As the full team reports and Training Camp truly gets underway, let's take a look at some players who have questions that need to be answered. Understand that not every player has the kind of issues that Training Camp will give us the answers to. Can Michael Vick get back to being a top quarterback? Nothing we see at Lehigh will answer that. Can Nate Allen become a really good safety? No matter how well he plays at camp, we won't find out the answer to that question until he's facing other teams.
The players who we can learn something about are a mixture of young and old, backups and starters.
Mike Kafka - Is Kafka ready to be the backup? The preseason will be key for him, but Kafka needs to play at a high level during camp. If he gets off to a slow start, the coaches may get a bit nervous and begin looking around the league for a veteran to bring in. If Kafka is sharp, he'll build the confidence of both fans and the staff. Kafka is entering his third year. He needs to look like the top backup and to play like it. That means commanding the huddle and running the show. It also means playing smart football and throwing the ball well. If he looks crisp and confident, that'll be a great sign.
Stanley Havili - Will the Eagles keep a fullback this year? There is no guarantee. Havili is at the top of the depth chart for now, but he must play well to keep that spot. He is a good receiver. The question with Havili is whether he can be a good run blocker. He must show that he can clear the way for LeSean McCoy on run plays. Havili also must stay on the field. He can't get banged up and miss time. Fullback is a tough spot. Guys must be durable and able to take some serious punishment.
Young RBs - It may not seem fair to lump several guys in here together, but they have many of the same questions. Andy Reid is a passing coach. If you want to play running back for him, you must be able to block and catch. Dion Lewis showed potential at both last year, but he won't be given the primary backup role. He must earn it. Bryce Brown has an excellent combination of size, skill and speed, but he's the most raw of all the running backs. Chris Polk was very productive at Washington, but struggled as a blocker at the Senior Bowl. One of these guys will emerge. Who will it be?
Clay Harbor - I actually like Harbor quite a bit. Unfortunately, he did not play all that well in the mini-camps. That may have made the team nervous. The Eagles worked out Visanthe Shiancoe and reportedly talked with Jeremy Shockey. Harbor can block. He's proven that. He must catch the ball well at Lehigh. He had too many drops in the spring camps. Harbor is a solid blocker, but isn't so good that you ignore inconsistent hands. He enters Training Camp as the number two tight end. That will only last as long as he catches the ball and impresses the coaches.
Brett Brackett - The former Penn State wide receiver has impressed the Eagles coaches with his ability to catch the ball. Now, he must show that he can block. Brackett blocked cornerbacks in the Big Ten. That's a far cry from sealing the edge on DeMarcus Ware or Jason Pierre-Paul. The team likes Brackett. They do need to see him play physical football and show potential as a blocker in order to consider him as a challenger to Harbor or possibly as a third tight end.
Dallas Reynolds - Who? Exactly. Reynolds has spent the past three years on the Eagles practice squad. Want the crazy stat of the day? He and Mike Patterson are the same age - 28. Reynolds finished his career at BYU late and Patterson left USC young. Reynolds is completely unproven in the NFL, but Howard Mudd is going to give him a chance to be the backup center. Reynolds must show that he's got the athleticism needed for the job. He is listed at 6-4 and 320 pounds. I hope he is down in the 310 range to help with his agility and mobility. Reynolds will not be Jason Kelce, but he could be a backup in the NFL.
|Tommy Lawlor, goeagles99 on the Discussion Boards, is an amateur football scout and devoted Eagles fan. He is the Editor of IgglesBlitz.com and was a contributor to the Eagles Almanac. |
Danny Watkins - The question last summer was initially about how good Watkins could be. That quickly changed to whether he was good at all. Watkins held out for a few days during last year’s Training Camp and never caught up during the summer. He struggled on the field and was benched before the start of the season. Watkins got his job back early in the season and showed good promise. The question once again is how good he can be. Watkins was too hesitant last year. There was too much doubt in his game. This summer we need to see him play with confidence and an aggressive streak. There is no question about his raw ability. He is a NFL talent.
Damaris Johnson - The talk of the spring was this diminutive receiver from Tulsa. He looked quick and elusive. There was no hitting or tackling and Johnson was great in that setting. Lehigh is going to be very, very different. Can Johnson physically handle the NFL? He must show that he can take big hits and get up. He must hold onto the ball. He also needs to look as quick and explosive in full pads against players who can be tough with him. No more playing against air. This is big boy time. If Johnson is good, he could challenge for a roster spot as a receiver and returner.
Antonio Dixon - Jim Washburn told the media that Dixon was out of shape last year and struggled with the new system. With Patterson out right now, Dixon is going to get a chance to start in his place. Dixon must show quickness off the ball. He must be disruptive. He also must play with a motor. Washburn demands maximum effort. Anything less is unacceptable. Dixon has a great opportunity. He reported in much better shape this year and could explode onto the scene.
Brandon Graham - We really need to see him in games, but just watching Graham at Lehigh will give us an idea of how far back he is. Graham suffered a really tough injury in December of 2010. Some knees heal well. Others never get back to 100 percent. Graham is in great shape, but we must see where his burst and athleticism are. Washburn needs ends who can fly off the ball and explode up the field. If Graham is back, that should be something we all see in practice.
Mychal Kendricks - So far, so good for the rookie from Cal. He has been terrific every step of the way. There was no question about his athletic ability, though. The test for him now is to show he can play the run. Kendricks did a great job of that at Cal, but dealing with NFL runners and blockers is a whole other story. Also, adjusting to the wide-nine isn't easy. I fully expect Kendricks to play well. He has the ability and background to be a good starting linebacker, even as a rookie.
Jaiquawn Jarrett - This is going to be a critical time in Jarrett's young career. The Eagles signed Oshiomogho Atogwe this summer. That doesn't make you feel the team has a lot of confidence in Jarrett right now. They may not be the case, but if feels that way. Jarrett must show a few things. First, it would be good to see that he's noticeably bigger. He seemed to have trouble adding weight to his frame last year. Jarrett doesn't need to be huge, but if he is going to be a physical hitter and tackler, he must have some serious muscle and some bulk. Kurt Coleman isn't tall or thick, but he's cut and has worked a lot on his body since coming to the NFL. Jarrett needs to stand out as a hitter and tackler. He must be a physical presence in the middle of the field. Making a few plays in the passing game would also help his cause. Big camp ahead for him.
Cliff Harris - The Oregon star had a down and out senior season. He went undrafted. Rather than pouting, Harris signed with the Eagles and got ready for business. He missed a lot of the mini-camps (due to the bizarre NFL rule about rookies and graduation dates). Harris reported to Lehigh intent on making up for lost time. He's been nothing short of terrific. He picked off passes each day. He broke up passes. Harris isn't the biggest or fastest, but he is a playmaker. The question now becomes whether he can make plays when covering elite talents like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Picking off passes heading for Ron Johnson are one thing. Sticking in Jackson's hip pocket down the sideline is a whole other story. Harris must also show that he can tackle and handle the physical side of the NFL. If Harris continues to make plays, the Eagles will be forced to find some way to use him.