Training camp has been a blast. Just going from a work stoppage to training camp would have been a cause for celebration, but then the Eagles turned the last week into a shopping spree and, well, the mood couldn't be more positive at Lehigh University.
Well, yeah, I guess technically it could be more positive. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson remains a holdout and fellow starting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has not practiced. The Eagles are still experimenting up front along the offensive line and the defensive line has suffered some concerning injuries.
There are a bunch of nagging football questions, mostly centering around the expectations of having rookies (as it stands now) at key starting positions for the linebacking position and both kicking jobs.
Every team, though, faces a number of questions. We know that the Eagles have an extremely talented roster and an accomplished coaching staff. As training camp makes the turn and points toward the preseason opener (Thursday, 7:30 vs. Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field, seen locally on 6abc), there are some important developments to discuss …
- Hold off on the stories about defensive tackle Mike Patterson returning to football-related duties in the next few days, as his agent told everyone on Friday. The Eagles are taking a far more comprehensive approach to Patterson. They want to continue to discuss options for treatment and they want to see more medical opinions. Everything about Patterson's recovery is positive, so let's stress that. But it is just too early to discuss a timetable for Patterson to return to the Eagles as a player.
- In the meantime, the defensive tackle position is so radically different than it was a season ago. Antonio Dixon and Trevor Laws are there, yes, but neither practiced on Friday because of injuries. Instead, the Eagles took a long look at the four tackles they signed on Thursday and one of them, veteran Anthony Hargrove, clearly had fresh legs and a great burst off the ball. Hargrove is a 287-pounder in his eighth season and my prediction is that he is going to make a very serious push to earn a roster spot and playing time. Another veteran, Derek Landri, is in a similar position. I have to focus on him more during the weekend.
- Kurt Coleman is a really good football player. He is lining up as the starting strong safety and he just always seems to be in the right position. Coleman rarely makes a mental mistake. The challenge is there from second-round draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett, but Coleman is prepared to win that position.
- The possibilities seem endless as far as the defensive options with all of these excellent cornerbacks here. The Eagles can blitz out of a four-cornerback set with Asante Samuel at left cornerback, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie at right cornerback and Nnamdi Asomugha with Joselio Hanson in the slot. The Eagles can give Asomugha looks at safety over the top on a tight end. They are so flexible with the things they can do and they have barely scratched the surface. Know this, though: Asomugha is going to move around a lot on defense. He may follow a receiver at times. He may stay on one side. He may blitz. He may play linebacker or safety.
- Just a note here, that you know if you watch Training Camp Live! and see the practice footage: Hanson is having his best camp. He looks great. The depth at cornerback is remarkable.
- So is the size of that group. For the last few years the Eagles had a bunch of smaller cornerbacks. Not any longer. Both Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie are long and extremely athletic. The Eagles can match up with any set of wide receivers in the league.
- Brent Celek is the starting tight end and he is having a good camp. But Donald Lee, it seems to me, is going to get a lot of reps. He runs well and has good hands. Let's see what he does in the next few weeks.
- Fenuki Tupou at right tackle? That's how the Eagles lined it up on Friday. A fifth-round draft pick in 2009, Tupou has not found a home at eight tackle spot, but the Eagles like what they've seen thus far, enough for him to earn first-team reps at right tackle.
- At this point, by far it seems, the defense is ahead of the offense. Take away two starting receivers and it makes a difference.
- I really enjoyed watching offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson working with the quarterbacks on their footwork late in the morning practice. It is obvious to me that the Eagles think they can improve Vince Young's mechanics greatly. He is now what you would call a smooth quarterback. He doesn't have a prototype style. Let's keep an eye on his progression through the preseason.
- Just thinking: If the Eagles play a lot of snaps with three and even four cornerbacks, how many reps will a middle linebacker get, anyway? All of this worry about rookie Casey Matthews from the fans seems a bit excessive. I mean, I get it from the standpoint of making sure the Eagles cover every base, but they want to give Matthews a lot of reps and see how he handles the position.
- I spoke with Moise Fokou late in the afternoon to try to get a sense of how the linebackers are going to be used, and I understand this: It won't simply be a case of four down linemen and three linebackers in traditional 4-3 roles. It is not clear to me yet, but I'm watching and learning. Fokou is having a terrific camp, by the way. Good in coverage and playing downhill.
- I didn't see Young take any snaps in the 11-on-11 drills. Mike Kafka remained the No. 2 quarterback with Jerrod Johnson third. That will change soon.
- Rookies Jason Kelce and Julian Vandervelde are getting a lot of reps and they are making good progress. Danny Watkins was a stud in one-on-one reps against the defensive line on Friday. "He was the best offensive linemen in the draft," said NFL Network's Brian Baldinger. "Give him some time. He has never played guard before. Howard Mudd will get him right."