I know I'm jumping into training camp early. Rookies and selected veterans report to Lehigh University on Sunday, July 22. Practice starts on July 23. So why the rush?
Why not? Who isn't excited that training camp is right around the corner? Who doesn't wonder what this season holds for an Eagles team that appears primed to make a real run deep into the playoffs?
As with every team, the Eagles have questions. In no particular order, here are ones from this perspective ...
How Does The QB Picture Look?
Michael Vick has enjoyed a great offseason. He's been at the NovaCare Complex digesting film, working out, preparing for his best-ever season. We all know that Vick needs to stay healthy, minimize his mistakes and run the offense efficiently. Those points have been hammered home throughout the offseason.
What about the backup situation? Mike Kafka is the No. 2 man behind Vick and Kafka looked comfortable in that role in the spring. He'll be asked to step up his game and prepare as if he is a starter for 2012. Kafka is one play away ...
Then there's rookie Nick Foles, who impressed in the spring. Big kid, strong arm, lots of confidence. The tempo increases in training camp and then again in the preseason games when the action is live and the quarterback no longer wears the red (don't hit me) jersey. Is Foles ready, if called upon?
Trent Edwards is the fourth quarterback here and it may be difficult for him to get a lot of reps with just one full practice each day in camp.
Are the Eagles OK here? They have no other choice. Kafka has to prove he is ready in case Vick is sidelined. Foles must accelerate quickly in the preseason. Vick would make it all so clean by staying healthy, keeping his mistakes few and playing great football.
Does The Offensive Line Skip A Beat Minus Peters?
You don't lose a Pro Bowl left tackle and proceed as if there is no hole to fill offensively. As good as Demetress Bell may be -- and the Eagles are very pleased with his early progress and his long-term outlook -- taking Jason Peters out of the equation is a punch to the offensive line. Peters is the best left tackle in the NFL and had his best season in 2011.
What adjustments does coach Howard Mudd need to make with Bell in the lineup? Bell is an athletic young tackle with plenty of experience who seems to fit the description of what Mudd looks for up front. Still, he isn't Peters. And you wonder if there are times when Mudd will need to help Bell on the edge, or alter his approach in some way.
The Eagles are striving for great continuity and performance from the very start with the offensive line. Vick's health depends upon it, really. Last year he ran away from a lot of trouble early until the line stabilized. With four starters back and with some young players expected to take big steps forward, how that left tackle position is handled by Bell will go a long way toward Vick's productivity.
Are The Linebackers That Much Better Now?
The short answer is that the Eagles have upgraded more at linebacker than at any group since 2011 by acquiring DeMeco Ryans in a trade and using a second-round draft pick on SAM linebacker Mychal Kendricks. Those two new players, combined with the anticipated improvement from a young group of Eagles veterans, could make the linebackers the strongest group the Eagles have had in many seasons.
Ryans looked great running, moving, cutting and learning the defense in the spring. Kendricks fit right in as an immediate starter during the non-contact practices. All eyes are on the linebackers in training camp.
Brian Rolle starts on the weak side, with players like Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Moise Fokou and Akeem Jordan pushing for serious playing time.
Can Nate Allen/Kurt Coleman Shine At Safety?
Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman return as the starting safeties, with newly signed Oshiomogho Atogwe and second-year man Jaiquawn Jarrett the primary backups. There are other players to consider, like Tom Nelson and Phillip Thomas, but the Eagles think they have something going with Allen and Coleman and then Atogwe pushing for time. Jarrett is a major question mark. Is he ready to make his move in his second NFL season?
Where does Colt Anderson, coming back from a torn ACL, fit into the picture? Can he regain the dominating form on special teams? Does Atogwe have enough to make the deep secondary better?
Maybe the most important question to answer is this: Is Allen going to be an elite safety? He showed flashes of that kind of ability as a rookie before suffering a knee injury. He had too many ups and downs last season. He is all the way back physically and he seems primed to become an impact player.
How Much Does The Rookie Class Help?
From the looks of it, the 2012 Rookie Class could make an early impact. Kendricks is already starting. First-round pick Fletcher Cox will compete for playing time right away at defensive tackle. Defensive end Vinny Curry, coming off a high ankle sprain in the spring, should be OK to practice at Lehigh as he looks to earn playing time at a crowded and talented position. Cornerback/return man Brandon Boykin is going to challenge for playing time at nickel cornerback and as a kickoff return man.
Foles is, of course, hoping to develop quickly. Running back Bryce Brown will get some significant reps behind LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis.
Which Players Are In Make-Or-Break Mode?
Leading the list here is defensive end Brandon Graham, and he knows it. Graham, a first-round draft pick in 2010, reported to the Eagles in outstanding shape in the spring and spoke openly of the importance of this season. Defensive tackle Antonio Dixon had a disappointing 2011 and is playing on a one-year contract.
You could probably go up and down the roster and say, "This player needs to step up or else ..." and hit five or six other men. The truth is, the Eagles have some competition for the 53-man roster. There aren't a lot of positions that already have been set in semi-stone as far as roster spots. This should be a spirited, aggressive, physical training camp.
And it starts soon. Very, very soon. I'm jumping in early now. I'm in full training-camp mode. Let the practices begin!