Tag Archives: Philadelphia Eagles

Time to Move On

What is there to say about yesterday’s loss to the Green Bay Packers?  The Eagles cost me $5!  Any time the Eagles play the Packers or 49ers (she lives outside of San Francisco), my wife’s grandmother calls to set up a bet.  The Packers were my wife’s grandfather’s favorite team.  He grew up in Wisconsin and was a life long Packers fan.  He and I used to bet on the games, and now my wife’s grandmother has continued the tradition.

Beyond the Eagles costing me 5 dollars, this paragraph should suffice. The Birds played poorly in every facet of the game.  It’s easy to blame David Akers for the loss, his two missed field goals are the most glaring mistakes; however, this is just not accurate.  The defense was porous, giving up points at the most inopportune times.  Sean McDermott’s squad gifted the Packers points (see the offside penalty that extended Green Bay’s fist scoring drive), and the tackling was atrocious.  The other side of the ball wasn’t much better.  Michael Vick and company were unable to mount sustained drives when the team needed them most.

With that brief discussion of my thoughts on yesterday’s game out of the way, I am moving on.  While I clearly support the Eagles and Phillies the most vocally, I am a fan of both the Sixers and the Flyers.  Some might not know it, but there are other sports going on in Philly.  The Flyers sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 26-10-5 record and have played well all season.  They are fun to watch and I suggest Philly sports fans going through withdrawal should check them out. The Sixers sit 8th in the Eastern Conference, despite a 15-22 record.  Not to shabby.

With over a month until pitchers and catchers report, I will be focusing most of the blogging on the Flyers and Sixers.  I will also be looking to blog more about soccer and college basketball (Duke has started the season 15-0, and BU look like they will compete for the America East title).


What to Do?

This weekend was a tough one for Philadelphia sports fans.  Our beloved Phillies flamed out in the NLCS against an inferior opponent, and the Eagles forgot how to hold a lead against the Titans.   I could easily write a post full of recriminations of both the Phillies and the Eagles (hello Ryan Howard, how do you not swing at that pitch!? But don’t blame him, as set out in this post on FanGraphs) but those topics have been covered to death by both the mainstream media and in the blogosphere.  Instead of harping on that mistakes that were made (Kenny Britt and his 225 yards and 3 TDs against the Birds), I am asking – where to I turn my sporting attentions after this tough weekend?

The baseball season is over, and with the Phillies already committing $143 million to just 16 players in 2011 there will be no major signings to keep the hot stove hot during the winter.  Very little chance of entertainment or something interesting happening in that area.

The football season does not look promising either.  This Eagles team is deeply flawed, but then again so is the rest of the NFL, and looked lost in the second half against the Titans.  While Sunday’s game should settle any talk of a quarterback controversy, it didn’t provide much hope for the future.  With the Eagles facing just two teams with records currently under .500 the second half of the season could be rough.   While I haven’t given up hope yet, the NFC is a conference of parity, the Birds will need to get their act together to make some noise.  Plus, this week is a bye.

It’s much to early to care about the NHL or the NBA in a meaningful way.  Sure I will catch some games here or there, but these leagues don’t consume my attention until well into the spring (read when they get to the playoffs, with over half the teams making the postseason the regular season is rendered irrelevant).

Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of my favorite team - the Duke Blue Devils.

We are still weeks away from college basketball tipping off, but here again is another sport where I just can’t bring myself to focus more than a small amount of my attention before conference play starts in January. Sure there will be some early season marquee matchups (Duke-Michigan State on December 1 or a rematch of last year’s title game – Duke-Butler on December 4) that will draw my interest, but the season doesn’t really start until you are in conference play.

College football provides me with some distraction, but with Penn State floundering my interest is only in seeing Boise State crash the BCS title party.  What is a sports fan to do? Where do I turn for my sports distractions?

I am counting on Rhett and the Terriers to deliver me some sporting hope.

It appears college hockey, a realm where my alma mater – Boston University is a contender, and world soccer will be my areas of interest for the next several months.  While I can never quit the Eagles, I need more than just one team to fulfill my sporting needs.  So here’s to the Terriers! Here’s to Arsenal and Reading FC!  My sporting hopes lie with you, don’t let me down.

Suggestions are welcomed.

