2008 Eagles Training Camp Battles

2008 Eagles Training Camp Battles

Resident Eagles expert Kulp has broken down some of the key training camp battles to keep an eye on starting next week. Enjoy.

It’s July, and that means football season is right around the corner.
Soon enough, Andy Reid will be forced to break the hearts of 26 young
men and Jerome McDougle, and he’ll do it after they’ve spent about
three grueling weeks living in the dorms of a small university in
Bethlehem, PA. I’d still rather be training camp retread Michael
Gasperson than the poor saps that visit Eagles Training Camp like it’s
really something to see.

There
are always some roster spots to be won and starting jobs to be lost, so
I’ve highlighted three of the more high profile competitions, and six
more for some filler.

WIDE RECEIVER
Greg Lewis v. Hank Baskett

Can
G-Lew beat the odds and make it to his sixth season wearing midnight
green? Will Hank Baskett become a dangerous red zone threat? Ha ha, no.
You were probably expecting DeSean Jackson here, but he instantly
becomes the primary slot receiver if he can only pull his head out of
his ass. The real question with this set of receivers is who sticks on
the upgraded punt coverage unit. Jason Avant is almost a lock as he
moonlights in a possession receiver role, which means one of Philly's
least favorite sons is about to go. In a minor upset, I say they are
both out in favor of Bam Childress.

RUNNING BACK

Correll Buckhalter v. Tony Hunt

I
initially thought the addition of Lorenzo Booker meant the end for
Buck. Now I'm not sure it isn’t young Tony Hunt getting shown the door.
Last season, he underwhelmed the coaching staff to the point where he
was banished from the field on gamedays. Maybe it was his
look-the-other-way method of blitz pickup. On the other hand, Buck has
managed to stay healthy the past two seasons, and he's been fairly
effective with limited touches. His versatility (FB, KR) probably earns
him a roster spot as a situational running back. The Eagles have never
seemed interested in using a short-yardage back, but they may keep Hunt
if they carry four backs.

FULLBACK

Jason Davis v. Luke Lawton

Madden
players will likely stick to one-back sets the first few weeks after
the game ships, because Dan Klecko will be the only fullback on the
roster (rating: 66!). This battle became a lot less interesting after
the converted D-tackle was taken out of the running, but the Eagles
appear desperate to replace Davis. They actually traded to acquire
Lawton, a subtle nod that he’s probably their guy. I hear his other
skills include long snapping, so Jon Dorenbos better watch his back too.

STRONG SAFETY

Sean Considine v. Quintin Mikell

This
news might make some people sick to the stomach, but Sean Considine is
going to get one more shot at this, simply because there is always some
excuse for his poor tackling. First, he wasn’t able to lift weights
after shoulder surgery. Last season, it was because the shoulder never
healed properly. Hopefully special teams captain Quintin Mikell gets a
fair chance to win the job, otherwise Considine can look forward to
being the Carlos Ruiz of the Eagles defense when he really should be
looking for work.

TIGHT END

Matt Schobel v. Brent Celek v. Kris Wilson

Matt
Schobel is another guy I assumed couldn't make the team, but he's going
to Lehigh anyway. Here's an interesting statistic: Schobel's reception
totals have declined every season since his rookie year in 2002, this
despite the fact that he started six games in 2007, and according to
Pro Football Prospectus, the Eagles throw from the two tight end set
more than any other team. Unless there is a team REALLY desperate for a
tight end (looking at you, Buffalo), that trend should culminate in
2008 when he finally catches zero passes, ending six years of futility.
Now Kris Wilson attempts to live his dreams of playing tight end in the
NFL, something he didn't quite get to do with the Chiefs. Not to worry,
because if you don't beat Brent Celek, we're still looking for a
fullback.

