Sorting out the Eagles' concerns
With the opener against the Packers 12 days away, here's a look at which Eagles concerns are real and which are not.
Sorting out the Eagles' concerns
The Eagles are not the type to voice their concerns publicly.
Ask about the offensive line, and Andy Reid will tell you they're fine.
Failed opportunities in the red zone? No big deal.
So with the Week 1 opener against the Packers just 12 days away, it's time to take stock of which concerns are real and which can be chalked up to the old It's only preseason excuse. Here's my take:
Stacy Andrews at right guard - The truth is he's been a major concern for just about a year now and has never done enough to inspire confidence from the coaching staff. The signs have been apparent. Early last year, they began to rotate Max Jean-Gilles in at right guard, even though Andrews was a high-priced free-agent acquisition. In Weeks 11-16, he was inactive. And when the team needed a guard after Jamaal Jackson went down and Nick Cole slid over to center, the coaches chose Jean-Gilles.
Now, in practice, Andrews is going in and out once again. Jean-Gilles and Nick Cole have both been taking snaps at right guard this week. When the Eagles decided to hold on to Andrews at a reduced price this offseason, they were hoping he would have showed enough by this point to have the position locked down. It hasn't happened. The good news here is that the coaches will play whoever they think gives them the best chance to win. We saw that last year, and we'll see it again this year. They want Andrews to win the job, but they're not just going to give it to him.
Who's playing center? - I'll admit to being surprised that Jamaal Jackson appears to have a chance at starting Week 1. If the Eagles didn't think he could play in 12 days, they would not be giving him the first-team reps in practice. A lot can happen between now and then, and even if Jackson is ready to face the Packers, no one knows what level he'll be able to perform at. If the Eagles had liked what they saw from Cole or Mike McGlynn, there wouldn't be as much urgency to get Jackson back. But it seems pretty clear that the coaching staff thinks the line needs Jackson back desperately. The center position is probably the biggest unknown on the team, and we likely won't know how it's going to play out until the offense takes the field for its first drive against Green Bay.
Crowd at safety - When Macho Harris was at cornerback, the safety situation on the 53-man roster seemed pretty easy to project: Quintin Mikell, Nate Allen, Quintin Demps and rookie Kurt Coleman. But now that Harris is back at safety, the coaches will have a decision to make. Mikell and Allen are still locks. But I'm not sure about any of the three other guys. It's clear that they like Coleman, and he's had some bright spots on special teams this preseason. So my question is: Could the Eagles face a decision between Harris and Demps? And if so, who has the edge? Demps' ability as a return man factors into it. But when the Eagles were faced with the same decision at the beginning of last year, they chose Harris. It's possible that the Eagles keep five safeties, with an emphasis on special teams. But I don't think any of the three will be comfortable until the roster is trimmed down to 53 this weekend. Harris definitely saw some time alongside Coleman with the second team yesterday at practice.
Brent Celek/red zone - Celek has just four catches in three preseason games (six quarters, really). And the first-team offense has failed to come up with a passing touchdown. Is it possible that the two things are connected? Absolutely. Celek had eight touchdowns in 2009, and six of those were red-zone scores. I'm not concerned about the Kevin Kolb-Celek connection. The pair should still produce big numbers in the regular season. And red-zone efficiency might very well be a concern in 2010. But it doesn't make sense to assume that based on the preseason.
And download the 2010 MTC app from the ITunes store.