NFL Nation: Jamaal Jackson

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 if 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's 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 may 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 may 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 may have to begin the season on the PUP 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 year 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 makes 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 grabs 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, though 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 year. Only Chester is new, and while Montgomery wasn't the starting center last year, 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 year 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.

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 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 the 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, 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 year, 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 actually ready. And King Dunlap is only a fill-in starter at right tackle until Winston Justice and/or Ryan Harris is 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's 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 year 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 fresh as 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 and running when all else had failed. We're not likely to see him in the final preseason game, so this was his last warmup 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 preseason. The Eagles may have game-planned and the Browns may have not. 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 also 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 in general that most of the individual evaluations off of 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.
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 right 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.
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.

Eagles training camp notes

August, 5, 2011
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BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- All of the excitement around the new acquisitions is nice, but when I spoke with Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid I asked him how concerned he is that neither of his top two wide receivers is practicing yet. DeSean Jackson continues to hold out of training camp in a contract dispute, and Jeremy Maclin is still watching from the sidelines after missing the first five days because of a still-undisclosed illness.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Maclin
AP Photo/Alex BrandonWith Jeremy Maclin sidelined and DeSean Jackson not in camp, the Eagles have been thin at receiver.
"Well, thank goodness they've played with Michael [Vick] the last couple of years, at least," Reid said. "I understand that's a concern. I'd like them to be here, I can't tell you I wouldn't. Number one, with Jeremy, I want to make sure he goes through all the tests he needs to go through, that's the most important thing. And when DeSean gets here, we coach him. And until he does, we go with what we have. That's how we roll."

It's odd -- and disconcerting -- that no one has said what's wrong with Maclin. The Eagles aren't projecting any worry about not having him for the season, though, and Reid said during a news conference earlier in the day that he expects to have him for the opener. So at this point we'll have to take them at their word on that. Jackson is likely to be in camp as soon as the contract gets worked out. And if he's not in by Tuesday he puts next year's unrestricted free-agent status in jeopardy. So there's a feeling around here that Jackson's situation will get worked out, though the people I've spoken with on the other end indicate it could be more complicated that the team thinks. We'll see. But when they lined up to do punt return drills, it felt as though something pretty important was missing.

  • Defensive tackle Mike Patterson's return to camp two days after leaving in an ambulance following an on-field seizure was the surprise of the day. There's some thought that he could return to practice soon, though I have to believe that's overly optimistic, considering the frightening nature of the things for which they've been testing him. "You know he wants to play," Eagles trainer Rick Burkholder said. "Heck, he would have practiced this afternoon if we would have let him. That's normal, and that's why he's a great player. But as the guy who's got to be responsible for Mike, I have to pull the reigns back on that and make sure we're thorough and we know exactly what we have before we turn him back in there."
  • Casey Matthews is still lining up at middle linebacker with Jamar Chaney, who played that spot last season when Stewart Bradley got hurt, on the outside. "If you ask me which one I like the best, I like the MIKE," Chaney said. "But it is what it is. I consider myself able to play all three. It doesn't matter. I'm still going to go out and get the job done." I have to think there's still a chance the Eagles bring in a veteran to address this, be it someone for the middle or someone who can play on the strong side and move Chaney back into the middle.
  • People who want practice observations can know that Sinorice Moss looked great and beat Nnamdi Asomugha on one deep ball, that Asomugha intercepted Vince Young once, that this guy Jason Kelce is sharing first-team reps at center with Jamaal Jackson and that, in general, the Eagles' secondary is dominating the second-string receivers. Oh, and Vick looks fine. I'm not sure how much any or all of that means or matters, but there you have it. I'll have more tomorrow.

Underrated players: NFC East

June, 10, 2011
6/10/11
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NFC Underrated Players: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at the most underrated players in the division.

Dallas Cowboys

Jay Ratliff, NT: He's been to the Pro Bowl the past three years, so clearly, people are catching on. But it's tough to find "underrated" players on a roster that gets as much attention as the Cowboys' roster does. And because of the position he plays, Ratliff doesn't get a lot of attention for the number of different ways he impacts the game. Opponents and opposing coaches fear and respect him, and the Cowboys consider him a versatile team leader who'd likely move to DE if they felt they needed him there to help their pass rush next year.

