Philadelphia Eagles News

Plenty Of Work Ahead For Eagles

The talent level is high for a team still without many of its prime-time players. The Eagles have a slew of youngsters fighting to make the roster and they have a group of veterans -- many of whom aren't playing yet -- that make for an interesting mix on Andy Reid's roster.

It is far too early to make any kind of evaluations that have long-lasting relevance, but let's give it a shot. After a fast-and-furious pace to re-working the roster, the Eagles calmed things down on Monday, re-trading (he had been traded to Cleveland on Saturday) defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley to Denver for 2013 draft considerations. So it was a good time to watch practice and get a feel for things ...

The Quarterback Picture

Michael Vick is in terrific shape and he has plenty of zip on his passes. Vick has thrown some beautiful balls at Lehigh, and he has missed some open receivers. I've always thought Vick is something entirely different in a game situation. He just turns it up to a completely different level. Vick isn't a poor practice player, but he is nothing like he is in games.

Mike Kafka has been OK. He ran a nice two-minute drill on Monday and he has a command of the offense. Kafka still needs some work, and he knows it. The young man simply has not had enough reps to make him a finished product.

Rookie Jerrod Johnson is a big, athletic kid who is very, very raw. He is likely to get his action cut way, way down when Vince Young begins practice on Thursday.

How Is The Offensive Line Coming Together?

Coach Howard Mudd wants to see what he has, so he is moving the pieces around. Mudd doesn't care what a player has done in the past. He wants his guys to earn playing time. So the only positions that have been untouched on the starting unit have been left tackle (Jason Peters) and left guard (Todd Herremans). Both have looked outstanding, although they need to get into football shape.

Every other spot has had change. Rookies Julian Valdervelde took reps at right guard with the starters on Monday and Jason Kelce took some reps at center. A.Q. Shipley and Mike McGlynn have seen time with the starters at guard. Right tackle has been a revolving door with King Dunlap and Austin Howard taking first-team reps.

This is most definitely a work in progress. The good news is that the left side is solid and Jamaal Jackson is healthy at center. There is some young talent here. The Eagles signed veteran Evan Mathis for a reason. He may have a chance to earn real playing time.

Meanwhile ... Winston Justice continues to rehab from knee surgery and No. 1 draft pick Danny Watkins is going to practice for the first time on Wednesday after agreeing to contract terms on Monday night. He has some ground to make up and some notches to climb on the depth chart.

Which Receivers Are Stepping Up?

Minus DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, other receivers have had extended reps in practice. Riley Cooper has had a terrific camp once again. He is playing faster and is catching everything that comes his way. Sinorice Moss has been outstanding -- quick in and out of his breaks and very reliable catching the football. Can he stay healthy and sustain his production?

Jason Avant has been Jason Avant, which is to say he has been sharp with his routes, fearless giving up his body and sticky with his hands. Chad Hall has had a nice camp, quicker than he was last year and just as sure handed. Among the other receivers, Rod Harper has probably stood out the most. He has played well.

The next step is to get the starters in, and to see what Johnnie Lee Higgins can do. The Eagles want to see how they can use his deep speed in the offense.

Is The Front Four Ready To Dominate?

Boy, this group looks good early. Tackle Mike Patterson looks like he dropped 20 pounds appears so much quicker off the ball. Trent Cole, Darryl Tapp and Juqua Parker have been energetic. Former CFL star Phillip Hunt has been a lightning bolt off the edge. It's probably fair to say that each and every one of the players on the defensive line has responded favorably to new coach Jim Washburn.

But not all of them are going to make it here. The Eagles may keep 10 linemen -- five ends and five tackles -- and there are more good players here. Veterans like Victor Abiamiri need to have big games in the preseason. Second-year men Ricky Sapp and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim must win jobs in a competitive field. It isn't going to be easy.

Once end Jason Babin and tackle Cullen Jenkins join the mix, the defensive line is going to have great depth and a really high ceiling.

Is Youth OK In The Back Seven?

It's going to have to be. The Eagles are going with rookie Casey Matthews at middle linebacker and as each day passes and the Eagles don't make a deal for a veteran, they are are taking another step toward committing to the fourth-round draft pick. Matthews looks good out here. He is calling the defensive signals and is grading well with the mental game. He is fast to the ball. He has those great Matthews instincts.

The next test comes as camp grows longer and his legs become heavier. Can he, at 245 pounds, hold up to the intensity? Then, in the preseason games, can he get off of blocks? The Eagles want to see him take a lot of reps.

Jamar Chaney has played the strong-side linebacker spot and Moise Fokou and Keenan Clayton have been on the weak side. The Eagles clearly want a strong cover man, Chaney, over the tight end.

The secondary has shown tremendous promise. Cornerback is clearly a position of strength -- keep your eye on young Brandon Hughes and second-year man Trevard Lindley, along with rookie Curtis Marsh -- and safety has been a positive. Nate Allen had a great day on Monday and then proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy after practice. Kurt Coleman and Jaiquawn Jarrett are going to battle it out to see who starts at strong safety.

Are Two Rookies Too Risky For Kicking Game?

It is easy to see why the Eagles invested a fourth-round draft pick in placekicker Alex Henery. He has a strong leg and is accurate. I've seen him miss only one field goal in camp, and he has easily boomed 45-yard field goals in the drills.

Punter Chas Henry crushes his kicks. Absolutely crushes them. He has a big, big leg, one of the strongest I've seen. The perfect consistency isn't there yet, and Henry will have to demonstrate that through the course of four preseason games. He has also held well.

So far, so great for the Eagles in camp. It has been a blast. Anybody who thinks the Eagles have done all they need to do, though, is kidding himself. The Eagles have some positions they could improve -- who is the backup running back? Is there enough on the offensive line? Is this team set at linebacker? -- and they have to build chemistry and find the right roles for all of this talent.

The Eagles have a lot to build upon here. Baltimore visits on August 11, which seems so close and yet so far away that is just now entering the heat of training camp, 2011.

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