Friday, August 31, 2007
KEVIN KOLB IS THE GUY
The backup guy, it looks like. Is it me or is A.J. Feeley being overly optimistic predicting his broken left hand will be no problem at all when it's time to line up for the regular season opener one week from Sunday? Dripping with sarcasm, Feeley said he was right hand oriented and since he threw with his right hand the break wouldn't affect him. He said that after being asked, what about gripping the ball? Will that be a problem? You don't go to a specialist with a broken bone in your hand for precautionary reasons. At any rate, Kolb very well could be the Eagles' backup quarterback on opening day. Even Donovan McNabb would enjoy that considering all of the offseason drama. And one day Kolb will take over the starting job. Looking at the preseason and considering McNabb's injury history, it's inevitable. It was obvious during the ugly 13-11 loss to the New York Jets Thursday night. Kolb is the future, the Eagles' future, at quarterback.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
McNABB NFL's EIGHTH BEST QB?
Remember when Sam McNabb said when his son was no longer a Philadelphia Eagle, there were 31 other teams out there he could play for? Seriously now, the Colts wouldn't want Donovan McNabb in anything but a backup role behind Peyton Manning, and the same could be said of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady. Rest assured the Cincinnati Bengals are happy with Carson Palmer, the San Diego Chargers with Philip Rivers. Sports Illustrated, in its rankings of the top 500 players in the NFL, mirrors that thinking. It ranks McNabb No. 72 overall (Eagles running back Brian Westbrook is 96) and basically ninth among quarterbacks. All of the above quarterbacks are ranked ahead of McNabb plus Drew Brees, Marc Bulger, Matt Hasselbeck and Vince Young. Manning and Brady are 1-2 in the overall rankings. Seriously, even McNabb at just 75 percent is better than Hasselbeck, Bulger and Young. At 85 percent McNabb is a better quarterback than Brees and Rivers. But I'm not so sure about the others. And before the year is over Matt Leinart is going to be the next up-and-coming quarterback, as he will win some games with the Arizona Cardinals. Bottom line: there are are about 22 other teams Sam McNabb's son can play for if he's no longer wanted in Philadelphia. And that's decent for a guy who has missed the bulk of back-to-back seasons due to injury.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Barring a setback, Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews should get back on the practice field next week. At least that's what the Big Guy is hoping for after sitting out the entire preseason and most of training camp with a high ankle sprain. Andrews was quite emotional about the injury initially for it was near the area where he had a plate inserted for a fractured bone. When he asked reporters to pray for him, there was speculation it might be career threatening. Andrews has come a long way. The conditioning work he's done is obvious, for the 335-pounder is nearly as svelte as the tight ends. Asked if he could see himself starting the regular season opener Sept. 9 in Green Bay, the date head coach Andy Reid has targeted, Andrews replied "I'm excited about Sept. 9. Put it that way." Make no mistake, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Marty Mornhinweg and all of the the Eagles need Andrews. As he goes, so goes the line.
Monday, August 27, 2007
PRESEASON WINNERS & LOSERS
- Rookie QB Kevin Kolb ... At one point in his news conference Andy Reid attempted to downplay the amazing play of Kolb by intimating the passer learned the game was a lot faster with the first team offense. Kolb said that was almost no factor and there was almost nothing he felt uncomfortable about other than taking snaps from starting C Jamaal Jackson; they rarely connect in practices.
- QB Donovan McNabb ... No. 5 sure looks like he's all the way back from the knee surgery, although he says he's not there - yet. He's throwing with more pace and making some pretty good decisions in the hurry-up offense. If he stays healthy there's no one better in the NFC. Don't tell me Drew Brees or Matt Hasselbeck.
- QB A.J. Feeley ... For some reason Reid found the need to say Donovan McNabb was the starting QB, and that no one should get carried away. Reid also said the No. 2 guy right now is Feeley, not Kolb, although the latter's progress obviously has closed the gap.
