NFC East: Hank Baskett
Bell, an undrafted rookie, led the Bills with 152 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 27 carries in the preseason, but he was released Sept. 4 and then signed to the practice squad a day later.
The 24-year-old Bell posted remarkable numbers at Division II Wayne State and was named player of the year after rushing for more than 2,000 yards and collecting 29 touchdowns.
Baskett played in the Super Bowl for the Colts last season before returning to the Eagles this past offseason. He became expendable in large part because rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper emerged as a capable threat in training camp.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- On a Tuesday afternoon last week, Eagles quarterback Kevin Kolb watched one of his star wideouts, Jeremy Maclin, get carted off the field. The same thing had happened to DeSean Jackson a couple days earlier. You would think Kolb might be worried, but that's not an emotion that suits him. Kolb spent the three weeks before camp playing out every possible scenario in his mind so that setbacks like these wouldn't affect him.
"I tried to play out the good situations and the bad situations in my mind," Kolb told the NFC East blog. "I need to stay consistent as the quarterback of this team, so I imagined what all could go wrong and sort of told myself how I was going to react. Only 32 guys in the world that will get this opportunity, and I don't want the opportunity to pass me by."
If you were expecting a wide-eyed quarterback trying to grow into a job, you've come to the wrong place. Handed the task of following the best quarterback in the history of the franchise, Kolb just doesn't seem fazed. With Jackson and Maclin both out of Wednesday's practice, Kolb started firing balls to rookie Riley Cooper. Kolb entered the league in the same rookie class as linebacker Stewart Bradley and Brent Celek in 2007, and everyone's known those players would eventually take over the team in terms of leadership. But it was still stunning when the Eagles pulled the trigger on the biggest trade of the offseason.
Kolb has reached out to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to ask him about following an elite quarterback. And he's also struck up a texting friendship with Cowboys Hall of Famer Troy Aikman, which may make a few fans queasy. Recently, Kolb spent hours watching an old tape of Aikman because "he was unbelievably accurate."
Kolb is relishing the Eagles' new underdog role and he understands that a lot of that has to do with him being the starter. He understands there's added pressure playing quarterback in a city that seems to base its identity on how the Eagles are performing. But he seems to have the right temperament.
"I played in front of 15,000 people when I was 15," said Kolb. "I think playing high school football in Texas gives you a good foundation. And now that I'm a little older, I think I'll be able to handle 70,000."
1. Will this offensive line have any continuity heading into the season?
When the Eagles lost center Jamaal Jackson last year in the playoffs, the offensive line was in trouble. Nick Cole had done a nice job at right guard, but he was thrown into a bad situation at center. Jackson is still recovering from a knee injury and will likely be sidelined to start the season. Cole's been banged-up in practice and it's not like Mike McGlynn and A.Q. Shipley inspire a lot of confidence. The most consistent player on the offensive line last season, left guard Todd Herremans, has missed the first part of camp with a foot injury. You don't want Kolb lining up behind an offensive line that features a different player every week.
2. Do the Eagles have the best receiving corps in the league?
When Maclin and Jackson are healthy, the Eagles may have the most dangerous group in the league. Jason Avant is one of the best third receivers in the league, and he can bail out a quarterback on third down. Kolb's biggest strength is his accuracy. He knows how important it is to deliver the ball to Jackson and Maclin in stride. If you're wondering why this team seems to have such a quiet confidence, just look at these receivers. Throw in the fact that Kolb and Celek are best friends and you have the makings of a Tony Romo-Jason Witten combination.
The Eagles never recovered from the loss of Brian Dawkins via free agency last season. They tried just about everyone at his old position, but it was a nightmare. Allen has looked like a starter from the day he stepped off the bus. He's mature beyond his years and moves with a grace that belies his inexperience. I think the Eagles made great use of the Donovan McNabb pick (No. 37) in landing Allen. And the former South Florida star doesn't appear to feel any added pressure because of where he was taken. It's easy to see that he would've been starting in front of Marlin Jackson even if he'd remained healthy.
I know it's tough to call a first-rounder a "surprise," but Brandon Graham has exceeded everyone's expectations. I love how he's spent time in the film room studying some of the shorter defensive ends around the league. And then he immediately takes some of the moves (Elvis Dumervil) to the field. The Eagles' offensive line doesn't know what to do with Graham, and I think other NFC East offensive tackles will have the same issue. Graham is learning how to use his arms at this level and he already gets incredibly low to the ground when he's turning the corner. He's been the story of camp in a lot of ways. Can't wait to see him in a game. And one more surprise: Ellis Hobbs is having an excellent camp after returning from a neck injury.