Thursday Thoughts – Soccer, Baseball and Football

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t written a post in 10 days.  I’ve started taking classes again, and they have sucked up most of my free time.  My intention is to try to post 2 or 3 post per week while I am taking classes.  I will likely post on weekends, Thursdays and possibly Tuesdays.

Since my last post, tons of stuff has happened in the world of sports: the Champions League has played its second game; the Phillies clinched their 4th straight N.L. East title (and best record in the National League); the Red Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention; the Eagles have looked good with Michael Vick at quarterback (and face a game against former QB Donovan McNabb and the Redskins); the NHL preseason has started; and NBA training camps have kicked off.  I guess this is what happens when you don’t post for a week and a half.

Former Panathinaikos forward and current member of FC Copenhagen, Dame N'Doye has led the Lions to the top of Group D.

Soccer – The Champions League has played two rounds of soccer since my last post on the beautiful game, so this seemed like a good time to take a look at what has transpired.  The biggest surprise has to be F.C. Copenhagen who currently sit atop Group D with 6 points from 2 games.  This is no easy feat, as the group contains perennial contenders, Barcelona.  Copenhagen opened the campaign with a 1-0 victory of Rubin Kazan, and followed that victory with an impressive 2-0 victory over Panathinaikos in Greece.  Barcelona opened with a 5-1 drubbing of the Greeks but was held in Russia by Rubin Kazan, giving the Catalans 4 points from 2 games.  I expect Barça to win the group, but you have to think the Danes have the inside track on 2nd at this point (making my prediction of Panathinaikos finishing 2nd incorrect).

Equally surprising is the poor showing by Marseille, who have lost their first two matches and haven’t scored a goal (1-0 to Spartak Moscow at the Stade Vélodrome and 2-0 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge).   Marseille, last year’s Ligue 1 champions, currently sit 6th in the league and have enjoyed a good run of form domestically; however, they have not been able to translate that into international competition.  This is another group where my prediction could be terribly wrong, as Marseille need to make up 6 points on Spartak in order to finish 2nd (Chelsea is oviously going to win this group).

Of the big names, Arsenal and Chelsea have looked the most impressive to open the competition, with the Gunners enjoying a +8 goal difference (though their group is rather weak) and the Blues posting a +5.  Looking at the rest of the competition, the most of the groups have gone rather predictably, with no other major upsets or disappointments yet.

Baseball – My dream of my two teams once again making the playoffs came to halt this week when the Red Sox were eliminated from contention with a loss to the White Sox.  I suppose I should have been prepared for this when Theo Epstein said this was a “bridge” year for the Sox, but I held out hope (at least until I saw them get drubbed by the Blue Jays a month ago).  But even after that drubbing, I hoped the Sox could make a comeback.  They even teased me by winning the first two games of their series against the Yankees.  Had they been able to sweep, who knows what could have happened?

As for the Phillies, they have continued to steamroll through the N.L. on their way to their 4th straight division title.  This is new territory for me as a Phillies fan.  For my whole life, up until the last 6 or 7 seasons (and not counting that magical 1993 team), the Phillies have been terrible.  The team has never had a stretch where they have been this competitive for this many years (other than in the mid 70s).  I’m not sure how to be a fan of the front-runners.

The Big Three could start all but 2 of the Phillies' playoff games. Watch out MLB.

The Phils are clearly the favorites in the National League, some might argue the entire league.  With their “Big Three” pitchers, they will be tough to beat in a short series.  The Phils made a shrewd decision to select the longer division series (extra day off) giving them the opportunity to pitch on a three-man rotation.  Whomever they play in the first round should start booking their tee times because the series will be over in short order.

Football – The Eagles have certainly supplied a lot of drama over the first few weeks of the season.  Kevin Kolb, the anointed successor to former stalwart Donovan McNabb, went down with a concussion in the early part of the first game against Green Bay.  Following the injury, Michael Vick came in and led the Birds to a near comeback.  Vick looked good, and followed with a great game against Detroit.  Following the Detroit game, The Eagles announced that Vick would be the starter even after Kolb was healthy.

Michael Vick has looked good in his two starts. Will he lead the Birds to the promised land?

