Let’s talk about what we’ve learned about some offensive players so far.
QB – It is too early to know who will be the starting QB. The numbers for Vick and Foles are almost even, but numbers only tell part of the story. Each player has shown good and bad things beyond the stats. At least once a day you read about some player making a highlight catch. That is generally on an underthrown ball from Foles. Vick has had his moments of holding the ball too long (you’ll read that he would have been sacked in a real game) or making a questionable decision (Jimmy pointed out a recent TD pass that was a bad idea).
It doesn’t sound like Barkley is making a serious push to steal the starting job, but he has done fine for a rookie. Dennis Dixon has his moments. GJ Kinne is getting limited reps.
RB – You hear nothing about LeSean McCoy, but that’s mainly because he’s looked great. Well, Shady is supposed to look great. Bryce Brown is the clear #2 RB right now. Things are wide open after that. Chris Polk is in good shape and is having a strong camp. He looks quicker and faster than last year. He’s making plays in the passing game. He might be the #3 RB if the season started this week. Felix Jones has not gotten much in the way of positive press. When I watched some simple drills the other day, I wasn’t impressed. I wonder if Jones is struggling with going from being a starter to fighting for a roster spot. Rookie Matthew Tucker failed his initial conditioning test, but passed the second try. He’s impressed since then. If the Eagles keep 4 RBs, you wonder if he could beat out Felix Jones.
TE – Drops have been an issue for Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz. This isn’t a good thing, obviously. Ertz has impressed with his ability to run routes and get down the field. He looks like the real deal. James Casey has been solid. The guy who opened eyes starting in the spring was Will Shaw and that’s continued in TC. He could make a run at being Casey’s backup. Clay Harbor hasn’t gotten much attention, but I don’t know that he’s played poorly or if the media is just focused on the new guys. Emil Igwenagu has been up and down.
WR – The bad news is that Jeremy Maclin’s out for the season. The good news is that DeSean Jackson has looked terrific. He and Chip Kelly are on the same page and that might be the best news in all of Training Camp. Jackson has special potential. Kelly needed to see him buy in. DeSean did that and this could push Kelly to feed him the football. Riley Cooper is taking over for Maclin, for now. Cooper will only keep the job if he earns it. Kelly loves his blocking. Cooper hasn’t been lights out in camp, but it sounds like he’s been solid. Jason Avant is a HOF player in camp. He’s near impossible to cover in the 1-on-1 drills. That just doesn’t translate to the regular season. The drills let the QB hold the ball as the receiver uses fake after fake after fake to get open. Damaris Johnson might be the second best WR in camp and that will help him get touches. He looks like the real deal. Rookie Russell Shepard has opened some eyes in a big way. He went from hoping for the practice squad to maybe pushing for a roster spot. Greg Salas has come out of nowhere to be consistently impressive. He is a natural slot receiver.
Not everything is good news. Ifeanyi Momah has been sorta quiet. He has his moments, but hasn’t shown enough to make you think he’ll push for a roster spot. BJ Cunningham is injured and in a walking boot. Arrelious Benn should return shortly, but has missed the last few days. With Mac’s ACL tear, Benn has a chance to win a starting job. He must get back on the field and show what he can do in this offense.
OL – Jason Peters sure looks all the way back, which is great news. Jason Kelce is out there practicing and it seems he’ll be fine. He’s a bit undersized so I will feel better after seeing him in action. Todd Herremans got hurt. That opened the door for Danny Watkins. He’s had some good moments. It would help if Watkins could prove to be a solid player this year, whether as a backup or spot starter. Rookie Lane Johnson isn’t getting much attention recently. That’s a good sign. You generally don’t notice OL unless something has gone wrong. Johnson is on pace to be the starting RT.
We aren’t hearing a ton about the backups. Does anyone know if Ed Wang is even alive? Evan Mathis likes what he’s seen from backup LG Allen Barbre. Dallas Reynolds is holding down the fort as the backup C. Dennis Kelly is the backup RT. No info on guys like Nic Purcell and Nate Menkin.
Figuring out QB is the big issue for the offense. Feels like the rest of the unit can be outstanding.
* * * * *
Most fans probably realize that McNabb’s legacy here is complicated. He has all the major franchise passing awards. He had far and away the best career of the five hotshot quarterbacks in the 1999 draft. One of the two Super Bowl appearances the franchise has ever managed. Nine playoff wins, which is a lot for a guy who critics say never came up big in the clutch. A fourth-and-26 bull’s-eye to keep his team alive in a playoff game, even harder to explain away in terms of non-clutchness. He was the key player on a team that he said yesterday “came together like Voltron” in dominating the NFC East for the decade of the 2000s. Find another era in Eagles history with that much winning.
But there were the four losses in five NFC title games, and there was that maddening, plodding drive that saw the Lombardi hopes slowly trickle away. There was the thing about being so determined not to throw interceptions, receivers frequently had to scoop the ball off their shoe tops. There was his goofy, oblivious grin, charming on an up-and-coming kid, jarring and infuriating on a 30-something alleged football statesman. Air guitar in the tunnel before that last blowout loss at Dallas, the wrong tone at the wrong time. And overall, a feeling that as much as McNabb accomplished, which was a lot, there was a final corner he never turned as a mature quarterback – he could have been even better than he was, could have lasted longer.
I love the point about Donovan’s grin and how that changed in meaning over time. Absolutely true. It was a strength of his back in 2000-2001, but not so much in the later years.
* * * * *
There is no quote to share from this. Just go read it. Parents will love it. Those of us that idolized players as kids will travel back in time to those years and dream what it would have been like to meet your idol.
I had two boyhood idols, Dr. J and Eddie Murray. I wrote Eddie a letter and got his autograph when I was about 13 or so. That remains one of my treasured possessions. Never got to meet either guy. Never got Doc’s autograph.
My dream now is for me, Derek Landri and Marlon Favorite to get trapped together in a chocolate pudding factory. “EAT TO LIVE!!!”