It wasn't too long ago when Andy Reid was criticized for not playing his rookie class, and even though the facts didn't support the loud voices, the yelping mounted. Well, we're seeing now -- and we have seen for years -- that if a player is good enough, he will get his shot. Already in this preseason, the Eagles are showing confidence in Nate Allen, the starting free safety, and Brandon Graham, who on Monday lined up as the starter at left defensive end in practice.
There is more to come with this draft class. Certainly, it is early in the process and the final verdict on this group is not final. And we've been monitoring it for weeks and weeks and the report becomes more positive each time. The Eagles have enough faith in their rookies that they promoted Allen to the starting job when Marlin Jackson was injured and haven't looked back. Now they are taking a look at Graham with the first team at left end. Meanwhile, Riley Cooper does nothing but catch every pass thrown his way, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim is playing with the starters in the nickel pass rush, Keenan Clayton has been a big-play maker at linebacker in the preseason games, Kurt Coleman has been a solid contributor as a reserve safety and so on, and so on.
Now, I know I am prone to going overboard at times. Once or twice, anyway ... And I know the coaches and the personnel department take a far more measured approach to evaluating personnel, correctly understanding that the rookies haven't done a thing yet. Allen is penciled in as a starter, there is no denying that, but Graham has only taken one day of practice reps. Juqua Parker is a good defensive end, coming off the best season of his career. He deserves respect there.
The point here is that the Eagles can't deny what they see in practice every day and in the two preseason games. The kids are men, and they are making plays all over the field.
Graham, of course, is a special case. The Eagles traded up to get him in April with the expectation that he would contribute early in his career. Graham, clearly, is a superior talent. He recorded a sack and two tackles for losses on Friday in Cincinnati. He has been a dominating player in practice. The increased speed of the game has not been a problem, and Graham is learning the scheme and the technique needed very quickly.
Just as impressively, Allen has handled the move to the starting free safety spot without losing his cool. He is a mature young man, very confident and mentally in control of the tall order presented to him. Allen was all around the ball against the Bengals, a great sign. He was physical, he covered down the field, he supported the run.
He did it all. And he has done it all every day in practice.
Graham and Allen are leading the charge for the 2010 draft class. That's the way it is supposed to be. But this is just the beginning. There is so much more to come for these rookies. They are off to a great start and the coaches are noticing enough to place their trust and the huge responsibility of playing vital roles these season.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT**
I had a good chat with center Jamaal Jackson, who is taking things slowly and surely with his recovery from his knee injury. Jackson isn't putting a timetable on his return, but he says he isn't ruling out September 12 against Green Bay. Jackson will start the season on the 53-man roster and expects to contribute to this offense as early as possible. "I feel better every day. I know I have things to work through. I'm being patient. It's coming along," said Jackson.
- Duce Staley, working with the Eagles this summer through the preseason as a coaching intern, spoke to Fox 29 in Philadelphia about Kevin Turner, a fullback with Staley when both played with the Eagles. Turner has been diagnosed with ALS. "Great guy, great family man and someone who taught me every day. He was always willing to help me," said Staley. "Tough guy and a great player. I'm really sorry to hear what he is going through."
- Don't tell Akeem Jordan that preseason games are meaningless. He made it in the NFL by playing well in the preseason and earning a spot on the practice squad in 2007 and then earning a promotion to the active roster later in the year. "I play all of them as hard as I can," he said. "It's a football game and I love the game. Any time I can get on the field and play, I'm going to give it everything I have." Jordan has been sure with his tackling and has covered well in two preseason games. "There are always things I can improve," he said. "I'll never be satisfied with the way I'm playing."
- Looking around the NFC East ... a lot of injuries out there, folks. Donovan McNabb was in a walking boot on Monday and the Redskins have injury problems in their secondary. The Giants are all banged up along the offensive line. Dallas has injuries on both sides of the line of scrimmage. An injury or two changes the complexion of everything, as we have seen before.