Who saw this coming?  I expected Vick to play at some point, because I wasn’t sold on Kolb, but I never saw the Eagles abandoning Kolb so early in the season.  Andy Reid had just traded the franchise to a division rival because he believed Kolb was the answer, and then he gives the kid a quarter to prove himself?   Crazy!  Undoubtedly, Vick has looked good in his time as the starter (though he has yet to face a decent team), but to abandon Kolb seems short-sighted.  Unless the Eagles truly believe they can win the Super Bowl this season, I just don’t think this move makes sense.  I know they have a soft schedule to start the season and they need to rack up as many wins as they can, but they are stunting Kolb’s growth by not allowing him to start.  Vick is clearly not the long-term answer, and Kolb (who I wasn’t sure was the answer either) may never evolve into that solution. I have enjoyed watching Vick play the last couple of weeks, and there is nothing America loves more than a redemption story, but the Birds need to think about the long-term.

On another note, I think the first couple of games has shown that perhaps Andy Reid should have been the person shown the door instead of McNabb.  Reid’ poor clock management and less than stellar play calling have continued.  In the game against Green Bay, Reid used all of his timeouts before the 5 minute mark of the 4th quarter and he called a misguided 4th-and-1 play where Vick ran a draw rather than a simple run up the middle.  These calls could have drastically changed the outcome of the game.  Maybe the Birds didn’t need a new quarterback, just a new coach.

Other Sports – In other news, the Flyers have started the preseason and look to make another run to the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Sixers have started training camp.  Both should merit watching and will be covered more in this space once the NHL and NBA season get closer.

Upcoming Posts

Starting Saturday, I will be on a road trip/vacation that will see me hit Cooperstown, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. During that time I plan to blog about my trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, the Indians game I attend, the Phillies-Giants game on August 17 (I’m hoping for a Tim Lincecum/Roy Halladay matchup) and maybe the first Eagles pre-season game against the Jags. During that time, there may also be a post on the U.S. Open going up, courtesy of resident tennis expert, Vito.

I’m not sure what Indians game I will be going to, though I have the excellent choice of seeing them play the Orioles or the Mariners. The only way my choices could be worse would be if the Pirates were involved. I’m hoping to see Fausto Carmona, the Tribe’s one good pitcher, pitch. I am wondering if the Reading Phillies (my hometown team) game against the Akron Aeros, the Indians’ AA affiliate, wouldn’t be better.

Gang Green Part II: Eagles Pre Training Camp Preview – Defensive Backs and Special Teams

Last Thursday, I previewed the offense and this past Tuesday, I previewed the defensive line and the linebackers for the Birds.  Today we cover the rest of the defense and the special teams.  As with the rest of the team, there are a number of questions surrounding the secondary entering the season.  Will the Birds finally find a successor to Brian Dawkins at free safety?  Who will start opposite Asante Samuel at cornerback?  And will Nate Allen, rookie and likely starter at free safety make it to training camp on time?

Cornerback: Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Joselio Hanson, Macho Harris, Geoffrey Pope, Dimitri Patterson, Trevard Lindley, David Pender – Entering the season, the only certainty is that Asante Samuel will be on the field and the focus of the secondary.  Samuel has 13 interceptions during his two season with the Eagles, 9 coming last year.  He should continue to be one the best corners in the league meaning that teams will focus their air attack across the field where the Eagles do not have an entrenched starter.  With Sheldon Brown roaming the defensive backfield in Cleveland, the starting job opposite Asante Samuel is an open competition.  One of the three Hs: Hobbs, Hanson or Harris, will likely win the position.  Hobbs played in only 8 games last year before being put on injured reserve following a neck injury.  He will look to rebound from that  injury and is probably the favorite to win the 2nd CB position.  Hanson, third on the team in interceptions last season with 2, has been with the team for 4 seasons and knows the defense, making him a legitimate competitor for the starting job.  Macho Harris played last season at free safety, starting 8 games.  This season he has been taking most of his reps at corner and cannot be discounted.  I think that Hobbs will win the position to start the season, but he may not be able to hold it for the entire season.

Trevard Lindley, a 4th round pick in 2010, has been impressive during mini-camps and looks likely to make the roster.  Patterson and Pope, both on the roster last season, along with rookie free agent Pender will struggle to make the roster, as the Eagles only carried 5 corners last season.  Given the injury to safety, Marlin Jackson, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that Harris will be moved back to safety, freeing up a corner spot for one of the three Ps.

