Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Quite an eventful day here in Lehigh Valley, where even on a Monday morning, thousands of Eagles fans poured into training camp. It has to be one of the most serene places in the league, what with the lush, green meadows and trees dotting the mountainside. Almost made myself cry during that last sentence.
Why don't we get away from my postcard from Bethlehem and actually talk some football. The morning session was dominated by the defense, and there's a rookie linebacker named Moise Fokou who Eagles fans are going to be rooting for. The seventh-round pick out of Maryland is always flying around the ball and he'll be tough to keep off the final roster. For more on Fokou and other players you'll actually recognize, continue reading:
When I brought up the fact that rookie Jeremy Maclin had muffed one punt and mishandled another at the end of the morning session, he glared at me before saying, "It won't be an issue." In my book, a first-round rookie putting the ball on the ground is a worthy topic -- but that's just me. In my five-minute visit with Maclin, it's obvious that he has a ton of confidence. When I asked him if he'd be OK with the coaches not starting him at first, he quickly replied, "I didn't come here to sit on the bench." I didn't really see Maclin do a lot in the morning session, but a sixth-round pick named Brandon Gibson out of Washington State kept making play after play.
Rookie free-agent tight end Eugene Bright is sort of an interesting story. He was a defensive end at Purdue, but the Eagles signed him in April to play tight end. He said he played two games at tight end in high school in Pennsylvania, but never thought he'd end up there in the pros. But with the season-ending injury to Cornelius Ingram and Matt Schobel missing time with an injury, Bright is getting a long look. He dropped a couple passes early in camp, so he started carrying a football with him at all times. He says he catches an extra 200 passes a day that way, and that the quarterbacks constantly want to throw to him away from the practice fields. Bright got the idea from one of America's true film classics, "The Program," in which the immortal Omar Epps fumbled so much that coaches made him carry a ball around campus. Playing the role of Darnell Jefferson, Epps held onto the ball in games and eventually attracted the attention of Halle Berry. "I rented the movie when I was at Purdue, and it's obviously stuck with me," Bright said.
To be fair, I saw Quintin Demps muff a punt, too. But on defense, Demps looked really comfortable opposite Quintin Mikell and made a nice interception on an ill-advised throw from Donovan McNabb. I think Demps will win the starting job, but the Eagles were wise to sign a quality backup like Sean Jones from the Browns.
Second-year linebacker Joe Mays appears to be making the most of his opportunity now that middle linebacker Stewart Bradley's out for the season. Mays was very active in blitz packages and he showed some really good range in dropping back into coverage. Also the type of kid who's really easy to root for. Not very tall at 5-11, but he's stacked. Sort of built like Skins linebacker London Fletcher.
I think Brent Celek will be the latest entry in what has to be the best tight end division in football. Martellus Bennett is playing to rave reviews in San Antonio and Jason Witten's the best tight end in football right now. The Redskins' Chris Cooley and the Giants' Kevin Boss are both very productive, although Cooley's obviously the bigger weapon. Celek's a very unassuming guy, but you can tell he's highly intelligent. He's been studying tape of Witten and Cooley to see what makes them so successful. He said the way Witten "sets people up at the top of his routes" is what sets him apart.
It didn't take long to identify the best player in this camp right now. His name is DeSean Jackson and no one can defend him at this point. He's making All-Pro cornerback Asante Samuel look silly in practice -- on a routine basis. Jackson looks bigger than last season, and I don't think he's lost any speed. Seriously. No one in camp can cover him.
Former Cowboys practice squad wide receiver Danny Amendola had an excellent morning practice. He runs smooth routes and he made a couple tough catches on low throws.
Donovan McNabb is still having fun after all these years. On one play, he took off running down the sideline. But just as a defender assumed he would step out of bounds, McNabb tip-toed down the sideline. The fans went nuts, and McNabb had a good laugh as he jogged back to the huddle.
Defensive end Chris Clemons, the former Raider, broke through for at least one sack in the practice and his quickness in drills was pretty impressive. Still looks too skinny to me, but he had a good practice.
Former Charges linebacker Matt Wilhelm stuffed the run a couple times and he looks like he could definitely contribute. At the rate they're going, the Eagles are going to need a lot of depth at linebacker. And based on Monday's practice, they might be in better shape than a lot of people think.
Asante Samuel rarely speaks to the media, but he's the most vocal defender on the field. When cornerback Sheldon Brown made a really nice play on the ball, Samuel came racing in from the sideline shouting at the top of his lungs.
There's been a Winston Justice sighting early in camp. I think most fans and reporters just assu
med he'd never be heard from again after his nightmare experience against the Giants a couple years ago, but he's shown up with a different mindset in this camp. I don't want to go too far, but it's safe to say that Winston Justice is actually displaying some confidence in this camp. If Shawn Andrews can't go, the Eagles may need Justice.
When Maclin sort of threw Sheldon Brown to the ground after a pass breakup, someone from the stands shouted, "Maclin, that's our Pro Bowler! Take it easy!"
Kevin Kolb was throwing the ball pretty well this morning before he sprained his MCL. He'll miss Thursday's preseason game, but the Eagles are saying he'll be day to day after that.
Rookie cornerback Macho Harris out of Virginia Tech made some nice plays on the ball in one-on-one drills with the receivers. All in all, the defense really dominated the offense. McNabb admitted as much and vowed to change that in the near future. Speaking of McNabb, it's ridiculous how many weapons he has at receiver right now. Watching Jackson, Maclin, Avant and Kevin Curtis go about their business convinces me that this is the best receiving corps in the NFC East.
I like Eldra Buckley at running back. I don't know if he has a chance to make the team, but he's willing to dole out some punishment when he sticks his nose in the hole. He spent last season on the Chargers' practice squad. Another good underdog story.
Jason Peters looked fine to me during team drills. Very athletic and he can engulf a defensive end. Watched him do it twice Monday morning. And Stacy Andrews may be the tallest right guard I've seen. At 6-7, he cast a pretty long shadow. And on the left side, reserve offensive tackle King Dunlap is the same way. He's one of those guys who could be pretty effective if the light ever comes on. If memory serves correct, he just didn't want to work that hard at Auburn. I'll ask around and see if he's changed that at all. Pretty impressive looking guy. The Eagles have six offensive linemen on the roster 6-5 or taller.