NFC East: Jamaal Jackson

Good morning and welcome to another week in the East, which starts with a preseason football game out West. Every team in our division has played its first preseason game except the Cowboys, who take on the Raiders in Oakland tonight on ESPN. We will of course have full coverage of that game as we did Thursday with the Redskins and Eagles and Friday with the Giants. By the time it's all over, you'll be saying to yourself, "Man, I'm glad I had my links."

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys didn't sign former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson, apparently because they didn't think he was in good enough shape. Jackson says he's not retired and wants to play this year, but man. The Cowboys are as desperate for a center as any team in the league, and they passed on him because he's not in shape? I mean, if you really want to play ... I don't know ... get in shape?

The book on Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith (who is, amazingly, still only 21 years old) is that once he gets his hands on you, you can't get free. No less an authority on getting free of tackles than DeMarcus Ware says he can vouch for this.

New York Giants

Prince Amukamara and the Giants know he's going to get picked on by opposing quarterbacks. And Amukamara knows he had a bad night Friday. But he says he's developing that short-term memory every cornerback needs in order to overcome his mistakes.

As he tries to make the conversion from linebacker to defensive end and replace Dave Tollefson in that reserve pass-rusher role, third-year man Adrian Tracy has no shortage of examples in the Giants' locker room

Philadelphia Eagles

It seemed an odd time for Andy Reid's agent to be bringing up the idea of Reid's long-term standing with the team. But good agents look for opportunities, and certainly the general feeling about Reid is overwhelmingly positive right now after the grueling emotional week he just had and the love his team and his fans have shown for him in the wake of his son's death. Regardless, Jeffrey Lurie seems to have made it clear that there's been no change in Reid's long-term status, for better or for worse.

Could 2011 second-round draft pick Jaiquawn Jarrett be losing his backup safety spot to Tom Nelson? Certainly, Jarrett hasn't shown what the Eagles hoped he would, and he played poorly in Thursday's preseason opener. And, yeah, it's possible these camp "demotions," like the one they gave left tackle Demetress Bell over the weekend, are designed to light a fire under guys. But there's been a feeling for a while that the Eagles aren't as high on Jarrett as they were in April 2011, and his spot doesn't appear to be completely secure.

Washington Redskins

If there's a stretch of games this year -- two games, five games, 10 games, I don't know -- for which rookie Alfred Morris is the Redskins' starting running back, someone's going to ask you if you're surprised, and you're going to be in the enviable position of being able to say, "No, I'm not surprised. I read the NFC East blog on ESPN.com, and Graziano was writing back in July and August that it could be any one of four guys, and Morris was definitely in the mix." You can say that. You don't even need to ask my permission first.

Trent Williams is going to miss a few days with a bone bruise in his left foot, and he might not play Saturday against the Bears. It does not appear to be a long-term concern, but there's a certain degree of short-term concern about preparing for the season and playing preseason games with an offensive line that could be missing four of its starters.

Cowboys have priorities straight

August, 12, 2012
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Couple of reports from Dallas Cowboys camp out there in California on Saturday. One says wide receiver Dez Bryant has caught Miles Austin's hamstring flu and will join Austin on the sideline for Monday night's preseason opener in Oakland. This is the one that will have people shouting they need to sign a veteran wide receiver, and even invoking the name of Plaxico Burress.

But they're not doing that, and they shouldn't. What the Cowboys are doing instead is taking the level-headed view that the quarterback can't throw the ball to any receiver unless he can successfully get it from the center. And since they're very short these days on centers who can get the quarterback the ball, this other report says they're bringing in former Eagles center Jamaal Jackson for a workout.

Not having Austin and Bryant on Monday will be fine for the Cowboys, as their young No. 3 wide receiver candidates will all get chances to work with Tony Romo and the rest of the first-team offense. That's the best way for guys like Kevin Ogletree, Andre Holmes, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and the rest of that crew to show what they can do, and the Cowboys' current plan at receiver is to see what those guys can do and whether they have the solution internally. The Giants operate like this, and people laud them for it. Now that the Cowboys are trying it, they're supposedly overlooking some big need. Whatever. They'll be fine at No. 3 receiver. They found someone last year and he was great. They'll find someone again.

The bigger concern is the interior of the offensive line, where injuries have eliminated several of the candidates to back up and/or supplant starting center Phil Costa and stripped much of the Cowboys' planned depth. Now Costa is hurt as well, and that means David Arkin is the starting center Monday, and from what we've seen out there in practice, that means Romo's not going to get a lot of clean snaps.

Not really Arkin's fault. He's never played center and is learning on the job. Jackson, however, has started 72 career NFL games. Only one since 2009, but still. He knows how to snap the ball to the quarterback. And at this point, the Cowboys' standards at that position have dropped pretty far. Jackson makes sense if he's healthy and in any kind of shape, and I guess we'll find out about that today.

Receiver can wait. As long as Austin and Bryant can get healthy in the next 24 days, they don't need to go out and augment that position. Preseason is for finding out what you have, and they have candidates for that position. They don't have candidates for center. So what they're doing today is smartly assessing and addressing a need.
I was online last night, chatting with some folks on Twitter, and a concerned Dallas Cowboys fan asked me why they wouldn't look at former Philadelphia Eagles center Jamaal Jackson. I replied that I'd been under the impression that Jackson was done, a conclusion I'd based on the fact that he was on the Giants briefly this spring and that Giants coach Tom Coughlin said when they cut ties that Jackson was planning to retire.

Turns out, Coughlin doesn't speak for Jackson (@CenterStage67), who tweeted back a short time later to correct me and educate the folks to whom I was talking:
"Not retired I'm ready, teams have called I'm hopeful I'll be signed soon!"

So there you have it. Jackson, who was supplanted as the Eagles starter last year in training camp by rookie Jason Kelce, is hoping to play in 2012. The Cowboys have a serious need at center. Even if you buy Phil Costa as the starter (and you know I don't), they have nothing behind him. They continue to insist that guard Mackenzy Bernadeau has played it, but I can't find anything on his NFL record to indicate that he's done so as a pro. Besides, Bernadeau has been injured and only started practicing Tuesday. Bill Nagy and Kevin Kowalski, second-year men the Cowboys had hoped could serve as fill-ins or competition for Costa, are on the shelf for a while. David Arkin, who's never played it before, was a mess in practice Tuesday on the center-quarterback exchange and got pulled from the role.