Will Nate Allen (#5 in green) make it to camp on time, and will he be able to fill the role vacated by Briand Dawkins?

Safety: Quintin Mikell, Quintin Demps, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman, Ryan Hamilton, Brett Johnson – Last season, the first without Brian Dawkins, produced a lot of uncertainty for the Birds at the free safety position.  The two players who split time at free safety, Sean Jones and Macho Harris are no longer options.  Jones, who started 9 games last season is now with Tampa, and Harris has moved to corner.   The Eagles moved to address this void by drafting Nate Allen out of South Florida.  Allen started 12 games last season for the Bulls and picked off 5 passes.  He is expected to be the starter at free safety, but has yet to sign with the Birds.  If he holds out into training camp there will be more uncertainty surrounding the position.  How quickly will Allen be able to pick up the defense, and if he needs more time who will start in his place?  The Eagles thought they had this answer when they signed Marlin Jackson, but his knee injury will keep him out for the season.  Demps, who was named the successor to Dawkins last season, was unable to grab the job and will have to prove himself if he is to compete for the free safety job this season.

Strong safety is secure, with Quintin Mikell returning after starting 16 games in each of the last two seasons.  He was a 1st time Pro Bowl selection last season and there is no reason to believe he will not continue to play on a high level.  As for the rookies other than Allen, one of them will likely make the roster assuming the Eagles carry 4 safeties the way they did last season.

Special Teams: David Akers, Jon Dorenbos, Sav Rocca, Ken ParrishThis area is one of the few without any questions marks for the Eagles.  The starters from last season all return, with Akers and Dorenbos earning Pro Bowl nods last season.  David Akers is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, and had a great season last year making 32 out of 37 field goals, and 43 out of 45 extra points.  Over the past two seasons, Akers has made 84.4% of his field goal attempts and there is no reason to think he will drop off significantly.  I expect him to post another solid season and be in contention for a Pro Bowl spot at place kicker.  Dorenbos, the team’s long snapper, has been excellent since joining the Eagles in mid-2006.  Having made his first Pro Bowl last season, expect Dorenbos to continue to play at a high level.  The only competition on special teams (other than for kick/punt return duties) will be between Rocca and Ken Parrish.  Before the start of the 2009 season, Parrish, an East Stroudsburg grad and life-long Eagles fan, was brought in to compete with the former Australian Rules Football player.  Rocca ultimately won the position, but after a middle-of-the-pack 2009, Parrish will be given the chance to win the spot.  I would be surprised if Rocca doesn’t win the competition, but stranger things have happened.  The biggest question mark in this area will be who will return kicks?  DeSean Jackson was the primary punter returner last season, and was a true threat to take it to the house every time he touched the ball.  With his role in the offense sure to expand, will D-Jax keep returning punts?  He led the league in punt return average, punt return TDs, and had the longest punt return in the NFL.  The Eagles need to keep him on punt return duty.  D-Jax is, simply, the most dangerous weapon they have.   As for kick return duties, those will likely be split between several players.  The top returner from last season, Ellis Hobbs, returns.  Hobbs holds the record for the longest kick return in NFL history, a 108 yarder in 2007 against the Jets; however, he is in contention for the 2nd starting CB spot and if he wins the position he may be removed from kick return duty.  Quintin Demps had the highest kick return average last season, he could be the answer for the Eagles.

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Gang Green – Eagles Pre Training Camp Preview – Defensive Line and Linebackers

My wife knows a few things about sports; she has picked them up via osmosis over our 9+ years as a couple.  One of those things is “defense wins championships.”  She likes to throw this out whenever we discuss sports. In this case I believe it to be true.  If the Eagles want to win a championship, things will have to start with their defense.  In addition, the Eagles need to cut down on their penalties this season.  Last year, they gave the opposition 35 first downs via penalties, the second highest in the league 1 behind the Packers.  It doesn’t do the team any good to have a team that performs well defensively only to allow the opposition extra chances to score.

Trent Cole will lead an Eagles defensive line looking to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers.

