We made it to camp… we phans are a little worn and torn from the journey, but we made it all the way to another Training Camp. And hope springs eternal—this could be a special year.
The Eagles have reshaped their roster with an intention of playing a different, more physical brand of football under Chip Kelly. They'll have new systems and new philosophies.
Along with most of the previous coaching staff, major subtractions from last year's team were Nnamdi, DRC, Babin, Jenkins, and Patterson on defense, and Bell, Dunlap and Havili on offense.
They brought in James Casey (TE/FB) and Felix Jones (RB) on offense, and they drafted Lane Johnson (OT), Zach Ertz (TE) and Matt Barkley(QB).
On defense, they added Isaac Sopoaga (NT), Connor Barwin (LB), Bradley Fletcher (CB), Cary Williams (CB), Patrick Chung (S) and Kenny Phillips (S). They also drafted Earl Wolff (S), Bennie Logan (DT), Big Joe Kruger (DE), Jordan Poyer (DB), and David King (DT).
There's a competition at Punter. McBriar is gone. Two-time All-Pro Donnie Jones was picked up and appears to have the upper foot. But he's being challenged by the original swilled donk Aussie himself, Brad Wing.
There's comeback drama in place. Can All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters regain his pre-Achilles rehab form? Can center Jason Kelce bounce back from knee surgeries? Does Kenny Phillips have anything left?
There is allegedly an open competition for QB#1. There are 5 quarterbacks in camp.
Vick…Foles…Barkley…Dennis Dixon…and G.J. Kinne.
“Who can move us the best and who gets the football team up and down the field,’’ Kelly answered when asked what will form his decision. “You know that’s the most important thing. It doesn’t have to be that he throws a prettier ball or all those things. How do you manage a game? How do you secure the football? Are we not turning it over? Are we constantly moving in a positive direction? Are we getting into third and short and converting them? Things like that. It really is who moves the team the best is what we are looking for at the quarterbacks.“
Evaluations are being made about Vick, who begins his 11th NFL season and fifth with the Eagles, after redoing his contract and taking a paycut from around $15 million to $7.5 million, $3.5 million of which was in the form of a signing bonus.
Conventional thinking is Vick was brought back to start. Why else would the organization bother to work out a new deal and hand him $3.5 million. And if he’s not starting, well to borrow an old line from Garry Templeton … he’s probably departing.
Here's an under-the-radar competition that is critical to team success in 2013: the revamping of Special Teams. They brought in Dave Fipp from the Dolphins to do a complete makeover of Eagles special teams. Fipp will be given a chance to improve a unit that ranked 28th in the league in 2012.
Changes will certainly be made on both coverage and return units.
“At the end of the day, I’m looking at body types,” Fipp said. “You’ve got linebacker/tight-end body types, and you’ve got your receiver/DB body types, and your running backs usually fit somewhere in between. You look at those body types and how many you’re carrying on game day, and then you look at how you match up with opponents.”
The fact that the Eagles are going from a 4-3 to a mix of 3-4 and hybrid defense will add more linebackers to the roster and thus more linebacker-types for special teams.
Two new linebackers, Emmanuel Acho, acquired in a trade with Cleveland, and Jason Phillips, signed as a free agent from Carolina, are known for their special-teams acumen.
Welp, that's not everything or everybody to watch— but it's the Cliff's Notes version, and hopefully something to help you get at least one talking point in with the know-it-alls at the Sunday neighborhood barbecue.
P.S. —- We're training at NovaCare Complex this summer— no Lehigh. I feel bad about that for the people of Bethlehem, PA, and the small businesses there that relied upon the tourist trade generated by Eagles football. Most likely, however, it's all for the best for a team that's re-inventing itself. More work will get done more efficiently.