- Backup QB Kelly Holcomb ... The worst kept secret is that he will be dealt. At 34, he's added the West Coast offense to an impressive resume. That could keep him working five more years.
- KR Jeremy Bloom ... He doesn't look nearly as aggressive as in his first outing and watched Greg Lewis, Correll Buckhalter and J.J. Outlaw take a bunch of his reps versus Pittsburgh. Bloom still isn't playing fast. He's playing too conservatively, letting the ball play him and more importantly, he's not making any tacklers miss.
- LB Chris Gocong ... Over-pursued, missed tackles and never got his legs under him against Pittsburgh, and everybody is going to take a look at that film.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Brian Westbrook jumped on the first flight to Pittsburgh this morning, having been left behind to take care of personal business, a team source indicated. The Eagles jetted to Pittsburgh Saturday for their preseason game against the Steeelers. It was not, the source said, a Broderick Bunkley unexcused absence. Bunkley missed the team flight to Indianapolis and was scratched for the game. Westbrook was slated to play last night partly because the Eagles want to tweak their run game.
Ninety-minutes to kickoff and Donovan McNabb is bouncing around, full of energy. Except for the kickers and Reggie Brown, another arrive-early, stay-late kind of guy, the rest of the team is indoors. There are more Steelers loosening up on a postcard perfect night for football.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
REWIND THE FILM
Andy Reid need not give a blow-by-blow account of his feelings in the ongoing legal issues facing his son Britt, who recently was handcuffed and hauled off to prison after reportedly violating the terms of his bail. But based on the way Reid handled the same kind of personal business earlier this year, the Eagles' head coach owes an answer to the question, are you going to take a leave of absence? A simple 'no' would suffice. A 'yes' would require more effort. Threatening to walk out of a news conference is out of line. The ongoing troubles of Britt Reid so close to the regular season make the LOA question legitimate. The recent developments cannot help but be on the mind of his father, and could impact the way he coaches. Andy Reid, and Andy Reid alone, should be the one to make the call whether he continues coaching or backs off. Stepping away from the game would be the ultimate statement about family, how family comes first. At his salary, Reid certainly can afford to do so. At the same time, Reid doesn't want to enable his sons. Whatever Reid decides will define his future here.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
MCNABB SHOCKED AGAIN ... AND AGAIN
Every time the Eagles make a major personnel move these days it seems to stun QB Donovan McNabb. The drafting of Kevin Kolb? No. 5 never saw it coming. The release of MLB Jeremiah Trotter Tuesday? "Shocking," he called it. Is it really so easy to surprise the franchise QB? Do you really want a franchise QB jolted by such issues? What's really going in is McNabb seems to be caught in a no-man's land. He doesn't like the direction the team has taken at QB, and especially not at MLB, and that's OK. McNabb thinks the Eagles are a Super Bowl team with Trotter - maybe even one without him. So, what's the problem with saying exactly that instead of tip-toeing around it? Granted, it's easier for me to blog it. Just the same, McNabb knew when Kolb was drafted it's not necessarily what you say, but what you do and how long you stay healthy that determines the future. And that's hardly shocking, is it?
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
TROT MOVE TOOK GUTS
Releasing Jeremiah Trotter had to be done. The fire wasn't gone but the performance had declined significantly the past two seasons. People seem to have forgotten the not-so-distant divisional playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints. Trotter wasn't the only reason the Eagles were beaten but he was part of the overall problem on defense - tired legs. The Saints wore the Eagles out with a 200-plus yard rushing attack. It was difficult watching Deuce McAllister run away from Trotter, who was giving everything he had and only a couple years ago would have put the runner flat on his back. But this just isn't the Pro Bowl version of Trotter, not anymore. Don't cry for Trotter. He secured a big contract after the 2004 Super Bowl season, his most memorable with the Birds. His legacy of giving everything he had will last forever. Sadly, the reality is he just didn't have much more to give.