Defensive Line:  Trent Cole, Juqua Parker, Brodrick Bunkley, Mike Patterson, Trevor Laws, Antonio Dixon, Victor Abiamiri, Darryl Tapp, Brandon Graham, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Ricky Sapp, Eric Moncur, Boo Robinson and Jeff Owens The 2009 d-line crew was solid, if not spectacular.  The Eagles finished 9th in the league in rushing yards surrendered, and but were in the bottom half in terms of yards per carry.  On the passing side, the Eagles sacked the opposing quarterbacks 44 times last season, good enough to finish tied for third in the league.  It was obvious from the Eagles’ draft strategy that they were looking to continue to pressure the quarterback this season.  The Birds traded up in the first round to draft Brandon Graham out of the University of Michigan.  Graham played linebacker in college, but the Eagles see him as a left-sided Trent Cole clone.  The Eagles could do much worse than finding a clone of Trent Cole.  Last season, Cole had 12.5 sacks and was selected to his second Pro-Bowl.  Graham, who as of writing was still unsigned, needs to get into camp in order to make in impact.  Observers believe that Graham will be an impact player for the Birds this year, with ESPN blogger Matt Mosley considering Graham as his preseason defensive rookie of the year.  Graham will likely split time with Juqua Parker who had 8 sacks last season.  Beyond Graham, the Birds also drafted Ricky Sapp out of Clemson and Daniel Te’o-Nesheim out of Washington to bolster the current crop of defensive ends.

In the middle of the line, the Birds are set with Bunkley and Patterson.  While neither has lived up to the hype that surrounded them when they were drafted, both are solid and are locks to be in the starting lineup.  Returning players Trevor Laws and Antonio Dixon will likely be their backups.  In a further effort to strengthen the d-line, the Eagles traded for Darryl Tapp from Seattle.  Tapp had fallen out of favor in Seattle, but should fit in nicely with the Birds.  Given the Eagles’ strategy of rotating their d-linemen, I suspect Tapp (who can play at defensive tackle on passing downs) will play a big part in the Eagles’ defense.

With 14 players in training camp for no more than 11 spots (based on last year’s roster), at least 3 of the players listed will be cut.  Locks to make the roster: Cole, Parker, Bunkley, Patterson, Abiamiri, Tapp, Graham.  That leaves 4 sports up for grabs based on my projections.  I suspect that Laws and Dixon will make the squad based on their familiarity with the Eagles defense.  As for the rookies, expect Sapp and Te’o-Nesheim (who can play defensive tackle) to fill out the roster.

Can Stewart Bradley rebound from a torn ACL? His presence will be important for the Birds.

Linebacker: Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Omar Gaither, Akeem Jordan, Alex Hall, Moise Fokou, Joe Mays, Simoni Lawrence, Jamar Chaney and Keenan ClaytonThe linebacker position was in a constant state of flux last season.  The Eagles lost their starting middle linebacker, Stewart Bradley, before the season even started and then lost his replacement (Gaither) during the season.  The Eagles saw 7 different players start a game at linebacker.  Going into 2010, the Eagles are looking for more stability and production from their linebacking corps.  The Birds traded a 5th round pick to the Lions for Ernie Sims in an effort to solidify the weak-side.  Sims, a former first round pick, had a productive first three seasons, averaging 124 tackles per season.  Last year, Sims started only 8 games and fell out of favor with Lions’ management.  Still just 25, Sims has not lived up to his potential as a dynamic defensive weapon.  If the Birds can get a 100 tackle season out of him they’ll be happy.  In the middle, Stewart Bradley is due to come back from his ACL injury and, if healthy, should provide the Eagles with a great quarterback for the defense.  Bradley was very good in 2008, racking up 108 tackles.  A return to that form would provide the Eagles with two solid backers.  On the strong-side, the early favorite to start is Moise Fokou.  Fokou, a 7th round pick in 2009, started 4 games last season and racked up 28 tackles.  It remains to be seen whether Fokou is ready to start an entire season at linebacker, but he showed promise in his cameo last season.  Gaither will provide cover for Bradley and Sims, while Akeem Jordan will provide cover at both outside positions.  Alex Hall, added via trade with the Cleveland Browns, will also be in the rotation at linebacker and can play defensive end as well.  Last season, the Eagles carried 8 linebackers, so expect 2 of the players listed above to not make the cut.   Joe Mays will likely make the roster, as he started one game last season and appeared in 11.  He knows the defensive system and is just 25.  As for the rookies, my guess is that 4th round pick Keenan Clayton will make the roster.