Jackson is 32, and as of this time last year (before we knew they were willing to go with a rookie), it appears as though he'd be the starting center for the Eagles. He missed 15 games in 2010 with an arm injury, and so he hasn't seen any significant action since 2009. That makes one wonder what he has left. But at this point, it's hard to see how it wouldn't be worth the Cowboys' time to at least give it a look, right?
The Friday links, as you should know by now, require no introduction.

New York Giants

Mathias Kiwanuka says the Giants are "definitely a Super Bowl team." Major, major shift in confidence and attitude around this Giants team since the loss to Washington a few weeks back. It comes from the way the defense is playing. If they maintain it, Kiwanuka could be proven right. They're just going to have to maintain it against some of the best offenses in the league.

Fascinating story by Johnette Howard about how defensive backs, who always preach that "you have to have short memories," actually do, in general, have shorter memories -- and lower Wonderlic scores -- than other players on the team. And how defensive backs are the only position group that performs better as Wonderlic scores drop. The point here is that the Giants' DBs, whatever their Wonderlic scores, have been working to forget the failures of earlier in the season.

Philadelphia Eagles

Geoff Mosher has 10 moves the Eagles need to make this offseason, and it may surprise you that he starts with "re-sign DeSean Jackson." I predict there will be two very vocal sides to this debate -- perhaps even within the Eagles' front office -- and I have no idea how it will turn out.

In this notebook, we learn that Jamaal Jackson's agent expects the Eagles to release their one-time starting center, that Jackson's replacement (Jason Kelce) will not need surgery on his foot as originally thought, and that Eagles player personnel director Ryan Grigson is a candidate for GM jobs in Indianapolis and St. Louis.

Dallas Cowboys

Todd Archer writes that the Cowboys ranked fifth in the league in penalties, and he breaks it down by player. DeMarcus Ware and Doug Free had the most, with 10 apiece.

With former Cowboy Sam Hurd having been indicted Wednesday on federal drug charges, Jean-Jacques Taylor hits the Cowboys for putting their head in the sand about the situation and failing to prepare their current players to deal with the questions that would inevitably arise.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones has five offensive-related questions for the Redskins as they head into this offseason, starting right where you'd think he'd start and also wondering about Fred Davis, the offensive line, the running backs and kicker.

Brian Burke breaks down the stats and determines that the Redskins' biggest needs are ... right where you'd expect them to be -- quarterback, wide receiver and offensive line. I think it's interesting to see how the EPA grades came out on defense, too.
Rookie sixth-rounder Jason Kelce has earned a spotting spot on Philadelphia's offeWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesRookie sixth-rounder Jason Kelce has earned a spotting spot on Philadelphia's offensive line.
He knows he's not a charity case. Jason Kelce can look at the Philadelphia Eagles' inactives list from Sunday's season opener and see first-round pick Danny Watkins on there. From the day he was drafted, everybody was sure Watkins would be the Eagles' starting right guard in that game. But he couldn't pick up the blocking schemes in time, and so he was a healthy scratch. These Eagles aren't messing around. They're thinking Super Bowl, and they're not interested in linemen who have to learn on the job.

"They want to play the best five guys, and the guys who are going to help them are going to play immediately," Kelce said in a phone interview Thursday. "They obviously have confidence in me that I'm able to do that, and I appreciate that."

Kelce was drafted two days after Watkins was, in the sixth round. It's said around the Eagles that he was the hand-picked choice of new offensive line coach Howard Mudd. So although it was a surprise to see Kelce getting center reps with the first team over veteran Jamaal Jackson when training camp began, it made sense on some level. At 6-foot-3, 282, Kelce fits what Mudd is looking for in an offensive lineman -- smaller, quicker and more agile than the traditional 300-plus-pound monsters. Mudd wants his linemen jumping out and establishing the spots on which they'll block. And as soon as Kelce met his new line coach, he knew it'd be a good fit.

"A lot of his schemes and techniques are suited for guys with my skill set," Kelce said. "It wasn't that I was expecting to be the starter. I just just excited about the opportunity to compete for anything."

He may have been set up to succeed, but Kelce still had to win the spot. And if Watkins can be classified as a disappointment because he wasn't able to take the field for the first game of his rookie season, Kelce deserves credit for having earned the spot. Watching him block gives you a window into Mudd's mind. Especially in the run game, Kelce is quick and agile enough to move with the play, clearing room for the backs behind him with simultaneous grace and physicality.

[+] EnlargeHoward Mudd
Howard Smith/US PresswireOffensive line coach Howard Mudd tends to value smaller, more agile linemen over road-grader types.
Those who watched the rookie in the preseason saw a guy who needed work in pass protection, sure. But it's coming along quickly. Remember, rookies have had only about six weeks' worth of NFL practices in which to learn all of this stuff so far.

"The whole mental aspect of the game just really hits you right away when you start practicing and going to meetings at this level," Kelce said. "There's a lot to take in, and you see that right away when you show up. But once you settle in, you find it starts to come quicker."

One of the keys, Kelce said, is the way he's been received by the Eagles' veterans. Players like Todd Herremans and Evan Mathis around him on the line have helped him adjust even as he's been the one having to make the line calls. His young yet solid relationship with quarterback Michael Vick, who sits in meetings with his offensive linemen this year so he's better prepared for his new responsibilities of changing the protection at the line, helps Kelce feel comfortable. And the first name he spits out when asked who his mentor is is that of Jamaal Jackson, whose job he took.

"Jamaal's just been a huge help to me," Kelce said. "Without him I don't know that I would have been able to come close to being ready to play at this level. I'm not saying I'm there yet, because there's a lot I have to work on. But those guys I have around me, they do a good job of making me feel comfortable."

In return, Kelce's job is to help do the same for Vick. So far, it's working out pretty well. How can you tell? Just from the fact that Kelce wasn't on Sunday's inactives list. He may be a rookie, and he may have been Mudd's choice. But the Eagles have made it clear they're not giving anybody any breaks this year. Kelce has earned his spot.

