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Don't Rush To Judge Early

I understand the enthusiasm, trust me. Having the Eagles on the practice field and building the roster under new head coach Chip Kelly is a thrill. It's an uncharted step every day with the new era designing the template for success.

How good is this football team? Nobody knows right now. Kelly is compiling data every minute of every day as he continues the evaluation of the 89 players in camp. The pads have not yet gone on. There hasn't been a single tackle made.

So how can the coaching staff fairly evaluate -- with any finality -- what's happening at the NovaCare Complex? The answer is: They can't. And so while the media provide daily accounts of "Who's got the edge at quarterback?" stories and Tweet out the virtual play by play of practice happenings, the coaches are more reserved.

They are taking the measured approach. What's important here is laying the foundation for the Chip Kelly Era. He wants things done his way, which is to say that if any player has difficulty adjusting to the tempo of practice, the format of the day or the demands of the systems, that player is going to have a difficult time making the 53-man roster.

I'm not here to tamp down any energy. Boy, oh boy, the NovaCare Complex is hopping with these practices and the scene on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field is going to be off the charts. Eagles fans are all behind Kelly and the organization turning this team around.

But it is far, far too early to draw any sort of sweeping conclusions. I can tell you, though, that the tight end group here has a chance to be as good as advertised with its athletic ability and play-making skills. I can tell you that wide receiver DeSean Jackson is off to a sterling start in practice. I can say that the quarterbacks are all getting plenty of reps to show what they can do. I can make the obvious statement that the running back situation is a good one, very good, in fact.

It is much harder to talk about the defense since there are no pads on. Once the action is live, we can see so much more. There are a lot of new faces here, and there are some faces (Trent Cole and Brandon Graham, for example) who are playing new positions and being asked to do new things. They are going have their good days and their challenging days.

It's a step-by-step process here. Enjoy the ride, without worrying too much about a depth chart that is written in pencil right now and without thinking too far ahead.


  • The roster remains at 89 players and there is no indication who will fill spot No. 90. It could be a veteran still on the streets, a player the Eagles work out or someone who hits the waiver wire. The Eagles are looking for an upgrade, not just on a camp body.
  • Who has caught my eye at wide receiver very, very early in camp who I didn't know much about: Russell Shepard, who looks like his hands are confident and strong and who is very quick, and Ifeanyi Momah, who still needs to go up and snatch the football and take advantage of his height.
  • Making an early observation, one that is something to monitor and discuss later, I think Matt Barkley's arm is good enough to play in this league. It's a point many have talked about since he was drafted, and while Barkley doesn't have, say, Michael Vick's arm, the rookie gets the football out quickly and seems very sure of where he is throwing it.
  • I've spent some time watching the linebackers in coverage against the tough group of tight ends. The pass receivers have a clear advantage in the drill, and this offensive group is highly athletic. Connor Barwin's experience dropping back in coverage shows. He's right there are just about every snap of the football.
  • Donnie Jones and Brad Wing are crushing the ball punting on special teams. It may end up being quite a battle for the roster spot. Jones has the experience and the proven NFL track record.
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