BETHLEHEM, Pa. -There are a slew of position battles at Eagles training camp. While most eyes seem to be on the race to replace Stewart Bradley at middle linebacker or the competition to fill the open spot at safety created by the departure of Brian Dawkins, some of the most hotly contested fights are those waged by the players hoping to just make the final 53-man roster and add to the depth of a talented team.
One position that seems to be exceedingly deep is cornerback, where there appears to be a clear top four - Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown, Joselio Hanson and Ellis Hobbs - and then a pack of guys who are fighting every day to occupy the next rung on that ladder.
Over the past few days, it appears that veteran Dimitri Patterson has crept up to that status. On Tuesday, when Brown and Hobbs didn't practice, Patterson was the first-team right cornerback.
"You always have to be confident," Patterson said. "No matter what the situation may look like, no matter what you may see, you have to remain confident, remain positive, and when your opportunity comes, make the best of it."
Patterson is part of a crowded group of talented cornerbacks, all of whom have had flashes of brilliance throughout camp. Coming off a knee injury that kept him out all of his rookie season, Jack Ikegwuonu, a fourth-round pick by the Eagles in 2008, has looked healthy and strong. Trae Williams has shown to be a ballhawk. And Macho Harris and Byron Parker have both been effective while also competing at safety.
But, among those players, Patterson is the one with the most NFL experience.
"When you come in and you're young," he said, "You do a lot of things that don't pertain to what you do on Sunday. As far as technique, wasted movement, and worrying about things that you can't control - I think that's 50% of the amount of stressing in the NFL.
"So, being in the league three years, going into my fourth, I've learned to just control what I can do. That's it. Let the rest take care of itself."
And Patterson, who was signed by the Eagles in January during the playoffs to occupy the roster spot held by an injured Mike McGlynn, has opened some eyes at Lehigh.
"He's tough and he's quick," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. "Any time you have those two qualities in a defensive player, you can open some eyes. And you love the toughness from a player like that and the role that he plays."
Patterson says that part of the reason he's been able to shine is the nature of the Eagles camp.
"I can tell the reason why this organization has been very successful," he said. "They're about business. You have to put the work in.
"The one thing I respect about this camp is you can't hide out here. In most camps, you won't know if a guy can play until the games. Here, you'll know the first day you put on pads, and that's respectable."
Patterson originally signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of Tuskegee in 2005 and spent a season on their practice squad. He then moved on and spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"I always like to think of myself as someone who can play the corner position," he said. "Outside of that, I see myself as a quality special teamer, so wherever I can fit in I want to show what I can do and show my value to the team."
But he also knows that nothing is guaranteed in the cutthroat world of the NFL, which is why preseason games are so important for players battling for roster spots.
"Any time I get an opportunity to put something on film I'm very excited," Patterson said. "I mean, you just never know. You want to demonstrate you're ready. Number one, show that you're healthy, which is very hard to do, and then let the chips fall where they fall."