New York Giants

[+] EnlargeKevin Boss
William Perlman/US PresswireGiants tight end Kevin Boss isn't flashy on offense but is a solid blocker.
Kevin Boss, TE: Boss gained attention during the Giants' Super Bowl run as a dependable replacement for the flaky Jeremy Shockey after Shockey went down with an injury. Because of the emergence of the Giants' wide receivers over the past few years, he hasn't factored into the offense as a pass-catcher as much as some may have liked. But he's there when Eli Manning needs him, and his more important role is as a blocker. The Giants have some of the best pass-protection numbers in the league, and Boss is a key to that.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jamaal Jackson, C: The Eagles' offense has suffered through Jackson's injuries late in the past two seasons, but neither the injuries nor the suffering are any coincidence. The Eagles don't give Jackson much help, trusting him to block opposing defensive tackles one-on-one almost all the time. As a result, he wears down. But when healthy, he's strong and athletic enough to handle the assignment. The offense simply runs better when he's in there than it does when he isn't. Jackson plays a position where it's almost impossible to get noticed unless you mess something up, and when he's on the field, he doesn't.

Washington Redskins

London Fletcher, LB: Fletcher has fought an uphill battle for respect and attention since he entered the league, but in recent years people have begun to take notice of his role as a team leader and one of the most committed and productive defensive players on his teams. He's a relentless, reliable tackler whose determination and work ethic are likely the result of his having been underrated early on and throughout his career. The Pro Bowl recognition he has received in recent years may disqualify him from this list, but of all the players on the Redskins' roster, he may be the one whose reputation least lives up to his production.

Eagles take a stand against bullying

February, 14, 2011
2/14/11
3:30
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Most of you have probably heard about a 13-year-old boy named Nadin Khoury from Philadelphia who was brutally attacked by seven bigger schoolmates two months ago. ESPN's Rick Reilly watched three Eagles players surprise Khoury on a recent airing of ABC's "The View," and wrote a column about it:

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson, guard Todd Herremans and center Jamaal Jackson were the three players who walked onto the set. DeSean is Khoury's favorite player in the league.

"Khoury seemed at once shocked, overwhelmed and redeemed," writes Reilly. "Where once his chin stuck out as best it could, it now fell open in wonder. He looked like a kid who'd forgotten it was Christmas morning. He wept without wiping his tears. [DeSean] Jackson sat as close to him as possible, as if to make the two one. He praised the boy for his bravery and added, "Anytime ever you need us, I got two linemen right here."

'Nadin's mom cried, Whoopi Goldberg cried, my wife cried and I cried.'

At a time when we're having to read daily stories about a labor dispute, it's refreshing to see that some players feel led to a higher cause. Hopefully Khoury's brave stand against bullying will make a lasting impact.

Eagles players reach out to bullying victim

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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A 13-year-old Eagles fan named Nadin Khoury was the victim of one of the worst bullying crimes in recent memory last month. Seven students at Philadelphia's Upper Darby High School's Opportunity Center attacked Khoury for no apparent reason and one of them captured video of the horrifying scene. Six of those students were arrested and hauled off in a police wagon Monday for all of their classmates to see.

Khoury and his family made an emotional appearance on ABC's "The View" on Thursday. One of the hosts brought it up that Khoury loved the Philadelphia Eagles, and moments later, DeSean Jackson, Todd Herremans and Jamaal Jackson came walking onto the set. Jackson ripped off his No. 10 jersey and signed it before handing it to Khoury, who was overwhelmed by the gesture. Once he collected himself, Khoury told the audience that Jackson was his favorite player.

Herremans offered the family tickets to a game of their choosing, and Jackson invited them to an anti-bullying event that he's involved with. Sheil Kapadia of Moving The Chains blog has linked to the touching scene and it's worth a look.

Wrap-up: Packers 27, Eagles 20

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
9:05
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What it means: The Kevin Kolb era is off to a rough start -- especially when he gets knocked out of the game with a concussion. There's no shame in losing to the Green Bay Packers, but the Eagles did it in awful fashion. Don't let that fourth-quarter comeback fool you. That was a miserable showing for the Eagles, and they came away with what appears to be a devastating injury. They lose a valuable player if Leonard Weaver is out for the season with a knee injury.

Tomorrow's talker: You know everyone will be talking about quarterback Michael Vick's performance Monday. He passed for 175 yards and ran for 103. He made one really poor decision not to run the ball into the end zone, but he certainly gave the offense some much-needed punch. Kolb had a rough first half with only 24 passing yards, but I thought he was handcuffed by his head coach. It almost felt like Andy Reid was being too tentative with his young quarterback. If you're going to trade your franchise quarterback to a division rival, you better be ready to trust his replacement.

