Friday, June 13, 2014
OTAs raised questions for Eagles' camp
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- We didn't really get many answers from the Philadelphia Eagles' recently concluded organized team activities. Going into next week's mandatory minicamp, though, we know enough to ask somewhat better questions.
Matt Barkley or Mark Sanchez? We know Nick Foles will be the No. 1 quarterback, a major development compared to last year's training camp. But the signing of Sanchez to a one-year deal raised as many questions as it answered.
Sanchez has started 62 NFL games and gone to two AFC title games. He is the most accomplished quarterback in camp, and he's only 27. That makes him unlikely to be content to be the long-term backup for Foles. If Foles fails his acid-test season, Sanchez could be the next man up.
And then there's Barkley, who got into a few games as a rookie. His shoulder is healthy now, and he should get an opportunity to outplay Sanchez for the No. 2 spot. Barkley has the confidence to endure another season as the No. 3 QB, but is that really the ideal situation?
How will the wide receivers line up? At present, Riley Cooper is the only one of last year's top three receivers to be in the mix. If Cooper and Jeremy Maclin wind up on the outside, either rookie Jordan Matthews or veteran Brad Smith could become the slot receiver. Or if Matthews has a great summer, Cooper could move to the slot. He has the size for it.
It will be interesting, too, to see how Chip Kelly uses rookie Josh Huff, the third-round pick from Oregon. The Eagles may not have a receiver with the speed or the Pro Bowl appearances of DeSean Jackson, but they certainly have some talent at the position.
How will Kelly use his other offensive weapons?Zach Ertz is going to be on the field. Does that mean Brent Celek, who helped LeSean McCoy lead the NFL in rushing, won't be? Will Kelly use Ertz, rather than a wide receiver, in the slot more often? And what about running back Darren Sproles? What will his role look like?
Earl Wolff or Nate Allen?Malcolm Jenkins will start at one safety spot. Will the Eagles stick with Allen or give Wolff a chance to take a step forward? Allen probably has reached his ceiling. Wolff still has some potential to become a better player. The answer will determine whether the secondary has a chance to be markedly better this season.
What can Marcus Smith do? The first-round pick from Louisville was backing up Connor Barwin in OTAs, but that has more to do with logistics than logic. It is expected Smith will contend for Trent Cole's right outside linebacker job.
The Eagles will be fine with Cole playing a lot this season, as long as Smith develops into a replacement by 2015. But getting some production from Smith in 2014, whether it's from the right or the left side, would be good for everyone.
Alex Henery or Murderleg? Yes, the Eagles signed a rookie free-agent kicker, Carey Spear, with the awesome nickname "Murderleg." No, he's not likely to replace the incumbent.
So let's finish with an answer: Henery. All he needs is a nickname.