Saturday, August 24, 2013
Last chance for competition on Eagles' D
By Phil Sheridan
It is no surprise the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback competition was the dominant story of Chip Kelly’s first training camp. The untold story is the lack of other spirited battles for starting jobs, especially on the defense.
New coordinator Bill Davis is expected to start the same 11 players in Jacksonville on Saturday night as he started last week against Carolina. And with the exception of cornerback Cary Williams, who was sidelined with an injury, Davis started the same group against New England on Aug. 9.
“This is a big preseason game for us,” Davis said this week. “In the evaluation process, every game weighs a little heavier than the practices, obviously, because of the speed at which you play, and the tackles and all that. But this is a big preseason game to help us determine who the starters will be and the backups.”
Especially, it turns out, the backups.
Williams and Bradley Fletcher appear to have the starting cornerback jobs sewn up. Brandon Boykin went into camp as the nickel corner, and he’s still there. Neither Brandon Hughes nor Curtis Marsh (who had surgery on a broken bone in his hand this week) seriously challenged the top three.
Nate Allen remains a starter at safety. Injuries have kept veteran Kenny Phillips from taking the job, and fifth-round pick Earl Wolff doesn’t appear ready yet. Patrick Chung has never budged from the top of the depth chart at the other safety spot.
The starting front seven has looked the same throughout the preseason, as well. The good news there is along the line, where Bennie Logan, Vinny Curry and Damion Square have played their way into what could be a solid rotation.
The linebacking situation is another matter. It is a position that has vexed the Eagles nearly as much as safety over the past five years. There is a chance the four starters -- Connor Barwin and Trent Cole on the outside, DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks on the inside -- will be adequate. But the Eagles’ Friday trade of running back Felix Jones for linebacker Adrian Robinson shows how much they need depth and competition there.
Can Phillips make a late push to replace Allen? Can Logan slip ahead of veteran Isaac Sopoaga at the nose tackle spot? Does former first-round pick Brandon Graham need to make some plays in order to show he’s completed the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker?
This game in Jacksonville is the last real chance Davis will get to see his first team in extended live action. It doesn’t help that the Eagles will be facing backup quarterback Chad Henne and a rebuilding Jaguars team. If the Eagles looked better against Cam Newton than Tom Brady, they should look much improved against Henne.