What I liked: Nate Allen had some rough moments but he had his first interception in the second half, which gave the Eagles some hope. Trent Cole and Juqua Parker combined for three sacks on Aaron Rodgers. But the downside to that is that Brandon Graham was really quite in his debt.

Big revelation: The Eagles are about to find out how much depth they have. With Jamaal Jackson leaving the game with an elbow injury, reserve center Mike McGlynn may get a chance to start next week against the Lions. And it's unlikely we'll see middle linebacker Stewart Bradley (concussion).

What's next: Philly has some soul searching to do. They may catch a break if Matthew Stafford (shoulder) can't play, but the Lions won't be a gimme. Again, this couldn't have gone much worse.

Kevin Kolb knocked out of game

September, 12, 2010
9/12/10
6:51
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Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse for the Philadelphia Eagles, starting quarterback Kevin Kolb left the game with a concussion. Michael Vick started the second half and the Eagles currently trail, 27-10.

Kolb
Kolb
Kolb was 5 of 10 for 24 yards when he left the game. He didn't complete a single pass to DeSean Jackson or Brent Celek and nearly had three attempts intercepted. It's the worst possible start for the Kolb era and now he'll likely miss next week's game.

The Eagles also lost starting middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to a concussion. He staggered around after the collision before falling onto the ground. Center Jamaal Jackson left the game with an elbow injury and will not return. According to folks on the scene, Kolb heard his first boos about 20 minutes into the game.

We'll keep you updated throughout the evening. I'm at FedEx for Cowboys-Redskins.

Good start to the Kevin Kolb era

August, 14, 2010
8/14/10
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We weren't able to catch the Eagles-Jaguars exhibition live in the Dallas area, but I stayed up for the replay. Kevin Kolb had a nice first outing and he showed a lot of poise. Sorry, I can't muster up much disappointment about the red-zone performance. Tight end Brent Celek will make that catch in the back of the end zone in the regular-season. The fact that the Eagles won, 28-27, is just a side note. Here are my observations from the game:
  • We were quickly reminded that DeSean Jackson is perhaps the most exciting player in the league on Kolb's first throw. He hit Jackson in stride on a quick slant, and the Jaguars linebacker never had a chance. Jackson's a matchup nightmare for any team, but the Jags seemed especially overmatched.
  • You might have been surprised to see how mobile Kolb was on Friday night. He does a really nice job of always keeping his eyes looking downfield as he escapes the pocket. He doesn't have a lot of speed, but he's actually pretty elusive. I didn't see any evidence of "happy feet" in the first quarter. Both Kolb and Michael Vick did a nice job using their legs.
  • Speaking of Vick, he looks like a completely different player than last season. That touchdown run was vintage Vick in that he broke containment and then turned on the afterburners down the sideline. The Jaguars defensive linemen had no chance when Vick decided to take off. He was so much more decisive in Friday's game than he was at this point last season.
  • Jeremy Maclin looks so much smoother in his route running. On that first pass from Kolb, he sort of lulled the Jags to sleep and then he exploded across the middle. He and Kolb seem to already have a nice rhythm. If Kolb's able to hit Jackson and Maclin in stride most of the time, this offense will put up huge numbers. The one thing Kolb can't do is stare down a receiver in the red zone. He did that with Jason Avant on that first drive. Fortunately, Avant was able to break up a possible interception.
  • Give cornerback Asante Samuel credit for popping big tight end Marcedes Lewis early in the game. He's normally averse to contact, but he made a really nice play on third down. The first-team defense didn't get a lot of reps, because they played too well. Two three-and-outs is a good way to begin the preseason.
  • Trevard Lindley prevented a long kick return early in the game with a really nice open-field tackle. I think general manager Howie Roseman has to feel pretty good about getting him in the fourth round. Lindley and free-agent rookie safety Kurt Coleman are both very aggressive players who play with a ton of confidence. Coleman's in the process of playing his way onto the 53-man roster.
  • I'd love to see Chad Hall make this team, but you have to put Jackson back there on punt returns during the regular season. I heard the Philadelphia broadcasters talking about letting someone else do it to prevent an injury to Jackson. That doesn't make sense to me. Jackson's gamebreaking ability makes it worth the risk.
  • You have to give it up for the first-team offensive line. Seemed like Kolb and Vick both had plenty of time in the pocket. By the way, Vick's pass to Riley Cooper was a thing of beauty. Cooper's acting like he belongs. It's going to be impossible to keep him out of the rotation once the regular-season begins. Three catches for 61 yards in his first preseason game. Just a very impressive rookie. He and Bengals' rookie Jordan Shipley have really stood out to me.
  • Surely the Jags will have a better plan against the Eagles in a game that counts. Giving Jackson a free release is like begging him to beat you. The 26-yard catch and run was pretty impressive, but the end-around was the play of the night. Jags cornerback Derek Cox is trying to have film of that play destroyed, because Jackson made him look silly with that little stutter-step.
  • LeSean McCoy did a nice job between the tackles. I thought he was a little too quick to bounce runs outside last season. On Friday, he lowered his shoulder and churned out yards in the first quarter. It wasn't a huge night or anything, but I saw some good signs. The huge night belonged to Martell Mallett. Some players just take it to the next level when the lights come on, and Mallett was that guy.
  • I know Joselio Hanson wants to be competing for a starting job, but he can't bite on those double moves. Luke McCown, who hails from Jacksonville, Texas, made Hanson look really bad on a long touchdown pass. And if Hanson's going to interfere, you better pull the guy to the ground. Really poor technique. Geoff Pope also got burned on a deep ball from McCown.
  • Left tackle Austin Howard basically took over the game in the second quarter. He had at least two pancake blocks in the game and his footwork was outstanding. I was amazed to see how technically sound he looked. And at 330 pounds, he was doing an excellent job of anchoring.
  • Akeem Jordan was ready to play. Loved seeing him knife through on what might have been a run blitz early in the game. It's hard to complain about anything the first-team defense did.
  • Jonathan Tamari of the Inquirer felt like center Mike McGlynn had a solid effort. The announcers sort of acted like he has the starting job sewn up until Jamaal Jackson returns, but I'm not so sure.