NFC East offensive line thoughts

August, 29, 2011
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The news of the day so far in the NFC East is the Dallas Cowboys' decision to release center Andre Gurode and apparently head into the season with three new starters on the offensive line. Now, as happens whenever anyone we've ever heard of gets released, fans of the teams in this division want to know whether he's going to end up on their teams. So:
  • Cowboys: No, obviously.
  • Giants: Extremely unlikely. They targeted and signed David Baas to play center, and they like him. They like their guards, too.
  • Eagles: Doubtful. They want Jason Kelce to win the job, and even if he doesn't, they already have Jamaal Jackson.
  • Redskins: Possible, but I admit I don't have any insight into whether they're still looking to add to their line.

Miami makes sense, and I think I saw somebody mention Chicago. If Gurode is to be a division alum, we wish him well, but we're not likely to pay him much more attention. I'd rather focus on the offensive linemen who are actually in the division, and since the line pictures are starting to come into clear focus with all four teams (for better or for worse), let's take a look at each. Alphabetically, of course, since that's the only way I know to minimize hurt feelings.

Dallas Cowboys

Starters: LT Doug Free, LG Bill Nagy, C Phil Costa, RG Kyle Kosier, RT Tyron Smith

Reserves: G David Arkin, G Montrae Holland, T Sam Young, C Kevin Kowalski

Analysis: Wouldn't be surprised to see them add a veteran swingman who can back up the tackles. Nagy or Kowalski can handle center if Costa is not ready for the start of the season. I'd expect Arkin to get the first shot at playing time over Holland if a guard spot opened up, but if they should need a long-term fill-in, they might lean toward Holland. They like Arkin a lot but believe he needs more seasoning. Overall, there are more question marks here than you'd like to see. Nagy knows what he's doing but might not be strong enough yet to play the position full time in the NFL. Smith is a beast, but his footwork still needs some refinement. And the group as a whole hasn't played together for more than a couple of weeks. The most important guy might be Kosier, whom line coach Hudson Houck described to me last week as "kind of a secondary coach out there" because of the way he communicates with and among the other linemen. If they come together quickly and the rookies develop, Kosier is likely to get a lot of the credit.

New York Giants

Starters: LT William Beatty, LG David Diehl, C David Baas, RG Chris Snee, RT Kareem McKenzie

Reserves: T Stacy Andrews, T Jamon Meredith, C Adam Koets, G Kevin Boothe

Analysis: Koets might have to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list because of his injured knee, which could open a spot for Mitch Petrus or even rookie James Brewer. With Snee and McKenzie, the Giants have as strong a right side as any line in the entire league. Baas looks like a professional and a mauler, and the only question is how quickly he can get up to speed with Eli Manning and his linemates, since he's the new guy in town and they haven't had many here lately. Moving inside to guard should help Diehl, who struggled at tackle last season even when he was healthy. For me, the whole thing rests on whether third-year man Beatty is ready to handle the role of starting left tackle in the NFL. Diehl is right there to help him, and Beatty isn't a rookie or new to the Giants. They believe they've groomed him for this and that he's ready. Assuming he is, the talent and the relative lack of major changes make this the division's top line.

Philadelphia Eagles

Starters: LT Jason Peters, LG Evan Mathis, C Jason Kelce, RG Danny Watkins, RT Todd Herremans

Reserves: C Jamaal Jackson, T Winston Justice, T King Dunlap, G Reggie Wells

Analysis: If Justice isn't ready, maybe Mike McGlynn will grab that spot. Still some things unsettled here, including among the starters. Mathis, Kelce and Watkins are all new, the latter two are rookies, and Herremans is changing positions from left guard. Watkins is the first-round draft pick and as such he can expect to be the starter no matter how badly he's struggled in the preseason. They're saying the same about Kelce, but if he's clearly not ready, they can always go back to Jackson until he is. Peters is a given, and a stud, in the passing and running games. And Herremans should be fine at tackle, although it says a lot about where the Eagles are with the state of their line that they moved him there with two weeks left in the preseason. I predict that this line will struggle at the outset and maybe even cost Philadelphia an early game or two, but that it will show improvement under Howard Mudd as things move along and ultimately be good enough to deliver effective protection for Michael Vick and the Eagles' other outstanding skill-position players.

Washington Redskins

Starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Kory Lichtensteiger, C Will Montgomery, RG Chris Chester, RT Jammal Brown

Reserves: T Sean Locklear, G Artis Hicks, G Selvish Capers, C Erik Cook

Analysis: One of the reasons I couldn't rule out Gurode here was that the group could use some depth. As for the starters, though, this is the line in the NFC East that looks most like it did last season. Only Chester is new, and while Montgomery wasn't the starting center last season, he played there and is likely to be an upgrade over Casey Rabach. Due to Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme, this is a group that must play and execute together in order to be effective. If one guy looks bad, the whole line is going to look bad. A lot rests on Williams, the fourth overall pick in the 2010 draft, who must play with more consistency this season if he's to prove his talent justified that pick. Brown was a big re-signing, as he was well liked by teammates and linemates and brings a veteran presence among a relatively young group.
Dallas Cowboys

Tight end Martellus Bennett is going to miss two to four weeks with a sprained ankle and therefore might not be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener against the Jets. Losing Bennett impacts the Cowboys' passing game because it might inhibit their ability to use tight end Jason Witten as their slot receiver if he has more blocking responsibilities. The Cowboys are counting on their depth at tight end to help offset their lack of depth at wide receiver.

Jerry Jones seems almost giddy about the rookies on the Cowboys' offensive line. Kevin Kowalski isn't likely to be the starter once the season begins, but Jones seemed pleased with his performance in Saturday's game. Still seems strange, the treatment of Andre Gurode. Why fly him with you to Minnesota only to make him sit there and watch someone else do his job? Ugly business sometimes.

New York Giants

Mike Garafolo checks in with Jonathan Goff, who's shown signs this preseason of improving in pass coverage. I personally think this is a big question-mark spot for the Giants. There aren't too many positions at which you can point and say, "Yeah, the Giants are actually better there this year than they were last year." As good? Sure. Maybe not too much worse? Absolutely. But better? Not too many. If Goff can show improvement in his second year as a starting middle linebacker (not an outrageous idea, certainly), that would be one.

Victor Cruz was the star of the show in last year's Jets-Giants preseason game. He believes he's come a long way since then and hopes he can star again as he continues his bid for more playing time at wide receiver this year.

