When training camp starts gets underway, it will be the most important time in Trevor Laws' NFL career. He's entering his third season, but has yet to play at the level expected of him when the Eagles selected Laws in the second round of the 2008 draft. The expectation back then was that Laws would come in and push starting defensive tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley. If Laws didn't beat them out, at least he would be a very good third tackle. None of that has happened yet.
I recently re-watched part of our win over the Bears from last season. Laws played in the game and got manhandled a couple of times. The left guard was able to get hold of Laws and turn his body. That opened a big running lane right up the middle. You can't have defensive tackles getting blocked like that. I understand that Laws isn't meant to be a stout run defender, but he needed to show more than that.
One of the problems in Laws' development has been nagging injuries in each of his two summers here. They've cost him valuable practice time. A player like him that isn't huge or physically special needs to play with very good technique. Missing time in training camp costs reps and good coaching time. Most technique work is done in the summer. Once the season rolls around the coaches are focused on gameplans and opponents.
Laws is healthy right now and he needs to stay that way all through late July and August. He needs every rep he can get. Laws did help his cause by bulking up this off-season. He's bigger and stronger than he's ever been. Now we need to see that on the field. Laws must play bigger and stronger. That means holding the point of attack on run plays. It means shedding blocks instead of getting pushed around.
The fact that Laws was such a high pick bought him time, but that's in the past. He's been relegated to the fourth tackle spot for now. Antonio Dixon clearly outplayed him last year. Dixon is huge and has a very bright future. Now rookie Jeff Owens is here to fight for playing time. If Owens outperforms Laws, that is a bad sign.
I loved Laws coming out of Notre Dame. He had a great senior season and looked like a terrific prospect. The player I saw that season and at the Senior Bowl has yet to show up in Philadelphia. I hope that changes. Laws' ability to get up the field and be disruptive would be a nice addition to the rotation. He's just got to show that he can play the run.
I think Laws knows that he's backed into a corner in terms of his future and he's going to come out and play with a sense of desperation. If Laws can finally emerge as a viable backup we'll have a very good set of defensive tackles and that really lays a strong foundation for a defense.
Are The Eagles A Super Bowl Team?
• How realistic is it to think of the Eagles as a Super Bowl team? We can argue for and against this based on the roster and coaching staff, but the most important person in this equation is quarterback Kevin Kolb. It has been done three times in the last 17 years (the free agency era). I quit looking at that point. The NFL was so different back then that there was no use in continuing. Free agency really had a dramatic impact.
Anyway, back to the main point. Jake Delhomme (2003), Tom Brady (2001), and Kurt Warner (1999) all led their teams to the title game in their first season as the full-time starter. Brady and Warner were victorious. Warner is likely to be a Hall of Fame player. Brady will go down as one of the best players in NFL history. As much as I like Kolb, projecting him to that level at this point is pretty crazy.
• Someone on the EMB asked a simple, but interesting question the other day. What under-the-radar player are you excited about? My answer was cornerback Dimitri Patterson. I mentioned re-watching part of our win over the Bears earlier. Patterson played in that game. Joselio Hanson was suspended at the time. Asante Samuel got hurt in the game and he was replaced by Patterson. I thought Patterson handled himself pretty well. He was solid in coverage and proved to be a good tackler. He looked comfortable on the field. Some backups look nervous when they're thrown into action.
Ellis Hobbs is the projected starter at right corner for now. Hanson and rookie Trevard Lindley will compete for the job. Don't forget about Patterson. He'll have something to say about who becomes the starting right cornerback.
• We're down to just a pair of unsigned rookies. Most talk will center on first rounder Brandon Graham, but I think it is far more important for Nate Allen's deal to get done. He is projected as the starting free safety right now. We need him in training camp on time. Rookies can learn something every day. You don't want those guys to miss any practice time if at all possible. This is the week to expect negotiations to really heat up between the Eagles and the agents for Graham and Allen.
• Should Allen miss some time, Quintin Demps will get a second chance at starting for us. Demps blew a great opportunity last season by not taking the right approach during the spring and summer. He got a big ol' piece of humble pie as he lost his job to a rookie. Now Demps has seen the light and is a much more humble, focused player. He's done and said all the right things during the off-season. It will be interesting to see if his play is substantially better as well. There's no reason he can't outright win the free safety job from Allen. Sean McDermott will give the job to the player who earns it.
• Where are they now? Former middle linebacker James Willis (1996-1998) is the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. He was a solid player for us, but never could develop into a star. He was held to the Byron Evans standard, which was tough for anyone. Willis' most famous play came in a 1996 win at Dallas. You may recall him picking off a Troy Aikman pass in the end zone and running it out to about the 10-yard line where he lateraled to Troy Vincent, who ran the ball all the way back for a touchdown. Eagles 31, Cowboys 21. Awesome. Good luck, Mr. Willis. There are some explosive offenses in the Big 12 South. After facing Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M you'll wish you were chasing Emmitt Smith around the field all day long.
• It is exciting to think that football is finally around the corner. I've enjoyed the quiet time of May, June, and July, but I'm ready to see the guys at Lehigh and in the preseason. The World Cup was somewhat entertaining. Baseball is a great game in its own way. Following the Flyers was a lot of fun. Still, nothing compares to football. Let's hope 2010 is a great year.