There's nothing that really jumps out at this point other than the offensive line issues. But I'd like to see more from Darryl Tapp. The defensive end was hoping to jump-start his career after coming over in a trade from Seattle. He just looks out of place in Sean McDermott's defense right now. In the practice sessions I observed, he didn't really make anything happen.
- Cooper is taking full advantage of the extra repetitions. He made the catch of the day last Wednesday when one of Kolb's passes was tipped by Tapp. Cooper cut off his route and made a diving catch in the flat. Seems like he's quickly becoming a fan favorite and he could actually play himself into the rotation this season. General manager Howie Roseman's a Florida grad, so look for the Gator connection to continue. I don't think Hank Baskett is long for this roster, but he and Kolb did hook up on a deep ball.
- I talked to second-year running back LeSean McCoy about how he's improved his lower-body strength. He thinks he left a lot of yards on the field because he didn't break enough tackles. I think it's helping McCoy to have Duce Staley in camp serving a camp internship.
- Rookie free safety Kurt Coleman out of Ohio State has made a favorable impression but was called for pass interference Wednesday when Kolb used an excellent play-action fake to free up McCoy down the sideline. You can tell that McCoy's going to show up in the passing game a lot more this season.
- This is the only camp I've attended where fans tailgate in the parking lots between morning and afternoon practices. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to get caught up in the moment when he remembered that he'd visited the Lehigh University campus when he was deciding on colleges a few years back.
- Bradley destroyed Eldra Buckley when he made the mistake of trying to jump over a pile. And when Buckley made a catch in the flat, former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims lit him up. Sims stared down at him like Chuck Bednarik once did to Frank Gifford. As I noted in my observations last week, Andy Reid's team hits harder than any of the other teams in the division during camp. We're not simply talking about thuds. I'm talking about linebackers taking ball carriers to the ground. This is how things were done about 20 years ago across the league. Roseman told me that the Eagles felt like it was important to quickly introduce the rookies to how physical the league is.
- I watched Reid take Kolb aside Wednesday and have a long conversation. I think he and McNabb had such an understanding that they rarely had to have a lot of long discussions. But I'm not saying that's a negative about Kolb. It seems like Reid's sort of rejuvenated by the thought of having to coach a quarterback all the way through practice. I remember Bill Parcells saying that about Romo all the time. "You have to coach him all the way through the game," Parcells would say. Reid didn't think that was a big deal when I brought it up, but it's obvious he's spending more time with Kolb. And the two seem to have a great rapport. In fact, Kolb already takes the sharp stick to Reid at times.
- It's a good sign that DeSean Jackson was able to do some light jogging on the side Wednesday with his sore back. The Eagles won't rush him back onto the field, but he needs to maintain his conditioning. Meanwhile, Riley Cooper is taking full advantage of the extra repetitions. He made the catch of the day when one of Kevin Kolb's passes was tipped by Darryl Tapp. Cooper cut off his route and made a diving catch in the flat. Seems like he's quickly becoming a fan favorite and he could actually play himself into the rotation this season. I don't think Hank Baskett is long for this roster, but he and Kolb did hook up on a deep ball Wednesday.
- I talked to second-year running back LeSean McCoy about how he's improved his lower-body strength. He thinks he left a lot of yards on the field because he didn't break enough tackles. He did more squats than he's ever done in his career in the offseason and he appears to have better balance and power. McCoy said he's really enjoyed having former running back Duce Staley hanging around serving an internship.
- Rookie free safety Kurt Coleman out of Ohio State has made a favorable impression but was called for pass interference when Kolb used an excellent play-action fake to free up McCoy down the sideline. I think McCoy's going to be dangerous in the passing game this season.
- This is the only camp I've attended where fans tailgate in the parking lots between morning and afternoon practices. I'm sure Latrobe, Pa., is also nice, but I can't imagine a better scene than Lehigh University. Lush green practice fields on the side of a mountain. Even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell seemed to get caught up in the moment. He said he remembered visiting the Lehigh campus when he was trying to decide which college to attend a few years back.
