Across the NFL, tension and excitement have begun to rise, as fans and players alike are beginning to feel the impending season. Mini camp will begin June fourth, and until then all fans must sate their appetites by focusing on voluntary OTA’s. The Eagles have held their OTA’s’ across the street from Lincoln Financial Field, at the Novacare complex. Though we are still months from the first real kickoff, there are still some exciting story-lines to quench the thirst of fans in anguish, as the Phillies haven’t been worth watching thus far in 2013.
The most talked about item from the Eagles’ practice facilities, is the open competition between former Eagles’ starter Michael Vick, and sophomore gunslinger Nick Foles. Thus far, it has been an equal battle for the starting job, with both men seeing their fare of snaps with the first team offense. As for fourth round pick Matt Barkley, the former Trojan has spent his time at practice taking reps with the third team offense, but has impressed coaches and the media alike due to his tremendous accuracy. Barkley will likely ride the bench for 2013 barring any Russell Wilson type heroics, so for now consider the Eagles’ starting QB competition to be on even standing between Vick and Foles.
One of the biggest areas the Eagles’ struggled a season ago was on special teams. During the off-season, GM Howie Roseman addressed this issue by adding depth on the defensive side of the ball, and more recently by acquiring former Cowboys RB Felix Jones. Jones has seen reps as a KR as well as Bryce Brown, and Damaris Johnson, a sophomore WR with tremendous speed. In addition to his potential role as a kick returner, Johnson has seen reps as a punt returner alongside fellow receivers Jeremy Maclin, and DeSean Jackson. Clearly, Chip Kelly is exercising all his options to find a solution to this perennial problem for the Eagles. Fans may be reminiscing about the glory days of Reno Mahe, Roderick Hood, or J.R. Reed come training camp… then again, maybe not.
The signing of James Casey during the free agency period may have put the writing on the wall for Eagles’ TE Clay Harbor, and if the Casey signing didn’t predict Harbor’s future, the Eagles’ second round selection certainly did. Zach Ertz should play a large role in the vertical offense this season, and veteran TE Brent Celek should also see time within the Eagles offense in the coming year. As the Eagles’ will likely have a run-heavy offense this season, Celek, Ertz, and Casey will see plenty of time on the field together as well.
Speaking of James Casey, who is missing the OTA’s due to a preventative arthroscopic procedure, other notables missing at the OTA’s include LT Jason Peters and the expected starter at FS, Kenny Phillips. Speculation surrounding Peters involved his recent pay cut, but many in camp were quick to assure the fans that this was not the case. Phillip’s was held out of practice as a preventative measure against further harming his surgically repaired knee, which was repaired in 2009. Nate Allen took first team reps with the defense in Phillips’ absence.
Last year, the Eagles’ secondary was torched early and often, and the birds finished 4-12 which lead to the departure of both of last season’s starters, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. New to the team this year are former Raven Cary Williams, and ex-Ram Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher’s role with the defense has yet to be determined, but Williams is expected to be the first team starter by the start of training camp. The former Raven was taking reps with the second team defense because he is playing “catch up” with the first team defense. Competing for the second starting slot will be Curtis Marsh, Brandon Boykin, and the aforementioned Fletcher.
Fans will not know much more about the specifics of the new-look Eagles’ until mini camp begins June 4th, so until that time take the news coming out of camp lightly, as much will change before the Eagles’ are back between the hash marks.Tags: Andy Reid, Cary Williams, Chip Kelly, Clay Harbor, Curtis Marsh, Howard Roseman, Kenny Phillips, Lane Johnson, NFC East, NFL, Philadelphia Eagles, Trent Cole, Zach Ertz