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Battles To Watch With OTAs In Sight

Catching up on some goings on with the Eagles in Phase 2 of offseason workouts at the NovaCare Complex. We start with quarterback Sam Bradford, who reported on Monday after missing two weeks of voluntary workouts. Business continues. The preparation for the 2016 season marches on.

There isn't much to say about Bradford, who issued a statement and returned to practice. He will speak to the media at some point in the future. The Eagles handled the situation well, spoke positively of Bradford, the starting quarterback, and waited for Bradford to return.

He's back, and the Eagles are a better team for it. Now Bradford must gain expertise in the offense and get his timing down with his offense and prepare for September.

In other Eagles talk …

  • There is no pure fullback on the roster, which likely means tight end Trey Burton, and maybe others, will get whatever reps the offense calls for at that position. Burton moved all around the offense in his college days at Florida, so he's going to pick things up quickly. He also played out of the backfield in the 2014 season for a game against the Giants, carrying 5 times for 10 yards in a win. Burton is a big, physical player who has demonstrated his willingness to mix things up on special teams, where he is one of Dave Fipp's core players. Nothing is set in stone here, of course. The Eagles can add a true fullback later in the spring or summer, if they desire.
  • Let's talk about the pass rush, particularly off the edge. Connor Barwin moves to the end position after years as a stand-up linebacker. Brandon Graham, the same. Vinny Curry will get the most reps in his career and must show that he is a week-in, week-out contributor. Who provides the added depth? It could be Marcus Smith, the 2014 first-round draft pick. Or Bryan Braman, who comes off the edge hard and fast and is one of the team's best players on special teams. It could be seventh-round draft pick Alex McCalister from Florida, who showed flashes there. The edge pass rush is something to watch, for sure. The inside pass rush, with tackles Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Beau Allen, and with Curry moving inside in the nickel, should be pretty darn good. And Jim Schwartz's scheme has always included a very powerful pass rush. Somewhere in the mix is Taylor Hart, who I think will contend with Mike Martin for a roster spot.
  • Maybe the best starting battle ahead comes at left guard, where incumbent Allen Barbre isn't going to simply hand the job to third-round draft pick Isaac Seumalo. Barbre started all 16 games last year and he's got a lot to prove this season. With those two, along with Stefen Wisniewski and Malcolm Bunche pushing, the Eagles are going to have some competition. If all goes according to the plan, really, the Eagles could have something going up front. They added two free agents (Brandon Brooks as well as Wisniewski), two draft picks (Seumalo and Halapoulivaati Vaitai) and some promising undrafted rookies to a group that also includes veterans like Dennis Kelly, Matt Tobin and Andrew Gardner. Suddenly, there is a lot of potential depth and competition along the offensive line.
  • At this point it would be a good guess to say that second-year man Eric Rowe and free-agent signee Leodis McKelvin (two-year contract) are the safest bets to get the first-team reps in practice. But the Eagles are going to challenge there, too, with Ron Brooks and Nolan Carroll and JaCorey Shepherd and Denzel Rice and anybody else the team can use out there. Schwartz isn't one of those guys who hands jobs to players. May the best performers win playing time.
  • We've got a long way to see how it all sorts out at wide receiver, but you can bet the Eagles are going to move some pieces around. Ronald Darby will play in the slot, and he'll also play outside. The Eagles could get Josh Huff some reps in the slot, too. Nelson Agholor is expected to take a huge jump and Rueben Randle and Chris Givens are here on one-year, prove-it contracts. So is T.J. Graham, who can really run. Let's see if he can play consistent football and win a job here.
  • Of the free agents signed by the Eagles in the unrestricted period, Carroll, Givens, Randle, Wisniewski, punter Ryan Quigley and Graham inked one-year deals. Why I find that interesting, I really don't know. But it's always a carrot for players who sign one-year contracts. They know how much a big year can catapult them to a new contract in the NFL.
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