OK, I’ll admit, preseason football is never referred to as exciting, scintillating or even mildly amusing. It is a complete waste of time and money as these glorified scrimmages usually feature large doses of players that you’ve never heard of before. It is as likely that the fourth-string QB who plays most of the fourth quarter will trade his Eagles jersey for a hot dog vendor cart by September – and the linemen blocking for him will be working security at “the Linc” come Labor Day weekend.
This year, the NFL was dead to us for 132 days while owners locked out the players – and essentially the fans right along with them. Maybe this year for just one time, we can be a little excited about a preseason game.
All kidding aside, preseason games do matter as they help coaches see how players perform and these games are instrumental in making decisions regarding depth charts. Partially because of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and largely because of the lockout, coaches have only had only two weeks of training camp before this inaugural preseason game. Granted, there are three more of these quagmires scheduled before meaningful football returns one month from now, but fans have every right to be excited about their first taste of football since the Super Bowl.
The abbreviated offseason for the Eagles has been anything but uneventful – in fact it has been downright chaotic. More than 60% of the 2010 roster has been turned over in 50 transactions – including but not limited to the departures of David Akers, Kevin Kolb, Quentin Mikel, Stewart Bradley, Leonard Weaver, Ernie Sims and Sav Rocca. New arrivals include a draft class of and a litany of free urgency signings to fill the 90 man training camp roster – some of which made the headlines but most of which didn’t.
“Bermuda Triangle” was coined after the Eagles traded Kolb to Arizona for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie then signed coveted free agent Nnamdi Asomugha creating a triumvirate of shutdown cornerbacks and swarming the media around the locker of incumbent Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel. Joselio Hanson and Curtis Marsh remain for depth in Nickel and Dime packages. “Dream Team” has been thrown around as has “Super Bowl or Bust” because management has made it very clear that they think this is the right time to go for it.
Howard Mudd was brought in to coach the offensive line while Juan Castillo moved over from offensive line to become the new defensive coordinator (replacing departed Sean McDermott, the last of Jim Johnson’s disciples). Jim Washburn was brought in to coach the defensive line and has done so like a drill sergeant on steroids. The response so far has been very positive – not to mention the free agents who flocked to the team.
Marty Mornhingwig and Andy Reid have spent all offseason reinventing their offensive playbook to take advantage of the talents of Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and Jeremy Maclin. Meanwhile the talent pool has been made deeper with additions such as Jason Babin, Cullen Jenkins, Ronnie Brown, Steve Smith (the other Steve Smith, the one from the NY Giants not from Carolina), Ryan Harris, Evan Mathis, Danny Watkins, Jarrad Page, Anthony Hargrove, Donald Lee, Anthony Hargrove, Johnnie Lee Higgins, Vince Young and others (including a dozen undrafted free agents).
Focus has been drawn away from bad news of holdouts (DeSean Jackson reported to camp 8/9 as the CBA compelled him to but has still not been successful negotiating new contract) and illnesses (Jeremy Maclin has been battling what seems to be a nasty case of mononucleosis though he is in camp) as well as the fact that Vince Young has had difficulty learning the complicated Eagles playbook.
Good news has abounded as a slew of new players, new coaches and new philosophy pervades Eagles camp. The era of lockout and labor negotiations has been replaced with an Era of Good Tidings and Super Bowl dreams… but not all is well in the Land of Sweat and Gatorade. No I’m not referring to Drew Rosenhaus (DeSean Jackson’s agent) darkening the doorstep at Lehigh University for two days – rather the discord around the league regarding the Eagles cacophony of transactions.
Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan fired a shot across the bow in the media by indicating that despite all of the Eagles free agent acquisitions, his Cowboys would still be successful in… (putting it kindly for PG audiences) perambulating a forceful attack upon the Eagles collective stern all over the field. Ryan called the Eagles the “all-hype team” which may have been sour grapes after Dallas failed to land Asomugha in free agency. Shocking that the son of Buddy Ryan would allow decorum, sportsmanship and general common decency to go out the proverbial window in a desperate attempt to intimidate an opponent! Several New York Giants have gotten into the act of verbal sparring via the media, choosing to insult individual players on the Eagles roster questioning their manhood or their toughness. Likewise, Redskins questionable QB Rex Grossman alerted the media to the fact that Washington (let’s be honest, the sad sacks of the NFC East) would in fact place a target on the backs of the Eagles. Really? Did Rex already forget the 59-3 beat-down on Monday Night Football (Monday Night Massacre) this past season? Can we roll that tape for Rex, fellas?
PRESEASON GAME VS. RAVENS:
While it will be rewarding to see Ray Lewis’ intensity on display there is not much sizzle between Eagles-Ravens. The two teams are in different conferences and don’t play a lot of meaningful games. Unless they find each other as Super Bowl opponents they may never play a meaningful game. Aside from Joe Flacco (University of Delaware) and Head Coach Jon Harbaugh (former Andy Reid assistant coach) the Ravens might as well be from Albuquerque.
Predicting the final 53-man roster is impossible but the odds-on favorites are fairly evident. Roster spots are what they play for in preseason, not wins. First priority is to find out if Jamar Chaney, Casey Matthews, Brian Rolle and a cast of rookies (Brandon Peguese, Greg Lloyd) can fill the depth chart at linebacker. Akeem Jordan has been re-signed as insurance and Stewart Bradley may return too but Cullen Jenkins is the key as he will shore up the defensive line.
Next step is to see how the re-worked offensive line works together – infusing Danny Watkins into the mix of veterans. Jamal Jackson returns and may have to share time with Mike McGlynn and rookie but more important will be the performance of Todd Heremans, Winston Justice, King Dunlap, Ryan Harris and Evan Mathis. Fenuki Tupuo and Julian Vandervelde have been favorites of Coach Mudd in their limited practices together.
Safety is a position that has been in question since the departure of Brian Dawkins. Nate Allen returns for his second NFL season, this time with Trevor Laws, Marlon Jackson, Jarrad Page and rookie draftee Jaiquwan Jarrett.
Backups at skill positions such as QB and RB will only become issues if Vick or McCoy falter, but Vince Young will vie with Mike Kafka for mastery of the playbook while RB Dion Lewis battles with James Harrison, Eldra Buckley and Stanley Havill for roster spots. Ronnie Brown will provide veteran moxy and much-needed relief at #2 behind “Shady.” Most likely the Eagles will devise a custom package of plays specifically for Vince Young including rollouts, wildcat and several “read-and-react” options. If Vick misses more than 2 games this season will go down the drain anyway. Young’s performance would be academic.
Special Teams will also be decided over the course of the preseason. Alex Henery was drafted to replace David Akers as the first new Eagles kicker since… before Andy Reid (Akers was the most tenured athlete in Philadelphia). Better to be a year early than a year late in moving on from veterans (see Brian Dawkins, Eric Allen, Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb). At some point you have to turn the page. Philly fans would be griping about overpaying a kicker if Akers had been re-signed so let’s see what this kid can do before we blast him. Henery was a fourth round pick ahead of Dion Lewis. Chas Henry won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter while at Florida. He punted 40 times for 1,892 yards (47.3 average) and 14 of his 34 punts (41.2%) went 50 yards or more.
Look for these and other developing situations from our team (Christopher Rowe, James Centifonti, Adrian Fedkiw) as the preseason bridges the gap between Training Camp and NFL Kickoff Weekend. Are you finally ready for some football?
SIGNING CAMP: TRAINING OPTIONAL http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/08/04/signing-camp-training-optional/
BIG NAMES, BIG MONEY, BIG EGOS
EAGLES UNDRAFTED FREE URGENTS CAUSE QUESTIONS http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/07/26/eagles-undrafted-free-agents-cause-questions/
TEN EAGLES CAMP QUESTIONS
PSB PHILADELPHIA EAGLES PORTAL
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me email@example.com