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Adjusting To Change In The Heat Of Camp

BETHLEHEM, Pa. --Youv'e always got to have a Plan B. And a Plan C and even a Plan D. This is the NFL. Injuries happen. So do opinions of players and evaluations of positions a week-plus into training camp. And on a gorgeous day for Eagles football, the team made some significant moves that figure to impact things around here. Let's talk about those moves ...

  • Finally, a Jeremy Maclin sighting. And the inevitable questions about how quickly he can assimilate to the offense -- in the classroom and on the field. The coaches are high on the kid, of course. Maclin is a "natural" football player, says offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. He is going to have receivers coach David Culley is in his grill every possible moment. Nine days of practices that he missed will never be made up, but Maclin is going to spend extra time trying to catch up and find his comfort zone in the next five-plus weeks and four preseason games.

What do I think? I think I need to see Maclin play for a couple of weeks and see how he adjusts to the speed of the game. I think the Eagles should max the guy out in the early preseason games and not waste game reps on players who won't make the team. I think there is still a chance, for sure, that Maclin can contribute in a big way this season if everything goes right. And there are a lot of things that have to go right.

The process kicks into high gear on Wednesday and continues through Tuesday, when the Eagles wrap up training camp and turn their attention toward the preseason opener against New England. Give him a good week, see how much information Maclin retains and try to use him as much as possible in that opener.

And then go from there.

It is not easy to predict a growth chart for his progress. Maclin will do as Maclin does. He joins a talented wide receiver crew that has performed well in this camp. I'll let you know what I see and hear.

  • Please understand that the signing of linebacker Matt Wilhelm is very important. Not that he is a rising Pro Bowl player, or a seamless answer to the hole created by Stewart Bradley's injury. Wilhelm had other offers. He was pursued quite a bit, actually, since the Chargers released him prior to the start of their training camp. The opportunity to play with the Eagles, plus a sweet job of selling by vice president of player personnel Howie Roseman , brought Wilhelm to Philadelphia.

Here is the scouting report on Wilhelm: He made some dollars as a free agent a couple of years ago because he is a good football player who started an entire season in 2007 and then dropped some last year with injuries. He'll have to adjust to a 4-3 defense, but having two tackles in front of him helps Wilhelm. At 245 pounds, he has size. He can run OK. He is a tough guy and a hustler. Is he the replacement for Bradley? Maybe. Maybe not.

What Wilhelm does is allow the Eagles to upgrade their roster. They didn't sign him for free, and so that's why they didn't sign him the instant the Chargers said goodbye. At that time, the Eagles had no need. Bradley was healthy. Joe Mays is a promising second-year player. Omar Gaither can play MIKE, if needed, on a full-time basis.

The picture has changed. And the Eagles had to act quickly to recruit Wilhelm. Now it is the challenge of the coaching staff to get Wilhelm up to speed in the scheme. The middle linebacker runs the huddle. He calls out the checks and adjustments. He is the center of the defense.

Whether it is Mays, Gaither, Wilhelm, or some of each, the Eagles have to make sure they are fine at the position. One player is not going to replace Bradley. He is a three-down linebacker and those kinds of players are hard to find. For a young coordinator in Sean McDermott, this is a tremendous challenge, one the coaching staff is digging in to prove it is ready to meet.

  • Who is Jason Babin and what is he doing as an Eagle? Well, the man is trying to get his career pointed in the right direction. A one-time first-round draft pick by the Texans from Western Michigan, Babin has not been able to find a home. He is 267 pounds. He has not done a thing in the NFL to inspire confidence that he is all of a sudden going to come in here and help the Eagles.

I like this move, though, and I'm going to tell you why. Because Babin can come here for a week and the Eagles can see if he has any chance to provide a spark off the edge. To sign Babin to what was, I'm sure, a no-risk deal, the Eagles waived a player who had no chance to make the roster, and they can look at a player who deserved high grades entering the 2004 draft.

Babin is a camp body. No problem calling him that. So was, kind of, Juqua Parker a few years ago. Parker had been cut by Tennessee and didn't have a home and the Eagles signed him. Actually, Thomas' plight is more similar to that of Wilhelm's, which is why that signing should not be dismissed as camp fodder.

Maybe Babin's addition means something else. What that could be, I don't know. Is Victor Abiamiri coming along on schedule from his rehab after suffering a strained pectoral muscle? Is Bryan Smith, who has been strong the last few days after a slow start, really ready to leap up in the end rotation?

Qusetions, questions. The next week, on a lot of levels, is going to provide some answers.

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