Just as with the offense, there are several questions marks about the Eagles’ defense.  How will the linebackers fair after an injury filled 2009?  Who will make the final cut?  What kind of impact will Brandon Graham have?  The final part of my pre training camp preview will be posted later in the week.

Tomorrow look for a post on Football at Fenway, as Celtic FC takes on Sporting Clube de Portugal in the first soccer game at Fenway Park since 1968.

You might also be interested in: Are You Ready for Some Football? – Eagles Pre-Training Camp Preview – Offense

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Are You Ready for Some Football? – Eagles Pre-Training Camp Preview – Offense

Do you trust this man to lead the Eagles?

With NFL training camp set to start at the end of the month, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at how the Eagles stack up at each position on offense (the defense will be previewed soon).  Obviously, this will change as we get closer to the season and players get cut, injured, or make names for themselves.  But here’s the EARLY look at the Eagles offense.

Quarterback: Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, Mike KafkaLove him or hate him, Donovan McNabb provided a measure of stability at this position for his 11 seasons in Philadelphia.  While he missed major parts of three season since he was drafted in 1999, McNabb was a rock in the backfield.  His interception percentage is impeccable, and he ranks 18th all-time in passer rating, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.  While he never delivered the Big One for the Birds, he kept them competitive for most of the decade.

As the Birds enter the 2010 season, the QB position is likely one of their biggest question marks.  Kevin Kolb enters the season as the #1 QB on the depth chart.  Many people will say that Kevin Kolb looked good in the two games he started last year.  In those two games, he completed 64.6% of his passes, threw 4 TD and 3 interceptions, and passed for 741 yards.  Not bad stats for a guy who had only thrown 34 passes prior to last season.  The problem with just looking at the stats is that Kolb put these numbers up in a game that had already been lost (the Saints game) and a game against one of the worst teams in the league (the Chiefs).  This is what makes him the logical #1 for the Eagles?  I don’t see it.  Obviously, the coaching staff sees him in practice and has faith that he can deliver.  However, based on his play last season, I’m not sure that  he is ready for prime time.

As for the other two QBs on the roster, I think the Eagles are in trouble.  With Vick facing questions surrounding his involvement in a shooting that took place at his 30th birthday party in Virgina Beach, I’m not sure that he can or should be counted on as the backup.  I was willing to give Vick a pass when he came out of prison.  He had served his time and I hoped that he was a changed man.  Clearly this is not the case, as he continues to surround himself with thugs and low-lifes.  He continues to make bad decisions, and I think the Eagles need to part ways with the talented, but wayward passer.  If the Eagles choose to cut Vick, they would be left with Mike Kafka as the only other QB on the roster.  Kafka is a rookie out of Northwestern who spent only 1 season as the starter.  While he was the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game, Kafka is clearly not going to be ready to step in should Kolb go down with an injury.  The only thing fans can hope is that veteran QBs get cut in camp and the Eagles can pick up a solid backup to replace Vick and allow Kafka time to mature.

Can LeSean McCoy replace Brian Westbrook?

Running Back: LeSean McCoy, Mike Bell, Charles Scott, Eldra Buckley, Martell MallettThis is another spot where the Eagles have had a measure of stability for the better part of last decade.  Prior to last season, Brian Westbrook had started 12 or more games every season since 2003 (and that year he was part of a three-headed monster with Correll Buckhalter and Duce Staley).  Last season was Westbrook’s worst since his rookie year.  A good portion of the RB duties were taken over by LeSean McCoy.  McCoy had a strong first season, posting nearly 1000 yards from scrimmage, scoring 4 TDs, and proving to be a good receiver out of the backfield.  As with Kolb, the question is whether McCoy is ready to be the full-time starter.

With McCoy as the primary back, the Eagles signed Mike Bell away from the New Orleans Saints to serve as the backup/change-of-pace.  Bell played an important role with the Saints, spelling Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and filling in as a starter for 3 games.  Bell ran for 654 yards and 5 TDs.  The Bell signing makes some sense to me, as he is more of a power runner than McCoy.  Perhaps Bell will help end the Eagles’ poor performances in short yardage situations, something that has been an Achilles’ Heel for the Birds in recent seasons.

