Camp is over. The Eagles wrapped up their final practice last Friday and headed out for a few weeks of vacation before coming back for Chip Kelly's new era in South Philadelphia.
Training camp for rookies begins July 22, followed by the start of full-team camp three days later. Here are five main observations from the first round of organized team activities and minicamps under Kelly:
This is Chip’s team, no doubt
Without beating his chest and screaming from the NovaCare rooftop, Chip Kelly conveyed the message often sent by first-year coaches at their first spring camps that a new sheriff is on the premises. We know about DeSean Jackson’s trip to the third team. We heard Mike Vick vent frustrations over the 50-50 battle with Nick Foles. Personalized smoothies, human fly swatters, Nicki Minaj soundtracks, the five-headed quarterback -- each, in its own way, represented Kelly’s unique fingerprint on the franchise. The test that awaits Kelly is how he handles ticklish situations this summer, such as choosing a quarterback, deciding on the fate of some veterans and making difficult personnel decisions come final cuts.
A two-man quarterback race? Not so fast ...
Vick and Foles are the clear frontrunners to become Kelly’s first starter, but nothing rookie Matt Barkley did (or didn’t do) at camp should rule him out. Barkley’s command of the huddle looked impressive and the idea that he lacks the arm strength to make several difficult throws might have been the biggest myth of the pre-draft process. The first week or two of camp will be interesting, especially if Barkley continues to impress and if either Vick or Foles struggles out of the gate.
Trent Cole’s role is still fluid
After watching several practices, it’s hard to say whether or not Cole has a good feel for the outside linebacker position he’s being asked to learn. Nobody who watched Cole drop into coverage or lined up in the slot could say, “Yeah, that’s a natural ’backer right there.” Cole also took several reps at defensive end in three-man and four-man fronts (usually on the third team), but he lacks the size to play a two-gap system. It’s clear the coaches want him on the roster this year, but the staff might need to tinker with its schematics to make sure Cole’s pass rush is maximized without making him a liability.
Shorter is better?
The lack of pads makes it next to impossible to judge the development of the offensive line and running game, but noticeable was the number of quick screens and hitch passes that the offense worked on at practice. Perhaps this is Kelly’s remedy for the two-deep defenses the Eagles have seen ad nauseam since DeSean Jackson’s prolific 2009 season. Hit ’em with the short stuff, force ’em to bring the safeties in, then hit ’em deep. Should be a big season for Jackson and Jeremy Maclin if the offense functions the way Kelly envisions it. Oh, and by the way, the two-tight end formation talk wasn’t hyperbole. There were plenty of two-tight end formations at camp.
Several jobs are up for grabs
Forget the QB battle; several positions on both sides of scrimmage are unsettled. Start with the secondary. Cary Williams’ rocky start could open the door for Brandon Boykin to steal an outside job. Nate Allen isn’t ready yet to hand over his starting safety job to Kenny Phillips, whose knee issues could become a deciding factor in the race. Earl Wolff could easily elbow his way into the mix. The defensive end spot opposite Fletcher Cox has several contestants, including rookie incumbents Cedric Thornton and Vinny Curry and perhaps rookies Joe Kruger and Damion Square. Don’t count out right guard Danny Watkins just yet. The offensive line has encountered too many injuries over the years -- especially at camp -- to close the door on any backup.