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Big Picture As Next Phase Starts

First and foremost, a hearty shout out to all of the fans who attended camp at Lehigh University. You made it great every day, rain or shine, hot or not so bad. You brought your "A" game each and every day, and you deserve the applause for making training camp so special.

Now, about the 2012 Eagles. It's far too early to know how good this team is, or how good this team can be. Three and a half weeks of training camp and one preseason game revealed quite a bit about the Eagles, but there are still a few weeks to go before the roster is narrowed to 53 men and the focus turns to the season opener in Cleveland.

With that, here are some thoughts about the Eagles, as I think I know them now ...

  • The defensive line is as good as the Eagles hoped it would be. There is tremendous depth and versatility. The Eagles are going to use waves of linemen to attack offensive lines. They have six or seven legitimate NFL defensive ends right now, and maybe as many defensive tackles. With a defensive line as good as this, the pieces are going to fall into place for Juan Castillo's defense.
  • Nick Foles performed far beyond where many rookies I have seen over the years have played in their first training camp. He calls every experience he has part of his "database" and really seems to be taking the whole experience in stride. I have seen a lot of young quarterbacks get those "wide eyes" and happy feet. Foles is in charge of this situation. He's going to hit some bumpy spots in the near future as every quarterback does, but Foles is handling everything with great maturity.
  • That said, Foles is still in the developmental phase. And all of this talk about being the No. 2 quarterback is way too premature. If he goes out and played great football in the next three games, yeah, let's talk. But the Eagles have worked with Mike Kafka and they believe in him. Nothing, however, is etched in granite. We saw how quickly the fortunes of Kevin Kolb changed around here.
  • My expectations are high for the offensive line, which I thought, as a group, had not hit its stride leaving Lehigh University. King Dunlap is the left tackle until otherwise proven, and the rest of the line has to come together quickly. The defensive line took care of business in the training camp practices, at times convincingly so. Let's see how the line plays Monday night at the Patriots. A strong effort would really help this offense.
  • The last two groups of rookies form a tremendous core group on this roster. The 2011 draft class looks very productive -- Danny Watkins starts, Jason Kelce starts, Brian Rolle starts and Alex Henery has had an outstanding summer. Running back Dion Lewis is one of the most improved players on the roster. Stanley Havili is starting now at fullback. Casey Matthews and Curtis Marsh are playing into the mix on defense. Julian Vandervelde is a candidate to provide interior offensive line depth. The 2012 rookies are, of course, off to a fabulous start. Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks, Vinny Curry, Foles, Brandon Boykin and Bryce Brown are among the most impressive players from training camp and Damaris Johnson is a headliner at wide receiver and in the return game.
  • I'm not sure how many roster spots there are still up in the air at the moment. I think at this point the Eagles know who can play and who still needs work. Let's go with this: Three quarterbacks, one fullback, three halfbacks, two tight ends, five wide receivers, six linebackers, five cornerbacks, four safeties and three specialists. That's 32 spots, leaving 21 spots for the offensive and defensive lines combined. Does that make sense?
  • What happens if Trent Edwards plays great football for the next two weeks? The Eagles would love to have that difficult decision to make.
  • Mat McBriar has the lead on Chas Henry at punter, but it's an open competition with three games remaining. Henry has to win the job convincingly, as I see it.
  • The more I watch, the more I understand that veterans pace themselves through training camp and know when to peak for the regular season.
  • Do you know how fortunate the Eagles are to have avoided any season-ending injuries to starting players in training camp? I know wide receiver Ron Johnson went down with his ankle injury, and the Eagles are high on him, and I know that wide receiver Riley Cooper is on the mend after suffering a broken collarbone, but that's it. Not bad, all things considered. Keep your fingers crossed here.
  • No word yet, by the way, on Mike Patterson's return. He is aiming to play this year, and is apparently on track to do so.
  • I thought Michael Vick made a great point on Tuesday when he spoke glowingly about DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, pointing out that both participated every day in training camp, whether they were aching or not. The new contracts did nothing to diminish their love of the game of football.
  • Clay Harbor's improvement could mean a lot of flexibility for the offense if the Eagles want to move their tight ends around. Harbor was one of the best players on the field every day in training camp.
  • The Eagles have moved draft pick Dennis Kelly from right tackle to right guard and he looks much more comfortable there. Howard Mudd seems to really like Kelly at guard. So who are the backup tackles here? At the moment, Demetress Bell is the leading candidate and then, well, we need to see. Thomas Welch and D.J. Jones have opportunities in front of them.
  • How is Casey Matthews progressing? To my eye, he played pretty well against the Steelers. I'm going to focus more on him in the coming games.
  • The Eagles, if history holds, will carry four safeties. Pencil in Kurt Coleman, Nate Allen and even Oshiomogho Atogwe. Jaiquawn Jarrett is struggling and he is far from a sure thing to make the roster. Colt Anderson has not yet practiced and could be held back until he is fully, completely healed. Tom Nelson is getting more playing time and has a chance to win a job.
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