- Middle linebacker Stewart Bradley destroyed Buckley when he made the mistake of trying to jump over a pile. And when Buckley made a catch in the flat, former Lions linebacker Ernie Sims lit him up. Sims stared down at him like Chuck Bednarik once did to Frank Gifford. And like Gifford, Buckley remained on the ground. It seems like this defense is trying to regain its swagger after being embarrassed by the Cowboys at the end of the 2009 season. And I haven't seen Reid tell anyone to calm down.
- I watched Reid take Kolb aside Wednesday and have a long conversation. I think he and McNabb had such an understanding that they rarely had to have a bunch of discussions. But I'm not saying that's a negative about Kolb. It seems like Reid's sort of rejuvenated by the thought of having to coach a quarterback all the way through practice. I remember Bill Parcells saying that about Tony Romo all the time. "You have to coach all the way through the game. If you don't, you'll be sorry," Parcells would say.
- It's too early to know what rookie safety Nate Allen's going to be, but he certainly looks like a starter. I had a long talk with him after practice. He grew up watching Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins, but he wants to carve out his own identity. Just seems a lot more mature than I realized.
- There's no way you can keep rookie defensive end Brandon Graham out of the starting lineup. Really enjoyed watching him in some one-on-one drills against Winston Justice. Graham's initial burst is pretty remarkable, but he's also developing some nice counter moves. He's smart enough to have asked for tape on some of the smaller defensive ends across the league. He can watch Elvis Dumervil on tape for an hour and then try to take some of his moves straight to the field.
- Fourth-round pick Clay Harbor is eventually going to be the Eagles' second tight end. Cornelius Ingram's the better athlete, but Harbor's already doing a really good job running routes. And it looks like he and Kolb already have some good chemistry.
- I've had my doubts about Ellis Hobbs as a starter, but he had a nice day Wednesday. He broke a couple passes and he's bringing a lot of emotion to the field. I told Roseman that I didn't think the Eagles had enough depth at cornerback. I'll give you his answer later Wednesday, but mainly he thinks that Hobbs' Super Bowl experience outweighs any injury concerns. And he also thinks Joselio Hanson gives the Eagles a great option at the nickel. I'm still not sold, but we'll see how things develop.
- I think Moise Fokou will eventually have to play defensive end if he wants to stay on this roster. I've been watching him in pass-rushing drills. Sean McDermott hasn't admitted anything, but everything's pointing that way.
- Third-round pick Daniel Te'o-Nesheim might be the most intense player on the roster, but he's not anywhere close to Graham as a pass-rusher at this point. Put a decent little rip move on Greg Isdaner, but that's about all I was able to see.
- Tapp hasn't really done anything to distinguish himself at this point in camp. It seems like the offensive tackles have been able to keep him in check for the most part.
- Offensive tackle Fenuki Tupou is a much improved player. He's an enormous guy and his technique looks pretty solid right now. I'd sort of written him off, but he's caught my eye in one-on-one drills.
- I'm not sure the Eagles have done enough to improve the depth at defensive tackle. OK, I'm off to watch special teams practice and then visit with Reid.
- It doesn't take long to realize which team the Eagles are gunning for in the NFC East. On one wall in his new office, Roseman has the Dallas Cowboys' depth chart posted. (Looks like Doug Free and Alex Barron are co-starters). Roseman says the Eagles aren't obsessing with the Cowboys, but those last two losses aren't far from his mind. For the record, he has the Saints' and Colts' depth charts posted next to the Cowboys'. "That's who we have to go through based on last season," said Roseman.
- Rookie safety Nate Allen looks a lot bigger than what I imagined. He's listed at 6-1, 210 pounds. And I'm told that he's beefing up as we speak. Roseman and coach Andy Reid love the fact that Allen played quarterback in high school and they believe he has the aptitude to make an immediate impact. Roseman expressed disappointment over Marlin Jackson's season-ending injury, but he added, "We didn't take a guy at No. 37 to be on the sideline. We drafted him there so that he could play immediately." Still, Roseman was watching film of a veteran safety who's currently on the street when I entered his office. The Eagles aren't planning to sign anyone immediately, but they'll be ready if someone else is injured.
- Former Florida tight end Cornelius Ingram, who is returning from an ACL tear, is an impressive looking player. He's been a little shaky with his hands, but he could be an enormous target for Kevin Kolb. When he opened up on one play down the seam, he appeared to have pretty good speed. I think having a second tight end to go along with the talented Celek would help the Eagles. Right now, the Redskins appear to have the best tandem in the division with Chris Cooley and Fred Davis.