Monday, August 20, 2007
I've been told G Shawn Andrews isn't seriously hurt, as some have speculated. That said, the Pro Bowl talent rehabbing what Andy Reid calls a high ankle sprain might not be in the starting lineup on opening day. Who can remember the last time anyone starting the season with the dreaded high ankle sprain went to the Pro Bowl? Unfortunately for Andrews, it's a difficult injury that needs a ton of time to rehab, and that's a luxury the Eagles might not be able to afford, even with the depth they have on the O-line. If there is good news for Andrews, it's that he hasn't had to undergo surgery on the ankle. That, of course, is subject to change.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
SMITH'S ROLE MAY BE DIMINISHING
L.J. Smith at 75 percent can help the Eagles win games. The way rookie TE Brent Celek and veteran TE Matt Schobel are playing, however, the Eagles don't seem to need Smith at 75 percent. And that's not necessarily a good thing for Smith, slowed by a groin injury and playing out the last year of his contract. Make no mistake, Smith's first priority is to help the Eagles win. If that means giving snaps to Celek or Schobel, Smith would do so. At the same time Smith knows he has make it clear the Eagles can count on him. In short he has to get healthy and remain healthy. Only then can Smith re-establish himself as a vertical threat capable of opening up the middle of the field.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
IT'S ROCCA'S JOB TO LOSE
Incumbent punter Dirk Johnson just doesn't have the power and the upside of Sav Rocca, the Australian Rules Football import who has made stunning progress and seems to have the inside track on the punter-holder job. Rocca is performing well enough to play in the NFL. If the Eagles make him their guy, they might even be able to get a late-round draft pick for Johnson. It only takes interest from a few teams to leverage a deal for a front line player. You can't tell me there aren't at least a couple of teams with punting issues. Chances are the runner-up simply will be cut. But the odds are that Johnson and Rocca both will punt in the NFL this year.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Donovan McNabb obviously looked like he was all the way back throwing for 138 yards and staking the Birds to a 10-0 lead over the Panthers in one quarter of action Friday night. But don't be too quick to put 13 or 14 next to the Eagles' win total this season. Remember it was just a ridiculous preseason game against a team that didn't think enough of the contest to bring its best player in DE Julius Peppers. And remember McNabb only played a quarter; there still are four in a football game. He seemed to fatigue near the end of his shift, which is understandable. Bottom line: The Man has a long way to go. What made his performance puffy was that he still has much more talent than any QB in the NFC East, and the NFC.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Rookie Eagles Television Network analyst Ike Reese should feel much more comfortable Friday night doing his second game. The longtime Eagles linebacker told me he felt better as the Eagles-Ravens game wore on last Monday partly because he never dreamed there would be so many distractions including the standard communication with producers piping in prompts and strategies and suggestions through his ear piece. It got to the point where Reese prayed he wouldn't mistakenly answer the producers during the game. In time Reese's considerable football knowledge will burst on to the screen. The trick now is for him to eliminate the distractions just as he did during that up-tempo career highlighted by a trip to the Pro Bowl for his special teams contributions.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
BTW as reported in the Wednesday Daily Times, Donovan McNabb plays his first game since his knee surgery Friday at the Linc against the Carolina Panthers. McNabb easily could have debuted against the Ravens but the way the schedule falls - two games in five days - Andy Reid thought better of it.
It was ugly, for sure. Not much can go right in a 29-3 loss even if it is preseason (although the Eagles kept the Ravens from getting into the end zone on those five Matt Stover field goals, didn't they?). The overreaction is amazing, though. It's as if the Eagles were beaten by the Bucs in the last game at the Vet all over again. Granted the coaches could have done a better job preparing for the Ravens and their blitzes. But let's get real: It was PRESEASON. You generally just don't wear your Sunday best to the rehearsal. As long as Andy Reid has been in charge the poor preseason numbers and records basically are indicators a playoff season is right around the corner.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Even though it was a short training camp at Lehigh University, it seemed like two camps. You see the same faces day after day, morning, noon and night, you appreciate a change of scenery like the Eagles' preseason opener Monday night in Baltimore. That's for players, coaches and media. Players get tired of hearing questions that can't be answered until the preseason games. Some of the media just don't get it. The games should freshen up everyone.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
MCDOUGLE still part of the plan?