Philadelphia Eagles

In the wake of Todd Herremans' move from left guard to right tackle, Les Bowen assesses the remaining issues on the Eagles' offensive line -- specifically whether Jason Kelce is or should be leading the supposed "competition" between himself and Jamaal Jackson for the starting center's job. If Kelce proves to be a complete disaster (as he appeared to be at times Thursday night), then they can always just slide Jackson back in there. But Les is right -- they don't seem as though they want to do that.

The Eagles' receiving corps is gaining strength and depth, it would seem, with two weeks left before the start of the regular season. If Jeremy Maclin and Steve Smith really are both going to be ready, it'll be fascinating to see how this offense operates and who gets the targets.

Washington Redskins

Mike Shanahan was known in Denver for his zone-blocking offensive lines. Implementation of that scheme and those concepts didn't go so great in Shanahan's first year in Washington, but things seem to be improving in the second. It does amaze me a little bit that Washington's is the offensive line about which I've written the least in this preseason. Does that say more about what they're doing there or the number of question marks with which the other three teams are dealing?

On the other line, however, the Redskins' options for replacing promising rookie Jarvis Jenkins look grim. Jenkins is out for the season with a knee injury suffered in last week's preseason game, and his playing time will be taken by some combination of Kedric Golston, Doug Worthington and Darrion Scott. "Obviously," Shanahan said, "you cannot replace a player like that."
In the wake of a preseason game in which the right side of their offensive line was a dangerous-looking mess, the Philadelphia Eagles have decided to shake some things up, moving left guard Todd Herremans to right tackle, according to Jeff McLane.

Replacing Herremans at guard, McLane writes, will be Evan Mathis, the former Bengals lineman they signed last month. For the moment, it appears first-round pick Danny Watkins will remain at right guard and fellow rookie Jason Kelce at center.

"Kelce was in there today," Eagles coach Andy Reid said in his news conference following practice Saturday. "We went over some of the things that we didn't execute right, I'm saying as an offense and defense, we corrected some mistakes today and from the game, and had those guys in place there."

With Winston Justice still working his way back from a knee injury, it seemed as though free-agent signing Ryan Harris was set to be the starting right guard. But Harris needs back surgery as a result of an injury he suffered in the first preseason game, and King Dunlap, who started at right tackle Thursday night, does not appear to be the answer. So they decided Herremans, who played tackle when he first arrived in the NFL, should make the move over to solidify Michael Vick's blind side.

There are still options if Kelce and Watkins continue to struggle. They could always put Jamaal Jackson back at the starting center spot if Kelce can't handle it, and Jackson or Reggie Wells could play right guard if Watkins proves to be completely overwhelmed. But the Eagles have put their line in the hands of veteran offensive line coach Howard Mudd and are trusting him to correct what's looked wrong so far. He believes in Kelce and Watkins, and it's likely they'll get a little more time to work out the kinks.

Observation deck: Eagles-Browns

August, 25, 2011
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The plan was for the Philadelphia Eagles' starters to play three quarters of Thursday night's preseason game against the Browns. But Michael Vick took such a beating in the first half, and it was raining so hard at halftime, that it just didn't make any sense to run him back out there. And while it's easy to look at the big picture and say the Eagles looked a lot better in this 24-14 exhibition victory than they did last week against the Steelers, the fact is the offensive line's play in the first half had to be extremely disconcerting to their fans and their coaches.

The issues Thursday were at and to the right of center. Rookie Jason Kelce got the start with the first team at center in place of veteran Jamaal Jackson, and he did little to make you think Jackson's job is or should be in jeopardy. Kelce had a holding penalty and a bad exchange with Vick, and he and fellow rookie Danny Watkins were repeatedly shredded by rookie Phil Taylor and the Cleveland defensive line. As a result, Vick was under pressure throughout the first quarter and didn't have time to find his wide receivers downfield.

Running back LeSean McCoy continued to look excellent as a runner and as a great check-down option for a harried Vick in the passing game. And if the line is going to be this shaky all season, McCoy could catch 100 balls. But the line has to get better, or it could sink this promising Eagles season.

Center can be fixed, of course, because they can just put Jackson back in there until Kelce is ready. And King Dunlap is only a fill-in starter at right tackle until Winston Justice and/or Ryan Harris are healthy. But Watkins was the first-round pick, and he's going to start. And he's going to have to block better and communicate better with whoever is out there to his right and left, or Vick is going to be knocked around a lot.

Now, as we keep saying, it's only preseason, and the Eagles still have more than two weeks of practice time in which to fix these problems. I am by no means saying they cannot or will not fix their issues. But while the result of this game doesn't matter any more than the result of last week's game did, there are some specific issues that came up, good and bad, and the poor play of the right side of the offensive line was the one that stood out the most.

Some others:

1. Better work by the linebackers this week. The Eagles' defense this season will be based on aggressive upfield pursuit by the defensive line, which means the linebackers will have to be more effective and responsible in coverage. We saw that Thursday night, especially from Jamar Chaney and rookie middle linebacker Casey Matthews. Last week was rough on Matthews, but the Eagles seem to have done a good thing for him this week, replacing him with Brian Rolle and/or Brandon Hughes on passing downs and allowing him to focus on playing the run more. Matthews' first-quarter highlight was a big stop on Montario Hardesty up the middle, and in general the linebackers in this game seemed to be in the right place and for the right amount of time much more reliably than they were against the Steelers.

2. Mike Patterson helps. Back in action less than a month after suffering a seizure on the practice field, Patterson was a big addition to the defensive tackle rotation. He picked up an early sack, drawing a nice ovation from the pre-rainstorm crowd at Lincoln Financial Field, and along with Cullen Jenkins, Derek Landri and Anthony Hargrove, he helped deliver somewhat consistent pressure up the middle as the game went along. If Antonio Dixon makes it back from his injury, the Eagles are going to have a very deep, very talented defensive line rotation that will allow them to keep everyone as fresh and aggressive as Juan Castillo and Jim Washburn want them to be throughout the games.

3. Vick was better but tough to evaluate. He didn't throw three interceptions, as he did last week, and in general he did a better job of identifying and reacting to the blitz. His inability to get the ball to his receivers wasn't his fault, as discussed above, but he did a good job of finding McCoy and, every now and then, taking off running when all else had failed. We're not likely to see him in the final preseason game, so this was his last warm-up before the regular season. But he'll surely hope Jeremy Maclin is back and fully healthy by then, since that will help matters all around.

