Here's Part II as I drain my notebook before training camp:
1. According to a couple coaches I’ve spoken to, Mike Kafka has increased his velocity only marginally. They think it’s enough for the third-year quarterback to make all the necessary throws, though, should he have to step in for Michael Vick. How did Kafka do it? Andy Reid offered a theory: “He’s kind of tailored the ball down just a little bit – it’s just a matter of inches. He used to carry it real high.” Many college quarterbacks are taught to hold the ball higher than most pro quarterbacks, probably to help avoid unnecessary fumbles, but it lessens their velocity ever so slightly. Since almost every quarterback takes the football down to his love handle before he cocks and throws, the extra time to get there takes just a little off the throw. Kafka is never going to have a cannon for an arm, but with some tinkering his arm strength could suffice.
2. The Eagles haven’t had to tinker with how Nick Foles’ holds the football during his drop and reads. The Eagles’ third-round draft pick still has much to digest – like working on the drop – but he’s essentially OK in the mechanics-of-throwing department. Foles is likely slotted into the third quarterback spot on the depth chart, but I think he can push Kafka. (Trent Edwards remains a long shot to make the team). I asked Reid if Foles had a shot. “Absolutely,” he said. “They’re all in it.” Reid typically won’t rule out any player in a position battle, but my hunch says there’s some truth in Foles’ chances to unseat Kafka.
3. I’ve been asked the following many times this offseason: “Is DeSean Jackson poised for a career year now that he has his long-term deal?” The thinking behind the question, I’m sure, is that Jackson will perform at a high level now that the distraction of not having a new contract is behind him. But what if the opposite happens? What if Jackson loses some of his motivation now that he has been compensated? I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think Jackson has pride, has Jeremy Maclin to push him, and will at least top last season’s pedestrian (for him) season. But shouldn’t he have been extra motivated last season? That was at the crux of the whether-to-extend-Jackson-in-the-last-year-of-his-contract issue. Joe Banner believed that if Jackson could not perform with so much on the line in 2011 then what incentive would he have to lay it all out on the line after he got paid? That being said, I still believe Banner would have made the same deal with Jackson had he been negotiating with Drew Rosenhaus this offseason as opposed to Howie Roseman. It was almost a no-brainer with Jackson’s $15 million guarantee over the next two seasons only $4 million more than he would have made this season under the franchise tag. But I’m not of the school of thought that Jackson will produce a career year now that his pockets are lined. His 2009 season will be hard to top, too.
4. Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie is this year’s Jackson. Well, maybe not of that magnitude. But the cornerback is one of the few established veterans on the Eagles heading into the last year of his contract. The Eagles are banking on DRC having a little extra to play for and that he’ll be at least the equal of Asante Samuel, who was jettisoned in the offseason. I’m split on the Samuel move. Reid thought he was in steep decline and that his style no longer suited the scheme. The latter may be true, but I think Samuel is still better than his replacement. DRC has exceptional physical skills. He’s a bit of a flake, but that can sometimes be a good thing. Can he sustain a steady dose of attention, though, with Nnandi Asomugha playing his opposite? Asomugha was not consistent last season, but quarterbacks were still shy about throwing in his direction. If you had a choice between the two, who would you attack? The Eagles’ backup plan, should DRC falter, is Curtis Marsh. The idea is that Marsh would replace DRC should the team decide not to bring the vet back for 2013. But Marsh could be ready this season, if necessary. The Eagles were already slipping him onto the first team for a few snaps during the spring, giving him a taste of the action. Marsh, like Asomugha and DRC, is a man-press corner. He’s not as long as the other two, but he’s long enough as the Eagles complete their shift away from short outside corners.
5. A lot of eyeballs will be on Brandon Graham when camp opens next week. He knows it. The Eagles know it. Well, everybody knows it. It’s difficult to ascertain much from the spring, but I watched Graham run very closely to see if he was completely back from his knee surgery. It was fairly clear when he came off the PUP list last November that he wouldn’t contribute much. He ran with a slight hitch and was out of shape. Several months later, he shaved 20 or so pounds off his frame, but still appeared to run with a slight hesitation, according to these amateur eyes. The Eagles probably expected as much as Graham eases his way back, or maybe I was seeing things or maybe a slimmed-down Graham runs with a little giddy-up in his gait, but it bears watching once the pads come on at camp.