- Former Florida standout Riley Cooper doesn't look like a fifth-round pick. He was plucking throws from Kolb no matter where he put them, and he and Hank Baskett had excellent days. I'm told, though, that Jeremy Maclin put on a show Monday. He's added some muscle to his lanky frame and people within the organization believe he's about to make a similar leap to what DeSean Jackson did in his second season.
- Roseman headed me off at the pass before I could ask about Jackson's absence. He would only say that Jackson's had an excellent offseason and that this week's workouts were "voluntary." Kevin Kolb was very complimentary of Jackson, but he did note that his absence allowed a couple other receivers to flash this week. I asked Kolb if he knew Jackson was planning to skip this week. He paused and said, "I had an inclination." He added that he was sure Jackson had "a good explanation." ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Jackson's absence wasn't related to concerns about his contract. But we haven't been given any other explanation.
- I had no clue it was this gorgeous in Philly in early June. If Reid could've guranteed Jackson this 78-degree weather, perhaps he wouldn't have retreated to Southern California, where's he reportedly spending the week.
- Baskett was the MVP of today's session. He made several tough catches in traffic, including an acrobatic play along the sideline with three defensive backs in the area. Kolb simply threw it up high and Baskett made a play.
- Speaking of Kolb, he's been remarkably sharp this week. He and Celek are close friends, and they've brought that chemistry to the field. He fired a pass down the middle of the field that Celek collected without ever having to break stride. There are going to be throws that Kolb doesn't make as well as Donovan McNabb, but he's showing excellent touch on passes in the middle of the field. And the fact that he's hitting his targets in stride will give them an opportunity to make plays. Kolb said he's never been a position before in which he had this many reliable targets. By the way, Jason Avant might be one of the most underrated players in the game. He catches everything, and he's capable of making the spectacular play as well.
- Former LSU running back Charles Scott has good quickness, but he'll have to work on his concentration. On a screen pass, he was looking upfield and dropped the ball.
- I still have my doubts about Moise Fokou as a starter at linebacker, but he was excellent in coverage Tuesday. He raced down the center of the field and broke up a pass to Celek 25 yards from the line of scrimmage. It was a big-time play and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was the first to rush over and congratulate him. Keep your eye on seventh-round pick Jamar Chaney out of Mississippi State. That's the one guy Roseman kept bringing up. The Eagles couldn't believe they were able to get him at that point in the draft. And so far, he looks like he belongs.
- The Eagles have made first-round pick Brandon Graham a highlight tape of some of the top defensive ends in the league who share his relatively small frame. He's become a big fan of Denver's Elvis Dumervil and he's trying to take some of his moves to the practice field. Graham already knows how to get leverage, but he's used to offensive tackles taking angles against him. He said it's been adjustment to face tackles who are dropping straight back. It's made it more difficult to turn the corner, so he's trying to refine his inside moves. Graham's calling his new move the "chop, dip and rip."
- With Asante Samuel absent this week and Ellis Hobbs sitting out team drills because of a neck injury, Dimitri Patterson and Joselio Hanson were the starting cornerbacks. Macho Harris also received plenty of reps at cornerback. And if you're looking for a darkhorse in training camp, check out the redemption of safety Quintin Demps. He was in the dog house with Reid last season, in part, because of his mouth. Now, he's taking a much more mature approach and I think he could earn some playing time. Former secondary coach Brian Stewart told me last season that Demps had immense potential, but he didn't take advantage of his opportunities. At this point, he's saying all the right things. And Roseman and Reid have both taken notice.
- This is my first time to attend an Eagles practice when Donovan McNabb wasn't present. Very strange to look out there and see Kolb running the show with the first team. But he doesn't seem fazed by all the hoopla surrounding the trade. You can sense how much respect he has from his teammates as he walks around the facility. Some of the rookies actually seem a little nervous around him, which is a bit odd given his lack of experience. But he sort of has a swagger to him that suggests he's ready for this challenge. I'll have a lot more on Kolb in Thursday's column. His college coach, Art Briles, dropped by to see him last week and gave him a few pointers on throwing to his right. Much, much more to come.
He caught on with the Colts and played in the Super Bowl. Of course, the downside to that story is that he's the guy who mishandled the onside kick that energized the Saints to open the second half. Baskett addressed that topic with local reporters Friday.
"I thought everybody was going to come down on me for it, but ... anybody who follows football knows that one play does not change a game," said Baskett. "It sucks that the first onsides kick in [Super Bowl] history before the fourth quarter had to happen to me."