4. The cornerbacks all did nice things. Nnamdi Asomugha was his swarming, suffocating self, taking receivers out of the game. Asante Samuel came up with an interception. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie blocked a kick. As they are on the defensive line, the Eagles are deep in the secondary, especially if Jarrad Page and Kurt Coleman can continue to make the contributions they're making at safety. In general, the defense was much more intense and directed this week. Again, we don't know what we're looking at in the preseason. The Eagles might have planned for this game, and the Browns might not have. But from a confidence standpoint, the Eagles had a lot more about which to feel good on defense than they did after Ben Roethlisberger took them apart seven nights earlier.

5. The Eagles are deep at running back, too. Ronnie Brown continues to look like a one-year steal, and Dion Lewis like a guy who could make it not matter if Brown leaves after one year. If McCoy is going to be leaned on heavily, the Eagles can feel good about their ability to give him breaks and keep him fresh.

I also thought both rookie kickers looked good and that in general most of the individual evaluations off this game had to be position. But the offensive line play in the first half was so alarming that it had to be the story of the night, and all eyes will be on the right side of that line once the games start for real.
Good morning to all, and to all some good, piping-hot links:

Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant says "one drop is too many" and seemed to be beating himself up a bit over that ball he dropped on third down with the Cowboys driving in the first half of Sunday night's preseason game. It was indeed a bad drop, and if it were to keep happening we could add it to the list of concerns. But the fact that Bryant didn't wave it off as a "just preseason" thing is encouraging for Cowboys fans. When Bryant has the ball in his hands, he's pretty tough to bring down.

Jason Garrett was unhappy, too, pointing out that his team committed three turnovers and forced none. At first I thought it was silly for the coach to be upset over a preseason loss, but that specific critique made me change my mind. Garrett sees a loss in which the Cowboys didn't look very good as a chance to teach a lesson. More intensity on defense, more care taken on offense. And the fact that the starting quarterback was directly responsible for one of the turnovers helps drive home the point without making anyone further down the roster feel as though he's taking it out on only them.

New York Giants

Zach Berman looks at Travis Beckum, the disadvantages he faces as a small tight end and what he's doing to overcome them so he can take the place of Kevin Boss as the Giants' starter at the position.

Aaron Ross is happy to be back playing the position he loves -- cornerback, instead of spotting in at safety and nickelback. The Giants want to see something, though. With Prince Amukamara and Bruce Johnson hurt, they're looking for depth behind their very good starting corners, and Ross should get a chance in tonight's preseason game to show what he offers in a backup corner role.

Philadelphia Eagles

The chances of the Eagles starting two rookies on the offensive line took a big step forward over the weekend. They've informed Jason Kelce that he, not Jamaal Jackson, will be the starting center in the next preseason game. And while that could be a matter of wanting to take a longer look at the rookie, it could mean much more. New offensive line coach Howard Mudd is the one, they say, who hand-picked this guy. He's light and athletic, the way Mudd likes his linemen. And he's been sharing first-team reps with Jackson since the first day of training camp. Kelce is a legitimate candidate to be the starting center soon, if not right now. I wouldn't be surprised if the Eagles decided to line him up next to rookie right guard Danny Watkins in Week 1.

The headline on this notebook says, "DJax likes Fitz deal," and I'll just bet he does. I'd be more than willing to bet that DeSean Jackson does, indeed, approve of the eight-year, $120 million deal Larry Fitzgerald just signed with the Cardinals. I believe Jackson likes Fitzgerald's $50 million guarantee, too. Currently in a dispute with the Eagles over his own contract, and with one year left until free agency, a deal that moves the market for top receivers the way Fitzgerald's just did is manna for Jackson and his agent. Not that Jackson's as good as Fitzgerald, but a deal like that moves the price up for everyone at or near the top.

Washington Redskins

After watching the tape of Friday's game, Mike Shanahan came away impressed with quarterback John Beck. Said Beck made good decisions, which I thought was one of the most important takeaways from that game. They rolled him out a lot to try and take advantage of his speed and athleticism, but at the end of the rollouts he made smart plays. He threw the ball away when there was nothing there and, as this story points out, he didn't look for something downfield just for the sake of doing that. The Redskins' offense right now isn't going to offer much in the way of deep downfield options. Maybe as the year goes along, but not right now. Beck did a good job of taking what he was given, and it appears the right people noticed.

The Redskins are getting a bit healthier on defense. A hamstring problem has slowed LaRon Landry's recovery from his Achilles injury, but it sounds as though fellow safety O.J. Atogwe, cornerback Josh Wilson and linebacker London Fletcher are all back practicing and gearing up for Thursday's preseason game. Not as encouraging on the other side of the ball, where tight end Chris Cooley and kick returner Brandon Banks don't seem to be making much progress.

Coincidentally, I am in Washington, D.C., for a couple of days, doing some sightseeing with the wife and kids. So unless something huge goes down, you're not likely to hear from me again until I'm online tweeting during the Giants-Bears game. But I promise I won't forget about you, and you can always come back here to the links to yell at each other.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Todd Herremans has been doing the same thing the same way for six years, since the Philadelphia Eagles took him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft. It's been a long time since the Eagles' starting left guard has had to think about a different way of blocking a defensive player. But change has come to the Eagles, with longtime offensive line coach Juan Castillo switching over to the defensive side of the ball and new offensive line coach Howard Mudd coming in with new ideas. And Herremans ... well, he's coping.

"There's quite a few things that are different," Herremans told me when I visited Eagles training camp earlier this month. "It's a whole new thought of blocking your man. Instead of meeting him at a spot, you're going to get to him before they get to that spot that they want to get to. So it's more of an aggressive approach. And even though he's coaching more aggressively, he's way more laid back."

[+] EnlargeTodd Herremans
Geoff Burke/US PresswireTodd Herremans is adjusting to new techniques implemented by new offensive line coach Howard Mudd.
Yes, we know all about Castillo and how fired-up a guy he is. Herremans said the offensive linemen are getting a kick out of watching him run around high-fiving all the defensive players in practice.

"It's taking a toll on him, though," Herremans joked. "He's got a lot farther to run this year. I think his hamstrings are being exploited."

Mudd does a fair amount of his coaching from a golf cart due to issues he has with his legs. But he's installing a whole new way of playing offensive line, and holdovers like Herremans, left tackle Jason Peters and center Jamaal Jackson have to get used to it.