DEFENSIVE END

Darren Howard v. the field

It's
not always easy to spot a defensive end who has outlasted his
usefulness, but one indication is when the player comes up with more
pass deflections than sacks. That was exactly the case for Howard last
season, and he returns slimmed down and ready to attempt another go
with the Eagles. He actually should have considered gaining weight and
trying to make the team as a defensive tackle, because it would be much
easier beating out Kimo von Oelhoffen for a roster spot than the
combination of Chris Clemons, Juqua ???, and rookie Bryan Smith. The
Eagles wish him luck in his future endeavors.

LEFT GUARD

Todd Herremans v. Max Jean-Gilles

Andy
Reid would love it if Max Jean-Gilles could win the starting job over
Todd Herremans because it would add another 50 pounds of raw power to
the already mammoth O-line. MJG is absolutely enormous and he run
blocks like there is a buffet table in the end zone. Herremans is the
better pass blocker, though you probably can't tell at times. We all
know Andy thinks the fastest way to the buffet table is through the
air, so the coach's affinity for the passing game indicates this is
Herremans' job to lose. That being said, MJG is talented enough to take
over right now if he cuts out a few extra servings at dinner.

RIGHT CORNERBACK

Sheldon Brown v. Lito Sheppard

We
get it, Lito. You're pissed off because you want to be a starter and
receive the financial recognition that comes with it. Sometimes you
need to just go out and take what’s yours. The $57 million dollar man
obviously won't be riding the pine, but right corner is up for grabs.
How else will you feed your family, Lito? To survive, you need to show
up and compete for playing time. Sheldon Brown is a respectable challenge,
but if you expect to see those big time bonuses next summer, you need
to put him in his place: the nickelback.

Julius Erving, Allen Iverson gearing up for upcoming BIG3 draft

Julius Erving, Allen Iverson gearing up for upcoming BIG3 draft

The NFL isn't the only league with a draft coming up this month.

Julius Erving and Allen Iverson have some work to do, too.

The newly-formed BIG3 three-on-three league will hold the first player draft for its eight teams on April 30 in Las Vegas. Iverson is a player, captain and coach for 3's Company. Erving is the coach of Tri-State.

The BIG3 comes to the Wells Fargo center on July 16 during Week 4 of 10.

There are 24 spots remaining on the rosters. Over 70 former NBA players are hoping to be selected. Former Sixers Jumaine Jones, Larry Hughes, Reggie Evans, Joe Smith, Xavier Silas, and Lee Nailon are among those eligible for the draft.

Other draft entrants include (in alphabetical order): Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Marcus Banks, Keith Bogans, Earl Boykins, Derrick Byars, Josh Childress, Brian Cook, Ndudi Ebi, Steve Francis, Kendall Gill, Donte Greene, Shane Heal, Mike James, Ivan Johnson, Voshon Lenard, Rashad McCants, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Lawrence Moten, Ronald "Flip" Murray, Andre Owens, Smush Parker, Jamario Moon, Ruben Patterson, Isaiah "J.R." Rider, Eddie Robinson, four-time All-Star Latrell Sprewell, DeShawn Stevenson, Mike Sweetney, Etan Thomas, Hakim Warrick, and James White.

How the rosters currently stand:

3's Company: Allen Iverson (captain, player-coach), DerMarr Johnson (captain)

Ball Hogs: Brian Scalabrine, Player X, Rick Barry (coach)

Ghost Ballers: Captains Mike Bibby (captain), Ricky Davis (captain), George Gervin (coach)

Killer 3s: Chauncey Billups (captain), Stephen Jackson (captain), Charles Oakley (player-coach)

Power: Corey Maggette (captain), Cuttino Mobley (captain), Clyde Drexler (coach)

Three-Headed Monsters: Rashard Lewis (captain), Jason Williams (captain), Gary Payton (coach)

Trilogy: Kenyon Martin (captain), Al Harrington (captain), Rick Mahorn (coach)

Tri-State: Jermaine O’Neal (captain), Bonzi Wells (captain), Julius Erving (coach)

The BIG3 was founded by Ice Cube and Jeff Kwatinetz. It will kick off June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Roob's 25 Random Points: NFL draft edition

Roob's 25 Random Points: NFL draft edition

This isn't an entirely random 25 Random Points because we are three days away from the NFL draft, so it's kind of top-heavy in random draft thoughts.