Eagles general manager Howie Roseman released the following statement regarding Baskett:
"Hank adds solid depth to our wide receiving group, plus is a productive special-teams player," said Roseman. "He is a good teammate and obviously is a positive influence in the locker room and is a high-character person. We're excited about welcoming he and his family back to the Eagles."
Working off Domowitch's list, I'll offer my top remaining unrestricted free agent at each position:
Jake Delhomme, Panthers
LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers
Terrell Owens, Bills
Note: The 29-year-old Josh Reed would be a lot less of a headache.
Randy McMichael, Rams
Note: McMichael is 30 but he's capable of scoring five or six touchdowns in the right offense.
Mike Gandy, Cardinals
Ryan Lilja, Colts
Kevin Mawae, Titans
Charles Grant, Saints
Jimmy Kennedy, Vikings
Larry Foote, Lions
Keith Bulluck, Titans
Note: Even at age 32, a highly productive player
Rod Hood, Titans
Note: What a weak, weak group. I used to like Dre Bly, but he's a declining player
Darren Sharper, Saints
Note: The Giants treat Antrel Rolle like some sort of All Pro while Sharper is on the street. I know Sharper is getting long in the tooth, but he can still play. The Broncos went after an aging Brian Dawkins. Some team should do the same with Sharper. Cowboys, anyone?
Baskett is a former Eagles player who spent the past season with the Colts. He'll always be known as the guy who mishandled the Saints' onside kick in the Super Bowl, but he's a very capable player. Baskett had 72 catches for 1,080 yards and six touchdowns in three seasons with the Eagles. With the Reggie Brown trade this week, the Eagles needed to add some depth at receiver.
They also signed former Air Force running back/receiver Chad Hall, who's been on active duty the past two seasons. Once Hall negotiates his release from the Air Force, he should be able to join the Eagles' offseason conditioning program. But something tells me Hall's kept himself in pretty good shape at Hill Air Force Base in Salt Lake City.
The "undisclosed" pick is reportedly a sixth-rounder in '11. It's hard to believe that Brown's career once carried so much promise. He led the Eagles in catches and touchdowns in '06 and showed signs of being a potential No. 1 receiver. But by the start of the '08 season, Brown couldn't even get on the field because of hamstring injuries -- and the presence of rookie DeSean Jackson. I think Brown's capable of a 50-catch season for the Bucs, but that's probably the ceiling. He's injury prone and he has questionable hands.
The Eagles are now left with a pretty thin receiving corps. Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant may be one of the most talented groups in the league, but Andy Reid and Roseman need to add depth at the position. It's hard to imagine Philadelphia paying 31-year-old Kevin Curtis his $3.4 million base salary in 2010. It's more likely the Eagles will sign a veteran free agent (Hank Baskett, anyone?) and then add a receiver via the draft.
For Brown, this is an opportunity for a fresh start with a second-year quarterback in Tampa Bay. After being buried on the Eagles' roster the past two seasons, I'm sure he's thrilled to be leaving.
I'll see you in the chat room -- or something that sounds less creepy.
- The countdown to Super Bowl XLV has begun, writes Cal Watkins of ESPNDallas.com.
- Jeff Mosier of the Dallas Morning News allows the North Texas folks to take a little jab at the South Florida Super Bowl committee.
- Phil Simms made an interesting comment about the Cowboys during last night's Super Bowl broadcast.
- Gerry Fraley of the DMN discusses his love of Florida grouper -- and also mentions Emmitt Smith.
- Gary Myers of the New York Daily News has the Cowboys beating the Jets in Super Bowl XLV.
- Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram talks about Smith going into the Hall of Fame.
- Bob Glauber of Newsday talked to Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo about Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
- Les Bowen of the Daily News said there were a lot of rumors flying around Sunday about the quarterback position. Sal Paolantonio reported Sunday that three teams -- Cleveland, Denver and Buffalo -- had inquired about Donovan McNabb.
- Tom Brookshier will be memorialized this afternoon.
- Former Eagles WR Hank Baskett had a say in last night's outcome -- and that's not a good thing.
- Michael Strahan tells Osi Umenyiora to "stop saying stupid stuff."
- Vinny DiTraini from The Record says Jeremy Shockey finally got a chance to shine in the Super Bowl.
- Plaxico Burress showed a lot of remorse in that interview with CBS' Bill Cowher on Sunday.
