The scripts are written for every day of Training Camp, so the Eagles will hit the ground running when they report to the NovaCare Complex on August 1. Training sessions begin on August 2 and it's going to be, as you know, fast, fast and faster.
In these hauntingly quiet days leading to the open of Training Camp, the mind wanders. And wonders. There are many topics to consider, starting at the top.
1. How Much Can Sam Bradford Handle Early In Camp?
There are, by a count here, 44 days between the start of the training sessions and the opening of the regular season in Atlanta. Quarterback Sam Bradford has that much time to accelerate his on-field action after conducting seven-on-seven drills in the spring. How much changes when camp opens? That remains to be seen. Every word out of the Eagles in the spring was encouraging regarding Bradford's health.
Does Bradford take every rep on August 2 when the team takes the field? Is he going to be full go for the preseason games? Will he be ready for September 14 and the Falcons? The reality is that his is a one-step-at-a-time process and that the Eagles will monitor his progress closely.
The thinking here is that Bradford has continued his rehab work diligently from the time the Eagles stepped off the field in the spring to this point and that he's going to be ready to go, but that's just the perspective here. We'll see on August 2. Until then, it's all a guessing game.
2. What Will The Offensive Line Look Like In September?
We know that Jason Peters is the left tackle and Jason Kelce is a standout at center and that Lane Johnson has right tackle locked down. The guards? They are certainly positions to watch. The Eagles are changing personnel at both spots and are counting on Allen Barbre to play well at left guard. He's in the starter's gate heading into camp there. Right guard? We'll see if Matt Tobin or Andrew Gardner or Kevin Graf or newly signed John Moffitt, who has more experience on the left side, can fill the bill and upgrade the position from the 2014 season.
The game of football is pretty simple to figure out, when you understand how it works: You can have all of the star power in the world at the skill positions, but what really makes an offense go is the play at the line of scrimmage. The Eagles want to be better up front than they were last year. For that to happen, some players with limited NFL experience are going to have to step up and shine.
3. Is Walter Thurmond The Answer At Safety?
The idea is this: The Eagles need safeties who can cover from sideline to sideline and who can tackle well and who can support the run. Thurmond, who has experience at cornerback, has a real shot at earning the starting job next to Malcolm Jenkins. You can be sure that the coaching staff will roll a lot of players through at safety to get a look at everyone, but Thurmond impressed in the spring.
He's not the biggest guy at 5 feet 11, 190 pounds, but Thurmond can cover. The Giants liked him a lot in the slot last year before Thurmond suffered a season-ending pectoral injury. Can he hold up to the long season and the physical requirements at safety?
4. How Will The Linebackers Look?
Injuries devastated the inside linebacker group in 2014 so the Eagles made sure to address that room heavily. They traded for Kiko Alonso. They signed Brad Jones, who can also play outside, in the offseason as a free agent. They drafted Jordan Hicks in the third round. DeMeco Ryans is healthy. Najee Goode, too. Suddenly, the Eagles have a plethora of inside linebackers, including a ready-to-take-his-game-to-the-next-level Mychal Kendricks. How do all of those numbers help the entire defense, and the edge spots specifically?
We'll see. Brandon Graham signed in free agency to stay here and join Connor Barwin as projected starters. Who is the third outside linebacker? Does second-year man Marcus Smith make the big jump? Questions, questions.
5. How Do The Eagles Build Chemistry?
There have been some significant changes, of course. The offseason, before this silence, was action packed. All of the new faces mean new chemistry must be built and head coach Chip Kelly is very aware of that. He knows how to build the trust and confidence in his locker room.
If Bradford can get on the field early and show he is healthy and ready to thrive in this offense, boy, imagine what that would do for the spirits in the locker room. Players don't want to answer questions about the quarterback position. They have their own jobs to do. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews are key pieces in the offense, and they need to get their timing down and their confidence in the offensive line. It's critical that by the time the Eagles emerge from the preseason, they believe in the man in the next locker over.
But that's down the line. Right now, we're two weeks and counting the open of camp. If it seems like an eternity, it is. This season just can't get started quickly enough for all of us to see how the Eagles blend all of the new pieces with the veterans in the locker room to make a run at the postseason and more in 2015.