A Day At The Movies wasn't exactly what Stacy Andrews had in mind. But Juan Castillo, the Eagles' non-stop offensive line coach, wanted to prove a point. He wanted the rest of his players to see Andrews, as well as left tackle Jason Peters, in action when they played for other team -- in Peters' case, Buffalo, and in Andrews' case, Cincinnati.
The film was revealing to all. The player Andrews saw in the Bengals uniform was not the player who is about to finish a great off-season of camps and conditioning with the Eagles. Andrews then was a mauler, inconsistent with his technique, relying on strength and his big body and, generally, having a lot of success.
His goal now, though, two years removed from a knee injury and fully incorporated into Castillo's way of doing things, is to dominate.
"I'm not even close to the player I was then. I watched that and it was hard to believe how far I've come," said Andrews. "I was turning, I wasn't punching with my hands -- I was catching. Now, I'm using my hands. I'm setting square and being more technically sound.
"I think about how much better I am now and how much better I'm going to be this season. I like that he gets after us, that he has us out working hard every day. It makes every one of us a better player and that's what we need."
The Eagles certainly are counting on Andrews in 2010. Signed as an unrestricted free agent prior to 2009, Andrews had a tough year. He played very little, attributed to a combination of his rehab from a late 2008 knee injury suffered as a Bengal, and the challenge of mastering Castillo's demands. Instead of pouting or complaining, Andrews kept working hard.
And while he is not yet a finished product -- he needs to get into some contact drills with pads on first -- Andrews has huge plans for this year. He is the team's right guard, and the Eagles have a lot riding on that side of the line as Andrews teams up with right tackle Winston Justice.
"I feel at home. I'm getting the reps on the field. I was out here working out on my own in the off-season a week before everybody got here and it has paid off. That is my mentality. I feel great," said Andrews. "I notice a big difference in the way I'm playing. I'm right on point. I'm in my playbook, I'm getting after it on the field and I'm in great shape."
Should he be that kind of player, a down-in, down-out standout, Andrews would contribute so, so much to this offense. The Eagles want to have their offensive line questions solved early in training camp, but they are already without starting center Jamaal Jackson, who likely won't practice until somewhere around mid-August, and left guard Todd Herremans has been sidelined by a foot injury that doesn't appear to be serious, but still ...
So Nick Cole is growing into the role at center in this spring camps, and a slimmed-down Max Jean-Gilles is taking the reps at left guard. Jason Peters is in the best shape of his life and primed for a huge season at left tackle.
The right side? Justice has quietly gone about his business at tackle and the Eagles have so much confidence in him. Andrews knows it is on him to step up inside at guard.
"Last year I just knew I had to grind it out, coming back from the injury and having to learn the technique here. I knew I would get through that. I knew that if I kept working hard, it would pay off for me," said Andrews. "Once we break this camp, I'm going to go home and still work on my technique and stay in touch with Juan and get to training camp and be ready to go. Juan wants you to work hard 24/7. He is a hard-nosed coach who knows what it takes to get the best out of us.
"It's coming together really well. I'm pushing and I'm going to keep pushing."
*NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT *
- Wide receiver Hank Baskett has enjoyed a fantastic week stepping up with increased reps in DeSean Jackson's absence. You watch Baskett in practice and he is so much more experienced and polished than he was in his early years here. Baskett is going to make this team and is going to be a solid, important part of special teams.
- Can't wait to see running back Mike Bell in pads. He runs hard and he wants contact, and he has caught the ball very well in the spring. Ditto Charles Scott. It will be enjoyable watching both players at Lehigh.
- Rookie safety Kurt Coleman reports on Thursday night. I was wrong saying recently that he would be here for two practices. Coleman will have to put in a lot of extra work between now and training camp to catch up on the missed time. The NCAA needs to change that rule. It really hurts players trying to make an NFL roster.
- I think Jamar Chaney can cover, and I think Keenan Clayton can cover. I think the Eagles have some tough decisions ahead at linebacker. Joe Mays has enjoyed a very fine spring.
- Maybe it's me, but Jean-Gilles certainly seems much quicker and effective having dropped so much weight.
- Can't wait to see the defense in pads. I need to see hitting. The team speed is impressive running around in shells and shorts, but the real tests come at Lehigh and then in the preseason games.
- If I told you that the Eagles could actually throw a fade pass into the end zone, would you believe me? With Baskett and Riley Cooper, the team has receivers to go up and get the football.