since he operated out of a spread offense with the Wildcats. 

Foles doesn't have to look far to gain inspiration from a quarterback who racked up big yards playing in a spread offense in college: Foles attended the same Westlake, Texas, high school as New Orleans Saints star Drew Brees. 

Sleepers, past and present

It's not unusual for an Eagles rookie to out-play his draft position and become a standout. During the Andy Reid era, Brent Celek, Trent Cole, Jamaal Jackson, and Quintin Mikell were either fifth-round picks or lower or undrafted free agents who became NFL starters. 

And in the 1980s, some of the team's biggest stars fell into the same category, including Seth Joyner (8th round 1986), Clyde Simmons (9th round, 1986), and Andre Waters (UFA, 1984). 

The Eagles landed an undrafted free agent this year worth following in Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris. The 5-10, 180-pound Harris led the NCAA with 23 passes defensed in 2010, when Oregon lost to Auburn, 22-19, in the BCS national championship game. That year, he also was a consensus All-American returner, taking four punts back for touchdowns, and was considered a possible first-round pick prior to the 2011 season.

However, Harris was thrown off the Oregon team midway through the 2011 season due to discipline issues, and his draft status plummeted. If the coaching staff can harness Harris' approach, his speed and big-play ability could pay off. 

Line 'em up

Don't be surprised to see yet another rookie starting at linebacker when the season begins. Second-round pick Mychal Kendricks, from California, worked with the first-team defense during earlier OTAs and figures to retain the strongside linebacker spot. 

The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year is short at 5-11, 239 pounds, but he had the fastest 40 time at the NFL Combine. Considering the Eagles started rookies Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle last season, it'd be no shock to see Kendricks from the start. 

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