Eagles on the eve of instruction— some questions I have heading into TC…


Players report to Training Camp on July 25, a mere week and a half away. Their first order of business will be undergoing medical exams and conditioning tests. Ever wonder exactly what those “conditioning tests” are? Well, each position group has to complete a series of sprints at various yardages under certain time limits. As long as you have maintained your reasonable offseason training regimen along with daily running and lifting —and kept your weight where it needs to be — you should pass the tests without difficulty.

But if you have been chugging six-packs and slamming cheeseburgers with Jimmy Buffett while lying around the beach in Key West for the past two weeks, you might have a problem passing the conditioning tests. For some reason, the name Bryant McKinnie comes to mind…

Anyway, I have a better feeling than usual about the depth of the Eagles roster going into 2014 TC.

Years ago it was Gene Mauch and Earl Weaver who used the term “deep depth” a lot when referring to the ideal roster they were looking to build. Deep depth refers to having backup players as talented as your starters. The Eagles roster this year has that feeling of “deep depth” to me.

You know you’re deep when you can’t find playing time for Vinny Curry, a very talented defensive lineman who would be on the verge of a breakout year if only the Birds could find a position for him in the team’s base 3-4 system. As you may know, Curry is caught between an OLB rock and a pass-rush DE hard place.

To me Curry’s situation is one of the biggest questions going into camp. What do we do with Vinny? It’s actually a nice problem to have, since you can always find situational pass rushing opportunities to plug him into hybrid formations in certain moments of most games. Curry can be hugely disruptive to the opponent’s passing pocket when he’s on. But you can’t really count upon him to drop into pass coverage. That is not his thing. It’s not what he was drafted for (2nd round, 2012, 6-3, 266, Marshall). [Vinny by all accounts has bulked up to 280 lbs. as of this writing.]

I don’t think the Eagles want to trade Curry for a piece that fits better or for a different position player unless the perfect storm of a deal came up. And Curry really doesn’t want to be traded. The Eagles are the team he’s identified with since childhood.

I like having him on the roster as a “deep depth” utility guy. He’s too valuable and talented to simply cut. Plus the Eagles have a lot invested in him and his career already. But it really kills me when in certain games the Eagles won’t even dress Curry. That bugs me because it seems such a waste.

If TC is really about “instruction”, it refers more to the playbook side of things. There’s not enough time in TC to “instruct” a great athlete to play a new position. Curry’s simply not built to play a coverage linebacker position. I would like to be proven wrong about that. But it is the hard reality.

I have another big question looming in my birdbrain about how best to replace or amplify the deep-ball threat of Jaccpot (the artist formerly known as DeSean).

No doubt all observer’s eyes (those lucky enough to get invited to the private TC sessions) will be focused on the wide receivers this summer. You’ve got a couple high profile rookies (Matthews, Huff), newcomer veteran Sproles, “Swamp Stud” Cooper, and a host of hungry veterans including Jeremy Maclin trying to prove they can be relied upon to get off the line of scrimmage and get behind the secondary with some degree of regularity…oh yeah, and to hold on to the ball when it gets there.

I have questions about the deep passing game, but no worries. I’m just interested in seeing how it all plays out. To use Eagle Nut’s favorite saying: “time will tell…”

To finally put the Jaccpot saga to rest, I thought you might be interested to hear how long-time friend and Redskins columnist Anthony Brown sees it from the Washington fan’s perspective. Anthony (who writes and edits RedskinsHogHeaven on this network), confided these thoughts to me in a recent email:

“I have a theory that part of the reason Kelly released Jackson is [because] how he planned to use him in 2014 — more as a slot receiver than as X or Y. Darren Sproles has the versatility to play in the slot with a lower cap hit than Jackson. In financing, that’s an arbitrage play, like signing a tight end to play as a wide receiver at a tight end’s salary.”

“For the record, Redskins fans could give a rip why the Eagles released Jackson. We are delighted beyond words that he is here.”

I think there’s some truth to Anthony’s theory that the Chippah wanted to use Jaccpot in different ways—and Jaccpot was not down with it. But that’s water under the bridge now. The question for Eagles fans remains just how dynamically the Eagles can replace or adjust to the vacuum left behind.

Thomas Jackson

About Thomas Jackson

Jax Sports Media has been reporting on NFL teams in the mid-Atlantic region since 2006. Thomas Jackson is its senior writer. Tom started covering the Philadelphia Eagles for the MVN Network in 2007. In 2009 he joined the Bloguin Network. He now also covers the Baltimore Ravens.