- It also looks like Plax will lose his Florida mansion.
Biggest surprise: I guess putting quarterback Michael Vick on the commissioner's special exemption list might qualify, but it might only be for a day or two. The Eagles kept A.J. Feeley on the 53-man roster, probably so they can keep trying to trade him. As long as Vick's on that exemption list, he can't practice with the Eagles. But they can take him off the list at any time. The Eagles are known for cutting ties with former draft picks rather quickly if they don't see steady progress. They've done that with cornerback Jack Ikegwuonu and defensive end Bryan Smith. Tom Heckert hinted that the Eagles might try to bring at least one of those players back on the practice squad.
I noticed that some folks had fullback Kyle Eckel and defensive tackle Dan Klecko projected to make the team. Eckel didn't help himself by whiffing on a blitz pickup in the final preseason game and Klecko was one of the reasons a Jets rookie running back ran wild. Biggest surprise may have been the fact that Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett both made the 53-man roster. The Eagles have seven wide receivers right now. But something could certainly change on that front. They're in the same boat as the Giants at wide receiver. I think the Eagles might downsize at receiver if they can find a third tight end they like.
No-brainers: There was no way to keep rookie Brandon Gibson and veteran defensive end Jason Babin off this team. Babin, a former first-round draft pick, performed so well that he received a restructured contract and Gibson simply made plays throughout camp. He outperformed first-round pick Jeremy Maclin. I think Danny Amendola is a fun player to watch, but he's NOT Wes Welker. He's not anywhere close to Welker, but he may be good enough to make the Eagles' practice squad. I think he could be a decent punt returner. Can't hold up as a receiver. The drop in the end zone against the Jets didn't help.
What's next? Well, we have to see how this quarterback situation plays out. I don't think a team's going to give up anything significant for Feeley at this point in his career. It wouldn't surprise me if Vick's back with the team by Wednesday. He's making too much progress right now to suddenly take him out of the locker room.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
In addition to offering his thoughts on the WildVick formation Monday, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb endorsed rookie wide receiver Jeremy Maclin as a potential starter. Asked whether Maclin was ready to start, here's what the quarterback had to say:
"I think he can," McNabb said of Maclin. "In the preseason games, you’re not going to feature different guys. You want to spread the ball around, get everybody an opportunity. We’ve seen a lot from our receivers. We’ve seen Maclin catch balls and break tackles and get up field and pick up yards. We’ve seen DeSean (Jackson) do it. We’ve seen Brandon Gibson do it. We’ve seen Hank Baskett, Jason Avant, all of our guys. And I think that when you throw guys into a certain situation in this offense, you're not asking them to be the guy. We spread the ball around so much that everybody gets involved. And I think if Maclin was asked to do that, I think that he would be able to do that. You got to remember that Kevin Curtis is coming back and he’s doing well. Reggie Brown is still going to be able to help us and the rest of the guys as well so it’s just important that we continue to stay consistent with what we’re doing."
I have a hard time seeing Reggie Brown making this team. Gibson, the sixth-round pick, has been too impressive -- and he comes at a cheaper rate. The Eagles will have to take a salary cap hit on Brown, but that shouldn't be a big problem.
In other news, I wanted to give you the full context of McNabb's quote from earlier today when he seemed to be somewhat critical of Andy Reid for interrupting the flow of last Thursday's preseason game by "forcing" some Wildcat formation plays in the first half.
"The game of football it’s about, I always believe that before you can come up with gimmicks or come up with something else, you’ve got to get your base offense going. I think in game three of the preseason, that’s something that teams take very important because that’s really the last time that the ones get an opportunity to kick off the rust and ready for the regular season. There a lot of instances that it seemed like we were forcing a lot of different things just to say that we ran it, instead of just running our offense and running how things may go as far as during the year or if we decide to do it. I thought our offense continued to get things going as the game continued on and we got that rhythm that we wanted.”
To me, that's sort of McNabb's passive aggressive way of saying the Eagles overdid it with Vick on Thursday. Thoughts? Comments? Questions?
PHILADELPHIA -- Michael Vick discarded his helmet on the Eagles' final drive of the half, so I'm pretty sure he's through for the evening. Donovan McNabb will play a few series in the third quarter and then Kevin Kolb will take it from there.
