5 key position battles to watch in Eagles' camp

5 key position battles to watch in Eagles' camp

July 22, 2013, 9:00 am
Share This Post

The competition between Mike Vick and Nick Foles for the starting job under center is one of just five key camp battles this season. (USA Today Images)

We've waited a long time for this moment -- to observe Chip Kelly and his coaching staff put the final touches on this new-look team.

Well, training camp is finally here, and here are the five key position battles that will have a major influence on the 2013 season:

Quarterback

This will be the most closely watched battle. Michael Vick wanted a starter named a month ago, but that wasn't going to happen and still hasn't. Chip Kelly is going to take his time to make sure he makes the right decision.

If the starting job was based on athleticism alone, Vick would win it hands down. But it's not. No. 7 has had his fair share of opportunities in recent years, but he's regressed, not progressed. His decision-making and durability have proven to be liabilities.

The Eagles remain high on Nick Foles, and so does Andy Reid, who tried a few times this past spring to make a trade that would get Foles to Kansas City, but the Eagles' asking price was too high. Foles will be putting the pressure on Vick for the starting nod.

Although rookie Matt Barkley has a lot of catching up to do, don't rule out the possibility of seeing him before it's all said and done.

I believe Vick will open the season under center, but because of either poor play or injury, he will be replaced with Foles by the halfway point of the season. And Foles could be on a short leash with Barkley in his shadow.

Tight end

There's no denying that Brent Celek has been an iron man for this organization in the past, but the past carries no clout now.

James Casey and Zach Ertz are the present and future. Casey does so many things well: He runs the ball in tough-yardage situations, catches, blocks. Ertz is raw, but if and when he lives up to his billing, it will be a thing of beauty to watch him separate from and go up over defenders to bring down passes.

Celek won't go down without a fight, but when the dust settles, he could be the third tight-end option on this team or looking for a new NFL home.

Running back

LeSean McCoy is the man in the backfield, but at certain times, he'll need a breather.

Last year Bryce Brown showed flashes of brilliance toting the rock, but his tendency to cough up the ball overshadowed his positives.

So enter Felix Jones, who was shunned by the Dallas Cowboys. Like Brown, Jones can be elusive, run away from pursuers, catch, and return kickoffs. Jones has a lot more veteran experience than Brown and is determined to prove he still has what it takes to be a factor in this league.

Chris Polk will have a hard time getting on the field. If he stays healthy, Jones gets my nod to win the supporting role.

Linebacker

The Eagles didn't pay Connor Barwin $36 million over six years -- although the contract is team-friendly -- to sit on the bench. He is expected to give the Eagles' linebackers immediate respectability and to wreak havoc the way he did in Houston.

DeMeco Ryans will also be an every-down backer. But who else will be on the field in Billy Davis' hybrid 3-4 scheme? Can Trent Cole and Brandon Graham make the transition to stand-up outside attackers? If not, is there still a place on the roster to utilize their pass-rushing skills?

Can newcomer Emmanuel Acho (6-2, 240) muscle his way into a significant role?

Then there's Mychal Kendricks, who I've been told by several defensive coaches, is better suited as a nickel linebacker. How will he fit in?

And are Jamar Chaney and Casey Mathews' days numbered with this team if they can't hang on in a special-teams role?

So many questions at this position.

Safety

For as long as he stays healthy, Patrick Chung will be on the field. Of course, staying healthy is the issue. Chung is known for being a sure tackler, but also gets caught over-pursuing plays at times.

The coaching staff is still high on Nate Allen. Two years ago a knee injury slowed him down, and last year playing alongside Kurt Coleman, some believe Allen was trying to do too much and ended up taking a hit to his confidence.

Kenny Phillips is a proven vet, but his knees are a liability and may cost him in trying to make the team's final roster. If Phillips can stay on the field and out of the trainer's room, he could force Allen to take a seat.

Rookie Earl Wolff could be the X-factor in the last line of defense. The kid can flat out blow up ball carriers. (I know, I know, they said the same thing about Jaiquawn Jarrett, and we all know how that turned out.) Once Wolff gets the system down, his youth, energy, and ball-hawking skills could help him find a way into a starting role.

Yes, we've waited a long time to remove the stench that was the 2012 season from our nostrils. A new era, a new direction is upon us. Pecking orders of the past are no more. Let the position battles begin.

More Team Talk