Beyond McCoy and Bell, there are no locks to make the Eagles’ roster.  While, Eldra Buckley was with the team last year, he didn’t make a major impact.  Buckley has been in the league for three seasons, spending two of them on the San Diego Chargers’ practice squad.  Buckley made the Eagles’ roster last year ahead of Lorenzo Booker.  Charles Scott is a 6th round draft pick out of LSU.  He had a great junior season before tailing off as a senior.  He is a big, bruising back who could provide the Eagles with an even better short-yardage option than Bell.  Mallett is in his first year in the NFL, having played last season in the CFL with the BC Lions, and played his college football at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.  He was voted the CFL Rookie of the Year, after finishing 4th in rushing.

I can’t see the Birds carrying five running backs on the active roster.  It is likely two players out of this group will not make the cut.  If I had to guess, I would put money on Buckley making the roster because he knows the offense.  Perhaps Scott could stick as a backup to Leonard Weaver at FB or he might be added to the practice squad.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Mallet get a shot, as his stats in the CFL were impressive, but he could be destined for the practice squad.

Fullback: Leonard Weaver, Dwayne WrightFullback is the first position where the Birds seem to be set.  Weaver was awesome last season, rushing for 323 yards on 70 carries for a 4.6 yards per carry average.  He also caught 15 passes out of the backfield and is a good lead blocker.  Some of the ball carrying responsibilities will fall to Weaver, as I expect him to get more playing time than the Eagles’ third RB, whomever that may be. Weaver will be important to the offense for his pass catching ability and blocking, as both will be essential to Kolb as his enters his first season as the starter.  Weaver will also help in short yardage situations and as a sub to give both Bell and McCoy some rest.  I believe he will build on last season’s success and should be an integral part of the offense.

Wright was originally drafted by the Bills in the 4th round of the 2007 draft.  He played his college football at Fresno State and was on the Giants’ roster last season but didn’t make the final cut out of training camp.  The Birds signed him to a two-year contract and will move him from running back to fullback.  Given the lack of past success in converting players from a different position to fullback (see Dan Klecko), I am skeptical that this experiment will work.  Wright could be bound for the practice squad or could be part of the cuts.

Wide Receiver: DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant, Hank Baskett, Riley Cooper, Dobson Collins, Blue Cooper, Chad Hall, Kevin Jurovich, Jordan Norwood – While there are question marks about the man throwing the ball, there certainly aren’t any about who will be catching it.  Going into the season, we all know who the starters are.  DeSean Jackson has become one of the best young wideouts in the league.  What can you say about DJax?  He provides the Birds with a legitimate weapon at WR, something they haven’t had since the ill-fated Terrell Owens experiment.  He finished last season with 1156 yards on 62 catches and was dangerous in the return game.  His receiving total last season ranks 8th all-time on the Eagles’ list and was just the 3rd season since 1997 that and Eagles receiver had a total of more than 1000 yards.  If Jackson can post another season of over 1000 yards, he would be the first receiver since Irving Fryar (1996 and 1997) to post back-to-back thousand yard seasons. The second starter, Jeremy Maclin, was impressive in his rookie season, posting 773 receiving yards on 53 catches.  Maclin was so good last season that he made Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis expendable.   Maclin will look to build on his solid rookie season and should become even more of a threat as he gets a firmer grasp of the offense and develops  chemistry with Kolb.  This is the best combination of top two receivers the Eagles have had that I can remember in my 28 years.

Hank Baskett and Jason Avant look like likes to make the roster.  Both have played for the Birds for several seasons with Avant really coming into his own last season.  Avant posted 587 receiving yards (a career high) and came through in several clutch situations.  Baskett knows the offense and returns to the Birds after one season with the Indianapolis Colts. Of the remaining 6 wideouts, I expect 1 to make the active roster with 1 or 2 making it to the practice squad.  Collins and Norwood both were on the practice squad last season, while Riley Cooper was selected in the 5th round of the 2010 draft.  Blue Cooper, Chad Hall and Kevin Jurovich would all be lucky to even make the practice squad.