But there's also the usual nonsense about regional rail, parallel parking, pro bowling, the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame and the best live band in Philly.

Sorry if this one isn't quite random enough. I promise the next one will be far more pointless! 

1. There's a chance the Eagles will select a defensive end in the first round of this year's draft and if they do there's a chance he'll be a terrific, productive player. Historically? That hasn't been the case. In fact, no team in NFL history has been worse drafting defensive ends. Nobody. Let's start with this: In the last 30 years, there have been only 11 defensive ends league-wide who were drafted in the first round and never recorded more than four sacks. Only one team has drafted more than one of those 11 and that's the Eagles, who drafted three of them: Jon Harris in 1997, Jerome McDougle in 2003 and Marcus Smith in 2014. Now, Smith is still active and can add to his total if he makes the roster. But four sacks in three years doesn't augur well for the future.

2. Now consider this: Since sacks became an official NFL stat in 1982, the Eagles have selected nine defensive ends in the first three rounds of the draft. Those nine players have averaged 3.4 sacks per season in an Eagles uniform. Yep. Fewer than 3 1/2 sacks per season! Who has the highest average of the group? None other than the unfairly maligned Mike Mamula, who had 31 1/2 sacks in five seasons as an Eagle -- 6.3 per season. Nobody else is close: Brandon Graham (4.1 sacks per season), Vinny Curry (3.8), Derrick Burgess (2.8), Greg Jefferson (2.7), Victor Abiamiri (1.3), Daniel Te'o-Nesheim (1.0), Jerome McDougle (1.0), Jon Harris (1.0). 

So of the nine defensive ends the Eagles have drafted in the first three rounds, Mamula has been, by far, the most productive. And six averaged fewer than 3.0 sacks a season in an Eagles uniform. And I didn't even include Chris Gocong, a college defensive end who the Eagles converted to linebacker. It's really hard to be this bad at something!

3. Everybody loves mock drafts. They're so popular now that many analysts do multiple versions of the first round and then they keep "updating" their mocks as the draft gets closer. Which makes me wonder what the purpose of those earlier mock drafts is. You're basically saying ... 'OK, this is completely wrong and I'm going to fix it soon, but I'm going to throw it out there anyway because OMG IT'S A MOCK DRAFT. And then I'm going to change it next week and throw it out there again and more people will read it because OMG IT'S A MOCK DRAFT! And it will be completely wrong again.' People love reading mock drafts even though deep down they understand they're meaningless!

4. It also cracks me up when analysts breathlessly claim that a player is DROPPING DOWN THE DRAFT BOARD or SHOOTING UP THE DRAFT BOARD. Actually, they're really not. There is often a perception of players rising and falling, but most of the time it's not really happening. NFL teams set their boards based on a lot of information, most of which the public never sees. When bits of that information leak out, then that's reflected in mock drafts, and you have the illusion of players rising and falling. But in reality, teams have already set a value for that player. So he's not really rising or falling at all. Mock drafts just THINK he is. Now, if a player gets hurt in his pro day, yeah, that will affect his actual status. But those are the exceptions. Most of the time you hear people talking about a player "shooting up the draft board" or "plunging down the board?" Not really happening. It's all an illusion!

5. All that said, I feel like the first couple days of the draft are the most revealing time of the season for NFL teams because it's the one point where they really tip their hand about what they like about their roster and what they don't like. For 363 days, NFL coaches and executives tell you they love everybody on their team. For a couple days in April, they can't hide the truth any longer. That's when we truly learn what they are thinking.

