Subject: Eagles draft class. Question: How much can we expect from the rookies this season? It is really early to talk about this, but why not? We're in the waiting days of the preseason and, well, why not look ahead?
This is a talented draft class. There may be no immediate starters, but the Eaglse should get early contributions from at least a few of the rooks. None of them is a finished product, so make sure to exercise some caution when evaluating where they are as players. Clearly, there is plenty of talent here. And some of these players are being counted on to help as rookies.
Leading the way is LeSean McCoy, who is probably coming off his least impressive performance of his young career. That's how good McCoy has been. Big plays are expected. Mistakes are magnified. McCoy ran a slant route and couldn't hang on to a Donovan McNabb pass as McCoy took a hit, and then McCoy gave up the edge in pass protection. And all of a sudden ...
The truth is, the kid is a fantastic young player who is going to be humbled as every player is humbled in the league. He is going to be in the field this year along with Brian Westbrook and the Eagles are going to count on McCoy to play like a veteran. He is going to run the offense, and McCoy is going to be a featured piece of what the Eagles want to do.
No 1 draft pick Jeremy Maclin should also see the field both as a receiver and a return man. He clearly has some rough edges to smooth out in the return game and is going to get a lot of touches there in the remaining preseason games. Maclin needs to use his speed better and realize he can't outrun everyone to the sidelines before going north-south. Maclin has to hit it up in the hole quickly and then shift gears. He'll get there.
As a receiver, Maclin has shown good hands and an intelligence in the coverage recognition game. We haven't seen him blow past any cornerbacks quite yet, but that is going to come as Maclin plays with instincts, rather than thinking his way through things.
Another receiver, Brandon Gibson, had a big game against the Colts and is pushing for a roster spot. He still has to make the team before we talk about any impact he might have.
Defensive back Macho Harris is an intriguing player. He has improved greatly in the last couple of weeks with his sprained ankle healing, and he has made plays in both preseason games. He has a natural timing on his blitzes and could be used in some capacity there. Special teams is also an important part of Harris' porfolio should the Eagles use him there. With the safety picture looking, at least from this perspective, like it will be Quintin Mikell, Quintin Demps, Sean Jones and Harris, the Eagles could mix and match their combinations in the secondary and use all four quite a bit.
It's going to be interesting to see Harris the rest of the way in the preseason. I'd like to see him make some plays in coverage, build some strength and then gain confidence. He has a chance to be a really fine player.
So does linebacker Moises Fokou, who made six tackles on Thursday night, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Those tackles for losses are what is really impressive about Fokou, who plays a physical, aggressive game. He also seems to be doing a good job on special teams. I could see, should Fokou continue to progress, him making it on the field quite a bit this season.
It isn't a bad start at all for the Class of 2009, with more to come. Lineman Paul Fanaika and Fenuki Tupou are strong prospects who are still in the battle to make the 53-man roster. We should hear from Cornelius Ingram next year when his ACL heals.
The rest of this group is being counted on as rookies. It is a big step in a short time for a group that is, by and large, off to a good start.
* NEWS, NOTES AND THIS AND THAT *
- Is Brian Westbrook ready to play against Jacksonville? Barring any setbacks this week, I would guess he will see a snap or three on Thursday night. Westbrook looks great in practice.
- It was interesting to see the reaction from some fans who wondered why Donovan McNabb took such a positive approach to the poor offensive performance in Indianapolis. My perspective: Do you think McNabb has been through this enough times to know what matters and what doesn't matter in the preseason? The Eagles played most of the game without seven starters on offense. When the starters are all on the field, this offense has serious weapons.
- I know the Eagles gave him some help, not as much as some think, but it's time to believe that Winston Justice has turned a corner. He is playing good football at right tackle now.
- Overlooked a little bit in this preseason is how well the Eagles are playing the run. Tackles Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley are dominating. Victor Abiamiri had a good game against the run on Thursday. Now the Eagles need to tighten up against the passing game. Jacksonville presents a great test for the run defense next.
- First cuts come after Thursday's game, as you know. Should be a very, very competitive week of practice at the NovaCare Complex.