"The toughest part is just when something doesn't work, trying not to revert to my old ways because it's something that's worked for me for six years," Herremans said. "But also, there are things that haven't been working for me for six years that he's got a new take on. Like, I've always struggled getting my head outside on the front side of a run play with the way that Juan wanted us to do it, and I feel like that's a lot easier for me to do now the way that Howard has us doing it."

So that's good. But as with everything you learn that's new, it can be difficult to trust it when you're used to having had success doing it a different way. For example:

"He's got us setting really aggressively in the pass game," Herremans said. "So if I get edged real quick, then automatically, in my mind, I want to go ahead and do what I did last year on the next play. But I just have to fight that urge. I've just got to trust him."

I was talking to Herremans after about the eighth or ninth day of training camp practice, so it was still a work in progress. And I'm sure he's grown more comfortable in the week-plus since I spoke with him that he was in the new system that day. I just found it interesting, an inside look at what's different about the way the Eagles will play offensive line this year, and I thought I'd share it with you. I wouldn't worry about Herremans, though. Yeah, he's a giant at 6-foot-6, 321 pounds, but he's too good a player not to fit into the new scheme, even though Mudd is known for preferring "athletic" linemen to huge ones.

"He likes to keep active feet. He wants your feet to be active all the time, and that's tough to do if you're 400 pounds," Herremans said. "But we've always been drafting athletic linemen. With Juan, he wanted great big athletic linemen. Howard just wants athletic linemen. He doesn't care. If you can get the job done at 280 pounds, you're fine. If you can get it done at 370 pounds, you can still get it done. As long as you're productive with what you have, that's what it's about."

The Eagles' offensive line still needs to come together. It'll have a rookie starting at right guard in Danny Watkins. It looks as though newcomer Ryan Harris is in line to start at right tackle. And rookie center Jason Kelce has been sharing snaps with Jackson in practice and could be in line to steal the starting center's job. So part of what the Eagles are doing is getting used to each other, which is critical for any line. As for Mudd's ideas, Herremans believes there's plenty of value in learning new things.

"I like it," he said. "Obviously, I knew it was going to take some getting used to, but it's part of the process. In college, I switched coaches after my second year, and I thought the world was going to end. But it ended up probably being the best thing for me, just seeing that there was more than one way of doing things. And I welcome the change now because I know that, in the big picture, it'll probably end up making me a better player."
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Call Andy Reid impatient if you want, but like most NFL coaches, the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach is no great fan of the walk-through practices that have taken the place of what used to be the second of his two training camp practices per day.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Jim O'Connor/US PresswireHead coach Andy Reid enters the season with a roster full of Pro Bowlers and high expectations.
"It's like being stopped at a red light with a bunch of cars in front of you," Reid told me after Friday's walk-through. "You want to just hurry up and get where you're going, but there's nothing you can do about it."

The Eagles, you see, have big plans. Reid is in his 13th season as their coach, and although the first 12 have been mostly excellent, each has ended without a Super Bowl ring. The team's urge to change that this season is obvious and inescapable. It's on the ever-shifting roster, which added five Pro Bowlers during a wild first week of free agency that made the Eagles the talk of the league. It's in the eyes of quarterback Michael Vick, who knows last season proved he was good enough to deliver and therefore ratcheted up the pressure to do just that. It's all over the high-energy practices that have featured fights and trash-talking worthy of a Week 16 division matchup. The Eagles know what's at stake and what they must do, and they're eager to get to it.

"This town wants a Super Bowl," linebacker Jamar Chaney told me, referring of course to Philadelphia, not Bethlehem. "The Phillies win. The Flyers win. They want the Eagles to do the same thing. And not just win, like, have a good season. They want you to win a Super Bowl."

The players and coaches hear the fans and would like them to know they feel the same way. Juan Castillo, who's in his first season as defensive coordinator after 13 as the team's offensive line coach, has a cut just above his nose from where he actually head-butted linebacker Keenan Clayton while yelling at Clayton to make a point during practice last week. Yeah, Clayton was still wearing his helmet. Yeah, Castillo wants this pretty badly.

"Coach Reid has been to the playoffs nine out of 12 years," Castillo said. "That's tradition, but it's not good enough. Before we finish here, we want to win the Super Bowl. Because we don't want to be sitting around when we get older, watching ESPN and having them talk about how we were so close and we never got it done."

So yeah. If it's not too much trouble, the Eagles would like to get this thing going as soon as possible.

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeNnamdi Asomugha
Howard Smith/US PresswireThe addition of Nnamdi Asomugha, 24, gives the Eagles three starting-caliber cornerbacks.
1. Can you have too many cornerbacks? When the Eagles signed Nnamdi Asomugha the day after acquiring Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and they already had Asante Samuel, the first question everybody asked was whether they'd keep all three excellent cornerbacks. The answer, to this point, seems to be yes. Rodgers-Cromartie has made it clear he doesn't mind sitting behind either of the other two, and Asomugha has made it clear that he's happy to play slot corner when all three are on the field if the other two would prefer to play outside. So although there was some early talk about possibly dealing Samuel (and that remains a possibility if somebody blows them away with a great offer), the odds favor the Eagles' keeping all three and just making triple-sure that all the receivers they play against are covered.

2. Will Vick have his receivers? As exciting as things have been during the early practices, you can't escape that Vick is throwing to second-string and third-string receivers. Sure, Jason Avant has looked like a star. But he's supposed to be the No. 3 wideout behind DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson just showed up Monday after missing the first week-plus in a contract dispute. Maclin has been in camp for a week but has yet to practice as he continues to recover from an illness that neither he nor the team will discuss. If the team can't get Jackson happy and Maclin healthy soon, their top two receivers run the risk of starting the season behind or maybe not on the roster. No matter how many new defensive players they've signed, that would be impossible to overcome.

3. Who are the linebackers? The Eagles have beefed up on the defensive line and in the secondary. They've even added a couple of starters on the offensive line and Pro Bowl backups at quarterback and running back. But they did nothing at linebacker except allow Stewart Bradley to leave via free agency. That means rookie Casey Matthews, the team's fourth-round pick in April's draft, is currently the starting middle linebacker with Chaney and Moise Fokou on the outside. The coaches have been saying very nice things about Matthews, but no pre-draft projection I know of had him as a 2011 starter -- especially on a team that expects to win the Super Bowl. Don't be surprised if the Eagles bring in a veteran to add a little depth and/or experience at the position. Matthews could start Week 1, but it's hard to imagine that the Eagles don't have a backup plan.