6. I love a good train trestle.

7. My top 20 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame omissions: 1. Todd Rundgren, 2. Warren Zevon, 3. The Monkees, 4. Dire Straits, 5. Kate Bush, 6. The B-52's, 7. Roxy Music, 8. Bon Jovi, 9. Cheap Trick, 10. The Replacements, 11. T. Rex, 12. Guided by Voices, 13. The Smiths, 14. Jethro Tull, 15. Television, 16. Three Dog Night, 17. The Cars, 18. Big Star, 19. Iron Maiden, 20. Gentle Giant.

8. Who do I want at No. 14? Let's say Gareon Conley, John Ross, Corey Davis, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey, Jabrill Peppers, Derek Barnett, Charles Harris and Reuben Foster are all on the board. That won't be the case, but let's say they are. What direction would you go? There's no right or wrong answer. You can make a good case for any of those guys. We know the Eagles are desperate for pass rush help. We know they desperately need corners and a running back. But for me, it's all about weapons for Carson Wentz, and there's no guarantee Alshon Jeffery or Torrey Smith will be here beyond this year. So a young, play-making wideout is at the top of my list. Someone Wentz can grow with for the next several years. It comes to whether you like Ross or Davis better. Ross is obviously faster, but Davis is a big, tough, strong, smart, physical kid who has pretty good speed of his own. If I were making the pick? I'm going with Davis.

9. What about cornerback? The class is so deep the Eagles should be able to get some help in the later rounds. There could be four or five corners taken in the first round, and since there are teams that don't need corners, it will push quality guys into the second, third and even fourth rounds. Remember, Eric Allen? Second round. Sheldon Brown? Second round. Bobby Taylor? Second round. The Eagles have five of the first 139 picks and I would be fine using two of them on corners.

10. Speaking of corner ... I haven't given up on the notion of Jalen Mills as a potential starter. I know he doesn't have world-class speed, but, man, I like the way he plays. He's tough, he's aggressive, he doesn't back down, he's got that LSU swagger. Yeah, he got beat deep too many times last year, but tell me a rookie cornerback who doesn't get beat. Every time he kept his head up and kept fighting. Mills battled some pretty darn good wide receivers last year and held his own much of the time. Is he best-suited to be a slot or a third corner? Maybe. But I want to at least give him a shot in training camp. I like his game, and I think he has a chance to be a player.

11. OK, if you're at a restaurant and you're on the phone, don't eat. And if you're eating, don't use the phone. M'kay?

12. It's amazing how many bad quarterbacks the Eagles have had in their history. Did you know only four QBs in Eagles history have won more than 20 games as a starter? Donovan (92), Jaws (69), Randall (63) and Norm Snead (28). And only six have won at least 10 games and have a winning record: McNabb (92-49-1), Jaws (69-67-1), Randall (63-43-1), Norm Van Brocklin (19-16-1), Nick Foles (15-9) and Rodney Peete (15-9). Only McNabb, Jaws and Tommy Thompson in the 1940s have won more than one playoff game. Carson Wentz needs 22 wins to become the fourth-winningest QB in franchise history. Which is sad.

13. If you wanted to, you could take local rail from Newark, Del., to New Haven, Conn. I have this all figured out. If you took a 6:22 a.m. SEPTA train from Newark you would get to Market East at 7:46 a.m. and connect to a Trenton train at 7:51 a.m., arriving in Trenton at 8:54 a.m. Then you would cross the platform and take the north-bound 9:21 a.m. New Jersey Transit train, arriving at Penn Station at 10:35 a.m. After a quick subway ride up to Grand Central via the 1-2-3 train and the S shuttle (or 7 train), you would jump on the 11:34 a.m. Metro North train, arriving in New Haven at 1:26 p.m. Voila, Newark to New Haven in only seven hours! Matter of fact, other than two segments -- New Haven to Providence and Perryville, Md., to Newark, Del. -- you could take local rail from Fredericksburg, Va., to Newburyport, Mass. If you really wanted to.

