We're getting there, people. We are getting there. The Eagles have two weeks of full-team OTAs to go before they take the annual hiatus and then descend upon Lehigh University for training camp. Time flies when you're having fun ... and no doubt the mood, the tempo, the atmosphere around this team is exciting. It kinda reminds me of a Super special season not too long ago ... Anyway, I've got questions, maybe a couple of answers and some things to ponder as the Eagles get ready for Tuesday and the next wave of practices.
**WHEN WILL THE DRAFT PICKS SIGN?
I interviewed Team President Joe Banner about that very subject the other day for *Eagles Insider *magazine and he indicated that the process is underway, but that things won't really ramp up until a few weeks before training camp begins. Banner is confident that the Eagles will have all of their draft picks signed before rookies and selected veterans meet on the night of Sunday, July 26 at Lehigh.
At the same time, the Eagles could get the ball rolling a bit earlier. A few teams -- like Chicago and San Francisco -- have set the market, as it were, for signing draft picks and have established some guidelines with which to work, so Banner's team is likely making calls to agents and seeing if there are any quick signings they can make.
The Eagles have just over $4 million within the rookie salary cap pool, established by the league, to sign their draft picks. I'm betting they all sign before camp begins.
**WHICH ROOKIES MADE THE BEST IMPRESSIONS IN THE RECENT CAMP?
I've talked to a lot of coaches and personnel guys and everyone is excited about this rookie class and reserved at the same time. The pads haven't gone on. There has been no "live" football. Still, it's fun to take some leaps of faith here ...
It is way, way early to say this, but I think the Eagles have hit home runs on their first three draft picks. I'm not sure how much Jeremy Maclin will play this year -- it is way too early to know -- but his talent on the field is obvious to everyone. I haven't seen Maclin really run away from anybody yet, and I have to see that to make sure he is ready to go this year, and I think the reason I haven't seen that is because he is still learning the scheme. But he has great hands and seems to run the right routes.
Maclin, I say, will make an immediate impact -- in the punt return game. As a receiver, we'll have to see how things shake out. I look forward to seeing Maclin every day.
LeSean McCoy is coming along extremely well. I wonder about his confidence, because I think he has a ton of it and he is going to be humbled along the way here, so we have to see how he reacts. McCoy is much bigger than the "small" back I thought he was, He has excellent hands, great shiftiness and speed. Kid is a player right now.
Cornelius Ingram had a superb two weeks. Saw him drop maybe one or two passes. Caught a ton. Moved so well. Big target. Ingram looks like he is primed -- and there is s ton of work to do, agreed -- to come in and help right away as Brent Celek's backup.
It is not fair to judge the defensive players because they have no pads on, so I will wait until training camp to do that. I liked what I saw from Brandon Gibson. He and Maclin were the best of the group of wide receivers in this camp.
**ANY LONG SHOTS CATCH THE COACHES' EYES IN THESE CAMPS?
Winston Justice showed up in fine shape and really, honestly, truly looked good. We'll see him and get a better read when the pads go on. But he had a stronger punch, looked like he was more physical and had the technique down. I think linebacker coach Bill Shuey is excited to see what Tracey White and some of his young linebackers are going to bring to the table. I know that Rory Segrest wants to see Bryan Smith in his second NFL season.
Eugene Bright continues to intrigue me, not for what he is but for what he might become. Would the Eagles keep a developmental tight end who blocks really, really well? Bright has to go out and block really, really well, and if he does that he will give the coaching staff something to think about.
**WHAT DO WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE QBs?
They have had fine off-seasons. Kevin Kolb and A.J. Feeley took a bunch of reps in the two-week camp and looked sharp. Adam DiMichele came in and competed. Donovan McNabb now takes over with the first team and the Eagles go back into their rotation at quarterback. DiMichele won't get much time at all, if he remains on the roster. The Eagles have to trim the roster. Will they keep four quarterbacks?
You have to like the situation here. Look around the league and find a team that has this much front-line talent and this much depth. Kolb has really grown in the last couple of years and he has a very strong handle on the Xs and Os. McNabb is, of course, a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback. Feeley has won games in this league. He is about as good a No. 3 quarterback as any team has.
And you look around and see what the Eagles have assembled on offense and, well, it's impressive. Could be a great offensive line. Lots of pass-catching weapons. Brian Westbrook and McCoy in the backfield. A great system. McNabb is set up to have a monster season.
**ANY CHANCE STACY ANDREWS SEES PRACTICE TIME?
The timetable for offensive lineman Stacy Andrews to get on the practice field has been deliberately hazy. He has been working extremely hard on his recovery from the knee injury and has been seen recently running and conditioning on the side during these OTAs. Hey, the guy looks good. Could he get out and do some individual work during this camp? Maybe? I don't know.
A more realistic view is that Andrews will play at some point at Lehigh. But you know how these things work. All of a sudden you look around and see Andrews. It would be huge to see him in the next two weeks, but I'm not holding my breath. I just want Andrews ready for September.
**ANYTHING NEW WITH JIM JOHNSON?
No news. Johnson is on his leave of absence and Sean McDermott is running the defense. We are all praying for Johnson's health and the very brave battle that he is fighting.