Tight End: Brent Celek, Cornelius Ingram, Martin Rucker, Clay HarborThe Eagles found a diamond in the rough when they drafted Brent Celek out of the University of

Brent Celek was 2nd in the NFL, among TE, in yards per catch last season (12.8 ypc).

Cincinnati in 2007.  After playing sparingly his first season and stepping up to the #2 TE spot in his second season, Celek burst onto the scene last year when he posted the second highest receiving total (971 yards) for a TE in Eagles’ history (Pete Retzlaff posted 1190 yards in 1965).   Celek is a versatile receiver who is fast enough to stretch the field and tough enough to bruise on the goal line.  Arguably, he is the best TE in the NFC and is certainly in the top 5 league-wide.  His yards per catch last season (12.8) was the second highest, behind only Antonio Gates.

The battle for the 2nd TE position should be a good one.  Martin Rucker, originally drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the 4th round of the 2008 draft, was with the team last season on both the practice squad and active roster, though he didn’t have a reception.  Rucker is extremely talented, having been selected as the first-team All-American tight end in 2007 during his senior season at the University of Missouri.  Ingram was selected by the Birds in the 5th round of the 2009 draft.  He was a starter for the University of Florida in 2007, but missed his senior season due to knee ligament damage.  Just as Ingram was recovering, he tore his ACL during training camp with the Birds.  He has yet to play a game in the green and silver, but certainly has the talent to make and impact.  Harbor is a 2010 draft pick, out of Missouri State, who rocketed to prominence at the Scouting Combine.  The Eagles selected him in the 4th round and expect good things from the three-time Division I Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) All-American.  One TE out of this group will not make the active roster.  Rucker and Ingram are better pass catchers than blockers meaning Harbor will likely get a spot due to his blocking ability (it was initially announced that he would be playing FB).  Whether it is Rucker or Ingram who gets the final spot probably depends on Ingram’s health.

Offensive Line: The Eagles currently have 17 players listed as offensive linemen on their roster.  Base on last season, the Birds carried 9 linemen, roughly half of these players will not make the roster.  The starters will likely be: LT – Jason Peters, LG – Todd Herremens, C – Nick Cole, RG – Stacy Andrews/Max Jean-Gilles, RT – Winston Justice.  Of the remaining OL listed on the training camp roster, Mike McGlynn, King Dunlap and Dallas Reynolds were all on the roster at the end of the season last year.  This doesn’t mean that they are assured of a roster spot, as the Birds have Fenuki Tupou returning from injury and several rookies competing for spots.  Center Jamaal Jackson is still recovering from the ACL injury he suffered against the Broncos in week 16 last season.  Jackson is expected to be out until at least the middle of the season.

Justice emerged last season as a legitimate RT and I expect him to continue to get better.  Peters, much maligned though he is, is still one of the better LTs in the game.  Herremens has been nothing but solid since he arrived with the Birds.  The question marks are at center and right guard.  Cole did not end the season well, as he was thrust into the starting role after Jackson’s injury.  Hopefully, an offseason of learning the role of center will make Cole more confident at the position.  He will need to be, as the center will be extremely important to Kolb doing well in his first season as a starter.  Who will be the started at RG?  It’s a toss-up.  Jean-Gilles had lap band surgery over the offseason to help control his weight and Andrews was injured for much of last season.  Which player will bounce back the quickest and seize the starting spot?  That battle will be played out during training camp and will be crucial to the Eagles success.  The Birds need a good run blocker in that position to open holes for McCoy, Bell and Weaver.  I think we see Jean-Gilles take control of this spot with Andrews, who can play both tackle and guard acting as the first OL off the bench when the Birds need to rest somebody/cover an injury.

Who do you think will step forward for the Eagles on offense?  Will Kolb be able to replace McNabb?  Will McCoy make us forget about Westbrook?  Who wins the roster battles at WR, TE and OL?  A preview of the defense will be coming soon, (not sure when, probably Monday, as my home computer is currently on the fritz).

You might also be interested in:

Gang Green – Eagles Pre Training Camp Preview – Defensive Line and Linebackers

Gang Green Part II: Eagles Pre Training Camp Preview – Defensive Backs and Special Teams

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Gang Green Part II: Eagles Pre Training Camp Preview – Defensive Backs and Special Teams