We still have a week of Organized Team Activities remaining and then a mandatory team mini-camp. We tend to minimize the importance of such practices, saying instead to "wait until the pads go on" to truly evaluate the players. No question there is a lot of truth in that statement. Memories of Lorenzo Booker come flooding back when I see a young player shine in these workouts.
But they *do *mean a lot for the players who are learning the schemes, and for the coaches who are developing a level of trust in those men on the field.
I can tell you a few things from watching at the NovaCare Complex ...
- Michael Vick looks very sharp with his footwork and accuracy and his timing is most definitely there with his receiving corps. His arm is live, of course, and he is throwing the ball with a great deal of confidence.
- We'll obviously see more when the preseason begins, but rookie Nick Foles is very impressive. Big, strong kid, tall in pocket and he delivers the ball well. Great arm. He's off to a fine start and coaches tell me he has picked up the mental part as well as any young quarterback.
- It is clear that Mike Kafka has worked his throwing mechanics and is delivering the ball with more power. He is ingrained in the offense completely. I don't know if the backup quarterback positions have ever been more intriguing, because we just don't fully know what the Eagles have behind Vick.
- DeSean Jackson is attending to personal business this week and won't practice, which gives other receivers a chance to step up. A darling of the OTA's has been rookie Damaris Johnson, with good reason. He's quick, gets into and out of his routes with great speed and has caught everything thrown his way. Some people watching think Johnson is going to push Chad Hall out of a job. We'll see about that. Hall goes out and catches every ball in practice. He is scrappy, versatile and he plays hard. There is a lot of good competition at wide receiver, including sixth-round draft pick Marvin McNutt.
- I had a good conversation the other day with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg about the evolution of the tight end position and whether the Eagles might borrow some of what the Patriots did last year with their offense, making the tight ends the focal point of the passing game. I don't see that happening, but the Eagles do think they can create favorable matchups with Brent Celek and his backup, who is likely to be Clay Harbor or Brett Brackett. Rookie Chase Ford is going to get a long look in training camp, too. Said Mornhinweg: "If you've got a couple of really good ones, and we think we do here, you utilize them. It depends on your personnel and your opponents' personnel. We move ours around and we want them to be involved in our passing game and who can hold up on the line of scrimmage for in-line blocking. We've got a good group of athletes and all of them have a real good opportunity here. Brent is one of the best in the league in every phase and we have great competition behind him. This is Clay's first major offseason that he has had and he is coming on strong."
- Every day we watch linebacker Mychal Kendricks looking for him to show some area of weakness, and so far he hasn't shown much. He gets it. He is going to be a featured part of this defense, or at least the Eagles are going to see if he can handle that kind of responsibility. Look for him to blitz, to drop back in coverage and maybe to line up in the Joker position as a pass rusher up the gut.
- What's the holdup with signing first-round draft pick Fletcher Cox? I don't know, but this deal will get done before anyone sweats Cox missing a minute of training camp. You can book that one.
- My top five cornerbacks, based on these practices: Nnamdi Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Joselio Hanson, Brandon Boykin and Brandon Hughes. Curtis Marsh, a third-round draft pick last year, has to step up to earn a roster spot here. And I'm not down on Hanson, as some out there seem to be. He's a tough guy, a scrappy competitor and he can play inside and outside. Boykin, I will say, is really impressive.
- Michael Vick handles the media so tremendously well that when there were reports that he "bristled" at a line of questioning about staying healthy and limiting his mistakes, I had to chuckle. Vick isn't bristling. He's just more interested in talking about something new, something that is in right in front of him, rather than a topic that won't become relevant until the games start.
- The Eagles will introduce some looks during practice ahead from the rest of the NFC East. It's what Andy Reid does, just to give the players a feel for what to expect from the division.
- I think safety Nate Allen might be the most improved player on this roster from the standpoint of where he was last August physically to where he is now. He looks outstanding. Allen is in awesome shape and is, as usual, approaching the game the right way. If he doesn't have a fantastic season, I will be shocked.
- Remember those days when critics complained that Reid didn't play rookies? Last year's rookie class had starters all over the place and this year's draft class is in line to contribute heavily.