The prospect of actual football news is creeping closer, with the first practice of training camp set for two weeks from today.
To get ready, I’m going to take a brief look this week at the story lines at each offensive and defensive position. We’ll do one area on each side of the ball per day.
Quarterbacks: Until a few weeks ago, it seemed pretty straight forward: the question of the year for the Eagles is whether or not Kevin Kolb is ready to be a full-time starter. That’s still the number one story heading into training camp and the season. Real, consistent NFL success hinges on having a good, if not great, quarterback. Training camp will be Kolb’s last chance to prepare before we finally see how good he can be over 16 games.
But the latest issues around Michael Vick add another layer of drama to the quarterback slot. The Eagles are counting on Vick to be an experienced back up should Kolb get hurt or struggle. All signs point to the team keeping Vick, unless something new comes out regarding the shooting outside his birthday party. The Eagles appear comfortable so far that he was not involved in anything that merits a sanction, and they need him as insurance. (Police have said Vick was not a suspect in the shooting. Questions still linger about Vick’s interaction, if any, with dog fighting co-defendant Quanis Phillips, but we don’t know very much about how much contact the two actually had and whether it would rise to the level of a probation violation).
Still, if the NFL or federal probation officials decide to take action, the only other QB on the roster is rookie fourth-round pick Mike Kafka, and it would be a stretch to throw him onto the field this year. It will be a situation to monitor, especially if experienced passers become available as camps progress, though for now the expectation here is that Vick stays.
Defensive Line: New faces are the story here. Defensive end Brandon Graham, who the Eagles traded up to select at 13 overall in the draft, was the team’s most high-profile off-season acquisition. The team also added ends Darryl Tapp (through trade) and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim (third round pick). Ricky Sapp, a linebacker-end hybrid taken in the fifth round, and linebacker Alex Hall, picked up in a trade, are also in the mix at both defensive end and linebacker. The additions give the Eagles a versatile array of options to go with last year’s starters, Trent Cole, Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson and Juqua Parker. Tapp and Te’o-Nesheim, for instance, have played at tackle in some nickel formations.
As the top pick, though, Graham faces the most expectations. Writing today on ESPN.com, Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson said Graham might be his pick for defensive rookie of the year. Graham, Williamson wrote, “is more NFL-ready than any defensive end in this rookie class” and should benefit from playing opposite Cole, whose pass rushing skills should draw blockers’ attention.