Keep your eyes on these battles in Eagles camp
Malcolm Jenkins has one slot nailed down. Nate Allen is the other starter coming out of the spring. Hard to know exactly how to read that. Coaches talked up how Allen came along late in the year last season, getting more confident in the new scheme, becoming more decisive. But then he drifted into free agency and the team brought him back on a 1-year deal, almost as an afterthought. The job is probably there for 2013 rookie Earl Wolff to win, but it won't be handed to him. Could be one of those during-the-season transitions.
2 BACKUP QUARTERBACK
Chip Kelly very quickly put Mark Sanchez ahead of Matt Barkley in the spring, even though Barkley had a much higher comfort level with Kelly's scheme. Ever since Barkley got here, there has been talk of what wonders might be achieved through a full offseason of work and recovery, as he put shoulder surgery farther behind him. Barkley might have had a little more zip in OTAs and minicamp than he had a year ago. He didn't blow anyone away, though. It seems clear Kelly would prefer the guy with the 62 career NFL starts, if something happens to Nick Foles. It will be an interesting situation to watch this summer, because Barkley, always a starter and a star before he came to the Eagles, definitely hasn't conceded anything, and definitely has an ego.
In the spring, it didn't look like much of a competition. Incumbent Alex Henery was much more consistent than undrafted rookie Carey Spear. Training camp and preseason will be the true battlegrounds. Henery has worked on his kickoffs and will be hard to dislodge; I really don't see Spear winning the job. But if Henery should look unspectacular, I would not rule out this becoming one of those situations where we're always trying to find out what kicker might be in for a tryout this week.
4 WIDE RECEIVER
Pencil in Jeremy Maclin on one side and most probably Riley Cooper on the other. That still leaves a slot receiver, for a team that doesn't use a fullback, unless they're going with two tight ends. The early slot favorite is second-round rookie Jordan Matthews, but that's based on noncontact pitch-and-catch. Arrelious Benn, Brad Smith and third-round rookie Josh Huff all ought to be in the mix. Benn has worked hard to get back from his second left ACL tear; he could wind up challenging Cooper, as well.
Wide open field here. DeSean Jackson is gone and I'll be really surprised if Damaris Johnson makes the team for a third year. Darren Sproles seems to factor into the situation, along with maybe Brad Smith, Brandon Boykin or some dark horse who sees a chance to make the team this way - say, undrafted rookie running back Henry Josey, who often has been compared to Sproles. Every preseason return will be looked at closely.
Outside linebacker, where neither Brandon Graham nor Marcus Smith is likely to start, but they'll both vie for playing time. Corner, where free-agent signee Nolan Carroll had a strong spring and Brandon Boykin, though consigned to the nickel spot, is the group's best athlete. The plan is for Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher to start again, but it isn't like they're untouchable. And defensive line, where Cedric Thornton, Bennie Logan and Fletcher Cox ought to start, but behind them there will be much rotational jousting.
- Les Bowen