D-LINING THEM UP

[+] EnlargeTrent Cole
Howard Smith/US PresswireNew defensive line coach Jim Washburn, left, brings an attacking style that end Trent Cole, right, is excited about.
For all the talk about the rotation at cornerback, the Eagles have put together remarkable depth on the defensive line as well. New defensive line coach Jim Washburn has been using Trent Cole and Juqua Parker as his starting defensive ends in early practices, with newcomers Cullen Jenkins and Anthony Hargrove at the defensive tackle spots. But one would have to think that Antonio Dixon, who has been missing practice with a knee injury, would start in Hargrove's place if healthy, which means Hargrove would join newly signed defensive end Jason Babin on the second-team defensive line. Add in Trevor Laws, Darryl Tapp and, if healthy, Mike Patterson, and Washburn has plenty of options on a line that will have a different mission this year than it has in recent seasons. "We used to do a lot of reading, and now we're attacking, getting after the ball a lot," Cole told me. "Go to the ball every time, get the quarterback every time. I think they took a lot of the thinking out of it. Just go play ball."

O-LINING THEM UP

The offensive line also has a new coach in Howard Mudd, and he has changed the way they play line on that side of the ball, too. "It's a whole new thought of blocking your man," guard Todd Herremans told me. "Instead of meeting him at a spot, you're going to get to them before they get to that spot. It's more of an aggressive approach." Herremans said he's working on changing his ways, and left tackle Jason Peters and center Jamaal Jackson must as well. Rookie right guard Danny Watkins and right tackle Ryan Harris are new, and rookie Jason Kelce could wrest the starting center spot from Jackson. So there's a lot going on with the offensive line, and it bears watching, because keeping Vick healthy is probably the key to the entire Eagles season.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • Assuming Nate Allen's knee is healthy, he'll start at one safety spot, but it'll be interesting to see how the other one shakes out. It looks as though the Eagles would like to give rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett a chance to start, but it's tough to evaluate Jarrett during practices that don't allow hard hitting, because that's his thing. Also in the mix are Kurt Coleman, Marlin Jackson and newly signed veteran Jarrad Page.
  • As many weapons as the Eagles already have on offense, and as good as Brent Celek is, it'd be easy to overlook the signing of tight end Donald Lee. But when I was there, they were lining Lee up one-on-one with defensive ends like Babin and having him block them without help. He did a pretty good job, and if you're wondering how he might be deployed, that could be your answer.
  • Vince Young looks very much like a quarterback with a lot to learn about his new team's offense. So much so, in fact, that you wonder whether Young or Mike Kafka would be the starter if Vick were to suffer an injury early in the season.
  • Fourth-round draft pick Alex Henery has a great big leg. But after all the work they did in free agency and everything that's riding on this season, it does seem a little odd for the Eagles to potentially leave the outcome of a big game in the hands (or on the foot) of a rookie place-kicker.
  • Chaney played middle linebacker last season when Bradley was hurt. And when you ask which he'd prefer, he answers that he'd rather be back there than outside. But the Eagles think that his speed is his greatest asset and that having him on the strong side makes the best use of that. He could be the middle linebacker of the future or a fall-back option if Matthews can't handle it. But right now they appear to prefer him on the outside.
Morning. I trust everyone had a pleasant weekend and is ready to roll. We are three days away now from the first NFL preseason games, and less than five weeks now from the first NFL regular-season Sunday of the year. How will we pass the time? Well, with links, of course.

Dallas Cowboys

It appears as though the offense had it all over the defense in the Cowboys' Blue-White scrimmage at the Alamodome, and new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said that was his fault. Cowboys fans must hope they don't have to hear Ryan give that same speech after too many real games this year. That five weeks I referred to above is a critical period of time for the Dallas defense, which is the key to the Cowboys' season, to learn and master Ryan's system.

Montrae Holland, out with a sore back, says he hopes to practice Monday. He's the projected starter right now at right guard, which has some folks worried, I know. Whether Holland can get healthy in short order or not, I would expect that the Cowboys are at least nosing around for an offensive lineman or two who could help on the cheap.

New York Giants

Kevin Boss told Mike Garafolo that the decision to leave the Giants and sign with the Raiders was "excruciating," and he issued an apology to Giants fans. Which is all well and good, but it doesn't do much to fill the gaping hole the Giants now have at tight end, does it?

And I found this one amusing: Steve Smith is apparently going to visit the Giants this week. Visit? He's played there for four years. What's he got to do? Meet the coaches he played for for the last four years? Check out the facilities he's used since the day they opened two years ago? Meet the teammates with whom he spent the past four years playing? I get that Smith is a free agent and wants to enjoy all the free-agent stuff, but he has to come into New Jersey for a visit? Either the money's there or it's not, but how does showing up in person affect anything with Steve Smith's free agency and the Giants?

Philadelphia Eagles

Jeremy Maclin told Jeff McLane that "those crazy reports aren't true" in reference to the mystery illness that has so far kept him from practicing with the Eagles. The reference was to reports, Jeff says, that the illness is career-threatening. But while Maclin's reassurance is one thing, it's still weird that neither he nor the Eagles will discuss whatever it is that's wrong with him.

Jason Kelce's last name is pronounced "Kelsey," in case you didn't know that already. Why should you care? Well, I was at Eagles camp over the weekend, and I came away with the definite impression that Kelce has a chance to take the starting center's job away from Jamaal Jackson. Les Bowen is starting to get the same feeling, and he writes about Kelce, the sixth-round pick out of Cincinnati, and what makes him so intriguing.

Washington Redskins

You want to know just how crazy the first week of free agency was? Read this by Rick Maese on the week Redskins VP of football administration Eric Schaffer spent working on 49 player contracts. Man lost seven pounds, Rick says.

Rich Campbell explains why newly signed guard Chris Chester fits in better with the Redskins and Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme than he probably did in Baltimore.

All right. I'm off to see the Giants today, but will of course be keeping an eye on all four of our teams. In fact, look for the Eagles edition of our "Camp Confidential" series around midday.
The Eagles have made a ton of changes to their roster. In fact, in my recent post-lockout grades piece Insider, I gave Philadelphia an A-plus.