14. I remember sitting there in the media room in the basement of the Vet in April of 1988 thinking the Eagles really screwed up taking Keith Jackson with the 13th pick. Jackson had caught only 13 passes for 358 yards his senior year at Oklahoma and averaged just 16 catches for 390 yards in four years with the Sooners. He wasn't considered a good blocker and he never caught many passes. Jackson of course went on to earn first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three seasons with the Eagles and averaged 61 catches for 689 yards and five TDs in his all-too-brief four-year stint with the Eagles.  

15. Two years later, the Eagles drafted Illinois wide receiver Mike Bellamy in the second round, and I was convinced he was the next Mike Quick. He was smooth, polished, productive. And never caught a pass as an Eagle. I think Jackson and Bellamy are the two Eagles draft picks over the years I was most wrong about.

16. The point being we all have our opinions on the draft, but you really don't know for a year or two what kind of draft a team really had. Consider the Eagles' 1986 draft. Nobody knew at the time, but the Eagles drafted two of the best players in franchise history 25 picks apart in rounds that don't even exist anymore -- Seth Joyner in the eighth round and Clyde Simmons in the ninth round. Joyner was released on final cuts and returned home to Pearl River, N.Y., before rejoining the Eagles. He didn't become a star until his third year. Simmons didn't have his first double-digit sack season until his fourth year. But Joyner went on to become the only player in NFL history with 50 sacks and 25 interceptions, and Simmons ranked 10th in NFL history with 121 sacks at the point he retired after the 1999 season (behind eight Hall of Famers and Leslie O'Neal). That was one of the greatest drafts in Eagles history. But nobody knew it for years.

17. Sometimes I feel like people are underestimating the Eagles' defense. Let's not forget they ranked 12th in the NFL last year, held quarterbacks to the fifth-lowest completion percentage in the NFL, allowed the fifth-fewest first downs, allowed the eighth-fewest touchdowns and ranked third in the red zone. All this under a first-year defensive coordinator and rookie head coach. Now, they also ranked last in the NFL allowing big plays. Which is why they're focusing on corner and pass rush. But they have tools to work with. It's not a total rebuild at all. They underachieved up front last year, but they're still solid on the defensive line, linebacker and safety. If they figure cornerback out, there's absolutely no reason this can't be a top-10 defense in 2017.

18. I don't get why the Google maps app on my phone always tries to direct me to a random place on the other side of the world when I ask for directions. If I just type "drug store," it will try to send me to a drug store in Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta, India. If I type "gas station," it will try to send me to a gas station in Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya, Australia. Dude. I'm in Philly. I've also learned that screaming at my cell phone doesn't help.

19. Crazy that 18 of the Eagles' last 24 first-round picks have been linemen. That goes back to 1991! The only players they've taken in the first round the last 26 years are quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Carson Wentz; wide receivers Jeremy Maclin, Freddie Mitchell and Nelson Agholor; and cornerback Lito Sheppard. If the Eagles take a non-lineman this year at No. 14, it'll be the first time since 1982 through 1984 they haven't taken a lineman in the first round for three straight years. They drafted Mike Quick, Michael Haddix and Kenny Jackson in the first round those years.

20. All of which means Lito is the only defensive player who wasn't a lineman the Eagles have drafted in the first round since Ben Smith in 1990!

21. Is there something seriously wrong with me if I pump my fist a few times and scream, "AWWW YEAH," after a particularly good parallel parking job?

22. Best live local band from Philly is Sheer Mag.

23. It's not "sampling." It's stealing.

24. I'll be surprised if Wentz doesn't throw at least five more touchdowns and five fewer interceptions in 2017 than he did in 2016 (16 TDs, 14 INTs). How does 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions sound?

25. I was in a restaurant the other day and they had pro bowling on the big-screen TV. Turns out it was a big match between the New York Kingpins and the Philadelphia Hitmen. Did you know we have a pro bowling team? Go Hitmen?