Vick's Eagle Debut * Eagles rally for win on night all about Vick * Vick met by few protesters, then ovations * NFL East blog on Vick's preseason debut VIDEO * Vick talks after debut * Edwards breaks down Vick's first game back * Analysis from Schlereth, Hasselbeck
Vick didn't look all that rusty to me, although he didn't make any memorable plays. His best pass of the night was a 13-yard completion to Hank Baskett in the flat. He went through two other progressions before driving the ball into Baskett. Otherwise, he simply worked on his swing and shovel passes. On his final shovel pass to LeSean McCoy, he seemed really frustrated. It just didn't look like he allowed McCoy to get upfield enough before delivering the ball.
Vick was 4 of 4 for 19 yards and he only had one carry, which ended with defensive end Derrick Harvey tackling him near the line of scrimmage. McNabb was 16-of-29 for 187 yards. He looked really sharp at times, but the Eagles bogged down near the goal line. I think everyone would've enjoyed seeing what Vick could've done near the goal line.
Once he's reinstated for the regular season, I think you'll see the Wildcat formation inside the 5-yard line. Vick's helmet is nowhere in sight right now, so it looks as if he's done.
Eagles starting right guard Todd Herremans joined a long list of Philadelphia Eagles out with an injury. Coach Andy Reid announced Wednesday that Herremans will not play Thursday in the Eagles preseason opener against the Patriots due to "a stress reaction" in his ankle, which has kept Herremans out of practice the last two days.
Also not playing Thursday night against the Patriots are offensive linemen Stacy Andrews (knee) and Shawn Andrews (back). The five projected opening day starters on the Eagles re-built offensive line have yet to take a single snap together in training camp.
Brian Westbrook, Kevin Kolb, Victor Abiamiri, Trevor Laws and Matt Schobel are also out. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Hank Baskett, who both missed some practice time recently with knee injuries, will play, Reid said.
Sal Paolantonio is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Philadelphia.
|Chris Gardner/US Presswire|
|Rampant injuries are threatening the continuity Eagles coach Andy Reid prefers at training camp.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Despite the serenity and cool air (except for Monday) found in Lehigh Valley, the Eagles can't get out of here fast enough. In addition to dealing with the loss of beloved defensive coordinator Jim Johnson to cancer, the Eagles have seen players carted off the field with injuries at a daily clip.
Celek was particularly concerned to see his training-camp roommate and close friend, Stewart Bradley, suffer a season-ending knee injury during an intra-squad scrimmage at the Linc. But head coach Andy Reid scoffs when asked if he's ever experienced anything like this. In his mind, the injuries are part of football and they've created opportunities for other players.
"I don't get caught up in all that stuff," Reid said. "You're sad for the person who goes through it, but on the other hand, you have to expect these things. Let's go play football."
Most pundits, including this one, have the Eagles as a top-five team in the league. But I'll admit the lack of continuity along the offensive line has me re-thinking my position. Continuity is one of Reid's favorite words, and right now his starting right tackle, Shawn Andrews, might not be ready for the start of the regular season.
|Chris Gardner-US PRESSWIRE|
|Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has been unstoppable at training camp.|
Maclin is still playing catch-up after his contract holdout, but he's supremely gifted and confident. He bristled at the suggestion that he might not earn a starting job immediately.
"I didn't come here to sit on the bench," Maclin said. "I'm going to make sure I do everything possible to be on the field."
Maclin's trying to learn the nuances of the West Coast offense on the fly, but he's an extremely intelligent player who should catch on quickly. Right now, though, it's Jackson who's drawing the most attention in camp. He's so quick off the line that no one can get a jam on him. That's where Maclin has room for improvement. He wasn't seeing jams at the line of scrimmage against Iowa State or Kansas State in the Big 12 North. He'll have to get stronger and become more aggressive.
Can the Eagles overcome all the injuries from training camp?
Losing your starting middle linebacker (Bradley) and talented rookie tight end Cornelius Ingram isn't a good way to begin the season, but one of Jim Johnson's greatest strengths was preparing young players for moments exactly like this. Joe Mays, a second-year player from North Dakota State, probably will play middle linebacker on first and second down. He'll get help from former starter Omar Gaither on passing downs. Mays, a sixth-round draft pick, is short (5-foot-11), but he brings a lot of power to the point of attack. I don't know how he'll hold up in regular-season games, but he's consistently making plays in camp.
Perhaps the bigger concern right now is Shawn Andrews' back injury. He missed training camp last season while battling depression and then promptly injured his back. Some have questioned Andrews' passion for the game, but the Eagles have insisted that he really is hurt. If he can't go, Eagles fans can get reacquainted with former first-round pick Winston Justice at right tackle.