Camp Confidential: Philadelphia Eagles

August, 9, 2010
8/09/10
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 17

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."

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
Brian Garfinkel/Icon SMIThe Eagles have high hopes for Kevin Kolb, who threw for more than 300 yards in each of his two starts last season.
THREE HOT ISSUES

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.

[+] EnlargeAllen
Cliff Welch/Icon SMIThe Eagles hope Nate Allen is the answer at safety.
3. Can rookie Nate Allen solve the issues the Eagles had at safety?

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.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

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.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

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.

[+] EnlargeRiley Cooper
Howard Smith/US PresswireRookie Riley Cooper has stepped up when called upon in training camp.
OBSERVATION DECK

  • 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.

Big Question: Eagles happy with O-line?

June, 15, 2010
6/15/10
1:00
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Should the Eagles have done more to fortify their offensive line?

Somewhat surprisingly, despite a wealth of draft picks, Philadelphia didn’t make any major additions to its offensive line. The Eagles must feel quite comfortable with what they have despite Jamaal Jackson’s injury situation and the release of Shawn Andrews. So, let’s examine this situation more closely.

[+] EnlargeJason Peters
Walter G. Arce/Icon SMIWhile he's received some criticism since joining the Eagles, Jason Peters remains one of the better left tackles in the NFL.
Jackson is the best option at center, but he just recently started running and it wouldn’t be a shock if his knee injury landed him on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. Jackson was on the verge of establishing himself as one of the better centers in this league, particularly as a run-blocker, but this looks like Nick Cole’s job for the time being. Mike McGlynn has the ability to play center as well, but his best fit is at guard. Cole moves well and is good in protection, but isn’t nearly the pile-mover that Jackson is in the run game. But as backup centers go, you could do much worse than Cole until Jackson returns.

Stacy Andrews has been tough to count on of late, but if healthy, he will start at right guard. He also could move to right tackle if Winston Justice struggles at the position where Andrews’ brother Shawn used to play. Even if Andrews can’t be counted on, the guard depth is pretty strong with McGlynn and Max Jean-Gilles backing up Andrews and left guard Todd Herremans. Herremans is another player who, in a pinch, could slide over to right tackle, but he is quite sound at left guard. McGlynn is a potential up-and-comer who could surprise this year if needed.

Like Cole at center, Justice is better in protection than as a run-blocker. But that isn’t much of a problem in this pass-happy offense and overall, Justice was impressive in 2009. As noted above, there are backup plans in place if Justice struggles, but I fully expect him to hold down the fort at right tackle.

At left tackle, Jason Peters has caught a lot of heat since his arrival in Philadelphia, but I think he is still one of the very best tackles in the business. He has taken too many penalties and does have to be more consistent, but doing battle with the blindside edge-rushers in this division is no easy task. I have no concerns about Peters.

So, all in all, I am in the Eagles’ corner with their decision not to dedicate heavy resources to adding to their offensive line. There are some questions, but there are also some fallback options. I think this group will be fine.

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