Michael Vick figures to be the center of attention for the first half Thursday night when he makes his first start since 2006. But Thursday night's game is probably more important for the guy who will be the starting center, A.Q. Shipley.
Shipley is fighting for his spot on the 53-man roster in what has become a crowded offensive line. Last year, the Eagles opened the season with 10 offensive linemen on the roster, though they've kept nine in the past. Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, Nick Cole, Jamaal Jackson, Stacy Andrews, Winston Justice, Mike McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles each figure to have a spot on the team, and that makes eight. Then, Austin Howard and King Dunlap each have a chance to earn a spot for their performances at tackle. So Shipley will have to stand out Thursday night.
"It's the last opportunity to show what you can do," Shipley said. "You obviously want to go out and make a great impression. We're going to get a lot of time this week. The Jets are a quality team, they're a good defense, so just go out and play your game, give it your all because there's a lot riding on it."
Working in Shipley's favor is the apparent uncertainty at the center position. The starter, Jamaal Jackson, appears on track to be ready for the season opener, but he is coming off a torn ACL last December. Nick Cole has been battling a knee issue all summer and is considered a better fit at guard. Mike McGlynn has been the starting center throughout the preseason and has acclimated himself well, but center is also not his natural position.
Shipley, meanwhile, played center throughout his career at Penn State, winning the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the country's best center. And after getting some reps with the first-team offense last week against the Kansas City Chiefs - when McGlynn left briefly with a foot injury - Shipley will once again have a chance to show what he can do.
But that experience at center is a double-edged sword, as Shipley doesn't have the same versatility to move around to different spots on the offensive line as some of his competition does. Shipley, 6-1, 315, was originally a seventh-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2009 draft and he spent last season on their practice squad, before joining the Eagles in January. He said he's felt a tremendous improvement in his game since then.
"I feel real comfortable," he said. "I feel really good in terms of the scheme. I feel really good in terms of the offense. I feel really good technique-wise. I've gotten more and more comfortable since the minute I got here with (offensive line coach Juan Castillo's) technique and I'm just putting it to use every week in the games. I feel like I'm getting better and better."
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 12:53 p.m., September 1