Westbrook has started to increase his workloa
d on the side and he should be ready to go late in the preseason. At this point, it's not as if he needs a ton of carries in the preseason. I visited with McCoy on Monday until Jackson ordered him to go sign autographs. The second-round pick has looked comfortable in the Eagles' offense from Day 1 of camp. He's an instinctive runner who's already adept at setting up his blockers. I think Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are looking to get McCoy the ball in a variety of ways. Early in camp, he got behind the secondary for a 35-yard touchdown. He caught a lot of balls at Pittsburgh and his soft hands will give the Eagles another option. I think they want McCoy to touch the ball at least 10-12 times per game -- right from the start.
Who will win position battles at safety and cornerback?
I've been very impressed with veteran cornerback Sheldon Brown's approach to this camp following an offseason of complaints about his contract. He went high to break up a pass in team drills Monday and he's working hard to hold off former Patriots starter Ellis Hobbs. I think coaches will let those players battle throughout the preseason, but Brown's getting the majority of the reps with the first team. Hobbs is learning the Eagles' defense on the fly, so he's not as aggressive right now as he's used to being. But coaches like the fact that Hobbs has a chip on his shoulder after being traded from New England. And with all the injuries, the Eagles need to create as much depth as possible.
At safety, Quintin Demps is getting most of the first-team reps. Sean Jones, signed as a free agent from Cleveland, has been solid, though. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott hasn't handed the starting job to either player, and that has made for some good competition.
It will be interesting to see how many receivers the Eagles keep on the roster. They have some depth and youth at the position, which leaves players such as Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett on the bubble. It's not helping Brown and Baskett's cause that a rookie from Washington State named Brandon Gibson is having a strong camp. You have to believe that Jackson, Curtis, Maclin and Avant are locks. If the Eagles only keep five receivers, there's a chance they go with a kid like Gibson. Former Texas Tech Red Raider Danny Amendola is a Wes Welker starter kit, but he looks more like practice-squad material to me. At linebacker, keep your eye on Moise Fokou, a seventh-round pick from Maryland. He's making plays all over the field, but we'll see if he can take it into the preseason games.
|Chris Gardner-US PRESSWIRE|
|All eyes are on Eagles first-round pick Jeremy Maclin.|
I'll have my eye on Maclin pretty closely in the preseason. I think he's going to struggle getting off the line at first. And his route running will be something to watch. He's a fluid player who doesn't mind going across the middle, but right now, you can tell that he's still thinking too much. He might be one of those players who sort of comes alive in the preseason. That was certainly the case with Jackson last season.
There's a second-year running back named Eldra Buckley from Tennessee-Chattanooga who could be a good change-of-pace back. I don't think Lorenzo Booker is long for this team despite what anyone tells you. He dropped a pass in Monday's practice and the coaches don't trust him to pick up blitzes. He has been around too long for that to still be an issue. ... I think Celek's on his way to becoming a big-time player. Very humble guy, but he showed up when the stakes were high last December and January. He also has been studying tape of Jason Witten to learn some pointers. I like that Celek takes a lot of pride in blocking too. The NFC East is absolutely stacked at tight end. ... One of the reasons Reid isn't panicking about the offensive line situation is that he has a lot of faith in backups such as Nick Cole and Max Jean-Gilles. The Eagles have done a pretty good job of creating depth along the offensive line and you can bet they're not going to sit around waiting for Shawn Andrews to show up. ... If offensive tackle King Dunlap ever realizes what sort of physical tools he's been given, he could be a good player. Not sure he's there yet. ... The signing of left tackle Jason Peters jump-started the Eagles' offseason. I watched him stone defensive ends on consecutive plays Monday. He's a pretty impressive-looking player. He still has the footwork of a tight end, his position at Arkansas, but he can engulf defenders with his power. I think he'll be the best left tackle in the division -- and he better be for that money. ... McNabb still appears to be having fun in camp. On Monday, he took off running when he couldn't find a receiver. Instead of stepping out of bounds, he tight-roped down the sideline, much to the delight of Eagles fans. ... I've heard good things about Latrobe, but I can't imagine a better setting than this one. Gorgeous green meadows in every direction and great access for fans. It's a shame the Eagles are breaking camp so early (Wednesday), although you won't hear any complaints from them.