[+] EnlargeJason Peters
Geoff Burke/US PresswireLeft tackle Jason Peters anchors Philadelphia's deep, talented offensive line.
It really doesn’t get any better than that folks. A ton of huge names are being discussed in all the various media markets, but today, I want to focus on the Eagles’ offensive line. Philadelphia’s front five should be vastly improved. And there are a ton more options at Andy Reid and new line coach Howard Mudd’s disposal.

Jason Peters is entrenched as the left tackle. He gets far more criticism in the public eye than he deserves. In my opinion, he is easily one of the top-five players in the NFL at his position.

At left guard, Todd Herremans is the incumbent. He has done well in that spot. But his body type is long and leaner. He isn’t built like the prototypical guard. I think there is a chance Philadelphia considers playing him at right tackle, where I think he could do quite well. He is a very good run blocker without compromising the agility needed to protect the edge.

Jamaal Jackson is a favorite of mine -- when he is healthy. He is a powerful center who can move heavy nose tackle-types off the ball. And he isn’t a liability in space or in protection. But the whole key with Jackson is health. Rookie Jason Kelce, who’s been getting a lot of first-team reps, is also in the mix at center.

The Eagles used their first-round pick on Danny Watkins. A tackle at Baylor, Watkins is projected to play guard at this level. I do think he could contribute as a right tackle for Philadelphia if need-be. Even with the lack of practice time during the lockout being considered, you don’t draft guards in the first round to use them as reserves. He is sure to start at guard, probably on the right side. I think Watkins will be a Pro Bowl guard before long.

At right tackle, I mentioned that Herremans could be an option, but the most logical starter here is newly signed Ryan Harris. Like Jackson, durability has been the No. 1 negative with Harris. But this is a guy who was excellent in Denver’s quicker zone-blocking scheme. Harris is a well above-average athlete for an NFL right tackle and exactly what Mudd looks for at the position.

Although it seems that the starting five is set as it stands today, there are other factors at work here. Philadelphia also signed Evan Mathis, a pure guard, away from the Bengals. Cincinnati didn’t give him the opportunity that he deserved and the Eagles wisely pounced on him. But he has performed like a starter when given the opportunity.

Winston Justice has been the starting right tackle now for a few seasons. He remains in the picture, but had a rough time last season. Mudd could get him back to his 2009 form and there certainly is talent here.

Mike McGlynn is a versatile inside guy who also could be a factor going forward, but most likely only if Jackson continues to struggle to stay on the field.

I expect the Eagles' offensive line to be very much improved this season. Due to better coaching, better players and far more options, this could be one of the top-five lines in the league.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.
BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Big Saturday morning crowd here at Lehigh, and they were treated to quite a show as the Philadelphia Eagles offered one of the more spirited training camp practices I've seen.

One of the highlights came late in the practice when defensive end Darryl Tapp jumped, deflected a Mike Kafka pass into the air, caught it and ran it back about 70 yards for a touchdown. The play was good enough on its own to be a highlight, but what really made it memorable was the sight of a red-shirted Michael Vick racing off the sideline and chasing Tapp to the end zone.

"I saw him out of the corner of my eye and thought, 'I'd better run'," Tapp said. "He's ... a little bit faster than I am."

[+] EnlargeDanny Watkins and Moise Fokou
AP Photo/Alex BrandonThere were a few scuffles at Eagles practice Saturday, including one involving Danny Watkins and Moise Fokou.
It was that kind of high-energy day for the Eagles. The sun hid behind clouds and kept the heat at bay, so the practice ran long and no one seemed to tire out. There were three fights (all quickly broken up, one by hyperenthusiastic defensive coordinator Juan Castillo), several circus catches, plenty of patented Asante Samuel trash-talking and an especially bouncy performance by newly signed defensive tackle Anthony Hargrove, who practiced as if he'd had four extra cups of coffee before taking the field.

"I don't know what happened out there today," Vick said. "Just something in the air, I think. Just one of those days where, on both sides of the ball, we were like, 'We're going to win every down,' and guys played that way."

A couple of thoughts:

  • Vick was goofing off when he ran after Tapp, obviously, but when he was at quarterback he looked absolutely stellar, threading throws into tight spots, picking up blitzes and staying confidently in the pocket and behind the line of scrimmage rather than taking off for runs. Considering the receivers to whom he's throwing (i.e., not DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin) and who's covering them (i.e. Samuel, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), Vick's practice performance Saturday was extremely impressive.
  • Asomugha missed the latter part of practice with a calf injury that both he and the team said wasn't serious. Other injury absences included Nate Allen, who missed the practice with a knee injury, Trevor Laws, who has a hip injury, and Marlin Jackson, whose groin is hurt.
  • There were a couple of offensive sets on which the tight end was assigned to block a defensive end one-on-one. Donald Lee held his own against Jason Babin when called upon to do that. Brent Celek did not fare as well in his attempts to handle Babin, who is another of the high-energy fellows.
  • Howard Mudd seems still to be tinkering with the starting lineup on the offensive line. Ryan Harris played right tackle with the first team Saturday, while rookie Jason Kelce more or less split first-team reps with Jamaal Jackson at center. No reason yet to think Kelce is a threat to Jackson's job, but it bears watching. Rookie Danny Watkins is taking reps with the first and second teams at right guard because he's sure to be the starter there and they want to get him up to speed after a spring and summer that featured no OTAs or minicamps.
  • Vince Young is learning, and it appears he has a ways to go before he knows the offense. But Marty Mornhinweg coached Vick to excellence from a backup role, and the Eagles and Young feel it's worth the shot to see if the same can happen for him.
  • Jason Avant, whose one-handed touchdown catch with Asomugha draped all over him was one of the practice's highlights, said he's not worried about the time that Jackson (holdout) and Maclin (undisclosed illness) are missing. "Those guys know the playbook like the back of their hand," Avant said. "As soon as they're back, they'll jump right in without any problem."

I'll have more on the Eagles in the coming days, as my notebook and recorder are loaded. Much of it will appear in the Eagles edition of "Camp Confidental," which is currently scheduled for Monday. It looks as though my next stop will be Giants camp either Sunday or Monday. I'll keep you posted.

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