Will Jerome McDougle stay or will he go? Don't be too quick to write him off. The 2003 first-round pick has carved out an interesting niche at the joker position, where he can stay in coverage or blitz. And he's been explosive lately with a big rush up the middle. While McDougle is on the small side as an every-down lineman, he looks comfortable at joker. Certainly the roster is heavy at DE with Jevon Kearse, Darren Howard, Trent Cole, Juqua Thomas and rookie Victor Abiamiri. Then again, Howard can play inside. And if the choice is between Thomas and McDougle, it's not a slam-dunk. The ability of Thomas to stay healthy, however, is a big plus.
Friday, August 10, 2007
IT'S BUNKLEY TIME
See the Cowboys-Colts game on Fox? The Colts didn't do the worst job stopping the run in the red zone but outside it they were pushed around. The Eagles are going to get the same kind of test each and every time they take the field beginning Monday night basically because the old axion in the NFL is run it until they stop it. Last year the Eagles didn't stop the run especially in the playoffs. With big RB Willis McGahee running the stretch behind an enormous and athletic line the Baltimore Ravens area the perfect preseason test. The LB's are on the spot as is DT Brodrick Bunkley, the 2006 first-round draft pick still trying to connect the dots. if Bunkley doesn't show anything Monday move veteran DE Darren Howard to tackle and play DE Vic Abiamiri inside in pass rush situations.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Each time L.J. Smith feels the pain he endured Thursday, when he aggravated the sports hernia that kept him out of much of the offseason camps, he can't help but second-guess his decision to play his contract out.
Smith and the Eagles couldn't come close to agreeing on what he would be worth down the road before the sports hernia. He considers himself a top 10 tight end - at the least. The Eagles obviously thought he should be content to play for the hometown discount.
Subsequently the parties agreed they should let it play it out with Smith becoming an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season except in the unlikely event he's franchised.
For now, Smith has his fingers crossed the groin injury sustained in a non-contact drill won't be damaging to a promising career. The injury isn't concerned season or career-threatening.
If it was me, I'd be telling myself that next time around , take the discount because even a little upfront money is better than none in the most brutal of bottom line businesses.
Then again, maybe if I was 6-3, 255-pounds I'd be more confident of my ability to stay healthy and continue to earn a paycheck.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
No Eagles rookie - not even quarterback Kevin Kolb - has had a more impressive training camp than Victor Abiamiri, the late second-round pick out of Notre Dame.
Abiamiri has played bigger than 6-4, 267 pounds, and don't look for that to change when the Eagles take on the Ravens in Baltimore next Monday.
Abiamiri won't go away because he is as instinctual as he is fundamentally sound. He not only knows how to throw his weight around, but has turned into an art form of sorts.
Abiamiri rarely is out of position. He stands up offensive tackles and pulling guards, preventing running backs from getting the edge on him and pushing them back into the middle of the field where the pursuit is.
Abiamiri is going to get a lot of playing time if he stays healthy. Remember this is a guy a chunk of draft people projected as a first round pick, a guy the Eagles were so shocked to see on the board so late in the next round.
At this point, Abiamiri is almost strictly a run-stopper, something the Eagles haven't had on the edge since Derrick Burgess was healthy. Abiamiri might never be the double-digits sack guy he was at Notre Dame, but he will drop his share of quarterbacks and will see a lot of time in the defensive end rotation providing he stays healthy this season.
Speaking of healthy, he hasn't missed a practice and always seemed to be on the field for the Fighting Irish. Just doing that - coupled with his ability - almost certainly would give him a long and steady, if not illustrious career.