What I've learned from Eagles camp: Offense

What I've learned from Eagles camp: Offense
August 7, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Strange as it may sound, Philadelphia Eagles training camp is winding down, at least the portion that’s open to the media. The Birds have only two more workouts within the city limits before they’re whisked away for joint practices in Foxboro, Massachusetts. When the team returns home after their Week 2 preseason game against the New England Patriots, practice will be closed to the media.

At this point, we’ve learned about as much as we can from these workouts, anyway. The following are my takeaways on the offense from the past two weeks at camp.

Lots of great people write up daily practice reports, and that’s valuable, too. We probably didn’t need one more person doing it, though, and besides, I prefer to take the long view, anyway. Is a sample size of one practice truly representative of an individual’s ability? Not necessarily.

These observations are pieced together from the nine practices that have been held since camp opened on July 26.

Quarterback

I think any talk of Matt Barkley not making the team is crazy. He’s clearly behind Mark Sanchez on the depth chart, but that’s not unexpected.

Word is Barkley had a rough spring, which seemed to give rise to the notion G.J. Kinne could beat him out for a roster spot. Barkley hasn’t looked bad at camp, though. The 2013 fourth-round pick was forced into impossible situations in his rookie year, throwing four fourth-quarter interceptions in two games he entered when his team was trailing. And the simple fact of the matter is the Eagles are invested in Barkley, whereas Kinne would probably wind up sitting at home waiting for a phone call.

In my opinion, Barkley completed some of the more impressive passes of the entire camp. He also missed plenty. He’s very much a work in progress whose ceiling may well be as a backup. There’s nothing wrong with that, either.

Running Back

Now seems like a good time to remind people that LeSean McCoy caught 78 passes in 2010. While Darren Sproles is getting a lot of attention for his receiving ability out of the backfield and in the slot — rightfully so — it felt like McCoy was targeted on a much higher percentage of passing plays than he has in the recent past. Nick Foles admitted he’s making a concerted effort to find his checkdown faster. Shady boasts that he feels leaner. Hmm…

Since he was sidelined with a hamstring injury, I’ve gone back and forth over whether Chris Polk is a lock to make the 53-man roster. It helps that nobody else has really stood out. Then again, preseason games could change that. Second-year back Matthew Tucker had some people talking (including @cutondime25). Undrafted rookie David Fluellen out of Toledo is pushing.

Wide Receiver

Here’s how I would rank the receivers at training camp: 1. Jordan Matthews, 2. Jeremy Maclin, 3. Brad Smith, 4. Ifeanyi Momah.

Momah still has to be considered a long shot to make the roster — the 24-year-old hasn’t competed in a meaningful football game since September 3, 2011 for Boston College. But unlike last summer with the Birds, Momah has flashed big-play potential, getting separation with his 4.4 speed and using his 6-7 frame to shield the ball from defenders. I’m interested in seeing what he can do in some exhibition games.

On the other hand, Smith is making the team. The ninth-year veteran is a really good receiver, who also happens to be a good running back, who is also a threat to attempt a pass, who can return kicks and punts or even play on the kick coverage units. Chip will have a package for Smith in the offense.

Jeff Maehl appears to own the inside track for a roster spot as well. When Riley Cooper initially wound up in a walking boot, it was Maehl who was taking first-team reps at No. 2 receiver until he too was injured. Maehl doesn’t have much value as a wideout, but special teams is often the difference when deciding those final one or two vacancies.

Tight End

Zach Ertz might be on the verge of having one of the quietest breakout seasons in recent memory. It seems amid all the talk about Matthews and Sproles, some folks are forgetting the 35th overall selection from the draft little more than a year ago. The Eagles haven’t used as many two-tight end sets as I imagined they might, but that’s not necessarily indicative of anything to come. And when Ertz was on the field, he created the usual matchup problems for the defense, especially down by the goal line.

Offensive Line

It’s difficult to gauge where a lot of the offensive linemen are at in their development. The unit usually works way off to the side during position drills and one-on-ones against the defensive line, and the Eagles aren’t using a live pass rush during team sessions.

Allen Barbre still scares as the four-game plan at right tackle. That was the feeling I had two days in a row as I observed the journeyman attempting to fend off pass-rushers. Meanwhile, Lane Johnson made going against the second-team defense look easy. We’ll see how it plays out over the next two months, but as of now, I don’t think there’s any question Johnson will be inserted back into the starting lineup once he’s eligible to return from a suspension.

Interesting that Matt Tobin has been working at guard. Veteran Andrew Gardner and undrafted rookie Kevin Graf were running behind Jason Peters at left tackle instead. Neither instilled much confidence. I suspect Tobin would still take over for Peters in a game if necessary.

David Molk could push Julian Vandervelde for the backup center job. While Vandervelde has missed some time with an injury, Molk had extra opportunities to showcase his strength against some big boys, including 333-pound Beau Allen. It will be nice to see these guys in a game.